Sunday, 13 March 2011

My day at Blitz games

First post in a while! Been crazy busy recently, but with loads of interesting stuff!!

So on March 10th 2011 I got the opportunity to visit blitz games in Leamington spa!! I thought I would do a write up of what it was like to give anyone else thinking of applying an idea of what to expect. (If you're thinking of going already, do it! it's well worth it!)

I arrived in Leamington spa on the 9th and stayed overnight in Buckland Lodge, the hotel it self was a bit dated but overall it was ok. Run by a guy called John who seemed nice and it was cheaper than the travel lodge! Also got breakfast in the morning, always good :)

Next day I was up at 7:30 got breakfast had a bath (no shower in my room! gutted!) and got up to Blitz just before 9. At which point I waited for Rhys (One of the programmers we worked with in the 2nd year, also from Newport uni). But Rhys managed to get himself lost so I just went inside and I was cold.

Once I was inside we got directed through to a room on the 2nd floor where we had coffee and waited for everyone to get there. By 9:30 most people had arrived (besides Rhys who was still epically lost). We had a brief intro to how the day would go by a lady named Kim Blake who worked in Blitz's PR department. We also had to sign Personal Confidentiality Agreements, just in case we spotted anything we weren't suppose to!

After that was all done we were introduced to Philip Oliver (unfortunately his brother, Andrew Oliver, couldn't make it). Philip talked about the background of the company and how and why the operate like they do. This one was of my favourite talks, it gave a nice overview of how Blitz works and how and why a lot of things in the Industry work.

The We had a presentation by Struan Robertson who spoke about project management. He spoke more in depth about how Blitz is structured, who reports to who, and what his role in the company is. He also spoke about the importance of communication and how even after all the management and structuring systems communication between staff was still most important.

Next up came Tom Gaulton who spoke to us about the technology they develop at Blitz. Talking about why the develop their own engine and tools rather than buying it in. What his job involves and how Blitz tech started (with him on his own!).

After a coffee break Lance Winter gave a presentation on Design. Followed by Daryl Clewlow about 2D art, Jolyon Webb about 3D art and finally before another Coffee break Eoin Loughrey about animation. Then a presentation by Jon Mann on audio, Helana Santos spoke to us about programming and to finish up before Lunch Neil Holmes talked about Blitz 1up and Indie City.

During lunch we had food put on for us (sandwiches, crisps and some amazing chocolate brownies). Philip Oliver joined us again during the break and we had an opportunity to question him about various things. He told us about his views on the current situation of the UK industry and how TIGA (he's on the  board of directors) are trying to attain tax breaks for UK games development. Which is something I'm quite interested in so it was nice to be able to hear someone who's directly involved in it talk about it. We also got a chance to check out Blitz's cabinet & trophy area, full of games they had been part of from Dizzy Egg onwards!

After Lunch Aaron Miller spoke to us about TruSim. A department at Blitz dedicated to creating "serious" games. Such as training simulations for paramedics responding to a situation that require triage (for example a bomb going off). This presentation I hadn't really been that excited about, however it turned out to be a very interesting subject. Following this Sally Moor spoke to us about QA. This hammered home the point that QA is definitely more than playing games all day. More like very repetitive testing trying to break the games and then in depth documentation on what you've done. Not an easy job! But we did get to see a showreel of pretty funny bugs from dead to rights.

Following this we got a tour around (most of!) the studio. Some sections we couldn't see as what was being worked on hadn't been announced yet, saying that Kim did seem like she really wanted to show us! We did try and persuade her, but no luck. This was my favourite part of the day. Everyone who works there are divided into sub teams who were assigned different projects to work on. Each team has studio space allocated to them and a load of PC's & development kits! It really looked like a cool place to work, room after room of talented and enthusiastic people doing all sorts of cool stuff. The walls were covered in random posters and drawings (one team had a dragon thing going on, so loads and loads of cartoon dragons were all over the walls!) and the shelves were stacked with DVD's, games and books. We got another chance to speak with the 3D artists who showed us what they were working on and talked about creating art that worked across multiple platforms. For example if you create realistically sized grass on an iphone it won't look like grass, just because of the screen size.

After the tour we got divided into groups according to what role we had visited as (I was there as a 3D artist) and our work was shown to the other visitors in the same category as us and two 3D artists already working at Blitz. It was quite scary having my work on a screen in front of seven people I had never met before including the two professional 3D artists. But that feeling disappeared quite quickly as everyone started discussing the work. The guys from Blitz gave great feedback highlighting weak and strong areas of the work. And showing paint over's they had done with various annotations of the work. They both obviously knew what they were talking about. Another incredible part of the day. Also it was amazing to see everyone else's work, I was genuinely impressed, the other guys there had some inspiring stuff! Really made me want to go and learn more about the skills needed to be 3D artist. It also scared me slightly as I could see that if I did want to become a 3D artist for games that the competition is very high! And I have a long way to go yet!

Philip Oliver joined us after the feedback sessions had ended to answer any more question we had. We also got given some goody bags!! Then we were all lead en mass by Kim to a bar called Voodoo! Here Rhys and I met a programmer from Blitz called Chi and a technical artist called Darren. Unfortunately Darren had to leave early to go to the gym (Chi did tell him that you burn more fat at the gym when your drunk, it's scientifically proven! but he didn't believe it.) Rhys had to leave shortly after. I didn't do a great job at networking but did do a better job getting drunk with Chi and some of the other programmers from Blitz! I did get a chance to see one of the designers (who was also on the open day) portfolio, which was two game design / pitch documents for the DS. They were really awesome! but being amazing at networking I forgot to ask her what her name was before she left. One of her games had dinosaurs in which totally rocks! It's about this point I realised that everyone else who had been on the open day had left and I was just sat with the programmers from Blitz and one animator (I think) who was getting told (by the programmers) that soon he would be out of a job because it would all be with procedural programming! we moved to another bar with an open mic night and after that we decided it was time to get pizza and go to bed.

The next morning I did meet  Liam & Aiden, two audio designers who were also on the open day and had happened to be staying in the same hotel. Turned out Aiden was on the same train back to Birmingham with me so had a chat to him about the stuff he was doing which was really cool. I did mention that we were looking for audio designers for DoubleX so he might help us out on that! Good stuff!

The day overall was brilliant and if you are considering going you should definitely do it! And thanks to everyone at litz for the opportunity to come and visit!

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