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The Mail Sack Takes Center Stage

The Bungie Community uses many channels to send their energy storming in our direction.  Over the years, we’ve come to know this impassioned horde as the Seventh Column, and we’re thrilled to receive their torrents of thought, no matter which path they travel.  These gamers hurl their ideas and opinions right into our waiting faces through our website, a series of social networks, and (on less frequent occasions) in letters that get delivered to our address by the tried and true postal service.
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Since joining the ranks of Bungie as your newest purveyor of communal love, I haven’t done the best job of acknowledging the physical mail that has been placed into my care.  That ends right now.  To make up for lost time, I’m kicking off a new series that will (from time to time) honor your correspondences as the works of art that they truly are...



We hope you enjoyed the show.  With the opening act out of the way, let’s open the virtual Sack.


IcyWind  Can we get a new podcast soon?

That sounds like fun.  What we really need is a topic of conversation that would keep us occupied for an hour, or so.  There certainly isn’t a shortage of people at Bungie who are anxious to talk about their work.  They lie in wait to join the conversation about our top secret enterprise.


Sayon  What book/website/guide/program would you suggest to a person interested in learning how to make a video game, assuming they have no prior experience in the subject.

I would recommend Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson.  It depicts numerous tactics for surviving a landscape punctuated by bad craziness.  Granted, my role as a community guy demands a different skillset than the ones needed to make games.  Our Panel will be a more informative resource in this case…

Testing Computer Software by Kaner, Falk, and Nguyen is the best book for a tester to read.  It is not specific to video games, but gives you a solid software testing foundation.
Rahsaan Green, Sandbox Test Engineer

If you want to be a game developer, read Data Structures for Game Programmers by Ron Penton.
Alan Stuart, Senior Engineer

Michael Williams, Senior Engineer

If you're interested in game design, I highly recommend The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell.  I think the book gives a great overview of the game development process and has helped inspire me to tackle design problems in different ways.
Evan Nikolich, Designer

Gamasutra. Why risk it with college textbooks when you can read articles written by industry vets themselves?
Leland Dantzler, Tester

I started with the original Starcraft map editor. Triggers were neat.
Cale Haskell, Engineer

Full Sail University Game Development program. I knew nothing about programming   In only two years, I was on one of the best teams to come out of the school.
Alex Gendron, Tester


TopWargamer  Is DigiPen worth the money?

I have no idea.  Fortunately, I share oxygen with someone who does.  Pat Jandro learned some of what he knows about being a Senior Cinematic Designer at that school.  If you end up enrolling there, you may even see him infiltrate one of your classrooms as a guest lecturer.  Professor, the floor is yours…

The short answer: If you’re willing to work your –blam- off for four years to become world class, yes.

The long answer: As with any education, it will come down to what you put into it. You can meagerly graduate by the skin of your teeth, or you can dive fully into your passion and commit to the cause with hard work and sacrifice.  In that case, you may come out of it with a competitive edge that will have you ready for your new career in the game industry.  

One thing DigiPen has going for it is a connection to the industry.  They have the ability to help you get your foot in the door, which can be more valuable than any tuition fee. The game development community is a lot smaller than one might think.  Like many industries, your success can come down to knowing someone.  My referral to Bungie came from an upperclassman who graduated a few years before me.  I have since given my referral to fellow alumni who ended up at Bungie, or at other respectable studios in the area.  Be it through reputation or word of mouth, DigiPen is often a lightning rod for conversation or exposure - especially here in the Pacific Northwest.


The Great Brownie  Describe your next project with one vague word. Go.

Clever question.  I’ll do you the favor of kicking it over to the Panel.  I’ll also do you the supreme disservice of manipulating their feedback…

Redactylicious.
Derek Carroll, Senior Designer

Classified.
Evan Nikolich, Designer

Mysterious.
Andrea Fonger, Engineer

Recondite.
Leland Dantzler, Tester

Cryptic.
John Shaffstall, Engineer

Hush-hush.
Cale Haskell, Engineer

Enigmatic.
Rahsaan Green, Sandbox Test Engineer

Surreptitious.
Chris Owens, Test Engineer

Illecebrous.
Mike Forrest, Senior Engineer

Inscrutable.
Damian Frank, Engineer


SkilPhil  What was your personal highlight from the Pentathlon?

We have to pick just one?  The Pentathlon is a day packed with so many highlights, the entire phenomenon is fogged over by wall of awesome in our memories.

The knighting ceremony is always humbling.  Noble veterans bow on bended knee to be recognized for their years of service in our quest for world domination – all in the form of our version of trust exercise.

At the same time, the Newbies inject our tribe with fresh blood and enthusiasm as they take their rightful place by our side.

This year, it was our elders who taught the lesson, as the Grizzled Ancients schooled us all in the art of playing a game.


Duardo  From where do you get your inspiration?

The brave volunteers in our army of forum moderators are all the inspiration I need to make it through the day.  So strong is their love for community that they serve as the guardians of honor and reason in our outpost in the wilds of the Internet.  Eh, Duardo?  Now that I’m done winking and nudging, let’s see what inspires our Panel…

Floating memories of my childhood, and whatever recent Google searches I’ve conducted.
Pat Jandro, Senior Cinematic Designer

Beats, rhymes, and life.
Drew Smith, Producer

Batman.
Andy Howell, Matchmaking Test Lead

As a world designer, I typically draw inspiration from architecture in the real world.  There are tons of great reference materials in the world we live in to make great spaces for players to explore and fight in.
Evan Nikolich, Designer

My dad. Before he passed he spent his life making others’ lives better. I believe I can do the same through Bungie’s games.
Leland Dantzler, Tester

0, 1, and the second law of thermodynamics.
Mat Noguchi, Programmer

Making something that I want to play drives me.
Rahsaan Green, Sandbox Test Engineer

The gaming community.
Tyson Green, Staff Designer

Nature/outdoors. You have to immerse yourself in reality to [best] recreate it.
Mark Flieg, Artist

I get a lot of my inspiration from playing games and reliving the stories that are presented in them.  Making and playing games are very different beasts. When I’m tackling a rough problem, it always helps to go back and remind myself that the final payoff is well worth the effort.
David Johnson, Engineer

From all around me… the rocks, the trees, the air.
Alex Gendron, Tester

Bagel Dogs.
Damian Frank, Engineer


Talon  What was your first month at Bungie like?

Coming on board is basically terrifying, but it’s a delicious brand of terror.  It all starts with a lovely tour, delivered by the one and only Pete Parsons.  Immediately after, you’re expected to hit the ground running faster than you ever have before.  I’m sure our Panel had similar experiences with their onboarding…

My first month at Bungie was all about being amazed by the tech and the people.  I really like the way that Bungie makes games.  We’ve put together an unbelievable team of people, and we grow stronger day by day.
Rahsaan Green, Sandbox Test Engineer

It was a whirlwind.  Also, there was magic - and candy.
Drew Smith, Producer

BUSY!  I started during a crunch, so I was trying to be a productive citizen while ramping up.
Andy Howell, Matchmaking Test Lead

Constant learning.  Learning about the game, about the technology, and about the tools.
Evan Nikolich, Designer

I started the first day of a crunch. It was manic, just the way I like it.
Leland Dantzler, Tester

We shipped the first version of the Bungie Mobile app right after I started. It was wild!
John Shaffstall, Engineer

It was a cavalcade of well organized chaos, since Reach was in the midst of closeout.
Cale Haskell, Engineer

"We need a level editor. Go make that."
Mat Noguchi, Programmer

I slept in the office until I found an apartment in a city that is a thousand times larger than the one I grew up in.
Tyson Green, Staff Designer

There was a lot to absorb, and I felt way over my head.  By the end of the month, the winds had calmed, and my keel was steady.  Everyone was so nice, and very helpful in getting me up to speed.
David Johnson, Engineer

It was like living a dream - and I haven’t woken up yet.
Alex Gendron, Tester


Adam If you could combine a weapon and an animal, what would you do?

I got nothing.  Panel?
Mark Flieg, Artist
Leland Dantzler, Tester
Alan Stuart, Senior Engineer
John Hargrove, Player Investment Designer
David Johnson, Engineer
Jay Thaler, Senior Engineer
Andy Howell, Matchmaking Test Lead
John Shaffstall, Engineer

Dropship  What makes a game truly scary to you?

My dance card is dominated by shooters that keep my clan unified as a force for good, so I’m mostly scared of matchmaking denizens with nothing but free time to perfect their long-barrel quick-draw, coupled with a central nervous system that’s uncompromised by a life of toxic consumption.  Here’s what scares the Panel…

Consequences. Especially ones that suddenly jump out of the dark.
Tyson Green, Staff Designer

The absence of all other life.
John Hargrove, Player Investment Designer

A tight field of view, and spooky sounds in the distance get me every time.  I get super tense knowing something out there is hunting me down.  Also, psychic monkeys.
Michael Williams, Senior Engineer

The scariest game I've ever played, and potentially the scariest experience, was Amnesia: The Dark Decent.   With graphics that felt like they were out of the Quake era, the use of lighting and sound was masterfully done.  In addition, the loss of the ability to fight anything was terrifying.
Drew Smith, Producer

I’m frightened when a developer can pull off some real suspension of disbelief and draw me in. Last time I felt truly afraid was when I played Silent Hill 2.  I had to turn all the lights on before I could go to sleep that night.
Andy Howell, Matchmaking Test Lead

A game that makes you feel hopeless and forces you to face the unknown.  I think this is what the made my first play-though of Dead Space scary for me - being trapped on USG Ishimura, low on plasma cutter ammo, and having to press forward into the darkness.
Evan Nikolich, Designer

One of two things: actual permanent repercussions for my failings or suspense.
Leland Dantzler, Tester

I like shadows and confusion.  Alan Wake was probably the best horror game experience for me.
Rahsaan Green, Sandbox Test Engineer


EZcomany2ndsqd  Are there set hours in a work day for the employees?

There are “Core Hours” at Bungie, when all hands are to be on deck and ready for battle.  Between the hours of 10AM and 4PM, it’s expected that every Bungie employee will be available for a meeting or a desk-side tackle.  Now, if you’re thinking that life at Bungie is lived six hours at a time, you’re about as wrong as a hacker at an MLG tournament.  There are people that arrive in our studio before the sun rises.  There are people who leave well after it has set (and recently, most of those faces are the same).  We’re all grown-ups, and we’re all expected to get our own part of the job done, so we can make our own hours.  At the same time, the flow of awesome is best enabled when we can reach critical mass for the better part of a day.


Father Frankin  What's the craziest thing you've seen during a scheduled crunch time?

The email announcements about ice cream in the kitchen have contained some of the oddest works of art ever to infect my retinas.  To understand even more dangerous varieties of insanity, we’ll consult the crunch experts…

People sleeping on the floor.
Alan Stuart, Senior Engineer

A remote-controlled camera-driven tank trying to shake off a piece of paper someone had taped over its camera, spinning, running into desks, and veering drunkenly through our pods.
Michael Williams, Senior Engineer

I have promised (sworn, even) not to tell.
Andy Howell, Matchmaking Test Lead

How Bungie takes care of us.
Leland Dantzler, Tester

Running into people who know who I am, whom I have never seen before (new hires and testers that I interact with primarily over email and internal tools).
Mat Noguchi, Programmer

The pizza line.
Alex Gendron, Tester

The sun, once.
Mike Forrest, Senior Engineer


Ah, yes...  The sun.  We all look forward to its rays.  We yearn for the moment when it will shatter the darkness.  That dawn feels sooner with every passing moment.  

For now, it’s time to lower the curtain on this stage.  Fret not, friends.  We’ll be back.  Until then, thank you, for all your cards and letters.

And don’t make us kick your ass.
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