The Disturbance in the Force was...

For those of you who I've not told in person what's going on yet... there was a huge disturbance in the force on July 11th for me. A shift sideways, if you will.

Death by... er... Death Star
The planet Alderaan. This is obviously an "after" pic.

I left Surreal Software.

That's a big huge enormous step for me... I'd been there for 3 and a half years, and because of that have worked with some of the most amazing people I've ever worked with. And I mean ever. These guys were awesome - almost like family. They honestly care about the people who work for them, and even though the company is getting quite large these days (its doubled in size since I started there), everyone there is a rockstar. That's rare.

Before you start wondering... no, I didn't leave because of the project I was working on, or problems with co-workers or anything else you might be imagining which is untoward. In fact, I'd have loved to have stayed and seen This Is Vegas all the way through to completion, because it's one of those projects which has the potential to just completely rock the gaming world. I've got faith that those guys will come out with an excellent game.

This Is Vegas: It's like someone took GTA 4 and gave it several large dirty martinis and a backstage pass to a Frank Sinatra concert

Nah, I left because working with your fiancee blows goats for both you and your fiancee. It removes that safety valve that everyone needs to vent about what's going on at work, because if you work together, often times you'll both be venting about the same thing - and from two different sides. Not good. That, and absence (even for a few hours each day) makes the heart grow fonder.

So where did I end up going? (And please, if your name is Andrew K, Pete I or Sean Ph, forgive me - I'm totally slammed right now, and this whole thing has been a bit of a roller-coaster. Emails are about to fly your way explaining what's going on).

The New Hotness...

XRK: You only think you've not heard of us because you've not been paying enough attention... yet

I've just started a new gig with the incredibly talented bunch X-Ray Kid Studios. Did you heard of Google Lively which hit beta about 3 weeks ago? Well, notice all that art and animation goodness? That's us.

I've come on board as Director of Engineering, which is a position I've been itching to sink my teeth into for a few years now.

We're working on our own IP right now. I can't tell you any more details, just please, rest assured that I've never seen a group of people so... well... synchronized. Everyone is on the same page as to what we want to create, and that's making the early stages mindblowingly smooth.

(BTW: I will be looking for at least 3 senior guys to join me on the team in the areas of general engine/tools tech, graphics and gameplay, and probably 2 or 3 mid to junior ones before the end of the year... although the details right now aren't fully figured out. If you know anyone in the games industry who's looking, let me know).

My Job So Far...

So far, over the past two weeks, I've been down to our Newport Beach offices in Orange County, California, and met the rest of the team in person. (All of whom are great... I spent a good part of my first week in complete and total utter fanboyish shell shock regarding the caliber and credentials some of the people I work with).

We get our offices up in Seattle on August 1st (X-Ray Kid North is the Video Game hub; X-Ray Kid South is the 2D/Animation/Cartoon/Comic Book/TV/Movie hub). The offices are right across the street from Surreal Software which is great (and means that I can still carpool to work), and literally right across the corridor from FXville - a group of mostly ex-Surreal Video Game FX and Character artists, whom I consider to be the absolute best in the business. (And if this all sounds rather incestuous and sparks your conspiracy theory neurons... that office complex is probably the best creative space for the price available right now).

I went to Gamefest 2008 last week and met up with some old friends, and made some new ones, did some networking, attended a number of talks, and discovered that - weirdly - about 75% of the attendees this year appeared to be Microsoft employees.

O Rly?

Meanwhile, the rest of my co-workers ended up at the San Diego Comicon. Unlike most people who go to the Comicon, they're the kind of people who actually go there and sign autographs and stuff, instead of lining up to get them. (Going to Comicon as superstars vs. listening to talks about how to compress data for streaming on the XBOX 360 at the exceptionally nerdy Gamefest 2008? I think they got the better end of the deal).

The embarassing thing tho? Last comic books I read was ... ok, well, strictly it was Absolute Watchmen. But before that? Er... that'd be my friend Aron Dittbrenner's one that he was working on. OK, so, anything commercial that anyone else would have read or heard of? Ummmm.. yeah... that'd be the Spiderman/Venom arc way back when. Like, 1985 or so. Before that, I did read my Uncle's entire Marvel comicbook collection which comprised of nearly everything Marvel published from about 1968 to about 1978. That was, I read it before my cousins decided they were coloring books and my aunt unfortunately didn't disavow them of this knowledge. God knows how much those would be worth today.

Which means that ... um... it's quite embarrassing to realize that nearly everyone I work with is a comic-book legend to those who follow them.

Jeff Matsuda gets his Batman on

Best thing about this job so far? Everyone's huge on collaboration, so I get to dabble with my more creative side instead of just pushing da onez and zeroez.

This week, I'm back down in the Irvine area, meeting up with potential Engine partners for a console game. *cracks knuckles* Time to get stuck in! (Although getting up at 4am for a flight... meh... goes with the territory).

Big leagues. Small massively agile company. This is going to be fun.

I'm planning on interviewing the guys I work with for either my blog or the X-Ray Kid website soon, so you can get a taste of what we're all about (the usual disclaimer: if I have time). More news as it happens. Keep 'em peeled.

About the author

Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.

The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).

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