Daily Life of a Sims Developer
SimGuruRiley took TheSims.com blog today to share a brand new article describing her usual day at work. Riley is a senior animator at Maxis, and is one of the people responsible for quirkiness, fluidity and charm. Although it was SimGuruMarion who previously talked to us about animation, SimGuruRiley took upon herself to tell us about what it’s like to work on a game like Sims.
With The Sims 4 now launched, I thought it would be fun to show you what my typical day is like as a Senior Animator at the Studio!
Early Morning: Arrive at EA
First order of the day is to check email for any issues, concerns or requests, while I am syncing down the latest build of the game. I look over my calendar to see if I have any meetings to review design or implementation plans. If I don’t have any meetings that usually means I will be animating, testing or refining our work in the game.
Mid-Morning: Stand Ups, Reviews and Prepping New Animation
The animation team usually has a quick meeting in the morning. It’s like a roll call. When our name is called out we declare the work that we will be doing that day. A one sentence statement about the overall feature and how much we have completed usually does the trick. As a team it is advantageous for us to understand who is working on what assets. Informal and quick, the meeting rarely lasts longer than 5 to 10 minutes. We return to our stations and continue work. For the next hour our Animation Directors will meet with each of us to review our animation for quality. The team is large and the Directors have split us in half to help focus the review time. We are, affectionately, Red Team and Blue Team. During the review with a Director we will look at the first pass of blocked out animation, shoot reference video, talk about how a feature is going to work in game, receive feedback on animation or discuss technical issues we have.
I like to go out with my Animation Pod. I mentor three animators and we try to get off campus and go out to lunch together once a week. Each time it’s a new place – the hardest part is trying to get all four of us to decide where to go.
Afternoon: Steady Productivity
After lunch we are usually quiet and steady at work. One of the best parts of being an animator for The Sims is creating the feeling of life. While sitting with our characters we strive to bring life, humanity and funny nuances to everything we create. Working on The Sims, we have the rare opportunity to create awesome and awkward life moments. It’s rather exceptional in the world of game development. I don’t know of any other projects where design may request an animation to; plunge a toilet, take food from an oven, have a clumsy first kiss, or swing on monkey bars. It’s very rewarding work for an animator.
Afternoon: A Chance of Meetings
On any given day there is a chance of meetings. We have Art Team Meetings and Animation Lead Meetings to discuss high level goals, concerns, scheduling and dependencies. I also host a bi-weekly meeting with the other Leads and Directors to cover new technology or animation style. We use this meeting as an opportunity to educate the animation team on our tools improvements, changes to workflows, or to share our animations with each other. We also use it as a question and answer session and open forum to discuss concerns.
Anytime: Casual Engineer, Audio or Effects Requests
While in production on a game we are constantly editing and improving our software. So it is not surprising after we complete a pass of work that an engineer or other team member would come to us asking for a small change to this or a tweak to that. Nothing exists in a vacuum, and for our work to look great in game we need to work with other disciplines to get features and content looking their best. For me, this is one of my favorite parts – I love working with engineers. I love the troubleshooting and problem solving that comes with implementing a part of the game. It also helps that we have a great group of wickedly smart peers who are responsible, gracious, and helpful when resolving issues.
Evening: Closing Down at Night
Almost mirroring how we arrived in the morning, at night, one by one we drift out of the office and back to our homes. Sometimes some of the team stays a little later and plays Battlefield and there is a gaming group that takes over a meeting room on Friday nights too. Sometimes a few of us even go out and grab a bite together at a local burger joint. One of the exceptional things about working here is that we get used to each other, we grow with each other and we become a second family. I respect my teammates even if I don’t always agree with them – I value how they have helped me grow. It is a team in the true sense of the word, we all contribute to create something much more amazing than any one of us could create alone.
I hope you enjoyed this peek inside my daily life at the studio and what life is like as an animator here at EA!