Archive for November, 2004

Things are moving quickly

Monday, November 8th, 2004

Tomorrow will be my last day at Strangelite.

I begin at Transitive on the 1st December; however, I fly out to Tokyo for 10 days on Wednesday. Doug (my boss) figured that there was no point in making me come back in for a week when I came back, as I’m in between bits of work at the moment, and it would probably mean starting me on something and then me disappearing halfway through. So I’ve got the rest of November off as gardening leave. Which is nice.

Oh, yes, Tokyo. I don’t think I mentioned that in all the excitement. My brother is living there at the moment; it’s his birthday on the 13th, so I’m flying out to take him some marmite, ibuprofen (you can’t buy painkillers, apparently) and deodorant, and hopefully also take loads of photos, drink sake, go to a karaoke bar, ogle Japanese chicks, spend too much money in arcades, buy loads of videogame merchandise, see temples and save the world from an invading flying transforming robot army. The usual.

I went to look at cars at the weekend; I think I’m one of three people in the whole of the country who thinks the new Megane is a seriously stylish and good looking car. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make them any cheaper, but I’ll book a test drive when I get back and we’ll see how it goes.

More on the job front

Friday, November 5th, 2004

It’s no secret amongst my friends that I’ve been a bit unhappy at work for a while (this Entirely Fictional Story may give you some idea about some of it)- I’ve not blogged about it much, though, because if I wasn’t going to talk about it at work, it was probably unfair for my boss to find out through my blog; I don’t think I’m going to say anything here that anyone at work doesn’t already know now.

You make a trade-off when you choose to work in the games industry: the pay is worse than nearly any other programming job, you put up with an awful lot of crap from publishers and it’s an extremely fickle and rapidly changing market; the tradeoff is that you get to work on games. When I first started, that was a tradeoff I was happy to make, because the work back then was quite exciting and interesting; I really enjoyed working on the Sega conversions, and the early prototyping work on Starship Troopers. It was challenging code, the challenges were interesting and required lots of clever techniques to solve, the team was small and relaxed and it was generally a good laugh.

Increasingly, though, as Starship Troopers ramped up into full development, the team changed – it’s grown, and as a result it’s needed more micromanaging and detailed scheduling. The office culture changed, too; it became much more formal and a less relaxed environment. The flexibility to do things our own way was hugely diminished. More than that, though, the code I was writing and working on wasn’t particularly exciting; I ended up getting bogged down in the audio code (even though I’m not an audio coder) for quite some months, and the other areas I wave working on aren’t exactly inspiring. It became Just Another Programming Job.

And when that happened, I had to take a step back and ask myself why I was still doing it. Was I still excited by the games industry? Did I have that passion for the game that made it worth putting up with all that stuff I was facing? And the answer, I realised, was a resounding no – if I’m just going to be doing a coding job, why not do it somewhere more convenient, for more money, in nicer offices and potentially on a much more interesting technical project? The spell of making games was broken.

Transitive grew out of a project one of my lecturers at University had been running. They employed quite a few people from my year at Uni, and as a consequence, I know quite a few people there already, and know quite a bit about the company. Around the time I was beginning to feel particularly unhappy at work, I went to the pub with a bunch of people from Transitive; this was the turning point, when I realised that, actually, I didn’t have to stick with the job I had, and that I my skills would readily transfer into another industry.

Trav, another ex-games industry type now at Transitive, got wind of some upcoming vacancies and asked if I was interested in applying. Hell yeah; I knocked up a quick CV and sent it off. A phone interview quickly followed, and from that, a formal interview was arranged. I went, it went well, and then I heard nothing for ages.

To cut a long story short, yesterday I got a phone call from Martyn at Transitive, offering me a job, to start as soon as I could, with a very, very attractive salary. And so, this morning, I handed in my notice.

I kind of feel a little bit guilty – I know Strangelite are kind of short on people and up against a very tight schedule, and my leaving is only going to make things more difficult for the guys I’m leaving behind. But I can’t let things like that hold me back; and if I stayed on, I’d only get more and more unhappy and resentful, and that couldn’t be good for the project or the team.

So. Yes. Onwards and upwards. I’ve got a notice period to work out here, but I’m hoping to get that reduced so I can start at Transitive before Christmas. I’ve enjoyed most of my time in games; I’ve had three published titles in three years, which is good by anyones standards – and yes, I’ll miss that frisson of exictement of seeing my work in a box on the shelf in HMV and Game. But that’s not enough to persuade me to stay. It’s time to move on.

I’ve resigned

Friday, November 5th, 2004

I’ve been holding off talking about this for a while; some of you already know, some of you don’t.

I handed in my notice at Strangelite, and have had an offer of a job at Transitive. I’m quite excited about this. I’ll write more about it later.

And ending

Thursday, November 4th, 2004

I knew what the phone call was going to be about before I’d even answered it; the cheerful ringtone contrasting sharply against the message that was, by now, pretty much inevitable. I’d still been holding out hope that she’d pull through – she’s old and hasn’t been well for years, but, well, she’s always survived before. When I saw her in hospital, surrounded by bleeping machines, drips and tubes, something in my brain refused to acknowledge the possibility that this would be the last time I saw her alive. You just don’t want to think about things like that.

I never got a chance to say goodbye properly; she fell asleep before I could.

Yesterday, they thought she was getting better and were planning on moving her from the High Dependency Unit into a normal ward. My Dad went back home to Norfolk to wait for some more news.

Last night, she took a turn for the worse, and died very quickly and suddenly; one of her stomach ulcers had burst, they think, and there was nothing they could do.

The funeral will probably be when I’m in Japan. My parents are insisting I go to Tokyo, irrespective, because it’s what my Granny would have wanted. They’re completely right – when I visited her on saturday, she kept asking if my Dad was okay and she was afraid she’d be ruining his holiday by being ill; naturally, we assured her that she was being silly – but that doesn’t make me feel any less callous for it. Perhaps my brother and I can find a temple or something to go and spend a few quiet moments on the day of the funeral.

I don’t think it’s fully hit me yet: when my uncle died a few years ago, it took a few days for things to really sink in. I’ve done some crying, but mostly I’ve sat around feeling helpless; I really want to do something but I have no idea what.

Granny was always the one who indulged me and my brother when we were children. She let us do things Mum and Dad wouldn’t let us, bought us toys and sweets when it wasn’t our birthday. In the last few years, her health had deteriorated considerably – she was on a lot of medication and had become increasingly frail; but those aren’t the memories I want to hang onto. I want to remember building sandcastles in her shoes; I want to remember her handing us sweets without Mum and Dad knowing; I want to remember her always making too much food for Christmas day.

Goodbye, Majorie Rogers; I’ll miss you, Granny.


Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004

It looks like sarah‘s going to be back in action soon…

Edit: And she is, but she’s here instead.


Monday, November 1st, 2004

About two weeks ago, my grandmother (on my Dad’s side) was taken into hospital. This coincided with my parents going to Japan to visit my brother, and so I’ve had a week and a half of acting as an intermediary, trying to pass messages back and forth. She came out of hospital shortly afterwards, but went back in on Thursday; some internal bleeding, as a result of stomach ulcers from the medication she’s been taking. I kind of hit a wall on Thursday afternoon; my Dad was only contactable through my brother, who wasn’t with them at the time, and the time difference meant getting in touch was tricky when they were together. I was faced with potentially dealing with a very emotionally difficult situation on my own, and I really, really didn’t feel like I could. I spent a lot of time ringing the hospital, trying to find out what was happening and what her prognosis was. They didn’t seem to know much; she was very tired, but they’d stopped the bleeding.

On Saturday, I borrowed Naomi’s car (I wasn’t confident mine would make it), and drove to Nottingham to see my Gran in hospital. She was awake, but clearly very tired and unwell. I gave her some flowers and a card, and we chatted a while. I met Lindsey, her cleaner/gardener/general home help, in the hospital; it was she who’d found my Gran and called the ambulance; she probably saved my Gran’s life. It’s very hard to know what to say to a stranger in a situation like that. A thank-you card seems so trite and such a token effort.

My Gran asked after Dad, and I tried to avoid telling her I hadn’t been able to speak to him; he was landing that afternoon, though, and I was hoping I’d be able to get in touch before I left the hospital. She wanted to talk about what would happen if she died – she promised me I could have her telescope and encyclopedia collection – but I tried to steer the subject away from that – had she heard about the probe they sent up to Saturn, and how they found out that Titan was smooth and not mountainous like they’d thought? Eventually, she fell asleep, so I went outside to see if my parents had landed; they had, and so I explained things to them. My Dad decided to drive straight up to Nottingham from Heathrow; I went back inside. My gran was still asleep; her legs kept fidgeting and she was breathing irregularly, but the movement was, in a strange way, comforting. I left a note explaining my Dad would be in to see her tomorrow, and I’d try and come back too.

I drove down to London; Cathy finished her PhD thesis a few weeks ago and was having a belated party to celebrate. I’ve known Cathy for nine years – since high school – and she’s off to America to do post-doc study soon, so this would probably be the last chance I got to see her before she left. At the party, I was in the minority on two counts – I didn’t have (and wasn’t studying for) a PhD, and I was English – everyone else seemed to be a frighteningly intelligent Scandinavian or Asian of some description. It was a good party, though; I met a lot of interesting people – we discussed Finnish arthouse cinema, argued whether Stevie Ray Vaughan was a better guitarist than Mark Knopfler, and I spent a lot of time explaining that writing computer games isn’t as cool or exciting as it sounds. I took a few photos that didn’t come out terribly well; they’re here, as usual.

I crashed overnight on Cathy’s floor, and after helping tidy up the detritus from the night before, set off back to Nottingham again. My gran had started bleeding again, so was going back to theatre for further investigations. When I arrived, she was still in theatre, so I met up with my parents in the centre of town. Japan was fantastic, apparently – I was surprised, given how much my Dad dislikes Wagamama’s and anime – and they couldn’t wait to go back. They offloaded a few thousand yen, some guidebooks and loads of advice about where to go, what to see and do and eat: I should probably buy some new socks, apparently, as you have to take your shoes off to go in the temples, and all my socks have holes in.

We went back to see my gran in hospital; she was out of theatre, but was still asleep from the anaesthetic. We hung around for a few minutes, but the Doctor didn’t think she’d wake up any time soon, so we left. My dad took my mum back home to Norfolk, and I set off back to Manchester. Apparently my Gran came round a while later, but still seemed to be bleeding; Dad has gone up to see her again today – the doctors think they might have to operate if the bleeding doesn’t stop soon.

It’s been a long weekend; I’m still worn out from it all, I think. I really have no idea what my Gran’s prognosis is, but I feel better knowing that my Dad is able to be with her now. I hope things work out.