Category Archives: Tarsier Studios

OvO

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The cat is finally out of the bag! This is the first ever official in-game footage from the game I worked on during my time at Tarsier Studios, almost a year ago. OvO is a very exciting game, about a very special little bird. It’s kinda like a bird simulator, mapped 1:1. I really hope the rest of the game hits the market at some point. Check out the post over at Tarsier’s blog!

All images belong to Tarsier Studios.

Bye Bye 2014!

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First post of 2015! Had a great New Year’s with a bunch of friends, celebrating, eating good food and just goofing around. It was all fun and games until half of us decided to go outside at midnight to watch the fireworks. Literally three seconds after they stepped out on the street a gang of teens aimed fireworks into the crowd and sparks and explosions were everywhere. Then someone started throwing beer bottles at my friends from a balcony. Fun times when you live in Sweden’s Gangsta City #1! I had a very nice silver dress I purchased the day before (thanks for that bunch of money Santa!). Did get some photos of the dress but out of respect to my friends I’m not gonna post them here, since everyone’s looking really wild and drunk in those photos, heh! Speaking about images, here’s a sweet Christmas card I got from Tarsier!

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Looking back at 2014 it has been a very exciting year, but also one of the most stressful in a long time. I didn’t get to keep my job at Tarsier, and went unemployed for two months before I started my very own business; Casen Crowd. Running my own thing has pushed me miles away from my Comfort Zone™ more times than I can remember, which is awesome in some aspects but also extremely scary and tiring at times. I’ve learned that the Comfort Zone™ is a place where you should be able to rest and recharge. If you are always outside of it, you don’t really get to recharge your batteries or rest. This past year sets some kind of record in exhaustion for me. I’ve done almost everything to try to battle the sleepiness, and it’s working so-so. I’ve made sure to keep a steady exercise routine, eat my D-vitamin, fill my fridge with healthy foods and lately I’ve tried to determine the best time to go to bed and get up with this cool sleep-analyzing app (it’s showing me my body almost always tries to wake me up at 07-08 no matter when I went to sleep, guess I should take a hint from my body on this one).

I’ve done a lot of interesting work this past year: researched a big report about the state of the video games industry for Game City, helped Mediocre with their social media, made sure VisionPunk got some extra support for their awesome Unity Asset and accepted an upcoming gig as a project manager for a festival in 2015! I did lectures for The Game Assembly and at my old university! I worked the 2014’s Nordic Game Conference and got to the chance to meet so many cool developers < 3 I’ve also got something super cool coming up in 2015, but won’t be able to talk bout it in months (if ever).

Among all this I’ve learned some about how to run a small company, how to design logos, to build web pages, how the tax-system in Sweden works and soooo much more. Having my own thing has taught me more in 10 months than I’ve believed to be possible ^_^ Of course I’ve failed and had sleepless nights, but I kinda knew beforehand that comes with the package. One of the coolest things during 2014 was to get the offer for an interview as community manager for Riot Games in Ireland! For 2015: need to work on how to reduce the stress.

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When it comes to my Art Project I feel a bit confused. On one hand I feel like I should do something with my skills…like have a plan for where this is going, but on the other hand I’ve come to learn that the best things in life are often created out of random and coincidents. In August this year it will be three years since I started The Art Project.

I look at the leading concept artists in the games industry and feel that working as an artist with games really isn’t my cup of tea. I honestly don’t enjoy drawing tanks or Star Wars stuffs, I just feel like all I see is beeews and mechs all the time. Nothing wrong with that, but it just doesn’t float my boat. The stuff that gets me excited seems to be landscapes with down to earth, kinda quiet settings. I totally love the art by Simon Stålenhag! I’ve also noticed that I don’t feel so happy while drawing anymore, I feel like it’s all just for the sake of learning some technique or doing a study. I almost feel like I can’t draw for the fun of it right now. Not sure what to do about this. I feel very alone in front of the computer. I can’t sink into my own world while drawing since I miss human interaction too much I guess. One of the drawbacks on starting my own thing has been to not have a stead team to work with everyday. I meet all these cool developers, but I really feel that I need a team for perform my best.

To close this post with something positive 2014 marks the year when I moved to a very nice apartment, I traveled to a lot of countries, celebrated an awesome Midsummer, got to hang out with some of my favorite people in the world and attended a beautiful wedding for some of my best friends. Also, here’s an drawing from 2002 (when I was 14 or 15 year old) I dug up during Christmas when I finally cleaned away all my old stuff from my room at my parent’s place in Finland. A poster for a made up movie. Enjoy!

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Tarsier Freak Show

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All my guys kinda look the same, hehe. Need to work some variety into the male figures and portraits I’m drawing. Attended the weekly sketch jam on Tuesday and then went for hamburgers. I’m on first name basis with the Starbucks baristas by now.

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Tarsier Studios (where I used to work) threw a party yesterday, and it was a blast! Didn’t snap that many photos, but the decoration was super cool! They had these weird DJ’s mixing chiptune music, a popcorn machine, a candy floss machine, free street food, a giant monster cake and so much more fun stuff. The themes was “Freak Show” and I do think they managed to deliver a freakishly sweet party. Check out their Instagram for more photos.

Meeting some of my old colleagues and having a beer with them was the best part of the night. I really had such a great team when working there : ) Miss you guys!

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!

Back To Work

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kroki01_casen_jan_14Above: some 60 sec poses. New year, new sessions of Malmö sketch jam! Yay! My favorite time of the week is back! I can’t understand it’s 2014 already. Time truly just flies by as you grow older, hehe.

First day at work today, after nearly two weeks of Christmas vacation. Feels good to be back, but today was also a lot of work to catch up and getting back on track again. I’ve missed my team at Tarsier, they are fun to be around <3 It’s now four months since I started working there.  With work occupation a lot my my time and mind I won’t have time to draw as much as I have the past two weeks, but I will try to create something small at least every day.

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Erhm, these are laying around the office, and I’m not sure if I wanna know what they are or what they are used for…

Anyways, right now I’m focusing my studies and practice on two things; hands and perspective. These are two things I suck at, and the only way to improve is to crack down on your weaknesses. Hands are also perfect to draw since I carry my own reference material with me wherever I go, which makes it so much easier! Perspective on the other hand (pun intended) is another beast. I used to see that my images looked very flat and lifeless. The thing that’s missing from a lot of them is foreshortening and a good grasp of perspective. I’ve always dreaded drawing stiff straight lines and therefore I’ve become a bit afraid of buildings, vehicles and other non-organic shapes. Invested 10 dollars in the CTRL Paint video “Perspective 1”, and so far I’ve had more revelations than I can list here. And that is just from one video! Time to start grinding the assignments from the video. If you want to learn how to draw I really, really recommend you to check out the amazing site CTRL Paint. I can honestly say I would not have made it this far and learned this much without the site. I’ve spent 30 dollars on videos from the site by now, and they’ve all been a real investment and worth every cent!

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Release party at Tarsier Studios! We celebrate that our new premium Little Big Planet DLC pack is now released! The pack features a brand new adventure with DC heroes like Batman and Superman and the Joker. Everyone at the office were super proud and happy upon finally completing this Little Big Planet pack! Click here to watch the awesome trailer we did with Sony.

 

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Sony joined us for a streaming event last week, at our offices. Lead community manager Sarah May did a splendid job moderating the discussion. We had the opportunity to answer questions from the Little Big Planet community and explain how we had worked with the DC comics heroes. At the end the the event me and Ola (Junebud alumni and now Tarsier’s CEO) joined the stream and eat a mince pie live. Looking back, this might have been the pinnacle of my career in video games. Heh, just kidding.

 

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Our office dog Nino! He is very shy and always guarding the office. Now after almost 4 months I have finally managed to be able to give him a brief pat. Progress!

 

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Found this photo in my phone. From November and the Halloween party in Göteborg. Haha, riding the bus like this was awesome!

 

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Party to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The bartender was a friend of ours, so he tried to make us the most fantastic drinks. We had a bottle of Moët waiting when we arrived. My dink was chili and ginger mixed with strawberries. I rarely dink alcohol anymore since it interferes with my workouts.

We had a great Christmas party last week, and the traditional Christmas dinner. Afterwards me and some colleagues stayed in the office until midnight, talking about important things, like how do you use a toilet in space, and how scary the Muppet Show was to watch as a kid (like fucking super scary!). During Friday we went out for a last thankyouandmerrychristmasandhappynewyear-beers. I really like the people at Tarsier. They are laid back and don’t have much of a need to brag or show off. It’s nice to just hang out and talk, to listen to each other. Everyone has a story to tell, you just need to listen and be patient.

Speaking about talking and listening. The whole office was on a team build last week. We divided the company into two groups based on current project and languages (a lot of us speak English and are not born in Sweden). The two teams got two days each to do personality tests, complete group assignments and enjoy some nice cooking. I felt like I learned a lot about both myself and the other creators at Tarsier. We did the Mayers-Briggs type indicator personality test. It helps you understand how to better communicate with others and to better understand why you sometimes get annoyed with others or how to improve on your communication skills. A remarkable fining was that the big majority of those working at Tarsier were introverts. In a normal distribution 70% are usually somewhere along the extrovert scale and 30% rated introverts. This could explain why I sometimes feel a bit different when hanging out with game developers or working on video game studios. I’m a moderate extrovert and used to adapting to having a majority of colleagues who are introverts. Interesting! If you are interested in these kinds of things, I suggest you learn Ola Holmdahl’s post about how introverts and extroverts sometime clash here.

I Now Work At Tarsier Studios!

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I’ve now been working at Tarsier Studios for a little more than a month! The studio is located in central Malmö, and I absolutely love walking to the office from my apartment. It’s lovely to start the morning with a refreshing walk trough Malmö’s hipster blocks and the autumn colored trees. Only takes me about 5 minutes!

The studio is a middle sized company with something like 30 employees and a big, fancy office decorated with toys, bean bags, plants and so much fun details scatted all across. The place feels very creative. Even the bathrooms are filled with Space Invaders art and cut out characters from Little Big Planet! Tarsier is perhaps best known for their work on Little Big Planet PS Vita. This explains why the office is so full of LBP stuff.

I have started to feel at home, everyone’s very nice to me. I even got the opportunity to work with two alumni Junebuddies; Ola and Viktor! We get served breakfast each morning at the office, and every Friday we have this Super Awesome Friday Breakfast™ where we even get Nutella to put on our sandwiches. I’m super excited about this job, and if I wasn’t so NDA:ed I would tell you all about what I do all day long. I can’t really tell you any details or Sony would sue my ass into court, haha! The level of security is beyond anything I’ve experienced before. We even got like this special hard plastic container that’s nailed to the wall, strapped with locks and tilted in a way you can’t see what’s inside it. This is where we throw all secret documents. Every now and then a security company empties this container of secrets and burns the papers from it (or put them in acid to dissolve?). The security and NDA is over 9000!

So I’m basically hired as an associate producer, working with some highly skilled people. I do a lot of game design and project management right now, but hopefully I’ll do some metrics in the future. It feels good to work less with SQL and more with people and game design systems right now. I learned plenty about the technical side of game data at Paradox, which was very useful and needed, but now I’m concentrating on different stuff. I guess I’m pretty able to adopt and learn new skills when needed. Sometimes I fear that’s also one of my weaknesses, that I don’t specialize enough, but kinda jump all over the space of game development.

Anyways, gotta go, time to plan a lecture for next week. I’m invited (this year again!!) to give two lectures on a game development school here in Sweden. Really looking forward to it, gonna be so much fun!

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Last two photos from Tarsier’s awesome blog!

LTD 57: The Hag Countess

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Been working hard all week at my new job, so didn’t have that much time for drawing. Yeah, I got a new job as a game designer/associate producer at Tarsier Studios here in Malmö, since three weeks. Tarsier is perhaps best know for their work with Little Big Planet Vita and LBP DLC. It’s awesome there and I’m very excited about it. Gonna tell you more when I got the time for it. I even work with some old Junebudders and a bunch of new, super talented people! Very excited for the future right now. Things feel bright again after some uncertainty and many sleepless nights where I was laying in my bed, looking at the starts and trying to figure out the future. I’m feeling hopeful!

So I went to this week’s croquis lesson, and it was very nice. I’ve noticed the first couple of drawings always look like shit, but when you are warmed-up things start to look a lot better. Like sports. You need to warm-up if you intend to deliver something cool. Croquis really puts me into flow mode, time just flies by when I’m there! Wish I could attend more than one class every week.

I decided to participate in the current round of “character of the week” at CA.  The theme is the one I described in my last post, a D&D character; “The Hag Countess”. Deadline is next weekend. Let’s see if I can make it. Already poured like 5 hours into it and learned plenty about how to organize your work process.