Thursday October 29, 2020
My first Ubisoft game, Watch Dogs: Legion, is finally out. It gives me immense pride to see this released to the world, and I hope it lives up to the overwhelmingly positive reception it got when we announced it at E3 in 2019.
Though I worked on many gameplay systems - the AR Cloak, player inventory, character customisation, some of the gadgets and hacking abilities - there is one particular aspect of the game that will forever hold my legacy and it is this one thing that I am most proud of.
This map is shown in the game start sequence as DedSec London comes online. Observe a screenshot of this map during development, around the end of September 2019.
Yes, even my own project had committed the ultimate New Zealand faux pas - they left us off the map. I was outraged. I wrote an impassioned email to the entire project team and spoke about the wonderful things New Zealand has given the world, like Lord of the Rings, Flight of the Conchords, Lorde and Taika Waititi (this resonated well with many people who thoroughly enjoyed What We Do in the Shadows, not to mention he won People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival that year). I mentioned that subreddit and that IKEA map. I got a bug report filed for the issue, which became the most upvoted issue on the project at 85 votes.
By the end of the day, the artist in charge had responded to say that she had updated the map, and the next day, the bug report was marked as fixed and verified. I pulled a build for myself to see, and sure enough, Aotearoa was there, all nine glorious hexagons. I had literally put New Zealand on the map. I had saved Watch Dogs: Legion from being another casualty on /r/mapswithoutnewzealand, and that is my greatest achievement on this project.
Thursday July 30, 2020
Over four months have passed since we went into lockdown and started working from home. Toronto will move into Stage 3 of its economic opening plan, which allows for restrictive dine-in at restaurants and the opening of gyms and other recreational facilities. Masks continue to be mandatory in all indoor locations, and by and large, Canadians have responded well to the recommendations by health officials - and it shows in our decreasing numbers. Despite my love of food, it's unlikely I'll be dining in any time soon, just to make sure we stomp out that remainder of cases and don't get a second wave.
I was afraid we would have a bad summer but we've been able to enjoy the outdoors over the past few months. We've been on hikes in and outside of the city, visiting places like Mono Cliffs, Albion Falls and Limehouse Conservation Area. This weekend is Civic Holiday, and we'll be spending it near Sudbury, exploring Manitoulin Island and Killarney Provincial Park. The weather has been pretty scorching on most days, and while most of the weekends have been gloriously sunny, we've also had some fantastic summer thunderstorms which I've enjoyed watching from my balcony.
We've announced our release date for Watch Dogs: Legion, which will be October 29th 2020. It's been a hard slog but there's light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm looking forward to shipping my very first AAA game. Working from home has its challenges but on the whole, many of us have embraced this lifestyle and productivity has been very good. I still miss the social environment at the office, going out for lunches or grabbing a coffee or an ice cream, and Pokemon raids at the Water Tower or at Botman, but it's unlikely that I'll go back into the office until everything is back to normal.
It's been almost three years to the day since I landed in Toronto, and after last year's immigration hiccups when returning from Atlanta, I'm glad to say I'm finally a permanent resident of Canada. More than that, I've also bought an apartment within the same building I'm currently renting in, so yeah, looks like I'll be staying around for a while. Kind of a weird feeling to be adulting like this, but happy that I won't be paying someone else's mortgage anymore. It seemed like a good time to get into the market considering the effect that COVID19 has had on property and interest rates. There's still a few more things to sort out, and I need to start tidying up the place and getting ready to move, but it's good to know that I finally have a place to call my own.
Tuesday May 19, 2020
It's been two months since the city was put on lockdown. Tomorrow, some non-essential businesses and offices will start to open as long as they can maintain social distancing. I will continue to work from home since my productivity is not drastically impacted, though my setup at the office is more ergonomic. In addition to that, apparently some badminton places are opening up too, so we might be able to get out on the courts next week.
The weather has continued to be kinda gross, which helps with the stay at home thing. Last week it snowed, but like I've said before, what even is normal weather in this city? This weekend was definitely shorts and t-shirt weather though. I've been doing three hour walks in all directions from my place. The trail that runs next to the Humber River from Old Mill is really nice, as is High Park when there aren't as many people. Saturday walks usually start in the morning and end up at Nations around lunchtime, where I'll grab some Five Guys or Firehouse Subs for lunch, and a cheeky milk tea from Chatime, and then do my grocery shopping before heading home.
As the weather improves (it's almost summer?!), it's going to be harder and harder to stay at home. The number of daily cases continues to drop but it's not like New Zealand where they're enjoying zero cases regularly, or one case from a known cluster. My flights to Malaysia were cancelled too. It's still very uncertain how all of this is going to pan out, and I'm really hoping things will start going back to normal soon.
I need a damn haircut.
Tuesday March 24, 2020
It's a strange time. Countries around the world have gone into lockdown, closing all non-essential businesses, public amenities, education providers, tourist attractions and meeting places. The streets are much less busy, save for the frenzy at supermarkets as people stupidly hoard supplies like canned food, frozen pizza and for some inexplicable reason, toilet paper. Thankfully, the weather is still cold and miserable, and the temptation to go outside is almost non-existent.
I'm lucky that I have a place to live, food to eat (and damn my cooking is so good) and that I have continued employment during this time. In fact, as part of the entertainment industry, it's our duty to provide that beacon of entertainment in the darkness of social isolation. All of Ubisoft Toronto is now mandated to work from home, as are many others in the city. Having the Internet keeps me connected to friends and family around the world who are going through similar lockdowns. Of course I miss badminton, going out for dinner, karaoke, going to the gym and playing the piano, but we must make sacrifices now or pay much greater consequences later.
It's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. There's growing uncertainty with what the world will be like in a month's time. In two month's time. We just have to take it one day at a time, knowing that our self isolation is for the greater good.
Wednesday January 1, 2020
I spent the last five days in New Orleans, basically inspired by this video to go and explore Creole and Cajun cuisine. NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana), as its affectionately known, was never really on my travel radar, but this year I knew I wanted to get out of the country for Christmas, especially since I had the time off anyway, and I wanted to go somewhere warm and different.
As much as I would have liked to reenact the video like Katrin and Janine, I didn't have enough time, or really the stomach space. I did the best I could, and I thoroughly enjoyed not only the food, but the history behind their cuisine. Apart from that, there's some beautiful architecture in the French Quarter, and City Park and Audubon Park are really nice walking areas, but there's not much else to see in the city, so I spent a lot of time just lazing about and playing Pokemon Go. It's so good to see the city back on its feet after Hurricane Katrina, although the devastating collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel right in downtown was still visible. I found Amorino, the gelateria that crafts their ice creams into roses, which I had first tried in Seville, Spain. The Steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River had a lady rocking out on the steam organ, which was probably my favourite memory of NOLA. There were street performers and random jazz music jams in the French Quarter, and a lot of drunk people walking down Bourbon Street. I'm not really a party animal, nor am I a big drinker, so I didn't really participate in that side of New Orleans, but I still had a really good time.