My trip to Seattle and Vancouver

Helen and I recently visited the US and Canada for a business trip which included visiting the Big Fish Games studio in Seattle. We had a great time and met some really nice people! I posted some reports on the Blitz forum whilst I was over there, and I’ve collated them here as follows:

Monday, Hotel Max, Seattle

Hi all, I’m currently lounging around in Hotel Max in Seattle using the exorbitantly priced wi-fi.

Helen and I flew over on Sunday from London Heathrow, it was a 10 hour flight and was fine, although I found some glass in my melon! I got some free travel vouchers for not suing. Also I watched some sub-par movies. It’#s a real shame that airlines can’t get awesome movies for their media systems.

So today I went to the Big Fish Games offices on 4th Avenue. They have a whole floor on this big central skyscraper with nearly 300 employees.

I finally met John Cutter, the designer who I’m working with. I also met Adrian Woods, the developer of the highly successful Mystery Case Files series (the one which kick-started the Hidden Object genre). I met the guy that made Blood (an old Duke 3D era game where you could play football with the heads of your victims). I saw Azada 2, and heard that Hidden Expedition Amazon has broken all sales records in the last 4 days – it’s sold a pretty crazy number. Met some other developers, designers and nice people. There’s this cool bit of the office where all the artists are working on huge TFTs displaying really lush graphics from up and coming games – some if which I got to see in action. Also everyone gets around on scooters!

So anyway it’s been a good day although I feel very tired due to the time difference. I wanted to go to sleep after I finished at the office but Helen said we needed to go out and get some more sunlight to help us adjust. So we took the ferry over to Bainbridge island. It was really nice and the Seattle skyline looked cool. We ate vegetable burritos, yum. Reminds me, for the first time I had U.S.-style pancakes with maple syrup on this morning. We made the mistake of ordering a “high stack” which was just impossible to eat – tasted great though!

Naturally Helen’s been shopping and bought some nice things whilst I’ve been busy. All the people are really nice here.

On Wednesday we are catching a train to Vancouver, Canada, to stay there for a few days and then we are flying back to London on Saturday. We heard loads of great things about Vancouver so are really looking forward to the visit.

Tuesday Morning, Hotel Max, Seattle

I woke up at 5:30 am today and I’m wide awake. Must be not quite used to the time difference yet. The flight was actually just under 10 hours and the time difference is 8 hours. I watched some inflight movies but the system crashed a few times when I tried to play games (Bejewelled was on the list of games!). Apparently going back is the killer due to jet lag.

Today I’m going over the powerups and enemies for my current game with designer and the artists which should be good fun. Then I’m meeting the CEO, CFO, CTO etc, all the C-level bigwigs. Helen is going wine tasting!

I’m currently debating if I should have pancakes again for breakfast…or eggs.

Tuesday Evening, Hotel Max, Seattle

Phew another crazy busy day. Met loads of people today including the artists for the Mystery Case files and other games. I know what the next Mystery Case files game is going to be and some other secret projects too. I got taken up to the 20th floor which has all the email and phone support staff on it. It has an incredible view of the city and the sea – just amazing. (One helpdesk guy I stood next to whilst I looked out the window must have the best view in the entire company!) They have 300 staff there and are soon moving to new premises. I met people in quality control who I worked with and also the Spanish, French and German translators who did the localisation for Fairway. Then this evening the VP took us to dinner, which was nice. I’ve spoken to so many people and been feeling the jet lag quite a bit so that everything has just been a blur.

In the morning we are catching a train up to Vancouver and having a look around. On Thursday night we are meeting a load of Indie programmers from Vancouver (from the Indiegamer forums), including the programmer of the Professor Fizzwizzle games that my kids and I love playing.

Friday, Hotel L’hermitage, Vancouver

So anyway, we traveled to Vancouver by (slow) train on Wednesday morning and went to the hotel which had only just opened on that day and so we couldn’t check into the room. That was OK though because we took a nice walk through downtown to Granville Island and then over to Kitsalano (where I found a lovely community garden on the old railway tracks). Later that night we ate a meal in Robson street. The weather was great, really sunny.

Yesterday we were taken on a tour of Vancouver by someone who knows it really well and then we had lunch on Kits beach (well in a restaurant there). Then we took a sea bus over to North Vancouver and had a stroll around – it’s nice a peaceful in the residential areas.

In the evening we went to the Indie developer meetup at Earl’s restaurant. It was organised by Ryan Clark of Professor Fizzwizzle fame. I met some interesting people there. Most people weren’t making casual games but were in fact making games for XBLA or iphone or were making MMOs etc. Met some guys who used to work for Relic Entertainment including the programmer of N and N+, he was about my age and on my wavelength about making core games easier and more accessible because when we kids games were just waaaaay too hard. Also met the programmer of Eets who has given up on casual games and is now making an “mmo-thing” as I called it and they were horrified.

Yeah so lots of successful programmers here doing varied things.

Today we will go for a walk around Stanley park as the weather is really great, then it’s a bus back to Seattle for one more night before we fly home.

Monday, Home, Dorset, England

I planned to post about my last day in Vancouver in a Starbucks but was disappointed to find out that the wireless is not free, bummer. There was wireless on the bus, but it didn’t work, arg.

The walk round Stanley Park in Vancouver was great. We only did a short walk round a lake but the weather was awesome – I nearly burned my forehead. We also sat on the beach English Bay which was really cool. What topped it for me was the vegetarian hot dog I bought!

Just as the bus was leaving Vancouver (for Seattle) there was a huge bike rally. Loads (and I mean LOADS) of people brought the city to a standstill as they cycled along a major route, it was cool, and luckily our bus was not delayed and the border crossing was fine.

Back in the U.S. on our last day we went to the Pike St. Market and bought a Zelda Ocarina for my eldest son, way cool. Then we visited the Japanese gardens which were really peaceful. It was a REALLY nice hot day so I bought a “life is good” cap ;-) (btw, I ate pancakes AGAIN for breakfast, couldn’t resist).

Flight home was long and movies were still sub-par, but we made it back fine! It’s nice to be home and see the green English countryside.

7 Responses to “My trip to Seattle and Vancouver”

  1. Emi Says:

    Dude, that sounds AWESOME!! Sounds like you have a lot of good things to say about the trip :) So the real question that remains is, are you gonna go??

  2. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Hi Emi! Don’t know yet, awaiting an offer today. If the money is right, then most likely “yes”. Actually I haven’t told any non-family members this news yet…

  3. Nick Newhard Says:

    It was a pleasure meeting you both and chatting about games..er..work..and games.
    Thanks for saying such kind things about Blood. You should play Bookworm (the original) though…I’m quite proud of that as well. Cheers!

  4. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Hi Nick, yeah it was good to meet you too. The studio seems like a great place. And indeed I should play the original Bookworm (but when do I get time? sigh).

  5. Will Masters Says:

    Wow. What an excellent adventure. It sounds like it’s all happening there. Go for it man.

  6. Grey Alien Games Says:

    Thanks Will! We did have a great time. I had 2 days of meetings and interviews and felt tired but it was not stressful, it was just nice meeting everyone. We are about 99% going, just need to check some final details and make sure we can get a visa.

  7. Grey Alien Games » Blog Archive » I’m moving to Canada to work for Big Fish Games Says:

    [...] and meet lots of nice people, and I was interviewed for a day and half. You can read about our trip here. Then we went up to Vancouver (it’s just over 100 miles away) and checked it out. We really [...]