Monday, 27 June 2011

That Guy

I've been using Matt for years to appear extremely cool to my cousin William and his friends. "I know someone in the animation industry. Oh, yeah, that's right. He worked on Star Wars: Force Unleashed."

Matt keeps coming up in blog conversations. Just this morning we spoke about kakapos and he sent me a gif of a penguin jumping on a walrus. But in case you wanted to know more about him than the fact that he sends me the occasional animal gif, then this is for you.

What's your name?

Matthew James Higgins

What's your job? Where do you work/have you worked?

Currently I'm a Cinematic Scripter/Designer at 2K Games (Marin Australia studios), previously a lead Cinematic Designer at Krome Studios, and before that a random freelance multimedia/film worker guy.
What games have you worked on? What was your favourite project?

Quite a few now - mostly part of larger franchises such as Spyro, Transformers and Star Wars, and more recently the game tie in of Legend of the Gaurdians. Currently I'm working on the new X-COM reboot.
I think my favorite was Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, being my first project I learnt how to do a lot of cool stuff, found out how much hard work it is; and then got the satisfaction of seeing it released to the public's enjoyment, leaving me wanting to do the whole crazy process again.

A screen capture from Star Wars: Force Unleashed

How did you get where you are today?

I walked home from work yesterday. 

What got you interested in video games and animation? And how old were you when you started?

When I was 3 or 4, it was all my Dad's fault. He showed me this new game "Battle Chess", seeing these board game pieces come alive and follow out the player's command left such an impression on me that it's one of my earliest memories and as I got older I was always wanting to see what other experiences could be given with medium.

How did you get into it? Did you just play around on your computer, a self-taught genius? Or did you take classes? 

I spent far too much time on games such as Prince of Persia, Commander Keen and Doom rather than doing homework or playing outside. Then I got my hands on Duke Nukem 3D and it's level editor and it changed everything. I'd spend even more time learning and experimenting with creating my own levels than playing the game. It was quite a rush plotting down rooms on a grid, do some scripting, then launch into the world I'd just made. From then on if a game had editing tools or could be modified in some way I'd get in and see what I could create.

The Quake and Unreal games took this to another level with editors which practically allowed for the creation of entire games, naturally I set about starting an epic fantasy game using Unreal 2 as a base (a sci-fi shooter). 

As the end of school drew near I thought I'd better stop and see what sort of career I should chase after. Upon learning that I could actually get paid to do what I was already doing I went to College to hone my skills.

Screen capture from Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga'Hoole video game

Was there ever a moment of indecision where you wondered if you should do something more "normal," like go to university and get a "regular" job? Or did you know from the beginning that this was what you wanted to do?

Last year, as I was leaving Krome, I was considering going back to Uni to do something more sensible. However, I quickly got sidetracked working on my own game, then not much later joined 2K. Perhaps someone should start a Developers Anonymous help-group or something... 

Yes, I think I've always known that I've wanted to work in a creative position such as this.

Victorian explorer created by Matt

Do you believe your job to be a perfect synthesis of vocation and avocation? In short, do you enjoy your job?

While not perfectly synthesised it is fairly well balanced, swinging between "AAARRRGGGHH what am I doing, this is too hard..." to "HELL YEAH!!! Did you see that!? That was awesome... let's do it again!"

Got any advice for those struggling with career choices?

Look for something which you enjoy and are interested in, you'll be spending a lot of time doing it. Also talk to people in the field you are looking to get into, the internet has made this incredibly easy. 

For anyone thinking about developing games - enjoying playing games doesn't necessarily mean you'll enjoy making them.

That's all,

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Life in Storage

We rent a room from a man in the village, a room in which we have stored our childhood things.

The best way to get rid of pesky neighbors: "I don't have time!"

That's what happens if you live your life all over the world.

This is my sofa. One day I will repaint and reupholster it. I'm feeling the creative twitches sparking inside me already. My mother also gave me six sundae glasses, the old-school tapered glasses that require round scoops of ice cream and whipped cream and cherries; the man who marries me will be very lucky.

My grandfather's old paint books, brushes, and paints. 

Pelle Svanslös

Today we went to through our things in storage. I found some books I read as I child and I told Sofia she must absolutely read them to their children, when they have them. She told me I should be the one to do it, and I will.

The Pelle Svanslös books follow the tales of Pelle, a cat born outside the city of Uppsala; he lost his tail as a kitten, and he is dubbed Pelle Tail-less by Måns, the meanest cat in the city. His adventures played a great part in my childhood, and I am currently reading Pelle Svanslös in America, of which the first paragraph reads like this:
Far, far away there is a country called America, and I believe that you've heard of this country both one and many times. It is a large, fine country with lots of cars and very tall houses, which are called skyscrapers, and ice cream salesmen at every corner because the people of America are awfully fond of ice cream.

An accurate description, no?

Viking Style

Proof positive.

Loppis Hopping

For the past few days I have found myself in a number of different loppis, some more professional and some selling right out of the garage. With a bit of luck and the patience to sort through even the most unorganized market, you can often find things that fit you spot-on. My grandmother usually keeps her own loppis but gave me this shirt (pictured above) today, complete with hanger and price tag.

I bought this plate for twenty crowns because it reminds me of Natalie and her adventures in the land of Scotland.

The Many Mirrors

My grandmother's house requires a second look. Every time I am there, I find something new and interesting. It is as if I am always turning a corner and running straight into a surprise. 

 Who doesn't want their very own hobbit hole?

A glass of rain

My grandmother has a great many mirrors in her garden. It opens up the space, brightens, cheers, and adds another angle of interest.

Still Growing


The earth is wet. Life is walking on a soaking sponge. The rain is overflowing the mosses, and brooks and streams and rivulets are filling with midsummer rain. Yes, we spent most of our midsummer day indoors, tucked away from the rain, with a hearty fire, music, and good company.

My uncle grills on the porch, under the roof and away from the rain--all in good spirits.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Grandmother's House

My  grandmother is a bit of boheme. She has flaming red hair and likes her garden filled with tiny statues and her house full of odds and ends she has found over the years at loppis. She likes vibrant colours and leopard print and people who are kind enough to stop by for a chat.

How to Be Happy


Don't forget your morning exercises.


A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Or as we say in Sweden, ten in the forest. We have higher standards for our birds.


My camera's gone
and lost its mind
My brother took my phone
And my computer has rebelled
and gone so far astray

I'll fix them all someday

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Another Day, Another Party

 Samuel and Sofia at the graduation party

 Emanuel thoughtfully eats a bun. 

 Apple trees in full bloom

The American Spirit has followed me here.

Looking a Gift Worm in the Mouth

Today we celebrated Samuel's high school graduation. He, like all other graduates, rode through town on the back of the pickup truck decorated with birch branches, balloons, and banners. My brother's wife Sofia asked me if I had seen any of the trucks drive by, and I said yes, yes, I had.

Sanna: I saw them over by the Minerva school. But not up close. I was only there because I went to the Fishing Center to buy worms for my bird.
Sofia (after a pause): Well, some people celebrate and look at decorated trucks. Other people buy worms.

Glasses and Shirt

Frames and shirt bought at loppis.

Modeled by Joel.

End of School

I attended my cousin's end-of-school ceremonies before the holidays. The principal of the grade school stood up to give a speech, and we knew it would be a long one when he began with, "I'm not going to comment on the weather."

(The children had just sung about summer and sun when in reality we were experiencing a blustery and cold Swedish summer day.)

Speaker: Just before I came up here, two girls went to Malin to see if she would speak instead because if she did, the sun would probably come out."

Assorted laughter. The speaker goes on for a bit before taking a folded sheet of paper from his pocket, while we shift our positions on the grass and hop from foot to foot to regain feeling in our toes. Now the speech begins.

A plane flies overhead.

Speaker (cheerily, recovering) :  Of course. How unusual that a plane should fly through as I'm speaking.

Uncle (leaning over towards me): Well, not really. If you keep going, there's always a good chance an airplane will pass by.

The speaker goes on about how the school has stood mainly empty because of renovations which have forced the students to inhabit another school in another district. He says he misses the parents stopping by to pick up their kids and talk to the teachers. 

Speaker: You know that old saying, "you only miss the cow when the stall is empty."
Uncle: Did he just compare us to livestock?

My aunt laughed.

Bird on a Bus

I apologize for my lack of updates. The day before yesterday I spent the day with my grandmother who was just operated for carpal tunnel syndrome; I picked her up at the hospital and we took the bus into the city to get her a senior bus pass and the very same bus out of the city to her house. As no one else will take Cool Hand Luke from my hands, even for the day, I had to pack him gently into a shoebox, which I then placed into a green bag, along with a plastic box of worms, bringing it all on the bus and hoping the busdriver wouldn't hear him softly protest from within. (I am actually quite sure that bus drivers are of the sympathetic sort, but one had better be safe than sorry. Birdie obliged by keeping his chirping to a minimum, only now and then calling to reassure me of his existence.)

Well at my grandmother's place, we had fika (Swedish tea time) and chatted about this and that, which led to her admiring my hairstyle which led to my brushing her hair and twisting it back in a bun which led to the necessity of hairpins which led to jewelry which led to her showing me her collection. We then cut off the long sleeves of the leopard print shirt she had bought at a local loppis (flea market); she had thought of covering her arm bandage up, and I slipped one of the sleeves over it, and she was very happy with the result.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Dirt and other Gritty Things

Today I helped my dad and a few others pack up the church, a role I had no idea I had volunteered for until my mother told me so. The church has been expanding over the last year and can no longer fit into its previous quarters, and therefore the gathered church members had to roll all the fragiles up in newspaper and stack all the chairs and clean all the windows (inside and out) and put everything into storage; and only then could we clap the dust from our palms and head off into the midday sun (which was, by the way, hidden behind white, expansive, clouds) for a good bit of rest.

But not me. I had to feed Cool Hand Luke, and I had run out of worms and so spent the next hour on my hands and knees in the dirt, digging up my uncle's garden and hoping for the love of peace that I hadn't killed his lilac bush with that last bit of shoveling.

I'm thinking I'll start a worm farm and then I wouldn't have to go through this trouble every day or so.

A Ball of Fluff

There isn't much to you, dear little friend.
But you're good enough for me.

Here at Home

It is a pleasure to spend time with my family--and to drop my bags and know they will stay put, though I cannot say I am going to be in one location for the entire summer. We spend our time between the apartment in the city and the cottage in the woods. I like my parents' place. It is an eclectic collection of odds and ends from all over the world, truly a reflection of who they are--watercolour paintings of Mount Fuji, decorative umbrellas from Thailand, teak furniture from Singapore,

chairs from my grandfather's house, rag rugs from Ikea, geraniums on the windowsill, my mother's favourite flower;

and clay cups from India, used to serve chai in the early hours of the morning. I hardly give these things a second glance; they are, after all, quite commonplace to me, but I realize that everyone else may stop and wonder. I'd like myself to have a stop-and-wonder house someday.