pátek 31. srpna 2012

Ubisoft - living like a tester 4

Assassin's Creed 3 - Overtime shift

It's quite some time since you read something about how it is to work as a tester in Ubisoft. So let me remedy this inattention and give you some tasty crumbs from the latest game that will come out this Christmas. You probably know that the GAME I am talking about is Assassin's Creed 3, right? Omitting the fact it is in title of this post, you could read in one of my previous posts.

I wont lie to you, the game is AWESOME - have played it through twice. Really quickly though - my gamers soul is not fully satisfied yet :-) and now I am in the middle of a Multiplayer localization pass. But what this post is going to be about the 46 hours last week we spent on Singleplayer walkthrough of Assassin's Creed 3.

5:15 - Miau, Wake Up, I am hungry and you are sleeping almost 6 hours now. Give me food and make me happy. Geralt knows how to attract attention and lately he also discovered how to open the door to my room and roam around the whole apartment....but thats another story.

6:15 - Well known melody is waking me up. I seriously need to change that thing:-)

6:24 - Bob Sinclair, you SOB I will change you the next time...

6:43 - Finally checking my mail. Yesterday we had to stay late at work and since the taxi driver picked us up with 30 minutes delay I was back home no earlier than 11 pm. Was hoping to check the mails at least, but while the computer was starting I sat on the bed, changed into the nightgown and...the story of  sweet dreams began.

7:28 - Tram number 1 Titan-Basarab is picking me up at Calea Vitan station and taking me those looooong 600m to the nearest metro station. Thinking about the stuf  I should do in the morning: feed the cat-checked, have a breakfast - unchecked, have a shower - checked,...

7:39 - Dristor doi station. If I am going to be lucky I will make it to Basarab in less than 30 minutes and transfer to green line so I might not even be that late for today. Getting into the metro on the first station have some advantages. You always get a seat. I picked my sleeping seat and plunged into a half dreaming state for next 30 minutes. What I really miss here is a book I could read during that time. Already chewed all I had with me and reading the .pdfs is not as pleasurable as having paper pages between my fingertips.

8:10 - 1 Mai station. On the stairs someone is knocking on my shoulder "Good that I am not the only one who is going to be really late"...Alejandro is accompanying me on the way up the stairs.  We are lucky, 105 bus is just passing by. That one is worth to take only if it is passing by while you are near the station, otherwise a little jogging to Ubisoft building is faster.

8:20 - Greeting girls carrying supplies from MEGA IMAGE right across the street from Ubi. Those will be necessary. Today we will spend here another 14 hours. First cup of coke is on its way...

8:50 - The newest build of currently tested game is installed already. Still my tummy is longing for some treatment and I have to leave for MEGA too. On the way there we meet 258 people going to work or already having the same idea as me. So instead of doing business in overcrowded branch of Delvita I am deciding to go next door for sandwich. 4,5 Lei - the old lady subdued to the inflation as any other shopkeeper. Still the sandwich is good for that price.

10:15 - After walking through several side quests My brain is feedbacking me this game sucks ass and I should be doing something else. So I went back here write some senseless quotes. Waiting for the day time to pass. The workers in my homestead will deliver their goods in the morning anyway and the current executable we are running will not allow me to alter the pace of time in game.

11:05 - prolonged break - I like the toilets they have in here - clean and comfy. I am not a person to sit on toilet and reed, but I admit I could do it in here. Only place you have a piece of peace.

11:35 - Long testing and lack of sleep is taking its toll. I don't have power even to hold gamepad in my hands. I am seriously considering going to the relaxation area to sleep for some time. My energy level is reaching the bottom.

12:14 - Another break I went without noticing. Created a bug in which English text is appearing. In this state of testing it means someone/something went really wrong. Funny thing is that in translated text it is present, which means some re-coding needs to be done. Made a video and described that one thoroughly.
 Crush On Hardcore TATWCV_cover
12:18 - Time for some music - Crush On Hardcore TATWCV - CD3

12:59 - Lunch time. Since the sandwich was great I decided to go a little later to the Lunch. Vlad and Fox from functionality test department joined me and we spent lovely 40 minutes in discussion about gaming industry fall down and the new course of testing games on-line.

13:40 - my belly is full, but every time after lunch i desire something more. It might be sweet, it might be salty but something for a dessert is a must. Heading for the nearest MEGA IMAGE right across the strees. Should I be lucky, no car will honk at me and my legs will stay attached to my body. There is no pedestrian crossing on Ubi segment of Expozitiei boulevard. There was one in spring not far, but as they upgraded the blacktop they did not bother with updating the pedestrian crossing pattern anymore. Did I mention the street is more than 3km long and absolutely straight? Well you can imagine how FAST the cars are driving on it.

13:50 - Twix and Milk shake won the race for dessert satisfying my whims today. As I was leaving the shop and crossing the deadly street again, French guys from MANA team were leaving our Ubi building and heading for the Otopeni Airport. For past one week they were giving lectures and presentations about our internal Social Network. It was launched last year and since then not much people were joining. Even though the MANA champions are doing heroic job to attract other employees, still there is something missing.
We spent a lovely Monday morning with the whole team answering their questions and giving them hints how to spread MANA all over Ubi more effectively. Overall I have to say they did a good job in here. Well... at least they visited Bucharest and traveled a little around Romania:-)

14:00 - Siting behind my machine again. Wondering where I left Connor and whether is worth to continue this part of the story or simply skip it by using debug menu. Hmmm beloved debug menu. What would a tester do without such a cheating feature. Not only you have the opportunity to skip and load any mission from selected point but you have so many possibilities you can get lost in it. Seriously, just to reach our Localization segment in this super-structured debug menu means going in to the fourth level. We can switch the subtitles, change the language of subtitles or audio, display messages Line IDs and many more. Considering we are just a small part of the whole testing process the possibilities have to be in matter of thousands.

14:30 - 15:50 - Immersed in the game. Although I am already sick of all the loading I consider this version of game somehow stable and reliable since functionality and developers were sitting over it manymanymany hours past 2 weeks. From overall count of the bugs they were able to subtract more than 1/3 and...smoke pause is calling.

16:10 - Our smoke chat was a little longer than it should be. We don't care much, since we are overworked and its getting on our nerves already. We simply do not give a FLOWER.

18:40 - Time for my beloved pizza. When overtime, Ubisoft is giving us free food. We can choose between 3 types of menus - desert, soup and simple or to grab one ordinary pizza(Capriciosa, Hawai, quatro stagione,...). All absolutely for free and with delivery and service. My usual choice - Hawai. I think I might gain weight for those overtime weeks, but am too afraid to step on the scale.

19:30 - Lovely chat over the delicious meal is over and we have to head back in front of your machines. But not without a cigarette.
19:40 - Naval missions are awaiting. Since yesterday I roamed through almost all the side missions - god bless the debug menu. And now its tome for a little bit of unusual adventure. Naval missions were already introduced on E3 and other fares. Have not been there, don't know what the marketing heads were bragging about, but what I know is that this part of Assassin's creed 3 makes me feel really free and I can almost smell the salty breeze blowing.

21:00 - BREAAAAAK. With guys for external testing we go out to enjoy the evening cold fresh air and one of the nicotine shots. They arrived from a censored country and with their Sirs and Madams imprinted new and fresh style to our testing routine. Adam, Kristine, Stephanie, Muse, Casper, Timo, Liliana, Marlon, Bruno or Alexandru, all of them were significant. I can say that game testing environment is attracting all sorts of very sophisticated, clever and thorough people...usually inclining to travel and discover. All of them have background stories that would cover many pages and are not as young as you would expect. Sharing many hours with them on the site and also in pubs and clubs made me wonder about this specific and definitely extraordinary occupation. On the one hand you have here freedom, fun and prolonged youth on the other you have to pay attention to detail, be prepared to work really hard and have responsibility for your segment. Assuming all people are gamers in certain parts of their lives and also the well known Shakespeare's quote I wonder, why some are reluctant to admit that all you do, all you live, everything you experience is part of a one big game called life.

"I met a lot of beautiful people during these Assassin's Creed 3 testing rounds and am glad that even for just a limited amount of time, they were part of my life. Farewell and remember. "

22:50 - All 14 missions are proofed. Well not all of them, since some are unable to load, but at least the majority. Hope you will also enjoy playing those naval missions as much as I enjoyed their testing. Andrei is already distributing taxi vouchers and we are finally ordered to leave our machines be.

23:00 - In front of Ubisoft Bucharest solitary groups of testers are waiting for their ride home. Its hot and and smell of dogs is in the air. Tripod guards his territory and enjoys attention of tired employees.
Ubisoft is providing ride home - taxi vouchers to all employees staying over 21:00 for overtime. Its pretty convenient and always useful. Though sometimes the taxi driver forgets to drop by and had to be reminded through their call center - Meridian taxi. Today we are waiting more than 20 minutes.

23:20 - As I was saved from being run over by tram, I realized the fatigue is extreme. Yawning every 30 seconds. Not even smoke can help me to overcome this state of body and mind. Interconnected, they DEMAND to rest.

23:22 - Finally our taxi is here. My stoip is last. I can sink in to the state of unconsciousness.

00:10 - The ride is over. Lukasz is waking me up to take care of the voucher. Nodding. Falling asleep again.

00:13 - The driver fills in the voucher for me. Wishing me sanetate and o sera buna we are parting. 4 more stories in to my apartment and few more steps in to the bed.


středa 22. srpna 2012

Bucharest in daily motion - denní život v Bukurešti 9

Rumunské referendum

Sunteți de acord cu demiterea Președintelui României, domnul Traian Băsescu? (Souhlasíte s odvoláním prezidenta Traiana Basescu z funkce?)


Možná to víte, možná nevíte. Tady v Romanii se jim znelíbil Basescu, takový místní Václav Klausů. Trochu méně ekonom,  ale o to více mafián. Egomaniaci to budou oba asi tak stejní.

Právě v době prezidentského referenda probíhal den otevřených dveří v Basescově vile - Villa Dante. Jak jsem tak sledoval telku, a tý já běžně moc nedám, připadlo mi, že fronta do Villi Dante byla mnohem delší než ta k volebním urnám. Každý chtěl vidět moderní západoevropské vymoženosti, které si Basescu ze státního rozpočtu pořídil a nechal instalovat ve svém "přiměřeně" velkém hnízdečku. Z videa se můžete dozvědět například to, že Villa Dante stála přes 1 milion € a má přes 400 m čtverečních. Osobně bych za tu hranatou napodobeninu transportního boxu pro kočky nedal ani půl mega €, ale Basescu má asi náročnější kocouře.

Volby probíhají klasicky, jako v ČR. Dva dny - Pátek odpoledne od 14 do 22 a Sobota po celý den. V pátek se moc lidí nedostavilo, kromě toho, že jich většina maká do nevidim, tak mají setsakramentsky jiný starosti než házet papírky do urny. Takže sobota byla hlavní volební den. Po pátečním debaklu, kdy k urnám přišlo jen něco přes 10% Rumunského lidu se klukům celá myšlenka referenda moc nezdála. I přesto, že se ještě ve čtvrtek chvástali jak to tomu PíP spočítají, tak po pátečním mezisoučtu už jim kuráže moc nezbylo.

V pátek po práci jsem si chtěl jít koupit pifsona do nejbližší MEGA IMAGE. Štrádoval jsem si to nejprve do prvního patra pro kočičí hamání, neb Geralt by mi neodpustil kdybych na něj v MEGA zapoměl. Vzal jsem samozřejmě oblíbené těstoviny a i toho předraženého tuňáka. Když jsem se natahoval pro pivko v jednom z regálů, dopadla na mě rázem tvrdě ruka zákona...Security mě plynulou rumunštinou upozornil, že dneska se nepije, že jsou volby.

WTF?! Koho zajímá, že jsou volby, proč bych si jako nemohl pochutnat na vychlazeným "skoropivu", když na něj mám chuť.  
Tak přesně tyhle slova jsem spolkl a s úsměvem jsem mistrovi odpověděl, že limba Romana na mém přijímači nepremává. Borec přepnul do angličtiny a vysvětlil mi, že jsme v perimetru 500m od nejbližší volební místnosti a v tom se alkohol prodávat nesmí. Byl jsem tak zaskočen, že jsem mu slušně odpověděl:

Děkuji za upozornění, netušil jsem, že je zde zavedeno takovéto opatření během voleb.
V sobotu, zatímco se v enormních vedrech menšiny i většiny drali na exkurzi, já se svým novým spolubydličem Marianem, jsme vyrazili do volebních místností. Teodor to v průběhu dne vzdal a jeho revoluční nadšení utichlo v rachotu sobotního fotbalového utkání místního týmu zalito notnou dávkou piva. Zbylo to hold jen na nás, cizinci a 28-letém pracujícím studentovi. Vyrazili jsme po 7 hodině večerní. Mezisoučet hlásil 37% účast. Což může vypadat hodně, ale potřeba je 50% a volby končí za pár hodin.

Po cestě jsme potkali mnoho lidí a Marian měl trochu strach, že s ním jdu až do areálu místní školy, kde měl sídlo volební obvod 429. Raději mě opustil, ještě před ním a poradil mi ať čekám venku. ale co bych to byl za investigativního reportéra, kdybych se nenakýbloval dovnitř. Optal jsem se místní security, jestli je v cajku tady fotit. Ten mě usměrnil, že jo, ale ne přímo ve volební místnosti. Lidi obecně tu koukaj na foťáky s podezřením. Navíc jsem cizinec a nechtěl jsem dostat do držky. Tak jsem se omezil na pár decentních snímků bez obličejů voličů.

A jak to všechno dopadlo:

Účast:  47%
DA: 89%
NU:  11%

Jelikož tu funguje stejnou parlamentní demokracie jako u nás, tak referendum je platné jen při 50% účasti. Lidi byli pár dní trochu namíchnutí ale dlouho jim to nevydrželo. Musejí chodit do háku a živit rodiny, na demokratický sametový revoluce nemají čas ani klíče.

Podle nejnovějších zpráv šli celé výsledky voleb před ústavní soud a výsledné rozhodnutí se odložilo na polovinu září.

Plakáty hlásající Basescu hai, la revedere zůstali viset v ulicích, ale život tu jde dál...snad to vyjde příště!

středa 8. srpna 2012

Transfagaras highway trip

Transfagaras - Across the Carpathian mountains 


Road 7C is well known as the Transfagarash highway. But don't be confused, the road has so far to highway as i have to superhero. Although it is well managed and pretty passable in the summer, between October and  May is closed since it is impossible to maintain it during the tough intercontinental Romanian winter. Romanians call the Transfagarash highway "Ceauşescu's Folly" since he planned to build that road in order to move armed forces much quickly from north(or to the north)...well his concept, I doubt there was any concept at all for this road. Anyway trying to pass this road in a hedge back is a challenge so I would love to see tank driver maneuver that curved road.

Our trip started at Brasov

the evening before. We gathered at the Beke hostel. Lovely place almost in the heart of Brasov. No more than 3 minutes from Biserica Neagra and less than 5 from cable car station to the famous Brasov sign on the hill. Find that hostel is not easy, but the comfort is worth it. We paid 40 Lei for overnight and had our own facilities.

While I was still testing Assassin's Creed 3, David with Monica, for whom this was the last trip before departing to their native country of USA, rented a car in Bucharest airport. I was supposed to travel to Brasov with them, but AC3 was more importnt in that time, so I decided to join them in the evening at the Brasov train station. Which is by the way quite far from the historical center. All of the trains from Bucharest will drop you off at the Gara Centrala Brasov and you have to take trolley(in front of the station) or buss (a little to the right from the station) to get there. Numbers that are going to take you are 4, 51, 23 and 23B.

While I was waiting for my travel buddies I met 2 backpackers from Germany. They already visited Predeal and were on their way to Bran castle and Peles near Sinaia. I offered them to join us at the Beke guest house, but they were much better prepared and their surfer picked them up in the next minute. Couchsurfing is definitely worth the try:-)

8.30 in the morning multiple cellphones alarm clocks started to ring and sunny morning welcomed us. Quick shower, small mic dejun in the city center and the car was ready to try one of the toughest roads in Romania. David mastered the European, well more Romanian style of driving pretty fast and we departed no later than at 9. On our way out of Brasov we stopped at Real to buy supplies and refill the fuel tank.

First part of the road

might be pretty monotonous. Though the views and sights on Romanian countryside are breathtaking. The air is fresh and smells much better than in Bucharest. Its a completely different world.
In fagaras we met this "Google street view car" so in case we are lucky, we are going to be immortalized(well our car most likely) on google maps:-) We were all so excited that almost forgot where to take the left turn to start the second part of our road - the ascend.

Just a few hundred meters past Arpase de Jos is a roundabout that will decide your adventures. If you continue to the west, you will end up in a region of Sibiu and one of the most beautiful cities in Romania where Mari-An studies. But we turned left and head south towards the majestic Carpathian mountains and region called Arges.

Passing the sign

announcing Transfagarasan road 7C is opened only from June to September our expectations were rising so was the adrenaline level. As the curves started to lead our car uphill, the scenery began to change. Flat meadows were replaced by deep coniferous forests, calm rivers by swift creeks and sunny hot afternoon changed into a cloudy cold one before we even reached the peak.

Tee peak

of the Transfagarasan highway is located at 2014m above sea level and is one of the most elevated roads in Europe. (Another one is the Transalpine highway located also in Romania.) The peak is pierced by a tunnel that leads underneath it and will take you from one side to another. North side is dominated by the Balea Lake. Beautiful glacial lake with 2 hotels at the bank (third one in construction for more than 20 years). Should you have the time, powers and suitable weather conditions take one hour hike to a nearby Balea waterfall.

As we reached the other side of the tunnel, which is by the way the longest tunnel in Romania, we stopped for a snack and obligatory "Picture time". Cloudy weather was left behind on the other side of the mountains and we used all the time before the clouds crossed the mountains to make some pictures. Stopping on almost every curve and taking pics of everything and anything - we enjoyed that time.

As the time was passing so were the miles and we eventually reached Poenari fortress. in the lower elevations. My stomach was begging for something more to eat and also to rest from the curvy road. I was never a fan of bus/car traveling in the rear seats and Transfagaras tested my resilience well. Poenari fortress is an actual place of rule of the most famous Romanian - Vlad the 3rd, Wallachian Prince known as Vlad Tepes - Dracula. Fortress is located on top of a steep hill and visitor has to beat more than 1800 steps to get there.

Curtea de Arges

Considering the time and that this was Monica's and David's last trip we decided to leave it for another time and head to the nearby town of Curtea de Arges which posses the most famous cathedral in Romania (check out the 1 LEU bill and you will know why;-) Monica is a big fan of these sacral architectural jewels in Romania.

The time was running out and we decided to quickly drop Mari-An in Pitesti and hit the road to Bucharest as fast as possible. On the way I was sleeping or chatting in turns and what I remember vividly enough is that in Curtea de Arges they have much more stray dogs than anywhere else I have been in Romania.


Round 2 - Transfagaras sequel in Toyota Corolla

Right! We did one more trip through this extraordinary road. With borrowed car from Avis car rental. Toyota Corolla 1.4 was our vehicle. And the driver - Holistr. I simply wanted to drive the road on my own. Have the opportunity to drive those serpentines for myself and squeeze from the engine what it takes.