Tag Archives: game development

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Hi Everyone,

As you know from last month’s Moonlighting with Insomniac, this year we’re focusing on diversity and women in the game development industry.  That theme continues this month with our guest speaker, Insomniac’s very own Gameplay Programmer, Brandi Wilcox.

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Brandi Wilcox, Gameplay Programmer

Brandi graduated from Smith College with a BA in Physics and received a MFA from USC Interactive Media Division (now the Interactive Media and Games Division). While attending USC, Brandi was a design scripter intern for Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time at the Burbank studio.  She later joined Insomniac’s team permanently as a scripter at the North Carolina studio.  A few years later Brandi transitioned into being a gameplay programmer and that is the role she currently holds here at Insomniac. Just a few months ago, Brandi celebrated her fifth year anniversary here at Insomniac Games… she’s had quite a journey!

On another note, this month’s Moonlighting will be pushed back a week.  Angela and I are attending the Great Places to Work Conference the first week of April, so we’ll be unable to host Moonlighting at our regular time.  Please join Angela and I, along with our guest Brandi, on Wednesday, April, 13th at 1:30 PM PT / 4:30 PM ET.

The comments section is open now for your questions so feel free to post away and we’ll answer you when we log in on 4/13/16.  Please remember, we want to encourage open communication and informative discussions but we also need to be respectful around the subject. What subject are we being respectful of?  Not sure that this is needed – but maybe I’m missing something.

Looking forward to talking with you soon!

-Kerri & Angela

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Hi Moonlighters!

Moonlighting will be shaking up its format and we are giving you the 411 before it actually happens.  While we truly enjoy our immediate interactions with everyone during our bi-weekly live exchanges,  it also limits when we can respond and when you can ask a question.  To ensure your questions are being answered even when you can’t join us, we’ve decided to have the comments section open at all times!  WHAT?  Yes – you can ask us (Kerri and I) a question at any time, 3:00 in the afternoon or 3:00 in the morning, and we will get back to you as soon as we can.  We will still be covering topics that pertain to recruiting, HR, culture and all things that fall in those categories here at Insomniac Games.  As before – we still won’t be covering the topics that are on our company’s other blogs or community pages. (To do that – just head on over to the Community forum or Twitter or Facebook and ask away – it’s that easy! )  But this does open the door for you to ask a question at ANY TIME!  Very exciting if I do say so myself.

We will still have a live “blog-cast” once a month with a topic that is timely, or perhaps is a question that seems to be asked a bunch of times on the threads, or a special guest speaker.  We will keep the time and date of that chat the same- the first WED of the month, at 1:30 PT / 4:30 ET.  That way if you want to really have a conversation – we can do it then.  If you just want to ask a question and get an answer in a day or two (please be patient as we do have plenty on our plate) you’ll have that option as well.  Our goal is to be as open and accessible as possible.

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Looking forward to your questions and our next live chat on June 3rd. 

See you then!

Kerri & Angela

 

 

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Join us this week, May 6th for a chat with Bobby Coddington – our Animation Director! We’ll be on line as always at 1:30 pt/4:30 et to take your questions and hopefully share a bit of knowledge. We will open the discussion early – on TUES- so that you can post a question without needing to be online at those times exactly. We look forward to hearing from you.

Now a bit about Bobby. He has over 16 years in game animation, doing character moves and story cinematics. He has also spent 10 years teaching at Otis College of Art, which is here in Los Angeles. He is the author of Introduction to Animation for Games for Gnomon school (DVD). Bobby in his years in the games industry has worked on various titles ranging from: EA Sports Knock-out Kings, Mercs, Medal Of Honor, Army of Two, and Sunset Overdrive. Bobby got his feet wet in animation by studying animation (2d and 3d) at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. That and he’s one of the nicest people you will meet in the industry! We look forward to welcoming him!

Bobby Coddington

And just our usual reminder – this is not to be a space to ask about our projects or specific games. To do that – just head on over to the Community forum or ask via Twitter or Facebook and ask away – its that easy!

Looking forward to chatting on Wed! See you then!
Angela and Kerri

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Hey Everyone!

Thanks for taking the time to visit us again at Moonlighting with Insomniac! We’ll be online to chat on Wednesday, April 22nd from 1:30-2:30 PM PT / 4:30-5:30 PM ET. This edition is all about QA.  Angela is out of the office (bummer, right??) so Joe Schopper – our Lead Quality Assurance Tester will be gracing us with his presence and helping me to answer your QA Questions!

Please feel free to add your questions now, as the comments section is open!

And now, for your reading pleasure – here’s a quick bio on Joe:

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Joe Schopper, QA Lead

“Hi, my name’s Joe Schopper. I started in QA at THQ and was a full time tester there, then took some time off to go to school in North Carolina. I eventually came back to California and got a job as a contract tester at Insomniac Games. I started on Ratchet & Clank Tools of Destruction and have been happy here ever since. I moved up the ranks in QA from contract tester to full time tester, senior tester, and lead tester. I’ve been the campaign lead on Resistance 3, Fuse, Sunset Overdrive, and currently the new Ratchet & Clank game for PS4. I also once worked as a deckhand on a fishing boat and convinced a kid to eat an eye from a yellowfin tuna.

-Joe”

As always   – this is NOT to be mistaken as a space to ask about our projects or specific games. To do that – just head on over to the Community forum or ask via Twitter or Facebook and ask away – its that easy!

Talk soon!

~Kerri

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Hey Everyone!

Thanks for taking the time to visit us again at Moonlighting with Insomniac! We’ll be online to chat on Wednesday, April 8th from 1:30-2:30 PM PT / 4:30-5:30 PM ET. This edition is all about Programming.  Adam Noonchester – one of our Gameplay programmers will be joining us.  Adam joined Insomniac in 2008, from an unusual space… I’ll let him tell you about his interesting background.  He’s a wealth of knowledge, so this is an opportunity not to be missed!

We wanted to create our post a little earlier than normal this time around to give you an opportunity to visit us at your own pace and ask your questions.  So…. here’s your chance! Please feel free to add your questions now, as the discussion is open!

As you wait for the updated info – feel free to ask your programming, HR, Insomniac related questions below.  We’ll see you on April 8th to answer them!

As always   – this is NOT to be mistaken as a space to ask about our projects or specific games. To do that – just head on over to the Community forum or ask via Twitter or Facebook and ask away – its that easy!

Talk soon!

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Hey Everyone!

Thanks for taking the time to join us again at Moonlighting with Insomniac. As always, we’ll be online to chat on Wednesday, March 25th from 1:30-2:30 PM PT / 4:30-5:30 PM ET. This week is all about Game Design!

For this edition of Moonlighting we are welcoming our guest – Mike Birkhead!  Mike is a Designer in our Burbank Studio and has graciously volunteered to be our subject matter expert for our design discussion this week!

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Mike Birkhead, Designer

A bit of info on Mike.  He’s been in the industry since 2004, having started at Jailed Games, working on a DMX the Rapper game!  He began as a tools programmer and decided that designers where having way more fun, and made the switch.  Mike is all about solving the puzzle- something that designers get to do all day long!  Mike has been at Insomniac for almost 3 years, and when asked what he’s most proud of on Sunset Overdrive, he says “the progression/badge system”.. Nice work my friend!

So – have you ever wondered how game difficulty is tested and balanced? What keeps players coming back to a game? Why character classes are used?   Or how to solve bottle necking issues?  We can help answer your Game Design questions on Wednesday with Mike!  Just post your questions in the comments box below and we’ll start answering them in the order in which they were posted.

Have questions about HR, the games industry in general or Insomniac’s studio culture? Great! We’ll take those too!  We will also find out what FLARK is… courtesy of Mike.

As always   – this is NOT to be mistaken as a space to ask about our projects or specific games. To do that – just head on over to the Community forum or ask via Twitter or Facebook and ask away – its that easy!

Talk soon!

Insomniac Games welcomes its summer community intern Brandon Winfrey, more commonly known on the internet as Mucudadada, or as “that guy who baked the Ratchet cake for Insomniac’s Community Day.” Brandon will be spending his summer away from the University of Southern California at Insomniac, blogging and creating videos about working at a videogame company.

I don’t think I’m built for a normal 9 to 5 job.  I came to this realization during the summer of my sophomore year in high-school when I landed a small job at a local newspaper doing data entry.  Now, if you know anything about me – you know that “data entry” is the exact opposite of what I should be doing.  I’m far too – uh – eclectic (read: scatterbrained) to be anywhere near efficient at the task.  However, I did it (“If Spiderman can work at a newspaper, so can I” was my literal reasoning).  Day in and day out I would go to work and plug away information from surveys about what the residents of Memphis’ favorite Mexican Restaurant was (El Porton – it was always El Porton).  When one survey was done – all the other data monkeys and I would shift to a new one.  It felt like a mind-numbing machine and I was a mere gear – a really rusted, ineffective gear.  Kinda like Carmine – hey-oh! (Carmine Must Die!)

That’s why I was a little timid when I first started at Insomniac Games.  My corporate dealings had not gone well in the past, so I wasn’t totally sure how I would manage at a developer where deadlines are a necessity.  I thought Insomniac was another machine.  It must be with how many games it manages to craft, right?  I envisioned all 200 employees working on a single game right up until it was done.  Then, everyone shifted gears and worked on the next game till it was done.  The idea of development was exciting and all, but was the entire studio just going to be centered on one game?  I like a little more spice in my life (specifically, paprika).

Yet again, my assumptions have been wrong (seeing a pattern?).  The way projects are managed at Insomniac is much more organic than my former print employer.  As opposed to everyone in the studio being solely focused on one game – they are spread out over various projects.  Here at Insomniac – there are always multiple undertakings in development.  This means that each one goes through a lifecycle that has its ups and down as far as developmental focus goes.  Moreover, each department (art, programming, designing, etc) has its own time-frame on a project – so, one may be done before the other.   There are a ton of variables constantly in flux.  (Did you mind just go to Aeon Flux?  Mine did.)

It’s a well structured flux, though.  The company sets an incredible pace for releasing quality games.  Remember the Tools of Destruction days?  At that time, Insomniac released Tools of Destruction in 2007 and then turned right back around the next fall and released Quest for Booty and Resistance 2.  No small feat.  How did they do it? –  By properly delegating people to specific projects.  So, since art has to be finished before the programming, etc of the game – after art was locked on Tools, a few artists transferred to Quest and the others went to R2.  Meanwhile, the designers, programmers, and QA put the last bit of polish on Tools.  After the whole game was finished, the remaining people split up into Quest and R2 – a few even went into the pre-production stages of A Crack in Time!

They made this while also making game 3 other games. That's reason to dance.

Is it like this for every game?  Nope!  Again – the process of creating a game at Insomniac is organic.  Every project is different and demands unique schedules to make them the best they can possibly be.  For instance, some games might require DLC – people have to stay with that project as long as new content is coming out.  Moreover, we are constantly experimenting with the game design process.  The only way to get better is to keep tweaking and improving how you do things, right? (I’ll go ahead and answer my own question – Right!)  So, that’s what goes on here.  The result is organic growth that consistently produces better and bigger games.  And we, as gamers, generally like those, right? (Right!)

The biggest thing to take away from my stroll from ignorance to enlightenment is that each game in a development studio has its own peaks and valleys while it is being made – and, generally, different games overlap and inverse each other.  While Game A is at its height of production tons of people are on it – while Game B may only have a few.  However, after that Game A is in its DLC days, there will only be a few people on it because everyone has shifted towards focusing on Game B. (Note: “Game A” and “Game B” are not actually titles of future Insomniac games.  Or are they?*)

While all this “learning how a game dev studio operates” thing may be interesting – let’s get back to focusing on what’s really important to everyone– my own personal happiness.  If you’ll remember (and if you don’t, your memory’s worse than a JRPG protagonist’s), I was nervous about becoming a part of another corporate machine when I started at Insomniac.  However, as you have seen, that’s not how it works here.  The amount of projects in production ensures that my rabid mind never gets bored.  There is always a fresh variety of ideas and content circulating – so one particular project never gets stale.  A natural energy radiates from the company because of the scope of creative discussion within the office.  I like energy!  It helps me do my best work.  I feed off of it like a *insert simile here*.

Could this creative drive exist if the company solely focused on only one project at a time?  Maybe, but I know that I’ve learned that correctly balancing the ebb and flow of a game development cycle is greatly aided by being able to shift workers from project to project as needed.  It gives people a break and allows them to flex a different creative muscle.  The creative process is about giving a mere idea life, so it makes sense that it should be organic and constantly growing.  At Insomniac, I’ve come to learn that it’s definitely possible at a major company.

I take back what I said about not being built for a 9 to 5 job.  If the company is anywhere near as creatively structured as Insomniac – I’ll be fine (AND dandy!).  It fits into my “eclectic” nature.  Plus, I actually work from 10 till 7.  That fits into my “stay up way too late watching 90’s X-Men and sleeping in” nature.  Win-Win!

 

*They’re not

Join senior community manager James Stevenson, creative director Marcus Smith, lead designer Drew Murray and senior designer Cameron Christian as they headline the 60th episode of the Full Moon Show. We discuss Resistance 3, what 3 years meant to the project, our favorite weapons in the game and much more. Plus, a whole segment devoted to your questions. And a special guest appearance from our intern Brandon Winfrey on his 21st Birthday.

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