Say hello to my little friend!

YES! Finally, yesterday was payday after my recent fishing antics, catching pretty much nothing but plants and algae. Last weekend I lost a really nice hook in a silly attempt at fishing in completly worthless conditions, and the week before that I sprained an ankle as me and Andres made a little trip in the woods. I was out by myself, getting hungry and at the final stop of the day. At the bottom of a big cliff I had climbed down, feeling sort of like a failure. Then this one took a bite on my hook!

Elegant. Swedish fish equivalent to JAS 39 Gripen! The width of the hoop is about 60 cm.

It´s pretty much my first catch ever, and before I had no idea how it actually feel to have one firmly on the hook. Now I do! On my fifth or sixth throw I felt the rod twitching, so I held off a little on the reel, and a second later it was literally screaming. I quickly tightened the let-off a little (or reel-brake of whatever it´s called) and realised it was something p r e t t y big on the other end. I had read up on the lake I was fishing in and suspected it was a pike. And she put put up one hell of a fight, it was probably a female as I’ve read that male pikes don´t get this big. I was more or less sweating after a few minutes when I started seeing huge marks coming up on the surface. I also had my polarizing shades so I could see down into the water a bit. She pulled really hard at times and every time the reel started screaming I only recall thinking something like “nonononononoooo, please, you´re not that big!”. I quickly caught up with what technique to use though, carefully catching up the line after each “round” and simply holding still or letting go a little as she pulled. After a while though there was no question about what it was as I got it up to the surface. I was standing there for a moment, somewhat confused and stressed out, just holding the rod and staring at it before getting the hoop. I was really surprised about how much the fish weighted as I lifted it out of the water. I can´t say how much, but it was heavy. Getting the hook out was a little tricky as two of the three hooks was firmly lodged in the outer edge of the lower jaw, and when I  finally got it out it was all bent. Before getting the hook out I also had to mess around a with getting the jaw-opener firmly in place as I didn’t exactly feel like sticking my hand into the mouth as there was a huge amount of teeth in there. I was also really surprised about how hard it bite down at times.

The hook I used, not a big one but apparently interesting enough.

For a moment I thought about killing and cooking it, but in the end I concluded that it was larger than what I was allowed to bring with me. I really felt I had gotten enough satisfaction out of catching it though, and she proved to be such a respectable opponent (this day) so I let her back into the water. Afterwards I was almost shaking as I just had the biggest adrenaline rush in a long time. I walked back home, wearing a silly smile on my face the rest of the day.
And last but not least, I now have the office fishing record, BAM!
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Dj P, Little Peter a.k.a Peter Johansson (Part 2 of 2)

Part one of this presentation can be found HERE.

As I write this two and a half years has already passed since I got hired and started working at Expansive Worlds in February  2010. Time passes rapidly in this business as you often combine a certain amount of stress with having lots of fun at the same time. The stressed out part though is something you learn to pay attention to to avoid hitting the infamous wall. While speaking in very general terms here the work of a game developer is quite often about maintaining a balance between your own and other peoples ideas and motivations. Beside being incredibly fun and rewarding It´s also a high risk and demanding buisness where anything can happen in the blink of an eye and the sooner you fully accept and adapt to that the longer you will survive. Life at EW and theHunter can be seen as somewhat different though, at least for me and compared to my past experience. While we still set deadlines and constantly push ourselves the absence of a publisher watching over their multi million dollar investment like hawks makes a pretty big difference. Also the fact that we take one step at a time, developing and releasing new items, features, fixing bugs etc helps to bring focus to the work and reduce the overall sense of risk. While it´s hardly possible to make everybody happy with everything I don´t think we have yet to fail completely with a release causing us to seriously reevaluate our direction. But of course we´re not entirely off the hook just because there is no publisher directly involved with our production. We still have to make the business work and look after the investment that was made by Avalanche Studios to begin with, acquiring the rights to theHunter and setting up the studio where I work, and it´s really only thanks to their previous hard work that we have the privilege of existing today. The fact that we´re also providing a very niched type of entertainment also makes it harder to market and sell.

Starting out at EW was a similar experience to my old company where key staff was more or less still in the process of begin hired, and it makes me very happy to be part of creating a company and a culture as well as just a piece of software. When I started there was only one person actually working for EW, our Lead Programmer Andres that had previously worked at Avalanche and moved on to theHunter. The company CEO (Stefan) was also hired but wouldn’t start working at the office until a few months later. I met and had lunch with Stefan before getting the final go on my employment and all I remember was our discussion about the project and everything else just became a blur of excitement. I’ve learned to really appreciate the times when you find yourself working with someone you just naturally and totally professionally argue and solve problems with. Stefan was actually the third person during my career with whom I felt I had that kind of connection with, and at the moment I´d say the feeling is now moving on to include the the entire team which is also something new. As I have previously worked in larger teams between thirty and sixty people it was great getting back to a small company and team where creativity runs more free and bureaucracy is at a minimum. It´s a bigger responsibility, but also more fun in the long run!

Beside getting into how everything worked around the game engine etc my first proper contribution to theHunter included the art for the Pheasant and the Side by side shotgun. Loggers point and the Feral hog was already made by people at Avalanche before I started, but they had not been released to the public yet. I also started getting in contact and communicating with the community of players, and I admit I was pretty jumpy about it at first as that was nothing I had ever done before (as a developer in a larger studio you rarely communicate with anyone outside the studio about your work). I soon found it interesting and very rewarding though as I was learning many new things, widening my own ideas about product development, teamwork and last but not least developing my argumentation and diplomacy skills. While I´m sure this is the modern way of product development , letting the customers have a proper say and the privilege of being listened to, it´s also a hard balance to keep as working creatively require a lot of peace and quiet at the same time. I have no idea of how many actually appreciate the complexity of what I´m speaking of here. I´m pretty sure a common thought, especially in a community such as ours, may be “how hard can if be to get things right when having access to all this expertise?” The problem has nothing to do with access to expertise or lack of information but the challenges of interpretation and implementation. One good example of this is the topic of fishing and whether that would be an interesting addition to theHunter. The problems mostly concern how to translate the more basic things into the game/simulation; like the sense of relaxation you get while fishing, the suspense and the thrill of something partially unknown catching that bait as well as the struggle of landing it? These things which form the basic incentives behind the whole thing are more abstract and have little to do with flashy fishing rods, matching clothes, impressive numbers or even a lifetime of knowledge about what bait to use in different situations.

I want to point out though how much respect I have for people that know things like hunting, similar to farming, construction and real world engineering (you know, real work). and my ambition to provide a great simulation experience to all of you. While I have little against commodities of modern life I´m also very interested in good old survival skills.

I will not delve much further into details here as I could easily and up writing a whole book about it. But I should say the biggest highlights during my time with theHunter mostly concern things indirectly connected to it; such as how my responsibilities makes me grow as a person, and the stuff we do at the side of the production. Visiting the US and the Eastern Sports and Outdoor show in early February 2011 was one thing I will never forget. Meeting some great and friendly people, and being really surprised to see all that archery stuff rather than just guns. Later that year me and Stefan went to ELMIA, the biggest hunting expo in Sweden, which was also a great experience. Among other things I met and almost fell in love with a young and super cute girl in camo clothes, making a living as a wildlife painter when she was not out blasting clays and grouse with her Beretta (there´s definitely something about women who can handle guns). In the end I have nothing but admiration to the people within this world that I have met and which is so far from the common gamers (cough, nerds, cough) that i´m more used to. I´m definitely a huge nerd myself though, but not really the dungeons and dragons type!

I often find my work, hobbies and personal life to blend together, which is how I like it. Every time I´m out and see wildlife nowadays I stop and look more carefully, appreciating it so much more than before, and working on theHunter gives me a lot of ideas for things I want to do on my spare time. It kind of weird because despite the fact that I’ve grown up on a farm I’ve never  had any direct contact with hunting specifically. If you don´t include chasing runaway dairy cows around, which can also be pretty fun.

theHunter really ends up being a great combination of things I personally value and appreciate in life right now, the moral/ethical statement combined with an educational/simulation aspect and hi-end game technology. I appreciate learning, replicating and simulating real things rather than coming up with “star-trek” stuff, even though I´m pretty good at that too. Working within a small and extremely creative team and being in a position to really influence the work being done, feeling I have a lot of freedom but also responsibility and working on something that I truly believe in. I have no idea where we all will end up, but for now I defenitely sense it´s somewhere nice!

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theDevs go fishing!

Booyaka! Time for a new developer entry, featuring theDevs. Last Friday we went on a weekend fishing trip! Andrés, Peter, Robert and Daniel were the braves ones accepting the challenge, which turned into a pretty nice little adventure.

We’ll start from the beginning. Last Friday morning we wanted to celebrate the release of the Muzzleloader with a little fishing trip. We went in the CEO’s car (Robets crappy Volvo. No seriously, it’s quite nice) to Mölnbo, outside of Stockholm, to Andrés parents summerhouse to stay over the weekend. The plan was just having some fun together, make dinner, drink some beer, and first and foremost to see if we could catch some fish with our brand new fishing rods. We’re not what you call experienced fishermen, except for Andrés perhaps, who knows a little bit about it and has some past experience. But the rest of us are pretty green.

We went to a nearby lake and started throwing hooks where we thought the reeds would not have all of them. After a couple of minutes Andrés (probably using some trick he didn’t want to share with the rest of us) pulled a small pike out of the water. While celebrating the first catch of the day though, the fish, somehow, dropped the hook and jumped right back into the water on the slippery sloping rock and escaped. In the end the fish got lucky and at least we got ourselves a great laugh!

After a while, without catching any fish, we hiked on toward another spot where we had lunch. Hot dogs, coffee and a beer (but just one beer each. We´re responsible people you know).

Half decent Swedish view.

Peter, Andrés and Danny.

Food always taste so much better in the wild. And it hardly even have to be thoroughly cooked! We ended up wasting most of our drinking water on putting the grill out once finished as nobody felt like carrying it back home while it was still glowing hot.

Soon after lunch, at a new fishing spot, Robert got lucky and caught a nice perch that we decided to keep. Andres broke it’s neck and Peter got struggling with some of his fishing line being tangled up pretty bad, we concluded that a little more weight on the hooks would make it easier to keep the line stretched while throwing.

First proper catch of the day (can you see it?). Don’t know what that tall guy is smiling about though because he didn’t catch anything!

A short while later Andrés caught a little one which he gave a second chance at life and let back into the water.

Andrés and his little friend at mercy.

The real action was yet to come though. Danny thought he was snagged, but soon realized whatever his hook was stuck in was moving. And it was definitely bigger than anything we had gotten before. After a short struggle an awesome pike appeared on the surface. Everyone was quite chocked to see this and while trying to pull it out of the water the line snapped and it ended up getting away, with the hook and everything. Note to self: get a hoop-net to pick the fish up with next time!

We didn’t quite see the whole thing, but at the time it seemed to be quite similar in size to a great white shark.

After that whole adventure with the pike was settling we thought it would be a good idea to turn back home. Andrés was of course sure of the way and we embarked. Problem was only they had made new logging roads all over the place since Andres was there the last time and we ended up at a dead end. It had started to rain a little and as we all (still) had trust in Andrés leading us we went on, straight into the woods which turned out to be a less good idea.

One of several deer feeders we came across during the day, and there was hunting stands all over the place. Something is definitely going on here, and it probably ain’t organized flower picking!

After getting somewhat lost while trying to navigate using our cellphones GPS, negotiating a few bogs, slippery rock, clear cuts, ditches, mud holes, getting our feet soaked, spirits weakened and just plain tired we got back to the house. Not tired of fishing though, so we threw a few more hooks from a small pier while the rain got worse.

Peter wasn’t giving up despite his lousy odds. The rain is hard to see but it is there!

When we were more or less freezing we finally got back indoors, had more beer, made a great dinner and played some cards for the rest of the evening and early night.

We also cleaned, fried and ate the perch that Robert caught earlier. It was delicious! “Best fish I’ve ever had in my life.” – Danny.

AK 47 gets the job done! Awesome Cold Steel folding knife bought by Peter at his trip to the Eastern Sports show last year.

In the end it was a great and fun weekend, and we’ll definitely do it again some time and report back here about our success!

Until next time, gangnam style!

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Dj P, Little Peter a.k.a Peter Johansson (Part 1 of 2)

Onwards and upwards we go with the developer presentations! This time it´s Dj P himself laying down a few antics from the day he was born. This post will be split into two, the first one featuring the past and the other the present. Hopefully you will get a sense of who he is and what he is about.

Dj P, nickname of Peter Johansson, is currently the Lead Artist/Art Director/Designer at Expansive Worlds. The nickname Dj P was invented by EW staff after a recent and miserably failed attempt at organising a music playlist at a party. The other nickname “Little Peter” comes from the fact that he is almost seven feet tall (and don´t go on to ask! He knows what you’re thinking right now and the answer is “no I don´t”).

Dj_p

Dj P In theHunter style, with his favourite Swedteam cap!

But first things first, to make a long story short and highlighting some of the essential stuff. I grew up on a small farm outside a city called Örebro in the middle of Sweden. I know how to hand milk cows, drive tractors, wheel loaders and the meaning of “hard work”. I started drawing when I was about six years old (being the only one in my entire family doing that). I was doodling myself all the way through school paying more attention to practical and creative subjects rather than mathematics and grammar. Nowadays I can’t help but partially despise the education system for failing to inspire and teach how all those theoretical subjects apply to real life rather than the classroom itself as they are quite essential after all. After school I worked at the local radio station for about one year designing, building and maintaining web pages. Like every other westerner around the turn of the millenium (It seemed at the time at least) my dream was to become a web designer as HTML and the embossed graphics had become my religion. I also helped out doing radio but quickly concluded it was not my thing, and being really scared at the time about public speaking didn’t really help me either.

Early work

Early work. Could have made a pretty good movie?

By pure chance someone at a newly founded game company found my online portfolio. I recieved a mail from the company asking if i’d like to  work for them, and I ended up moving a few hours away from home to Stockholm. At the time I begun working for that company (Called GRIN) I knew close to nothing about making games and my job was only to paint textures for the 3D models that was created by others. Nine years later I had picked up enough things though to have progressed from being a “Texture Artist” to a “3D artist”, going on to work as ”Lead Artist”, “Concept Artist”, “Art Director” including other “Senior Artist” duties as well. By 2008 GRIN had grown into one of the biggest game developers in Sweden, with a staff amount to almost 300 people in three studios in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Barcelona, and people (myself included) made trips to the US and Los Angeles flirting with the Movie industry. In 2009 and the later part of the global financial crisis the games industry was suddenly hit harder than anyone had anticipated causing the company to suffer from several large title productions being terminated by publishers (naturally crapping their pants on their expenses). The company was decimated to about a hundred employees working in the Stockholm office, but only a few months later the one project still being worked on was also revoked by the publisher causing the entire company to go bankrupt. In hindsight it was of course a very sad but also interesting experience, and probably also a hard life lesson to see so much hard work and serious effort just going straight into a black hole. Two weeks after the initial announcement the company was bankrupt there was nothing left but a deserted office full of dusty hardware. I bought my office chair at the foreclosure auction for 50 swedish crowns (less than $10).

My chair

My chair. Best one I ever had!

When a company goes bankrupt in Sweden the government step in and pay people equivalent to the salary they would get through their resignation period (paying the high taxes in Sweden is not always a bad thing). I ended up getting several months worth of salary giving me the opportunity to try something I had been thinking about for a long time, setting up a company of my own and go freelance. I did a few jobs for a movie company and another game studio but soon found myself missing the creative atmosphere within a studio, and not to mention the social aspects of going to the work every day and hang out with other like minded people. I started looking for full time employment in and around Stockholm again but failed to get any as the studios were still holding onto their money like crazy until the financial climate turned back toward the better again. Around christmas I knocked on the door to the Avalanche office and asked to talk to someone (I’m not one who belive that sending an email is enough to make an impression when looking for work). I was rejected at the time but encouraged to come back in a few months. So I did, and I got an appointment with the studio Art Director. Which was too busy too see me when I got there so I got to talk to two other guys, and here´s where things got really interesting!

I came across theHunter already back in early 2009, pretty soon after the game became available to the public. I remember trying it out at work just to have a look at the pretty graphics and was instantly hooked. I’m a simulation/technical person by heart and was struck by the immersion when walking around in the woods, while asking myself; how the ¤#%& should you be able to find any animals in this… mess (of vegetation)! But I was soon successful, and a paying member.. I knew Avalanche Studios was involved with creating content for the game and during the interview I asked (half joking) if they would be interested in hiring someone to work on that project. Naturally I didn´t really think I would get to work on such an obscure project, and I had absolutely no idea that Avalanche had (apparently) acquired and signed the rights to the game just a few days earlier and was planning on setting up an entirely new company to continue developing it. I was totally blown away by the coincidence as it turned out that was the reason I was brought in to the interview in the first place. Of course I got super excited and they told me they would get back with a small work test for me before they could make the final call.

I went home and improvised as I wanted that job more than anything else! While I’m always careful to follow direction and guidelines I´m not the one sitting on my ass if I don’t get any, or if you’re too slow delivering them. I modeled and textured the head of a moose (the very same but slightly tweaked head being used on the Moose in theHunter today). My spontaneous effort was apparently very appreciated and I was hired!

Work test

My improvised work test.

Continued in part 2.

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Hello World!

This is the first post in our new blog which aim is to provide everyone with a modern, comprehensible and common source of information about the development and progress of theHunter. The good old “status updates” that a lot of you have been following will be a regular part of this, but our ambition is also to add a greater mix of news and articles shedding more light on the individual people working with theHunter and what they are doing in more detail.
The plan is to have our team members write things here on a regular basis, about anything they like being related to theHunter. Hopefully you will get a better idea of who we actually are as well as more details on what problems we might be struggling with at times. I imagine our Game Designer Björn writing about the complexity of certain game design elements. I could explain more in detail what an african environment would involve, and our programmers could give you a better idea of the complexity of their work.
Everything that is not official Company news, Status updates and details on patches and updates to the actual game should be of a more personal nature to bring a little nuance to our “moneymaking corporation venture” as it might sometimes appear to be to some, perhaps. To begin with the regular status updates will be posted here along with any other news, and we´ll also start adding the occasional “developer entry” and see what happens.

Comments and discussions here on the Blog will be disabled. Instead we invite you to our forums where discussions and our own developer input will go on as usual, and any new post here will be highlighted in the Latest News and Announcements section where you may comment our ramblings.
Hopefully this blog will turn out to be what we and you may hope for it to be, but like everything in any of our lives it will be a work in progress. We´re all looking forward to an interesting autumn at the office where quite a few things will be happening.

Happy hunting until next time!

doc

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