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The Bungie Experience

I just got out of a job talk by Bungie; I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is no, I did not win a free copy of Halo 3.

Generally, I’m looking for a new job starting sometime anywhere from 18-20 months from now. Tentatively, I’m going to go into academia in applied math or something along those lines. Realistically, I’m not a prime candidate for a position in a software or gaming company, because my training and experience are in a field that’s only tangentially related (it wouldn’t be impossible, but I assume it’s unusual). I just went to the talk for fun and to think outside of the standard job box a little.

The talk was fun. More technical than I expected. I never thought I’d hear the term “spherical harmonics” come up in a context where I was actually interested. Bungie sounds like a fun and creative place. When I asked if one of the three projects they’re working on now was called “Marathon”, they all looked at the floor. It’s not a “no”, and I’d like to interpret it as a “yes”, but in truth it’s probably just their default response when someone asks a question they aren’t allowed to answer. In all I learned a bit about what goes into making a game like Halo 3 look the way it does, and how some bits and pieces of the things I’ve learned at school are relevant outside of the bubble in which I apply them.

I was struck, however, when they showed a “life at Bungie” video, and only one female employee was shown in the whole company. The flick showed maybe 50 employees in their element (out of more than 200), and they were all guys. I’m sure Bungie is an equal opportunity employer, so I don’t fault them for this. It was just surprising from the perspective of someone in an engineering program with a high proportion of women (50/50 in the undergraduate part of my department). Looking around the job talk it seemed like 20-30% of the attendees were women, and I’m curious why the numbers I see here haven’t trickled down into a prominent company like Bungie. Perhaps after the Jade Raymond controversy, this shouldn’t be a surprise. After getting some press during promotion for Assassins Creed, Raymond was subjected to a myriad of disgusting attacks, and some of the coverage was just outright creepy. That story revealed a lot of prejudice in the gaming community, and perhaps yields a better perspective on the low gender ratio I noticed in the Bungie video than my sheltered University lifestyle.

I don’t really know anything about industry wide stats on this issue, so I’d welcome more information if anyone has it.

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Posted by on March 11, 2008 in Entertainment

 

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Spy in the Base

eBay is sketchy. Every time I complete a transaction, I sort of expect the worst. So it wasn’t a huge surprise when I ordered The Orange Box (PC version), and the installation key they included with the game didn’t work because it had already been used. The seller was legit about it though; he emailed me a working replacement key which theoretically cannot be used again now that it’s associated with my Steam Account.

The game is good. Really good. Good enough that I’m considering getting the XBOX version as well, so that I can play Team Fortress 2 with my XBOX friends (waiting for some kind of signal from them that they are actually interested in playing it though). I beat Portal over the course of a week, even though I’ve seen the whole thing on YouTube. Knowing what was going to happen put a slight damper on the experience, but it was still fun. Hearing the Portal Song, “Still Alive”, in-game… earning it with my own sweat and nausea… made me a little emotional. Team Fortress 2 has been a delight. I’m terrible at it, but the class-based FPS has a lot of depth. All this praise and I haven’t even installed Half-Life 2, ostensibly the biggest draw of The Orange Box for many gamers.

In general I shun these games because they make me sick, but TF2 has actually been easier to handle than some others (Gears of War, for example), and I think it’s because of the “cartoony” design. This would explain why I never had trouble with Doom or Marathon on my old Macintosh, but when Half-Life came out for the PC I was instantly vertigoed. There’s something about the high detail level that is more vertigo-inducing.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2008 in Entertainment

 

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The First-Slice is Always Free

Weirleader recently made a comment on my Portal post explaining that since Portal is more of a puzzle game, I should be able to take my time and think through it, and therefore avoid vertigo and motion sickness. Then, last night Basher emailed me about an nVidia promotion allowing those of us with nVidia video adapters to download the extended Portal demo, a.k.a. “First Slice”, for free. It seemed as though all signs were pointing to yes, so grabbed the demo and played the first 10 chapters of Portal. Having watched so much of the game play already, I picked it up pretty fast, and my end-game vertigo wasn’t that bad after all.

Before I went to sleep, I told Tangy that if Team Fortress can be played across platforms (e.g. XBOX vs. PC), that I’d pick The Orange Box up. Does anyone know whether this is possible?

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2008 in Entertainment

 

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It’s a Game of the Imagination

I took a spontaneous walk to the local comics store with Bads last night. The clerk Owen chatted us up for a while, and at some point the subject of “Magic: The Gathering” came up (I can’t remember how). Bads lit up at this, looked at me, and said “we should play Magic!”. I was caught a bit off guard here. Bads is the only friend I have in town who plays video games regularly, but I had no idea he was into Magic.

Truth be told, I’m not even really into Magic. I took it up for a year in high school, spending around $50 on it in all before I realized that I could not compete with friends who were spending hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of dollars on their card collections. At this point I don’t even know what happened to the cards I bought.

So we went back to Bads’s house, and played four games with his cards. Bads swept me four to zero – it was high school all over again.

And every time I played a spell card, I couldn’t resist the temptation of saying “I cast…. magic missile” in reference to this old Dead Alewives skit (flash version). (Note: the mp3 link at killermookie.org will open in Firefox on my windows computers, but not IE).

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2007 in Entertainment

 

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