| First Strike goes to DICE!
| First Strike goes to DICE!|
Hey all! A few of us from the First Strike Mod recently had an opportunity to go to DICE HQ in Stockholm, Sweden to show them our work. I would like to say thanks to DICE for making it possible and thanks to my guys for their hard work in getting us there!
Below is a summary of the trip from each team members’ perspective. I didn’t think it would be fair to edit their text as this was their experience and they should talk about it as they choose. My experience was just like theirs so I thought I would give everyone the opportunity to read about this great experience if you so desire.
See you in the Galaxy soldier!
FSDEV | BLITZ
FSDEV | Woodrow
"Are you Woody?" Some of the first words I heard upon landing in Sweden. I'd just walked through customs (which consisted of nothing more than getting my passport stamped and a smile by the person in the booth) and had entered the luggage terminal. As I was winding my way through the crowd this huge lad with broad shoulders and thick boots pushed his way past some people and stopped me.
"Are you Woody?" He asked, and I panicked. How could they know me here? I'm fairly sure that I hadn't offended anyone in Sweden yet. Or, at least, not anyone who would likely send broad shouldered thick booted people to teach me the error of my ways in a distant land. But then maybe that was part of a good plan, as customs were obviously frivolously easy to get by.
"Ah, Luuri?" shouted blitz from ahead of me, turning around to see the large man standing in front of me. And with his nod and smile I relaxed. I didn't think DICE invited me out to simply have me pummeled senseless for tearing apart and rebuilding bf2142 in Star Wars form. However, what they did invite us out for was a dream beyond anything I'd imagined when I had started this project.
First and foremost it was a chance to meet all the key players who I have shared a struggle in now for almost a year, or in some cases have been working with for several years. Almost instantly we were all "old friends." Despite never meeting before it seemed as if we knew each other closely, from how to make each other laugh to what interests and concerns each of us had. I have to say it was a great experience getting to meet Preacher, Ulph, Luuri, Rybot, Pumbaa and Blitz finally.
That's not to say we always got along. Indeed, several days were spent wandering the town for hours arguing where we would eat next. The big problem with flying a team that was scattered across the globe was that all of us had different tastes in food. By the time we finished eating at one restaurant we'd usually start wandering and arguing about where to go next as by the time we'd finally decided we would be hungry again.
But beyond that things were definitely great. Especially the day at DICE HQ. I have to say it is a dream job over there, and one that I could only hope to land myself if given the chance. The offices are beautiful and clean. It's all glass rooms with computers and flat screens covering all available desk space. The developers commonly get around on the wooden floors with two wheel scooters and the view outside is absolutely amazing. The work for them definitely seems more a passion than a chore, much the same way I think we have here in FS.
The best part though was wandering into their games room to see our mod running on all the monitors. Throughout the entire day we had devs of theirs coming in and out to try our game. For myself I was so excited to see them cheering and dodging in their seats as they flew X-wings and TIE Fighters, stomped about in AT-STs against infantry, gunned each other down with heavy blaster fire, and blasted each other away in giant capital ships. They definitely seemed both pleased and impressed with our work.
And that was the bulk of it. We talked at good length with them about our development, our plans, all that jazz. They offered insight and advice and asked us some fairly riveting questions. We got to see other stuff also that I have to say was quite thrilling, though my lips are sealed exactly as to what they all were. ;)
And then it was done. A day of luxury and excitement in the headquarters of the chaps who made our chance to build a game possible. I have to say I loved Sweden, I envy their jobs, and I can only thank them for the invitation to go out and show off our work. I'll also miss all the guys from our team that I finally got to meet as well. Despite talking to them online it still felt like losing old friends when we all departed, as now we're in our separate countries once again and far from each other once again. But other than that everything was great. Oh, and to the DICE live team person (whom I won't name to save the person's birthday being published on the internet) thanks for the Princess cake, it was delish :)
FSDEV | Preacher
Well what can I say? This was my first time flying ever and my first time going to another country, by myself, on a connected flight; without having slept as I had to be up at 2am, to be ready by 3am, to get to the airport 2 hours before departure at 4am, to finally fly at 6:05, flying to a country I knew nothing about meeting people from around the world that I had never met before in real life.
To say I was not at all nervous would be a lie, however I was also excited which in the end won out over any nerves I had. Flying out from Newcastle airport was exciting and I was sat to a nice couple on my first flight that said I had picked a lovely time to fly as the sun was rising and when we got above the clouds it was like a whole other world, it was breathtakingly beautiful.
After connecting at Amsterdam and finally arriving in Sweden, the nerves started to kick in again (as I was to meet ulversial at the airport and I had no idea what he looked like. I ambled my way to the luggage travelator thing and caught my luggage, then proceeded to the arrivals area, looking like a fish out of water. I walked into the arrivals area to see a blonde haired biker booted guy with Preach written on a piece of paper, something elusive told me this was ulph.
Due to the flight times Rybot was due to arrive about 1 hour after me so we decided to wait for rybot and travel out together. Once we met up with rybot we took the Arlanda express into Stockholm, and I must say they have a lot of trees over in Sweden, good for an endor type map hehe. As soon as we arrived in Stockholm and Ulph talking to luuri on the phone he was to “guide” us to our hotel. Little did rybot and myself Realise how bloody far we had to walk, luggage and all, to our hotel especially as our guide didn’t seem to know 100% where we were going lol. Myself and Rybot were doing the whole tourist thing taking picture after picture, as we ambled through the city streets to our elusive hotel.
Upon arriving at the hotel the rest of the team was waiting for us in the lobby area, it was surreal to finally be meeting and talking to these guys in person, after talking to them for so long. Luuri, Rybot, and Woody were on the Galactic Conquest team, so I have been talking to these guys nearly every day for about four and a half years and blitz/ulph for over a year. So to finally put faces and Real life names to text/Team speak voices was indeed strange yet cool at the same time. I also got to meet Blitz’s wife and ulph’s Girlfriend, who were both really nice and a lot of fun to be with, although how Blitz’s Mrs puts up with him working so long hours I don’t know hehe.
And yes as you may wonder, did we call each other by our real names or online names? Well in all honesty, we attempted the whole Real names thing but we kept slipping back to our online names as we’ve come accustomed to calling each other this over the many years, it was a force of habit (and totally NOT lame).
We were to go to DICE for 9am the following day so everyone had a good night’s sleep, got up early and had breakfast, and we were off on our short 5 min walk to DICE. Upon entering the building it was clearly apparent from reception that they had a fantastic set of offices with a breathtaking view of Stockholm.
It was a Very modern building, with all the mod cons you’d expect, they had plaques on the wall with platinum discs for sales of over 1 million units of battlefield etc. and just along the hall they had the testing room. Walking passed the room I had a glimpse through the windows and got very excited as I saw our mod right there on their LCD monitors. Even then at 9am there were developers and testers popping in to see what all the fuss was about and have a quick go.
This continued throughout the entire day until about 5:30 with people dropping in and out giving their opinions and feedback which for the most part was very, VERY positive, not only from a games perspective but for our innovation and use of the engine. Many of the top producers even commented that a lot of the work we had done (and other mod teams) always makes them stand back in awe and think “I didn’t even think our engine could do that” they spoke very highly of the mod teams in general, and they REALY do appreciate all our hard work and efforts.
We spent the entire day at DICE asking and receiving questions, they treat us to lunch which was very nice of them, and later in the day one of the girls that worked their very kindly offered us some of her birthday cake, (which I thought was extremely nice of her, since she’d only met us for the day) and I must say if you ever get the chance to try Traditional Swedish princess cake, take some without hesitation, it’s lovely.
This was another surreal moment for me people I see in magazines, hear on podcasts, and see on TV promoting and talking about the latest Games in the franchise, such as Colin Clarke, Gordon van dyke, Lars Gustafson, Hear I am sitting laughing joking and Eating cake with them!
After the day at Dice we hung out and Went to a Viking bar which was cool, we had a lot of laughs, and got to know each other even more, even though we felt like old friends. The following day we went to the vassa museum which was really awesome, I love historical thing like that and this wooden ship was massive. We were also to meet up with pumbaa that day, and ended up playing a game of cat and mouse with him for half the day hehe.
When we finally went back to the hotel lobby to wait for pumbaa I jokingly said to the guys “When he gets here I’m going to clip his ear for bugging me on IRC so much about those damn Static Textures” Shortly after saying that pumbaa arrived, a typical Scandinavian, blonde hair, blue eyes, over 6 foot tall dolph lundgrun look alike. The “clipping of the ear” suddenly was the last thing on my mind as I weigh in at about 5 foot 7 lol.
We went out that into the centre (I think) of Stockholm, chatted and had some drinks in the night air under a parasol and a space heater. It was a very nice night and I really enjoyed it. I said goodbye to pumbaa that night as I had to be going the following day to catch my plane and wouldn’t see him. when I made it to the Arlanda express train to head to the airport to depart it was rather sad as we had bonded as a team and as friends a lot over this trip and the realization that I may not see them (at least in person) again was setting in.
I made it home safely from one of the greatest experiences of my life and I would like to thank Pete and Blitz/Ulph for giving me the opportunity and making the arrangements to go on this trip as I Shall remember it always.
p.s. Sweden, get some proper food!
Just kidding :)
FSDEV | Pumbaa
Sadly I wasn't with the team over at DICE, and I couldn't hang out with them until Saturday due to work at a local grocery store. Which sucked, yes. I had been waiting for that Saturday for months and it finally appeared. I woke up at 10am by a call from Ulph and we decided that I was to call him later. He also mentioned his cell battery was pretty poor "oh well, we'll solve that somehow" I thought to myself and didn’t think more of it. Biiig mistake (from the great movie the "Last Action Hero").
I tried to call him a few hours later but his battery proved its poorness and I couldn't reach him. I thought that hell I might as well go into town and see if I can contact them. I called Luuri and he told me that they were at the vasa museum so I went there. Like the other guys I had no idea what anyone looked like, so I asked a hot dog man for some paper and wrote a note saying "PUMBAA" and pinned it on my jacket in a very futuristic manner.
I sat outside for about 1Â˝ hour waiting for them to see me and my creative note. I never realized we have that many tourists at the vasa museum! No FS team though. I was thinking through my stay outside the museum "I bet I'm not going to see them here, but I also bet that if I go home they are going to come out right after I leave". I finally decided to go home anyway because waiting there felt kind of hopeless.
Just when I got home the phone rang and it was Ulph! He had managed to fix his battery! We decided to meet up at their hotel so I went there after having a very nutritious dinner consisting of a two day old taco and a hamburger.
So finally I met the crew at their hotel. It sure was surrealistic at first, but the second after everything felt just normal. We got along just perfect and we went to medborgarplatsen to have a few beers, chatting the night away and to eat onion rings. I got to see Woodie's famous frog trick, hear about KOORRV, hear about our Swedish Norway lobster (haha) and much more. It was really a blast meeting the guys. I don't think I've processed the fact that they actually don't live here in Sweden, it sort of feels like we meet each other quite often and that we'll get together again in a week or so. It is indeed a sad thought that that is not the case..
So to end this report in a positive way: Me enjoy with First Strike team work!
And Blitz better watch out, you never know when I might appear in Philly cooking all of your steaks on your sarlacc sized grill machine! Keep an eye out.
FSDEV | Rybot
When I arrived in Sweden I looked around to see Preacher and Ulversial holding a sing that said 'rybaby' on it. I was quite excited to see them as I had only had contact with them over the internet up until this point. We all greeted each other and continued on our journey into Stockholm.
Form the airport, we took the Arlanda Express which was by far the fastest train I had ever been on.
After we got off the train we walked to our hotel, taking pictures the whole time, and when we got there I met 3 more members of the mod, Blitz and his wife, Woodrow, and Luuri. It was wonderful to meet everyone and I was surprised at how comfortable we all were around each other. It was like old friends meeting again.
I checked into my room and we all went out for some food. I had Moose balls. They were delicious. ;)
The next morning was the day we went to the DICE offices, which just happened to be right across the street. I met everyone in the front lobby and we all walked over. When we got to the office it was amazing. The reception lobby had huge ceiling to floor windows that looked out into the bay, and a telescope setup to enjoy the view. The halls were decorated with plaques commemorating all the millions of copies of games they have sold, beanbag chairs and tv's with various consoles hooked up, people riding around on little scooters, and a game room with a dozen or so computers with our mod loaded and ready to play.
We played around a bit throughout the day with various DICE developers coming in and out on their breaks to play the mod. The feedback was very encouraging as they all seemed very pleased with our progress and creative use of their game engine. DICE also treated us to lunch at a nearby restaurant and we all sat and just chatted about everything and anything. We also had a presentation noting all the accomplishments we've achieved with the game; most of which they were surprised we even attempted, let alone got working. :)
The day seemed to wind down with a nice dessert in their amazing cafeteria, thanks to a kind employee who shared her birthday cakes with us. If you ever get a chance to try some Swedish desserts, DO IT! They were delicious.
After we left DICE we went to a small Italian restaurant for some supper, and then to a Viking pub for some drinks. Preacher I had some amazing elderberry juice and watched as the other guys gorged themselves on Mead. :P
The next day was just a day for all of us to hang out and get to know each other a little better. We all went to the Vasa Museum which houses a huge 17th century boat. I also had Swedish McDonald's and was in awe over the small drink sizes and the Americans were wondering where the rest of their burger and fries were. :D
Later in the day we met up with Pumbaa, another mod developer, and we all went out to an outdoor pub for some drinks. A few of us ran to Burger King a few times, for onion rings and burgers, and we all just relaxed and enjoyed each other's company.
That night I stayed in Preacher's hotel room, as I didn't have a room booked for the last night. We stayed up chatting until 3:30 am, then I gathered my things and started my walk back to the train station to catch my early flight.
Well, that's my trip in a nutshell. I had a great time and I'm glad I had the opportunity to go. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
FSDEV | Luuri
Ok, short and sweet from me:
I met with Blitz, his wife and Woodrow at the airport. I knew Woody was easy to spot, which it was ;) This first day we basically just took the time to know each other and stroll around Stockholm. It was great to see how well we got along from the start - jokes were flying around as if we were back on the IRC channel or on msn.
Getting to the DICE office was fairly easy, as our hotel was only 5 minutes of the place. We met with some of the people there and got know them a bit more through some hours of furious First Strike action in their great game room. The feedback we got from them was awesome; everyone seemed to love what we had done on their engine, some even praising it as a whole new game :)
All around I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and want to thank DICE and our guys that flew over for a great weekend :)
FSDEV | Ulversial
How do you find Preacher on the airport? You don't, so I had to make some ugly drawn nametags on a notepad so he could at least find ME. I used the same method for Rybot. After buying them way too expensive train tickets, I led them on a pretty straight line towards the hotel (although preach may say otherwise!) where we met up with the others. If meeting preach and rybot in real life at the airport was shocking, meeting the others in the hotel lobby was a knock-down.. Behold, they were normal people! After spending 1,5 years communicating over internet only with many of them, it was an unreal but very happy moment.
Since I'm Swedish, I automatically qualify (although on the wrong basis) to be some sort of a guide. I don't know Stockholm that well, and since me and Luuri had met once earlier in Stockholm; I knew for a fact that he had been there at least once. So we joint forces and managed to find something to eat for all of us. Two halves make one whole, right?
The day after we went in a lovely little herd to the DICE/EA offices. Everything in there went smooth, slipping into their gaming room and see our mod icon on their desktops was a warm fuzzy feeling. So we sat down and played the game together with various DICE guys dropping in and out over the course of the whole day. (Not counting our presentation and the tours round the office, of course) We got some good feedback and useful tips.. One of the most memorable things about the gaming session was hearing all the bad Star Wars jokes that DICE people pulled off! It felt just like playing with the devs and testers, but this time it was together some important DICE people. The Star Wars vein runs deep...
The remainder of the time in together with FS crew in Stockholm was spent on touristy stuff, walking between touristy stuff, eating and finding differences in drinking and eating cultures.
All in all, I had an awesome time down there... It was very rewarding, both meeting the mod members and spending some time in the DICE offices!
Thanks DICE for giving us this opportunity! We owe you some cake too...