Wednesday, October 5, 2016

My Summer in California

After a long silence, I have returned from California! For those who haven't been following along, I spent the summer at Stanford working as the Assistant Director of iD Game Academy. It was an amazing experience that I will definitely never forget. We had a great staff led by an incredible director, and I truly believe that we provided the 200+ students with an unforgettable summer.

One of our Brazilian exchange students summed it up best:

"I can just say that it was one of the best experiences of my life! In my opinion it is much more than game designing or coding, all the moments that I experienced here will be on my memory forever."

It is comments like this that make me feel like I actually made a difference, and I am so satisfied with the way the summer turned out. I have taught many classes with iD Tech in the past, but none of them have compared to the connections formed during the two-week sessions at the Game Academy.

One of my favorite parts of the summer was the industry tours that we got to go on. Our first one was at Crystal Dynamics. We had multiple speakers walk us through their daily schedules as they work on new entries in the Tomb Raider franchise. Their office is remniscent of the recent games in the series, with driftwood decor and all sorts of areas build from 'found material.' It was a very cool work environment!

We also got the chance to visit Ubisoft and Google. They offered great tips to our students on how to get started in computer science and what type of schools they should go to. Both trips were very valuable, and it was fun to see some of the crazy campuses that these companies have. Google even has a dinosaur fossil right in the middle of their courtyard!

My favorite trip though was our tour of NVIDIA. We got to see all of the new technology that they are developing to be used in self-driving cars. Our speaker explained how their machine-learning program works and even let us try it out. They had a camera set up and we could put objects in front of it and the computer could tell you what that object was just by scanning the image. It felt like stuff out of a sci-fi movie! At the end of the tour, they also had this amazing industry round-table session where 20 or so of their employees came out and sat at small tables to have casual conversations with the students.

We were so impressed by round-table idea that we later held a similar session of our own as a "career fair" of sorts. I gave a talk about being a freelancer and how to succeed in an unconventional line of work like that. The students were extremely receptive to it and asked me a lot of great questions.

I also got the opportunity to use our 3D printer when the students weren't using it. Getting the prints to come out perfectly could take some trial and error at times, but it was very neat to see our designs come to life in the physical world.

This is my Haca Fairstalk character that I have written about in many of my past blog posts.

Once the super hectic camp season came to a close, I took a few days to see the Bay Area sights before coming home. (No exaggeration, I literally worked 100 hours each week so I had very little time to explore during work!) As much as I enjoyed the work, it was nice to have some time to unwind and visit some new places.

In my week off, I climbed Mission Peak (tallest mountain in the Bay area), I visited some of the cool sights in downtown San Jose, and I finally stepped into the Pacific Ocean in Santa Cruz.

After such a busy summer, it has taken me a little while to get back into my regular routine, but after a few weeks I've slowly eased back into my own game development again. To help me get into the swing of things, I've started up a little project involving this guy: Doduo, the two-headed Pokemon. I have been focusing a lot of my recent efforts on rigging in an attempt specialize on the more technical aspects of the character development pipeline. However I realized that most of my rigging work has been on traditional two-legged humans, so I wanted to break that up with a few unconventional bone structures. What better way to do that than to model and rig some of my favorite Pokemon!

After Doduo, I plan to move onto some 4-legged creatures like Vaporeon and Umbreon. I'd also like to do a winged creature and a swimming creature, so Mandibuzz and Seadramon (Digimon not a Pokemon, I know!) are on the agenda as well. And if I still feel like doing more after that, I plan to tackle Infernape, Ursaring, and maybe Agumon. It should be a fun project, so I'll be posting about that soon.

I have also been spending time on a personal RPG Maker project called the Knalsy Experience. It is a remake of a game I made all the way back in RPGM2003. It is mostly just for fun, but it has been a good way to get focused on game dev again.

All in all, my summer in California was a huge success. Thanks for reading this super long post. Future updates should be shorter and more frequent again. Until next time... Adios!