02.6.14
News, Studio, Team Zed

Lewis Fixed It

One day, everything blew up.

This was back in 2007 or so. I was at ArenaNet at the time, and we had just published an live update for our big MMO Guild Wars. Something had gone wrong, and nobody could login to the game. Our community forums were exploding with angry players, our customer service team was calling us frantically wanting to know what they should tell people, the server programmers were snapping at anyone who even walked into their field of view (“If I knew what the frakking problem was don’t you think I would have told you by now?!”), and everyone was tense and worried.

Well, except for this one guy. We’d hired this kid out of DigiPen about a few years earlier, and he’d turned out to be a damn fine programmer. So much so that we now had him working on core server code, which is basically the lifeblood of any MMO. The Big Scary Stuff. Lewis was kind of quiet, had a terrible sense of humor (in the sense that he had a strong sense of humor, but loved bad puns and daily joke calendar kinds of things), was super smart, and completely unflappable. While everyone else was batting away the swarming management types, Lewis was quietly coding amidst the chaos.

I remember thinking, “Damn, doesn’t he realize what’s going on here? We have several hundred thousand players who can’t login right now, and he’s just sitting there coding without a care in the world.”

And then, without turning around, he simply says, “Fixed it.”

It took a few minutes for it to sink in, but yeah, he’d found the issue, fixed it, and published a build. Everyone was logging in and happily playing.

So this is the kind of guy you want on your side, whether you’re programming the zombie apocalypse, or actually trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Calm, cool, competent, and, when called upon, a real ass kicker. Of course, the bad jokes would get him killed on the second day, but my god, how awesome would he be on the first day?

Lewis is a great addition to Team Zed, and he’ll be helping drive a lot of the awesomeness to come. Welcome aboard, Lewis!

Jeff

“Did you hear about the kidnapping at school?”
“No! What happened?”
“He woke up.”

(Actual joke Lewis told me yesterday.)

Check out Lewis’s own article here: http://undeadlabs.com/2014/02/studio/anything-that-needs-doing/

01.30.14
News, Studio, Team Zed

‘Bout Damn Time

“Did you write the code that spits out an empty page at the end of every print job?”

It was June 1996, and I was on a pay phone in the cafeteria at Hewlett-Packard interviewing for a job at Blizzard Entertainment. The guy on the other end of the line was Patrick Wyatt, their VP of R&D.

It wasn’t going well.

“Uh, no, I don’t think so. It probably…”

“Well, I think you probably did it because it makes HP a ton of money on paper sales. What do you know about device independent bitmaps? Are you familiar with CreateDIBSection()? What is the make and model of the video card in your gaming PC? What are the pros and cons of object oriented programming?”

Object oriented programming was still a pretty new concept at the time, and I had just finished a few training courses in it at HP, so I talked about that and my sweet new video card (a Diamond Stealth3D 2000 OMG 3D!) to try to cover for the fact that I had absolutely no clue what a DIB section was, much less how to create one.

Somehow, I got the job; and while getting to work on some of the definitive online games of that era was great, working alongside Patrick Wyatt on them was even better.

Patrick was a programmer and designer on Blizzard’s early console titles such as Rock & Roll Racing and The Lost Vikings. Great games, but ultimately mere warmups for his next efforts: Warcraft, Warcraft II, and StarCraft, for which he was the principal programmer and producer. As VP of R&D for Blizzard, Pat also made major contributions to Diablo and Blizzard’s Battle.net gaming network.

Patrick left Blizzard in 2000 to co-found ArenaNet, where, in addition to his business, design, and production roles, he developed the core server and network platform technology for the hit MMO Guild Wars.

So yeah, the guy has some serious game development chops.

Prior to starting Undead Labs, I worked alongside Pat for almost 14 years. He’s been a tremendous mentor, colleague, and friend during that time, and we’ve made some damn fine games together. It’s true that he once called me at 5:00 AM because he hit the wrong speed-dial button when he was trying to get the surf report, but I forgave him when he took me to Carl’s Junior for a Western Bacon Cheeseburger while my wife was in labor with our first child.

Jeff and Pat living the healthy California lifestyle.

Jeff and Pat living the healthy California lifestyle, circa 1996

Today, I’m very happy to announce that Patrick has joined Undead Labs, and will be working shoulder-to-shoulder with Team Zed as we dive into the development of… well, what’s next, and beyond.

Patrick has written some thoughts on joining the Lab, which you can read here.

Welcome to the Lab, amigo. ‘Bout damn time.

Jeff

PS: Patrick still insists I’m responsible for the extra blank page at the end of every print job. Of course, he’s also always insisted that every person has an NSA agent assigned to spy on them from birth, and it turns out he was right about that, so…

01.10.14
News, Studio

The Road Ahead

Hola fellow survivors,

I wanted to let you know we’ve signed a multi-year, multi-title agreement to extend our development relationship with Microsoft Studios. We’ll be able to share details later this year, but as with State of Decay, we think it’s best if we just keep our heads down and build some prototypes before we talk too much. For now, suffice it to say there are big things going on with State of Decay.

If this were a press release, we’d have a carefully vetted quote from Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Studios, expressing Microsoft’s excitement as well. But pictures speak louder than words, and we think Phil spoke pretty loudly during the keynote at E3 last year:

941805_10151923384671633_1743200524_n

Thanks to Phil and everyone on our hard working team at Microsoft Studios for believing in State of Decay!

And most of all, thanks to all of you for your ongoing support, encouragement, and enthusiasm for State of Decay. We know how far we’d have gotten if it hadn’t been for your spreading the word, and it definitely wouldn’t be here. You made this happen.

It’s been a long haul from the original vision to this point, and the road ahead of us will take years to travel. We hope you’re up for the trip, because we can’t do it without you.

10.17.13
Jobs

Game Animator

Can you bring these sketches to life?

If your answer is “hell yeah!” and you’ve got the animation chops to do it, we want to talk to you.

We’re looking for a talented and passionate animator to join our veteran team of developers and bring our next generation of games to life. You might be our dream candidate if:

  • You are obsessed about the craft of animation and can rattle off your all-time animation heroes from film and games
  • You love (and I mean freaking love) games and are able to talk in depth about them (and believe me, you’ll be grilled on this…)
  • You are at home with hand-built key-framed animation as well as mocap direction and integration, and able to discuss the appropriate uses for each
  • You know your way around Maya with your eyes closed
  • You have shipped at least one game as a professional animator
  • You sleep on a bed of “Art of… ” books
  • You can work quickly and comfortably in a rapid prototype environment
  • You want to stretch yourself professionally and personally to help us create something truly fresh and innovative
  • You can talk intelligently about game design and enjoy working shoulder-to-shoulder with talented designers
  • You are as excited about making awesome games as creating awesome animations

Did I just describe you? If so, this is your chance to join the elite developers at Undead Labs. Contact us directly if you know someone at the Lab. Otherwise, send us an email at jobs@undeadlabs.com with your resume and links to your online portfolio.

For more information about what it’s like to work at the Lab, check out our jobs page.

We look forward to hearing from you!

10.17.13
Jobs

Game Producer

Undead Labs is structured a bit differently than traditional game studios.

Triple-A games are massive, resource intensive projects that demand a ton of investment capital and large teams. In fact, the unquenchable demand for content in the next generation of online games is pushing team sizes into the hundreds. But these huge teams bring significant tradeoffs, such as inefficient communication, forced specialization (okay, you’re modeling all the eyelashes for the native dendari insect-men for the next four years), and, worst of all, the loss of cohesive studio culture. Also, huge teams just aren’t as much fun.

Undead Labs is built around a culture of pragmatism and strong production values, which allows us to build a smaller, elite team of veteran developers and take advantage of the high-caliber art and technology resources available around the world. But operating that way requires skilled and knowledgeable producers, and that’s where you come in.

We’re looking for a talented producer to help us build global production pipelines, document and refine processes, facilitate communication, and generally bring order to the chaos of building ambitious games. If you’re an organization freak, can explain the difference between a CMS and a DAM, wax poetic on the pros and cons of Scrum (and any other production religions du jour), and love to see a complicated process distilled down to its core essence, you might have a home with us.

Love of games is, of course, also required…

Here are some other things we’d like to see:

  • A few years of professional experience in product management
  • Game development experience in any capacity is a huge plus
  • A formal educational background in an accredited four-year program is a big plus
  • Experience with and passion for tools, including spreadsheets, wikis, CMSs, blogs, and project-management tools
  • An attitude of service, but also an ability to lead
  • A self-starter who is happy to be in the driver’s seat, rather than the passenger’s seat
  • A passionate, pleasant, fun demeanor
  • Deep knowledge of and respect/appreciation/love for State of Decay also a big plus; like, really big

This position is for full-time employment at the Undead Labs studio in Seattle. For more information about what it’s like to work at the Lab, check out our jobs page.

If you’re interested in applying for this position, send your resume and a cover letter explaining why you are the perfect candidate to jobs@undeadlabs.com.

We look forward to hearing from you!

10.17.13
Jobs

Game Programmer

Want to do something completely different? With the highly successful release of State of Decay behind us, we’re heading into uncharted territory with our upcoming projects, and we need a few more hardcore programmers to help us get there.

We need help creating latency-tolerant combat engines, rapid world generation and authoring technologies, sophisticated creature AI, global virtual economy systems, scalable persistent object systems, etc. In other words, all of the cool technologies required for online-world games.

This is complicated stuff, and requires an elite team of programmers who really know what they are doing. Are you an elite programmer? Among the best? If so, we want talk to you.

Here’s what we look for in a programmer. Remember that this is not a checklist of “must haves,” but rather a guideline that we use to find great candidates.

  • A true passion for the craft of writing clean, efficient, well-structured code
  • The ability to think quickly and communicate thoughts effectively
  • A customer-oriented mindset and development philosophy
  • Solid math skills
  • Proficiency in C and C++
  • Knowledge of C# and higher-level languages such as Lua, Python, and Ruby a plus
  • Experience in console and high-profile PC development a big plus
  • A degree in Computer Science or equivalent from an accredited four-year program is a plus, but not a must
  • As with all our positions, a love of gaming is a must

This position is for full-time employment at the Undead Labs studio in Seattle. For more information about what it’s like to work at the Lab, check out our jobs page.

If you think you have what it takes, send your resume and some code samples in C/C++ to jobs@undeadlabs.com.

Make sure your code sample shows us something meaningful — we like to see real solutions to real problems, as opposed to class wrappers or thin API layers. Your code sample is your portfolio, so put your best foot forward and blow us away! We won’t compile your code, so please don’t send entire projects; just the highlights. Also rest assured that any code you send will be used solely to evaluate your candidacy, and will be held in the strictest confidence.

We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

10.17.13
Jobs

Game Designer

Tired of the same ‘ol same ‘ol? Imagine how invigorating it would be to work on something you know is truly fresh. If you played State of Decay, imagine where it could go next. Or some other deep skunkworks project that pushes design boundaries on other platforms. Games like nothing else out there. Which means we get to challenge traditional assumptions (“permadeath will never work!”) and design everything from scratch. And, we get to design for fun, rather than designing to be different. Which of course requires high-caliber, veteran design talent.

Is that you?

Here is what we are looking for in a designer:

  • Prior professional game-design experience, high-level of participation in mod communities, or equivalent; this isn’t an entry-level position
  • Technical proficiency with scripting languages, game-data editors, and modern game-engine toolchains
  • Professional experience as a traditional MMO designer a big plus
  • Deep knowledge of and respect/appreciation/love for State of Decay also a big plus; like, really big
  • Ability to think and design in terms of systems, rather than just mechanics, story, and features
  • Positive attitude, and an ability to develop solutions, rather than merely pointing out flaws
  • High confidence; low ego — you will be both contributing design, and implementing design ideas from others
  • An affinity for teamwork, and a natural tendency to solicit and riff on other people’s ideas
  • Great writing skills

This position is for full-time employment at the Undead Labs studio in Seattle. For more information about what it’s like to work at the Lab, check out our jobs page.

If you think you are the perfect candidate for the job, send a letter explaining why and your resume to jobs@undeadlabs.com.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Almost to the Breakdown

Hola fellow survivors,

Today I’m happy to announce that our first DLC for State of Decay, ‘Breakdown’, has been delivered to Microsoft for pre-certification testing. This means the game is content-and-feature complete, and all that remains is to squash any remaining bugs and make final tweaks to tuning and balance.

So what happens from here?

First, our excellent QA team at Microsoft will spin up multiple teams on two continents for around-the-clock testing. Most of these guys were involved with State of Decay, so they are not only able to find bugs — which is always an essential task — but also help us understand where we are and are not hitting the mark for the survival experience we’re working hard to create. These guys are hard-working, passionate badasses, and we’re glad they’ve got our backs.

Through next week the QA teams will be playing Breakdown, logging any issues they find, and sending feedback to the development team. We’ll spend our (probably quite long) days reviewing, prioritizing, and squashing bugs, and incorporating the design feedback from the QA teams, members of our publishing team at Microsoft, and of course our own developers here at the Lab.

The plan is to have all that wrapped up and submit formally to certification testing at the end of next week. As we’ve said before, we like to be transparent about our plans, but things could change. Our test team could turn up some huge game-screwing design flaw next week. We might make a mistake in the packaging format and fail certification. The government shutdown could close down the internetz. Anything could happen.

But, assuming no catastrophes, we plan on getting Breakdown into your hands by the end of October.

If you want to know more about the design goals for Breakdown, make sure to read Lab designer Geoffrey Card’s post.

We’ll do our best to survive the rest of the month; then it’s your turn. ;)

Gear Up!

We heard you!

Official State of Decay gear is now available in the Undead Labs Gear Store!

We’re offering logo t-shirts and hoodies — the very same designs worn by the developers — for sale at our cost to State of Decay fans around the world. We’ll take orders during the week, then send them off to the printer every Monday and ship them directly to you as soon as they come off the press.

We also have official State of Decay posters left from our PAX East run earlier this spring. Some of them are signed by the development team. We can’t sign them all, and it’s not cool to charge for something like that, so we’ve mixed the signed ones in with rest of the them. You might be one of the lucky ones!

All items are made in the USA.

If you get some gear, tweet pics of you showing your SoD pride to @undeadlabs!

Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.

State of Decay Soundtrack

The State of Decay soundtrack has arrived!

Scored by BAFTA award-winning composer Jesper Kyd, with guest tracks from in-house composer dreissk, the soundtrack features 21 exclusive tracks from State of Decay.

Want to start listening now?

Here’s the State of Decay Main Theme to get you in the mood.

 

The soundtrack is available today in the iTunes Store, and will be available on Google, Amazon, and Xbox music stores soon after. We hope you’ll enjoy Jesper’s music as much as we do!

Official Soundtrack Cover

Official Soundtrack Cover