Sunday, 11 October 2015

I’m home!

It's been a while...

My post mortem of the 2015 global game jam very much hinted that it would be my last jam in Montreal, and with good reason - in July I announced that I would be leaving the Ubisoft Montreal studio as well Ubisoft as a company. I’m happy to reveal that I accepted a role at Foundry 42 (as part of Cloud Imperium Games) as a senior designer on Squadron 42, the campaign component of Star Citizen. This meant my return to the UK, in early August.


That's right, I'm home!

It’s been a big change for me; after three years a routine begins to form and comfort sets in, but I felt like the time was right and the opportunity was too good to turn down (more on that later).

I’ve left behind a good group of people; the expats that put up with my frequent spam over internal company email/messenger, friends that I’ve met through various Ubisoft projects, and the handful of people I’ve met in the indie game development scene. As I hinted in my last post, a significant number of my coworkers from Watch_Dogs have already left Ubisoft, and I’m still in quite frequent contact with them, so I don’t think too much is likely to change in that department with the rest of my ex-comrades.

I enjoyed my time in Montreal and certainly won't be leaving empty handed. After my 3 years at the studio, I had a designed level and mission content for huge titles such as Watch_Dogs, Far Cry 4 and the recently announced Far Cry Primal.

My portfolio has never looked better, and I can safely say that I have a lot of pride in the work that I contributed to those projects, especially Watch_Dogs.

Perhaps more important to me though, were the experiences that lead me to creating solo projects in my free time; even going as far as to release my first indie game, Jack B. Nimble. This indie revelation opened my eyes to markets outside of traditional "AAA" console productions and definitely expanded my skill set. It was during this time that I also discovered game jams; a practice I hope to keep up once I am fully settled back in the UK (I'm still eagerly waiting on a container of my possessions to be shipped next week)!

panel-45000342-image-d7cc9209a8ba9cb1-320So Star Citizen; a huge Kickstarter success, a crowd funding poster child and potentially the ultimate space sim. So yeah, a new adventure; I'm not treading the same ground or following the same formula as previous games; Star Citizen is genuinely something new and ambitious.

While it's an exciting project, I'm just settling in, so I don't have much to say right now other than to comment on the fact that I'm working with really talented people and some excellent technology. It's amusing how many connections I have to my new coworkers... It really is a small industry.

This weekend we had Citizen Con in Manchester (UK), and it went pretty fucking well if I do say so myself. You can watch the full stream here or check out the playlist of features here.

A lot of what was shown was very much work in progress but that didn’t seem to taint the reception any. The cast announcement went down great with the audience and the online response seems pretty great too.

It's strange adjusting to a company that has such a public and open development; the amount of secrecy surrounding my previous projects was insane. It's a refreshing change, as is working for a company that encourages free time game development without questionable restrictions. It's great having the freedom to spend more time on my independent efforts without fear of legal ramifications, etc.

So what’s next for me?

Based on the fact I have a little more freedom to work on my own projects, I’ll be doing a lot of personal game development. Obviously Star Citizen and Squadron 42 will be my highest priority in the realms of game and level design, but I will continue to develop my coding and art skills in my free time via my own projects.

The first of these projects will be the update for Jack B. Nimble, currently planned to release before the end of the year (potentially with ports to other platforms than iOS too). Some have said that it might seem in vain to continue to develop this game any further, but it’s my first, you know? I want my first title to stand as an example of things to come. A high quality piece for my back catalogue.

Jack B. Nimble

Whether it sells or not is somewhat irrelevant; I have a fulltime job that pays the bills, so I have the freedom to create something that I am happy with before moving onto the next thing…

That being said, my second project, a collaboration with Scott Morin is slowly starting to ramp up again. We’re looking forward to getting stuck into this again – the response to the Vine I released on my 30th birthday (no significance) was excellent.


It’s clear that we have a game that people would like to play. All we need to do now is make it!

The third project is my attempts to create pixel art every day – something I’ve failed at. This hasn’t been easy with the move across the world, new job, being spread thin across projects, etc.

Happy Cloud

However, I’m going to try and do at least one piece of pixel art a week. Practice is the only way to improve, so I need to be strict on myself. You can follow my pixel art at

And finally, game jams. I plan to do so many more of these, but hopefully more collaborations than solo efforts. I need to start creating art for other people’s specifications or designing games to showcase art for other developers. I guess the next Ludum Dare might be my first real opportunity to do this. One game a month is a little much for me while I’m creating my own titles intended for release, but I’d like to increase my frequency a little.

In closing…

This will also be my final post to this blog - at least in it’s current form. In more recent years, I’ve found tip toeing around NDA’s and the overall paranoia of saying something “wrong” whilst working for a publisher to be a huge put off when writing anything really - especially if what I want to write borders on criticism. It’s also rather pointless to just blow the company trumpet when there are paid professionals already doing that (and better than I ever could). What’s a couple views on my personal page going to do? To be honest, it’s just wasted effort on my part - I’d be better off just spending the time making games.

Some of you may have noticed I removed the majority of the video posts/vlogs too - this is down to the fact I couldn’t maintain the momentum and therefore improve/respond to criticisms (of which there were many). It’s not so much that they were awkward (I was aware they were), it was more that I don’t believe their posting was truly serving anyone, and that’s just against the intention of this blog. I always wanted to offer some transparency into what it’s like to develop games and a peek into the window of the life of someone who does just that. I feel I’ve failed to deliver on that, so I’d like to step back and rethink my approach in order to better serve this potentially fictional audience.

My goal is to come back and maintain an open presence in the future, to perhaps offer some insight and encourage future developers to join the industry. I’m still working out what to do next, but until then, you can keep up with me on twitter or tumblr.

The next update you will see on here will be when I know what’s coming next, but until then, 'ave a good one.