Category Archives: Paradox North/ Paradox Studios

In The News

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So…this journalist from a local newspaper in Finland gave me a call a month ago. She was curious about me and what I was up to. I agreed to an interview and we had a very nice Skype chat. Honestly I thought the text would be one of those “personal portrait” pieces at the back of Sunday’s extra magazines, so when I got this in the mail two weeks ago I must say I was a bit chocked, haha! I did not expect three full pages about me and my stuff. Well, it was fun, and perhaps this inspires someone else from my old hoods to become a video game developer!

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Speaking about publicity, I held a lecture at my old university: Högskolan i Skövde, three weeks ago. It was mega fun to be back to the scene of the crime where I started my journey into the mad world of game development back in the days! After my lecture a young man from Finland came up to me and just wanted to thank me for lecturing about video games as a career four years ago when I returned to my old school in Finland. They guy had attended that 20 min talk four years ago and was now studying his first year at Skövde Högskola. So sweet ^_^

I met with some local game companies and had coffee with the studio managed for Paradox South’s office. Paradox has grown quite a bit since I left them in May 2013. They are now over 160 employees. When I signed my contract in Stockholm I was employee #94 (I think). It’s very nice to hear they are growing and keep pushing out plenty of exciting titles!

Skövde will always hold a very special place in my heart. It was a town filled with adventures, misery, happiness and so much confusion for me at the time. It was a completely new place, a new country and my first time living all by myself. I had just turned 19 the month before I packed all my stuff in suitcases and moved there to study. I can truly say I had the time of my life there, I met people who changed me forever, some that left a very deep mark on me, and developers who made me realize I really wanted to dig deeper into making games. But at the same time I’m very happy that time is over, that I was able to move on. Today it’s a bit like a ghost town to me. It looks all the same as when I lived there, but (almost) all my friends and hard core party crew are gone. Their memories are kinda like ghosts and for a second I always think that by visiting Skövde I will also travel backwards in time. Visiting the town always has my brain a bit confused at first.

As you can hear I got quite a vivid imagination, hehe. Maybe, one day, I’ll write a post where I discuss my imagination. I sometimes feel like I got all these “portals” in my head that keeps memories extremely alive and colorful, long after they’ve faded for most other people. Like I can reach into a memory and pull it all back again, whenever I want to. And sometimes I even get randomly inspired by things, like a movie or a book or just the color of the clouds, in such a way it feels almost like real memories, like I was able to catch a sneak peek into a portal showing other people’s memories. Perhaps I’ll write about that some day. Am I the only one experiencing this kind of feeling?

 

Do You Want To Hire Me?

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So once again I’m looking for a new gig. I’m sad to announce that the awesome crew at Tarsier Studios were unable to offer me any more work after my contract ended last week. Yeah, it sucks. I feel sad about it, but at least I had five nice months there before my time at the studio was over. If you know anyone looking for an associate producer or a community manager, be sure to send them my CV, or send me an email to contact@saracasen.com. I figured I wanted to write something about myself here, just to get my thoughts out of my head, and to maybe give you a short presentation of who I am and what I’ve done. This blog usually focuses on my art hobby, so here’s something about what I actually do for a living! So here’s a few lines bout me, nothing planned or too fancy.

To start things off, I feel like I learned plenty, that my XP and skill tree is now bigger than ever, and hopefully that will show in my work from here on. At Tarsier I got a good insight in what it’s like to work closely with a big producer like Sony, and also I was part of developing secret stuff from scratch. It feels valuable to have been able to broaden my horizons over the past years, working for three different studios. Before I got paid to do games I went to game development University in Sweden, Skövde. I got a bachelor’s degree in game design, and during my time there I completed several game projects and worked as an QA intern at small game companies. My time at Uni was totally badass and I just got blown away by all the talented students and bubbling creativity!

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My first (paid)job in the game industry was at at a start-up named Junebud, working my ass off to get things of the ground, learning everything the hard way. The thrill and excitement to take something from early idea to a launched game! We put together an MMO named MilMo, and I’m still very proud to have it on my CV, to have built a helping and friendly community for a free to play game (!).  I have been employed at Sweden’s biggest publisher of games; Paradox, where I was part of a new in-house studio developing a Magicka MOBA: Wizard Wars. I worked with setting up the company-wide data telemetry system and lay the foundations for metrics guided game design over there. Working at Paradox in Stockholm was great, but eventually I decided to move back to Malmö in Sweden because I never truly felt Stockholm was the city for me. Hard choices, but sometimes you gotta follow your heart.

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After my time at Paradox I got hired by Tarsier. Looking back at my time at Tarsier, I’m happy to have the experience of working with mega publishers and also develop something small and unique inside a mid-sized game company. During my time in the industry so far I’ve mainly worked with community management, setting up events in-game, hosting competitions, writing blog posts and helped players, but I’ve also worked with game data and as an associate producer. At my time at Junebud I concluded reports about revenue, retention and looked to the telemetry to find pesky bugs and ways to improve the mmo MilMo. Collecting data about your users and using it to help make business and design decisions bout the game was kinda new back then, and at Junebud we tried to embrace this opportunity. Since math is not my strongest skill I’ve used the insights hands on community management has given me, to combine it with data, to do game analytics.

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I’ve noticed that I thrive and deliver the best results when I get to work with people or the user experience at heart. Sometimes as a bridge between users and developers, like in the case of MilMo, and sometimes I have been providing structure to a team of skilled developers, like I did at Tarsier. I like to keep track of tasks, do planning and make sure things get done on time.

I can honestly say that my morals and production rate goes downhill if you lock me up in a closet and only let me do number crushing. I’m a bit of an extrovert, and I really need a brain storm session now and then, or a casual meeting to help my ideas reach its full potential. I try to be very respectful and want to make sure all members of my team feel that they contribute, that their input is valuable, and I try to include everyone on their own terms. I’ve learned that the development team almost always has what it takes, but sometimes you just need to inspire them or gently push them in the right direction. I’ve more than once gone out of my way to arrange company parties or beer nights. I think that what keeps me in the games industry is the awesome people you meet and get to know. Together you craft things that capture other people’s imagination. Sharing your knowledge is a big passion for me, so when game development schools ask me to come and give a lecture about game design or community management I’m never late to book some train tickets and put together a power point presentation.

I’m not sure where I will go from here, what my next adventure will be, but I’m sure I will be OK. Today is also exactly four years since I moved to Malmö for my first job in the industry, at Junebud as an intern, doing my exam project about viral marketing and community management. When I look back I realize I’ve come a long way, and that I have been lucky enough for some key persons to believe in me and give me a chance to prove myself. I’m thankful for that.

Onward, to new adventures!

LTD 48: Character Experimentation

I spent the weekend in Stockholm, hanging out with friends, attending game developer events and just doing some catching up. Paid a visit to Paradox’s offices and got a bit nostalgic ha ha! The view of the 24th floor is still amazing over there! Slept at different friends places and even build a fortress of cardboard boxes one night. Feels nice to be back in Malmö and sleep in my own bed again, but the stress of not having a proper job is getting to me for real now. If I don’t get good news this week I will soon need to start looking for a job outside the borders of Sweden. There’s a small voice in the back of my head that tells me this could be a nice idea, since I sometimes miss that feeling of when I first move to Sweden, six years ago. When everything was new and exciting. It would be nice to take part of a new culture once again, to explore a country and just flip my life upside down…

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View from Paradox’s offices in Stockholm. Beautiful as always!

Here’s the latest batch of stuff for my personal Learning To Draw project. Next week I will be able to celebrate 1 year of drawing and painting daily! Already planning what to write in the big retrospective post : D Hopefully I will look forward to 365 more days of leveling my skills and creating artsy images!

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I’m trying to push myself further by actually finishing drawings and paintings. I usually just rush trough stuff and leave them after 1-2 hours. That’s no good since it wont improve the quality of the images I make in the long run, and also it doesn’t help me to develop the necessary patience needed. This image of some kind of hunter is an example of me trying to invest more time in my stuff.

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Character exploration. This was a lot of fun to do. I’m really trying to level my pose and anatomy skills. Did a lot of sketching in my notebook during the weekend, mainly standing humans, and it seems like the effort is paying off.

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Some warm-up sketching.

My sketchbook at ConceptArt.org

Thank you!

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Went to this awesome Japanese place with my friend Anders tonight. We just walked along the streets of Stockholm until we found something tasty looking!  They had the best restroom ever!

Yesterday I had some beers with my game dev geek friends over at Easy! We ended up at Imperiet’s club and I randomly met with an old friend who then slept on my sofa because of hassle with his hotel room. I’m really gonna miss all the nice folk at Easy! It’s possible to see Easy’s offices from where we are sitting at Pdx N, and sometimes I shoot photos of them hanging out on their balcony and send it to my friends over there, just to creep them out haha!

Today was sadly my last day with the amazing team at Paradox North. I’ve been spending this week finishing the last metrics reports for “Salem- The Crafting MMO” & “Magicka: Wizards of The Square Tablet” and documenting metrics/telemetry work. It was a lot of sad moments when I said goodbye to the team members this afternoon, one by one when they went home. Almost all of the crew are taking tomorrow off, but I guess I’m gonna drop in to say thanks & goodbye to the rest of Paradox! I really had an amazing run at Paradox, gonna miss this place a lot! I wish the guys & gals the very best!

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This long, hand written letter from my friend and previous co-worker at Junebud made me speechless : O

Ever since I told my friends and followers  I’m gonna move back to Malmö I have just gotten so much warm, loving, exciting feedback, messages and emails. I’m totally overwhelmed and so happy! Thank you all for beliving in me, it means a lot. I got an amazing handwritten letter from a former Junebud Crew member (featuring a bag of Danish licorice!!11), when I finished reading it I just sat silently on my bed with my mouth open : O

Some friends have contacted me with suggestions for new job openings, one of them invited me to this year’s Nordic Game Conference (!), another one offered his programming skills if I ever want to make a quick n’ dirty indie project (to make sure “I wasn’t leaving the industry” haha), and others have invited me to upcoming release parties this summer. Not to forget the trip to the secret location together with Mojang next week! I don’t know what to do, I feel like the happiest person in the world. I never knew I had so many friends and lovely people caring this much about me. Thank you, you guys rock!

A lot of my fellow geeks seem to be afraid I might leave this industry, but I can assure you I don’t plan on doing so. I just miss Malmö and I need a break. I don’t think there’s any other industry like this. Where you mix art, math, music, storytelling, management, psychology and data like this. Where people love their teams and pour so much passion into their everyday job. It’s possible to travel all over the world, to hang out with nice peers at fancy conferences, to grab a beer at each other’s studios, to create something that makes the world a better place, to entertain people and make them laugh, cheer, cry or just have an awesome time while playing something you actually helped to build. I love it. Not one day is identical to the other and since things are moving so fast there’s always something to learn, something new going on. I’m so happy I get to be a part of this! I really feel like I’m living the dream <3

This said I finally feel like I’m ready to replace some of my broken dreams with new ones. It’s not work related, but I feel like there’s so much nice stuff going on right now, and I feel I just wanna go with the flow.

I’m Leaving Paradox And Stockholm

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I’ll be keeping this tee as a fond memory!

This week will sadly be my last working for Paradox North. It’s been seven awesome months since I moved to Stockholm from Malmö, and in two weeks I’m about to move back, to the South end of Sweden. This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, and I’m gonna miss my team and all the friends I’ve made in this town  so much. I could never have guessed that this town, known to be a bit cold both when it comes to the climate and the people, would teach me so much about compassion, friendship and team spirit! People have let me sleep on their sofas like it’s the most natural thing in the world, when it takes me two hours to get home after watching a movie. In Stockholm (and maybe in other big cities as well), you need to think of the city as a prolonged living room. Seeing friends over a lunch is better then not seeing them at all, when you live in different parts of the town or have a long way to work.

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Mojang’s house warming party in fall of 2012. Had plenty of super nice parties here in Stockholm < 3

The reason I choose to quit this super exciting job and move to Malmö, are more than one. Stockholm is indeed a very beautiful town, my job has been awesome and I got some super cool friends to hang out with. But I feel that all those things can’t really make up for the gut feeling that I’m not really gonna be happy if I stay here for a long time. I was lucky enough to find a room to rent for these seven months, but I now feel like I need to get my own place, and I really don’t have any money to buy an apartment, which you almost need to do if you want to find a place to stay here. There is an enormous shortage of apartments, and since I’m not filthy rich I know that if I even get a flat in the first place, I’m gonna need to spend much time on the metro, which I dislike a lot. I already spend something like 6-7 hours a week in the underground. I love Malmö because you can ride your bike or walk almost anywhere you wanna go. Also, the weather here is a bit cold and too dark. I was born and raised four hours from Stockholm, on an island in the ocean called Åland, and I always imagined myself living somewhere warmer with more sun. By moving to Malmö, 600 km South, I get at least little bit less of the snow and cold each year, which makes me happy panda! Some day I might even move to a country that has no snow at all!

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Our view at the 24rd floor at Paradox North : D

I know all of the above might sound a bit negative, but there are a lot of good things happening in Stockholm, especially if you make games! I do not regret one bit I made the move to come here and work this winter, and I’m very happy Paradox gave me a chance. The XP I gained is totally worth it. Paradox is one of the best places I ever worked at, and I really believe that Wizard Wars is going to be a fun game when it’s released. I had the best team and I once again feel like making games and being a part of this special industry is what I want to do. After the bankruptcy of Junebud I felt a bit disillusioned and lost in 2012.

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My hood here in Stockholm. Beautiful and a bit cold.

I don’t have a new job in Malmö waiting for me, and honestly I’m a bit afraid of the future. Afraid and excited. People have asked me what I’m gonna do now, and I have some plans. Mostly taking time off to recover after the whole “oh you might have a brain tumor thing” I experienced this spring. I made a bucket list while waiting for the answer from the doctors, and I want to make some of my dreams come true. I realized what is important in life. Maybe go to China with my Chinese friend Cecilia, paint & draw and buy my own sub surface camera and snap photos of fish in the sea. I don’t know. Time will tell.

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Team building with the Paradox North crew. Gonna miss these guys!

Anyways, my dear friend Johan who works at Mojang, making Minecraft asked me if I want to join him and his crew for a surprise trip next week. Hell yes! So I guess I’m gonna start things by going to a secret location together with a bunch cool people for 72 hours, and that’s not too bad!

My Games Yo!

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The secret is out! Last week Paradox North finally announced the game “Magicka: Wizard Wars” at Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco! I’m finally able to talk about why Paradox hired me in the first place, haha! I might have been all over the place at Paradox, involved in the overall metrics pipelines of the company, but this is actually the project John pitched to me back in August/September 2012.

M:WW is a super intense action pvp game, based on the original Magicka game developed by Arrowhead and published by Paradox Interactive, back in 2011. Wizard Wars is not really a MOBA game like League of Legends or DotaA. It’s a bit more like a beat em’ up, taking advantage of Magickas advanced spell system and chaotic friendly fire. If you ever played Magicka you know the basic gameplay is a fun toy in itself, combining 10 elements of nature. I think there’s something like 1123 possible combinations in the original game. Ever since Magicka was released fans have been complaining about the lack of a stable PvP experience, and I’m pretty sure this is exactly what those players are waiting for!

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The epic announcement trailer for Wizard Wars! If you like Game of Thrones you are in for a treat. Click the picture to start the video.

The game is developed by the internal Paradox studio Paradox North, and published by Paradox Interactive. We playtest the game daily and I have so much fun playing it! It’s really the best time each day, when the whole team gather around to kick some ass in teams of 4 on 4 team fights. So far I’ve been playing for 60 hours, and I still find new ways to play the game. It’s very easy to pick up, but I sense this game is going to attract some very hardcore gamers, that kind who like to grind Street Fighter for years or play LoL professionally.

Speaking of Magicka-related stuff and what I do for a living when I’m not drawing or derping, Paradox and Ludosity just released the tablet game “Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet“! The game scored 90 on Metacritic after its first 4 reviews, which is amazing! I think It’s my first Metacritic rated game ever since I did some QA on Puzzlegeddon for Pieces Interactive in 2009.

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Gameplay trailer for the all new “Magicka: Wizards of The Square Tablet”! Click to start the video!

Wizards of The Square Tablet is a bit of a milestone for me personally. It’s the first game where I’ve been part of the metrics process all the way. I got to have a say in what game specific metrics should be tracked, to make sure the standard protocol that applies to all Paradox games was implemented, test the pipeline, involve QA in the process, beta, the launch of the game and finally construct SQL queries and write a report about the data for the producers. It really struck me yesterday, I do games for a living…!

I know not even my close friends really seem to get what it is that I do for a living. I have done some community management, but I mainly focus on game data. That is I collect data from games and reality check how players really play the game. I usually say I do “reverse engineered game design”. It started when I was the in-game shop manager for the MMO “MilMo”. I tried to find out what items the players seem to like, and at the same time Zynga’s Facebook games arrived to the scene and game data became the big thing. But this is another story, haha!

Release Party!

This Thursday night the game studio Arrowhead (creators of Magicka) celebrated the launch of their new game “The Showdown Effect“, at the Paradox offices in Stockholm!  As an employee of Paradox I attended the party and had a really great night with my friend Marit who had done some translation work for the game. Since Showdown Effect is a fun, fast paced action game all about 80’s cliches guests dressed up as Magnum, karate kids, random action heroes and characters from the game : D

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Time to party!

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The gaming corner where guests could play The Showdown Effect.

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Princess Leia attended the party!

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BADASS MOTHERFUCKERS AND JOHN MCCLANE.

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Party chilling at the Paradox offices on the 23rd floor in Stockholm.

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Red showing some leg ; D

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Thanks to my sister who helped me find something nice to wear. Fashion isn’t really my best skill haha!

Lectures & Paradox Fan Gathering!

A bunch of photos from the last month, some nice things that’s been happening!

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Giving two lectures at a game development school earlier this in February. It was very nice to help aspiring game developers to improve! Photo by Marcus Linda Lindmark.

The Ädelfors’s school of game design invited me to hold two lectures in February. About community management and game metrics. I also put together a list of my best tips for how to improve your chances on getting a job in the industry. It’s very nice to share the knowledge I gained so far, and hopefully I inspired some of the kidz to work hard to reach their dreams. I’m still a noob in so many ways, but I’m happy to share whatever I can. At Ädelfors’s game development school all the students have special minds. They have Aspergers, ADHD or something else. To me it seems kind of silly to name these conditions “disorders” since a lot of the super talented people working with games have very special brains and minds. I myself have been fighting dyslexia my whole life, and I’m pretty used to doing typos when writing in both Swedish or English. My dyslexia made it very difficult for me learn how to read and write as a kid, and my problems with spelling made me very uninterested in English until I turned 16. If I had problems with my native languages Finnish and Swedish, how was I to manage to spell in English or even French? Anyways, I had such a nice day in Ädelfors. If you want to view more photos click this [link] (Swedish).

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The super cool wall painting in Ädelfors, made by one of these students! Have you played Dishonored?

At Paradox Interactive we held a Fan Gathering on the 21st of February. We invited 200 people to the offices to hang out, play games, have a beer or two and chill with us developers. I had a great night, talking to a lot of nice people and running around in a Magicka robe (Yellow)!

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Fans and friends waiting in line to get a glimpse of our cool office, haha! Photo by Jonathan Rieder Lundkvist.

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Magicka! Get your robes ready! Photo by Daniel Moregård.

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Playing games at Paradix Interactive offices in Stockholm. Photo by Jonathan Rieder Lundkvist.

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Paradox is know for its grand strategy games, so a lot of the devs had dressed up for the occasion! Photo by Jonathan Rieder Lundkvist. Visit his blog [here].

Other than this, I was interviewed by researchers from the University of Gothenburg, about some kind of paper about gender-equality in the game development industry. They had been reading this blog and particularly my posts about women in the game dev industry and my open letter to Casual Connect. It’s always a bit scary when people tell you they’ve been reading your blog and want to ask some questions, haha! The day after I had a very nice lunch with a representative from the Swedish organization “Dataspelsbranschen“. They work for the Swedish game dev industry and are also interested in how to get more women into the business. The number of women are increasing and are now something like 15% in Sweden. I think we can do better than that!

 

Avalanche’s Game Beer

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Game developer beer at the bar Imperiet, Stockholm yesterday!

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Guess what all Paradox employees got as a Christmas gift this year? Hint: they are touch screen compatible…

Since I decided to ditch Facebook (as for now), almost two weeks ago, I’m not really up to date with all the events going on. So I almost missed out on this month’s game developer beer at Imperiet, in Stockholm. It’s like this tradition. Every month or so, a game studio near Stockholm hosts a get-together and everyone gets one or two free drinks. The first time I joined, it was Rovio who hosted the party, and the time after that it was King.com who served the drinks. The created on Facebook and it’s almost 900 people replying to each event. In the end it’s usually something like 400-500 devs in the same bar, so you can imagine it gets pretty crowded…This time it was Avalanche (makes of Just Cause), who paid the bills.

I had a very fun night, met some new and old friends, and a woman even asked me if I’m Sara Casén. She was a student, now looking for a job within the industry, and recognized me from Facebook. We spoke for a while and she was really nice. This is kinda crazy, because at both Rovio’s and King’s parties the same thing happened several times. People I don’t know show up and ask me a lot of stuff. A random guy even asked me if I’m Sara Casén, and when I answered yes, he said it was nice to meet, that he used my name to test how their data base handles “é”. I find this a bit strange and fascinating. I don’t mind talking to nice people I don’t know, it just amazes me how small the game dev industry in Sweden really is (~ 1 500 according to the numbers from 2011). I’m an admin of a Facebook group called  the “Game Developer Ambulance”, and I guess that’s why people recognize my face. The group is dedicated to help people find new jobs in the industry. That group’s got over 1 500 members by now…

Anyways, I guess it’s easy to be remembered when I set myself apart from the crowd a bit by being a woman and speaking with a Finnish accent, here at the Stockholm game dev scene…But It’s just a bit weird since I haven’t really done anything remarkable that could make me famous or something like that. Speaking of meeting people, I had the pleasure to meet with Kata, a former member of the Junebud Crew. It was so nice to talk to her, and she seemed very happy with her new job at Rovio. A lot of the Junebud Crew have moved on to new adventures at Massive, King, Abovee, Frictional Games, Tarsier, HelloThere and some of them even moved to Dubai to work for Riva Digital. Others decided to study or are still looking for a job. I’m very happy that people seem to have landed on their feet and bounced back.

My time at Junebud will always be special to me. I joined a fresh start-up, it was my first job in the industry and I learned so much from working there. I gave absolutely everything I had to make it work. We all did. People put in so much time, dedication and money. We worked late nights, patched chaotic releases, had many great Friday beers. I moved away from my home at the time, risked a new relationship, to settle down in an unfamiliar city, ready to tackle all the problems and make MilMo a big success as a community manager.

I think this nostalgia might get it’s own post later on, but I can say for sure, there was nothing I didn’t do for Junebud, so when the company finally went bankrupt I knew it was over. I knew there was nothing more I could possibly have done. I think everyone at the team did everything they could. You can say that company died fighting. And even if Junebud is not around anymore MilMo is still up, and that is great!

I’m happy to work for Paradox now, and I know the industry is full of similar stories. Teams of talented individuals risk it all to follow their dreams, and most of them will fail. Most even die within a year or so, while few survive for some time, and a few rare ones make it to the top. That’s life.