Dev Diaries
May 7, 2020

#11: Working from Haven

A sneak peek from Hardsuit Labs into working from home.

WORKING FROM HAVEN

Hey Everyone, it is me again, Andy Kipling, CEO of HSL and sometimes Producer on Bloodlines 2! I am here to give you an update on Bloodlines 2 development; or more specifically an update on how us developers are getting along.

First, let me start by saying that I hope you are all navigating these trying times brought on by this global pandemic in as safe and as best way you possibly can. At Hardsuit we have been working diligently to first and foremost ensure for the safety and health of all our employees while conforming with the Stay at Home orders of the state government. Second, we have been hard at work developing Bloodlines 2!

These times have introduced us to a whole host of new experiences, emotions and workflows: some good, some bad and some ugly. I figured it may be of interest to describe some of those to you.

First on the good side, full time exclusive WFH has been a pretty massive change for us; we typically favor in person interactions and the natural collaboration that takes place when you get multiple people in the same room together. But, at the same time we have taken this opportunity to become a better employer and developer and have fully embraced it. As a result, we have stood up new processes and workflows to foster and support creative development even when remote. We have updated and improved our back-end infrastructure to more easily support 100+ employees remotely pushing and pulling gigs of data to and from our servers. We are now more capable and flexible towards catering to individual needs by – be it mitigating a terrible commute through Seattle traffic, or working with individual talent outside of Seattle and outside of our time zone. All these things make us nimbler, and more adaptable in an industry that is constantly changing.

The bad part of the whole “never get to go into the office” (other than the Covid19 realities and its consequences) is that we miss out on a lot of what we have strived so hard to create, foster and cultivate at HSL: the positive work environment, the friendly random interactions with your fellow co-workers, and the general social dynamics of having a bunch of incredibly talented and creative people working together towards a common goal, all together in the same space. We, as a species, are without a doubt social creatures (much like our Vampire brethren…) and the day to day human interactions of being in the office can be very beneficial to our mental health. So, there are lots of discussions and considerations around staying healthy (both physically and mentally); trying to balance enough social interaction, while also stepping away from your computer – which may also be the only opportunity for social interaction.

In terms of examples this means that our in-person MTG games are now having to move online. Our tabletop gaming groups and campaigns are being conducted via Teams and even our after-work happy hours are shifting into video chat land where we can sit at our computers and enjoy each other’s company.

As a studio that strives very hard to separate and respect work and life for a healthy work/life balance, and generally frowning on the idea of “bringing your work home with you…” is seriously complicated when your work is unavoidably in, and inseparable from, your home. It can be challenging for the individual: suddenly finding yourself working 12 hour days, or waking up and going straight to your computer; and it can be challenging for the organization: how to support individual’s personal lives and time and ensure they are not overworking or burning out, but still being flexible to support what works best for them, be it working early or late. Disciplined communications, encouraging people to sign off and leave when the workday ends, respecting online status, managing co-worker expectations and more are all important steps we have taken and continue to take to mitigate this. But it is definitely the case that the “bad” of the full-time WFH means that work life balance is precarious and something we need to be ever mindful of.

Lastly, we have the ugly. Across the board we have all kinds of new offices and workplaces, new co-workers and office mates, and new protocols and processes. A few examples:

We have augmented our code review process to allow for external third parties; it has sped things up considerably and generally made us more efficient:

We have been able to bring on some highly qualified individuals who we previously didn’t have access to because they refused to relocate out of Scranton, Pennsylvania:

Additionally, we have even been able to take on a few interns while we WFH, though training them has proven more challenging:

We have had some new types of problems and issues to troubleshoot and debug:

Maybe from time to time we just need to shift gears from debugging our game to de-catting our workspaces. But honestly, George does love his cat.

We have also discovered a new species of cat who keeps popping up on our slack:

And finally, Nvidia’s new RTX noise cancelling support is pretty amazing. It can help convince your co-workers that, behind that Star Wars background in your Teams call, there are in fact no small children screaming and fighting. Just what we need when we are all stuck working from home.

But enough about us, and what we are up to. What about the game you say! Well first off, here is someone else’s WFH setup. Cannot say I know who it is though

But seriously, stay tuned, we’ve got more developer diaries to look forward to, and we have some new media dropping Soon™.

Thanks for taking the time to check in on what we have been up to and how we are doing.

Otherwise, stay safe and healthy (mentally and physically)!

~Andy

2020-05-07

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