The new job
My new job is at the Institute of Cartography at ETH Zürich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich = Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich). I would categorize this as a technical university. This is my first time ever at a university; well beyond been a visitor; so a total new environment for me.
Let me show the job description that I found while using Google to do some searches for game developer positions here in Switzerland
You will be working within the European project #Around an Inspiring Virtual Learning World in Eighty Days# (acronym 80Days), with the goal of creating the next generation of educational 3D games.
You will be involved mainly with the implementation of the envisioned 3D game demonstrator following given specifications of the game design and learning design requirements.
– Game development: This task starts with in-depth specifications of the technological approaches for a given game design. In the second part, the implementation of the game is performed (game engine, scripting engine, sound system, GUI system, input and output modules, physics engine, etc#). An implementation focus lies in the generation of 3D Virtual Environments from prepared geo-spatial data sources (Digital Terrain Models, satellite/aerial images, various topographic and thematic data sources).
– Game asset production: Together with contents coming from given sources (e.g. geographical material), different types of game assets will be developed including 3D graphics, 2D graphics, sound effects, background music, texts, etc
You will be part of a small, motivated team at the Institute of Cartography, ETH Zürich. Possibility of obtaining a PhD degree.
I have to admit that first time I read this description I had to re-read it a few time; just sounded too good, such a job in Switzerland. Amazing :-) That it is a game that involves teaching just makes it more interesting, not long ago I was had talks with a guy about e-learning but I never imagined it would happen so fast and on this scale.
This is of course not ‘normal’ game development and especially not compared to the mobile games I worked on in the past. The whole development of the game will also be handled in a very different way compared to what I’m used to (more about that in a bit).
I never worked with geo-spatial data sources or GIS systems and the 3D games I have been involved in were rather limited compared to this project. All this was no problem with the guys at ETH, my experience with game development (design, producing, programming…) counted a lot more. The new things such as handling geo data and advance 3D rendering can be taught, it is after all just new technology and new data sets, things I always had it easy to adapt to. There are SO many information and tutorial on the internet, so if you are a person like me that have it easy with learning (and having been through several technologies before just makes it a lot easier) then it there are no reason to worry.
So I take this as a great challenge and a way to learn a lot of new materials; not only things that can be used for game development but for a lot of other applications, just look at Google Earth and how they use rendering together with geo data.
We will be working as a very small and close team in Zürich, just me and a specialist in geo data but the whole project is of course to big to handle by a few persons. The game is a European wide project with partners in UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy and Austria and of course Switzerland. Some of the partners have experience in game development and some are experts in other areas. So the whole project will be managed and handled different from normal game development. That people are spread over several offices (countries) is no issue for me as I’m used to communicate with various instant messenger programs.
The whole project will take 30 month and not a day longer. You often see ‘normal’ games been delayed but this can’t be the case for us as the project is EU funded.
For me there are still a lot of unclear things but since we are at a very early stage it is okay (Hey, I didn’t even start the new job yet) and we will be having a kick-off meeting in Austria next month. None of this worries me at all; I’m just excited about the whole project and how it will be to work together with the various partners.
Changes in work and life
For the last 10 years I have been working from a home office; the work has been on single game projects or as technical director for a German mobile game publisher/developer, so I was not working alone but I was always alone in my office. This is going to change a LOT now; the place where I will be working have around 30 people working there at the moment. I will be sharing office with 1-3 people but will have contact with lots of people during the day.
This is a change that I welcome, sometimes it does get a bit lonely here in the home office and I have felt from time to time that I was ‘stalling’ in my own development. This was both personally but also professional; working directly with people will improve a lot of things; it will give good chances for discussions and talks about all kinds of subjects. At the same time the people I will be working close with will have a total different background. I have tried this once before in Ireland (Working with a programmer who came from the French Space Agency, so VERY different background) and I profited a lot from that.
Having to work in a office also brings other changes; such as more fixed working hours, this is no issue of course but something that I have to get used to. So no more sleeping long and been able to just walk from one room to the next to get to work. The new place is around one hours drive from my place, that’s if I take the car. I will be checking the trains as that will be way cheaper but then we are talking around 1 hour and 45 minutes for one way trip. A good advantage of taking the train is that I can relax; read some books, listen to podcasts or even bring the notebook with me.
Since I will be away the whole day the kids will not be able to come over when ever they like it. Right now they often pass by my place when they return from school or kindergarten (They live most of the time with their mom, but that is almost next door). The kids did mention that they where not happy about this but they understand. It will also be a challenge to get early up enough to send them off in the morning and be back in time for the days where I pick them up, but I’m sure we will manage.
Next challenge for me and my ex-wife will be doing the schedule for the kids and who takes care of them and when; in the past it was pretty easy as I was always home but now we have to have more strict rules for it, this might mean I have to leave one hour earlier from work some days and then do the work in the evening. I have often been doing work in the evenings so no change for me really and the people at ETH also got no issue with me doing this; as long as I do my hours and get the work done. I’m pretty sure that after spending some time getting used to the change and to adapt; that I and my ex-wife will sort it all out without problems (We always did in the past).
I wrote a good bit about changes and challenges but there is one thing that will be easy to get used to. That is holidays, for the last few years I didn’t take many days off at all but now I will be having a total of 25 days pr year. This was one thing the kids liked a lot about the new job :-)
So after going from a great job to been unemployed, then getting to panic mode, then it seems the whole situation will change to something great. This is what I hope and more important what I’m convinced it will be. Sure there will be some big changes in our lives but nothing dramatic; I mean, I see people everyday that have to commute to work and have little time home and they do manage :-)
There will be a lot of new things for me to learn at the new job and this suit me VERY well. Having worked on such a project will be great, especially considering that the position is limited to 30 month. So in 30 month I will probably be looking for a new job but I will be at a better position to do so. So this does not worry me at all, I will wait 2 years with the worry :-)
So what happens from now and until I start the new job, I will be doing some study to improve my knowledge, especially regarding GIS (So I at least have an idea about what they are talking about); this will be through the learning system found on GITTA (Geographic Information Technology Training Alliance).
This post turn into a WAY longer post than expected (so typical me), so if anyone got to the end then do leave a comment :-) (No prizes to be won). I do plan to blog about working at ETHZ and also about the project. I do not know how much I may blog about; such as technical details but I’m sure there will be things I can write about. I will know more about this after the meeting in Austria.
So consider this to be the start of a series of blog entries…