Quality Time with the Mail Sack

Wrestle your demons...

It was great to meet so many of you at PAX. When a face steps out from behind the username, something magical happens. Forum avatars become actual gamers, and gamers become actual people. There’s nothing like some quality time to insulate us all against an Internet flame war. At Bungie, we love to unmask the people who make games, which is why we take the time to dodge your most serious questions each week.

Here are the living, breathing developers that I crowd-sourced up for you this time.

Lars Bakken, Design Lead
David Candland, Artist
Mike Forrest, Engineer
Zeke Garcia, Artist
Pat Jandro, Cinematic Designer
Scott Kankelborg, Test Engineer
Lorraine McLees, Graphic Designer
Chris Owens, Test Engineer
Austin Spafford, Engineer
Alan Stuart, Engineer
Jason Sussman, Artist

I have checked, and they all have a pulse. That’s all we need to open the Sack.

randomrosso If you could change the ending to any movie, what would it be?

They would never find Nemo in "Finding Nemo".
Alan Stuart

I enjoyed Rat Race right up until Smash Mouth stated singing “Somebody Once Told Me.” Ugh. Way to ruin that movie for me, Hollywood.
Chris Owens

I would change Return of the Jedi back to how it was... but with less YubYub.
Lorraine McLees

Prometheus would have ended about 15 minutes early, with the protagonist looking around the landscape in panic after both ships had been completely destroyed.
Austin Spafford

Unanimate Objec What's your favorite flame thrower from any game?

ALI217 How do I become famous?

It’s really hard to say. The adoring public can be fickle. There are people who are famous for all of the wrong reasons, and people who should be famous but are completely unknown to the world. Are you the housewife of a wealthy person? Those people tend to get famous for doing little more than falling off a log. Short of curing a dangerous disease or penning the next great novel that captivates everyone’s imaginations, you could always commit a colorful crime and become a media sensation. When I was in college, I used to conspire with a roommate about robbing banks dressed as Klingons, and then staying in character at our eventual trial. In the end, we just didn’t have the courage to risk taking a bullet in the guts from the barrel of some rent-a-cop’s gun.

Okay… okay… The powers that be want me to remind you that Bungie does not condone nor encourage criminal activity of any kind (or reality television). Stay in school and pay your taxes. Happy now?

THE DON WAN What's it like to work with XO Sancho?

Didn't he quit like 6 months ago?
Scott Kankelborg

He makes one fine first baseman.
Pat Jandro

XO Sancho, more frequently referred to as "Don Juan," is fantastic to work with - as long as he isn't distracted by those dating web sites.
Alan Stuart

I’m new, and he’s my direct supervisor, so I have to go with: Quite Enjoyable!
Chris Owens

He smells like a fresh pine forest filled with fairies and meat.
Jason Sussman

We are but lowly peons when XO Sancho is around. He has helped me ship every game since I've been here. It also doesn't hurt that he's a dreamboat and one hell of a snappy dresser.
Lars Bakken

He is a champion of the Great Dave Uprising of 2012, and one of the key powers of our empire. The Matts (the closest thing we have to a competitive faction) fear us, but are too unorganized to do more than grumble about how superior the Daves are. Without Sancho, we probably would not have our own T-shirts.
David Candland

Editor’s Note: As a Capo in the Dave Mafia at Bungie, I can attest to the shirts. They exist, but I cannot share them because they riff on assets from our next game.

lime013 Do you guys ever have parties at Bungie?

Nope. We work way too hard to party. If we were to stop what we were doing to celebrate, you might never get to play the game we are making.

XxShadowDonutxX What do you guys suggest to someone who wants to get into the video game design field?

The same thing I suggest every Monday. Fetch thyself a beverage and have a good, long read. For as long as I am gagged on the subject of our sweet new game, I am killing the time by doubling as a career counselor. I have to earn my keep with you fine people somehow, lest you kill me and eat me.

HOOBLA 911 How long do you expect these mailsacks will go on?

As long as I am the guy tasked with the privilege of maintaining your conduit to all things Bungie, we will open the Sack together, Hoobla. This ritual might become an aperitif instead of the main course, but that’ll be because we’ll have more red meat to serve up.

antony X1000 Have you ever had any strange encounters with fans? If so, how did you react?

Yes...several. However, I was the strange one.
Jason Sussman

Hmmm, I don't think I've ever had any strange encounters. It's usually just photos and autographs. It's normal to sign moobs, right?
Lars Bakken

I had one sweating bullets whilst I grilled him for the incriminating evidence on his person while his friend fled in terror.
Lorraine McLees

Why yes. During the development on Halo, my name appeared on our web site. Since we didn’t (and still don’t) have a main phone number, one fan decided to go with the first name he could find on our site and look me up in the yellow pages. He called my wife at home, who then gave him my work number. I then got a pitch for a product. It was a pull-down screen with a suction cup that you would adhere to your TV. You pulled it down when you wanted to prevent screen peeking, but it would only work if we split the screen vertically instead of horizontally. Well, so much for that plan. About 5 years later, we heard from him again. He had changed his name to something along the lines of “Clairvoyance Baba Ganoush” and sent us a 3 page manifesto about the end of all time. I’ve been called at home several times since then by fans asking for Recon. Once at 2AM. Since then, I have changed and unlisted my number.
David Candland

The first year at PAX I kept getting hugs. It was actually a nice surprise!
(NOTE: Huggability varies immensely from person to person.)
Austin Spafford

In Vegas, while poolside at a resort and soaking up some rays and football sized cocktails, I noticed a fan with a poorly botched Halo tattoo. He noticed me as well - more importantly the big Bungie beach towel I had. He lit up came bounding over, asking where I got it, which eventually led to him figuring out where I worked and inevitably asking for an autograph. As I was at a pool and not carrying any sharpies or anything, I could not come through on his request. Anxious by this, he got pretty desperate and asked me to "finger paint" my autograph on his arm with suntan lotion so he would get a tan line with my name on it. After a very long "uhhhhhhhhhmm...." of bewilderment from yours truly, I told him to go flag down a bartender and get a traditional writing utensil instead. He did as he was asked, got his autograph the traditional way, and I never went back to that pool for the rest of my stay.
Pat Jandro

Wow. Pat wins. I was really hoping for a good answer to this question after PAX, but everyone was super cool. No one freaked me out, or even smelled bad. I did manage to snap this pic at our lunch in the VIP Lounge in that sports bar, though. If you look closely, you can see everyone’s inner demon.

Its A Mirage What is your favorite lyric from a song?

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name
Alan Stuart

So take me back to Constantinople
No, you can't go back to Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Tuuuuuuuurks
Chris Owens

Happy Birthday To You
Happy Birthday To You
Lorraine McLees

My soul must be iron
For my fear is naked
Lars Bakken

Can't blame the stone for being cold
Austin Spafford

Llamaboy291 You guys are understandably super-secretive about your work, to the point where you check all photos if someone gets the chance to go through your studio. But how do you keep the people who don't necessarily work for you company quiet, like cleaning staff (who inevitably see secret stuff)? Does Bungie have an in-house janitorial squad for assured secrecy, or a sworn-to-silence cleaning service?

To get a job on our cleaning staff, all you need to do is…

Wait a minute. My paranoia is kicking in. This sounds like the sort of grift you would see in a heist flick, like Oceans 11. I can see what you're up to very clearly, now. You get a job on the inside and play our game every night while we wonder why the floors get dirtier and dirtier.

What I was going to say is that we don’t have a cleaning staff. We burn our own trash in the woods like the Comanche.

Th3 Invader What is your favorite Internet meme and why?

Zeke Garcia

It just cracks me up every time I think about it.
Lars Bakken

Chris Owens

Dog Fort.
Mike Forrest

This is a man of passion after my own heart. Songs about Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll don’t resonate with me these days. You get singing about good BBQ, though, and my eyes start to glisten.
David Candland

DE4THINC4RN4TE DeeJ, will you use this question as an excuse to market the Jobs page here on b.net?

Well, sure! Thanks for the softball. Bungie is hiring. Tell your friends. If we pick ‘em up, they’ll probably give you shirts and stuff.

ZippingFilly817 When the Bungie team is parted with its sarcasm, is there some sort of contingency plan that will go into effect?

You sound pretty confident that this is inevitable. In my world-view, the scenario you describe is impossible. It would be more appropriate to ask what sort of force could possibly part us with our beloved sarcasm. I would swear under oath that no such thing exists. And, if it does, how could we prepare for such a thing? Were the irresistible force to confront the immovable object, it would likely lay waste to everything you have ever loved. Better to wish for happier things.

Professor24 When times are tough, what do you do?

I get going.
David Candland

Must resist urge...
Scott Kankelborg

I remind myself that I’ve been in way worse situations, and I always manage to overcome it and end up in a better time/place. I do work at Bungie after all.
Zeke Garcia

When times are tough I work more, which results in higher self-esteem and less time to spend the money I don't have.
Alan Stuart

Take a deep breath, let it go slowly. Spending time with family is always the best thing to do when times are tough.
Lorraine McLees

Cry into my beer.
Jason Sussman

I hang out with my dogs. No matter how crappy your day has been, they always cheer me up.
Lars Bakken

I realize things could be a lot worse then get over it.
Pat Jandro

Go for a short walk (when I remember to, otherwise I just waste time getting frustrated).
Austin Spafford

Mostly I find myself spamming the grenade button.
Mike Forrest

pimpsta16 Can you have Marty create more Halo soundtracks? I love his work.

As much as I’m starting to feel a little more at home at Bungie, I don't think I'll ever be willing to boss Marty around. I’ll be happy to tell him that you love his work, but you’re going to have to follow us into our next game if you want to hear more. The trek will be worth it - Marty is getting by with a little help from his new friend.

GaRrbAGGE Truck What is one thing you know now that you wish you had known when you were starting out?

A programming language.
Scott Kankelborg

The more responsibility you get, the more time you spend in meetings and less time you spend creating things.
Pat Jandro

If you wanted to travel, do it sooner than later.
Lorraine McLees

Office politics can ruin a great job, and office politics are more common than I ever imagined.
Alan Stuart

Don’t Reply All to a company-wide email... especially if you plan on being sarcastic.
Chris Owens

Avatar Korra Can we get an art challenge this time, pretty please?

Solving a challenge can be an art form unto itself, especially when one of our Engineers helps me concoct the riddle. Remember David Johnson? Well, he was so surprised by the speed with which you solved his last puzzle, he went back to the drawing board. Time for a rematch. Let’s see if your guided missiles can intercept this in five minutes…


Your first clue is buried in the photo of the PAX demons. Beyond that, I won’t help you, but perhaps themisssinglink will. Post your answer on our Community forum. Good luck. You asked for this.

Something else you might not have asked for, but will most surely receive, is another Mail Sack. Letters get collected on Monday. You have a puzzle to solve, so I’ll leave you to it. Happy cyphering!

Community 9/7/2012 4:32 PM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Chris Owens

This is a test...

Testing code is a cornerstone of the development culture at Bungie. The experiences we design ship when the Testers give us the green light. They support every aspect of the process that goes into creating the games you play. They show us the where the weaknesses lie, and point out the cracks. By the time you get your hands on one of our games, it’s been given a thorough beating by guys like this…

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

My name is Chris Owens and I am currently working on the Bungie.next project as a Software Test Engineer. It will completely change the way you play games, but that’s all I’m allowed to say. Well, except for <CENSORED>. Crazy, right?

That censorship joke never gets old. When you aren’t making me look like the news desk of a totalitarian regime, what pranks are you pulling in real life?

I’m a huge TV and Movie buff, and obviously I’m a lifelong gamer. I’ve always been fan of outdoor adventures. I love exploring new places and meeting new people. I also enjoy a little poker now then.

You’re in luck, then. We roll out the green felt tables about once a month at Bungie. Before we became your dealer, where else did you gamble?

Before coming to Bungie, I jumped around the industry A LOT. I began my career as an entry-level Tester at Activision in Santa Monica. From there, I worked at THQ, Vivendi Universal, Electronic Arts, and Screenlife Games. I value those experiences because no two companies approach software Quality Assurance in the same way, which really gave me a sense of what works and what doesn’t.

You certainly do get around. It sounds like you need to find a nice studio and settle down for a while. Since your vocabulary for games is so vast, what would you say is the most exciting thing that you worked on?

Quake 3 BY FAR. It was pretty early on in my career, but not only did I get to “test” this great game for 10 hours a day I actually got to fly down to id Software headquarters and work side-by-side with the likes of John Carmack and Graeme Devine.

Meeting one’s heroes is certainly a perk of working in this business, but we should also be wary of the villains. What is the most ethically challenging thing you worked on?

Any game that gets shipped without being signed off on by QA. There’s no excuse for that.

It’s good to know that, as a games developer, you’re a man of principal. Do those values come from your childhood? What did you want to be when you grew up?

A stand-up comic. That didn’t really work out because of the whole stage fright thing. I wanted to be a Doctor as well, but I also have school fright.

Did you overcome that fear to get an education that helped you plot course into the video game industry? Or did you find your own way?

I hopped around a lot of community colleges after high school. I was never sure exactly what I wanted to do, I just knew it had to involve gaming. I remember reading an article in some gaming mag about breaking into the industry through Quality Assurance as an entry level Tester. At the time, you had to live in either Seattle or Los Angeles to really have a shot of getting a job in the industry. I chose Los Angeles and spent a good 12 years there before moving up to Seattle.

How did you leverage those 12 years of experience to score an invitation to one of our interrogation rooms as a job applicant?

Well, besides the outright begging/pleading/bribing, I expressed my love for everything Bungie and tried to highlight my experience and dedication to quality. As a gamer, I have certain expectations when it comes to a games quality and Bungie has always been a shining example of those standards. You ship when the product is of a certain quality, and not a minute before.

We apply the same standards to our new hires. You should know, since you survived your interview loop. Can you remember the hardest part about your own test run?

The hardest part had to be the final day-long interview process. First off, I was very intimidated. This made me exceptionally nervous and towards the end of the process I was mentally exhausted. I’m still shocked they hired me, as I’m sure I was just rambling incoherently towards the end of the day. I remember going home thinking about how badly I blew the interview…

Not at all. It’s a part of the trial. If you don’t end up babbling like a fool, we just assume that you don’t care. Passion is a crucial ingredient for a member of our team. Now that you are on the roster, how does that passion manifest?

Knowing that the projects I work on will be appreciated by the rabid fan base. Being a fan myself, I like to think I know what is expected out of us as a company I strive to hit that mark….oh and the FREE BEER.

Don’t go misleading our readers to think that we get FREE BEER every day. We save that for special occasions. What is a typical day like? Is it a stand up and fight mission, or a bug hunt?

I usually get in around 8:30 and get jacked up on caffeine. Then, I scour the bug database to get up to speed on any new issues. After that, I check my email, write test cases, test the latest build, and regress and write up bugs.

So, it’s a bug hunt. What’s your favorite reward for seeking out those critters and making sure that we kill them dead?

Did I mention the FREE BEER?!

Yeah, you mentioned that. I’m trying real hard to diffuse the image of you stumbling around here like the town drunk every day. There has to be something else that motivates you.

Sorry, that was the first thing that came to mind. I also enjoy the bi-monthly poker game.

Spoken like a true saloon rat. Aside from raking in the chips from your coworkers, is there an accomplishment that fills you with more pride than any other?

I am proud of the fact at how quickly I’ve come up to speed on the project I’m now working on. That was not easy. I knew I belonged here that first week when I got to know my co-workers. It was like that feeling you get when you put on a comfortable pair of shoes.

While I would never deprive you of a pair of comfy shoes, we do need to extend beyond our comfort zones at Bungie. Can you learn the new skills that you need to become a more effective tester working here?

I am a SPONGE. I try to soak up as much knowledge as I can, whether that means reading the latest books on web security or picking a co-workers brain. I are hungry for knowledge. NOM!

Imagine a reader who is thinking right now that they want to be just like you. Do us both a favor, and provide them with some advice that has nothing to do with FREE BEER.

Work. Hard. It’s a competitive business, and you really have to shine to make it. Learn as much as you can and try to take advantage of all that experience. Use it and absorb as much information as possible. See what works and what doesn’t and apply that knowledge. Oh, and check your ego at the door. We are all on the same team here.

Your humility does you credit. Let’s explore some other virtues crucial to being a Tester in our last question: Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.

Work Ethic, Experience and Talent. You have to be dedicated, because the hours are loooong and the work can be tedious. Experience really helps to determine the process of what needs to be done and when to implement it. Talent is last because talent without work ethic or experience is a difficult beast to tame.

Thanks for sharing, Chris. Those bugs won’t crush themselves, so please do get back to what you do so well.

As Chris learned for himself, being a Tester is a great way to enter the video game industry. It’s not the only entrance, though. If you see yourself following a different plan of attack, all of the doorways are clearly marked in our Breaking In archive.

Breaking In 9/5/2012 9:14 AM PDT permalink

Mail Sack - PAX Edition

You kids get off our lawn...

PAX is in full swing. Players are anxious to get their hands on new games. Developers are anxious to reap their reactions. Journalists have questions for everyone. When you come to think of it, the whole affair sounds a lot like a day on Bungie.net, only with a lot more costumes.

To get us into character for a weekend filled with rubbing elbows with some of our favorite people in the world, we’ve thrown together a panel discussion all our own.

Lars Bakken, Design Lead
Chris Butcher, Engineering Lead
David Candland, Artist
Frank Capezzuto, Artist
Joseph Cross, Artist
Ryan DeMita, Artist
Tyson Green, Designer
Pat Jandro, Cinematic Designer
Lorraine McLees, Graphic Designer
Chris Owens, Test Engineer
Austin Spafford, Engineer
Alan Stuart, Engineer
Jason Sussman, Artist
James Tsai, Designer

Please display your badges where enforcers can see them, and let’s open the Sack.

catman6 Why are we here?

That is the question. Isn’t it? The motivations that still drive the Bungie Community to B.net are likely as varied as the people themselves. Perhaps you’re waiting to discover our next game, and you refuse to surrender your front-row seat. Maybe you’ve just come to know this website like a comfy chair that has sagged to conform to the unique contours of your ass after all these years. Or, it could be that you’re curious about a future career in game development, and you hope to learn something from our team.

Whatever brought you to our virtual convention hall today, cop a squat. I have goodies prepared for you.

pfhor007 How many of your employees were fans of Marathon and Myth back in the day?

That day was long ago, but we still have some old friends on our team who began their relationship with Bungie as members of much older iterations of our community. It’s no secret that being a creative player of our games is a great way to become a creator of those games. These three gentlemen are proof of that…

David Candland
Although I was hired at Bungie in 2000, Halo was not the first time I contributed to shipping a Bungie product. Back in the early ‘90s, when I was a budding college student, I had entered a Marathon mapmaking contest called “Bungie for Life.” The winner of the best Marathon Mod was to receive every game Bungie made as long as they remained in business. I was a fan, and the draw of such an enticing prize compelled me to put aside my homework for a week and build The Greatest Marathon Mod In The World™.

Well, I quickly found that one week was not enough time for that, so I settled for a couple of Pretty Cool Single Player Levels With Custom Sprites™. Titled “Return to Tau Ceti,” my first level was essentially a stressful lava maze with health packs placed just before the kill distance (if you went the correct way). The second level was a boss battle in a Pfhor spectator arena against a Juggernaut-Cyborg hybrid. Well, I didn’t win the contest, but I did get my mod published in the Marathon box set bonus disk. It was an honorable consolation prize.

Since coming to Bungie, I’ve added little nods to Marathon in my work; the overshield colors, the little 15m by the motion tracker, naming the Postgame Carnage Report. At one point, I had named the easiest difficulty in Halo “Kindergarten” but that didn’t fly with Microsoft. Go figure.

Chris Butcher
When I enrolled at the University of Otago in New Zealand in 1995, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I had a degree in computer science already, but the programming that I’d done had mostly been pretty dry and boring stuff. So, I thought maybe I’d go into physics instead, just taking a few additional CS courses on the side for interest. Marathon changed all that.

We used Power Macs exclusively in the CS labs at that time, which were ideal for clandestine excursions into the carnage zone. It was a constant game of cat-and-mouse between us and the sysadmins, who would try to lock down the Macs, but we would always find ways to get around them. (Sorry Tracy and Brian!) Marathon was the lingua franca of our social group, and pretty soon after the release of Marathon 2 it escalated into a nightly religion. One of our favorite tricks was to browse around on the AppleTalk network and try to find other players who were waiting to be gathered by their group, and then hijack them into our group instead. We would also spend hours doing 2-vs-2 co-op speed runs of the M2 campaign. Let me take this opportunity to pimp the one map that I made, “Newton’s Folly”, which is an M2 homage to What Goes Up from Marathon 1. We also made a compilation of 50 of our favorite Marathon 2 netmaps, if you’re in the mood for some carnage.

Download 1
Download 2

Marathon convinced me that I wanted to do something in realtime computer graphics, so I gave up the idea of becoming a theoretical physicist and enrolled in graduate school for computer science instead. During my Masters and PhD programs I spent quite a lot of time playing Myth and Myth II, with the Blade of Thorns, Altus Praeses and Civil Order among other people. I also ran a number of tournaments, both FFA and team tournaments, the last of which was the Myth World Cup ’99 which involved over 1000 players and dozens of tournament officials. You can see the MWC99 website which is still up and running at http://www.macobserver.com/mwc99/ … and let me give a shout out to Grim, the continuing organizer of the Myth World Cup, now in its 14th year, at http://mwc2012.weebly.com/. I don’t play much on MariusNet anymore, but it is amazing to see how the community has sustained itself so many years later.

Tyson Green
I started out keeping tabs on Myth during development, maintaining a little news website in the early days. After Myth launched and the community was really starting to come into its own, I partnered up with Jaime on the larger Myth Codex website that was fairly involved in the community from that point on.

When it became possible, I tried my hand at modding and made a passable map or two, and helped admin b.net as a BNA. In mid ’98, I applied for a job on Myth II, and (to my amazement) was taken on as a production assistant. Among other things, I ended up writing the documentation we shipped with Myth II’s Fear & Loathing editors, which resulted in some proficiency with the engine and my creating a bunch of Myth II’s spell effects.

On account of work visas being somewhat more difficult to obtain than expected, I returned to Canada after Myth II went gold. Still, I kept active with the Bandlands map making group, helping with a few of their releases, and ultimately scripting about half of the Chimera mini-campaign pack.

CODA: For more Tyson’s illustrious career as a Bungie gamer, this interview is a great look back.

Gamer Whale Does anyone at Bungie play FreeSpace 2?

Oh, man… What a great game that was! Are you still playing that? I logged a lot of hours in the Perseus Interceptor simulator, but the PC that hosted that fight is long dead. Still, I have some really great memories of leading wings of fighters and bombers into battle against the Shivans.

You know who has even better memories from that game?

James Tsai
FreeSpace 2 was my first game in the industry. I started in test for the initial release (one of only two full time testers), and then was the QA manager for the subsequent game-of-the-year and localized editions. During those later releases, I also got to do some production work for the first time in my career, helping manage schedules and deliverables between Volition and Interplay. But the most rewarding part of all of it was getting to do mission design work with the fans. We put together a content pack where the players submitted missions and the community picked their favorite ones, which I’d then work on with the creators and get them revised, balanced, and polished.

It was a great project; the development team was small and tight knit, and lots of those guys are still my best friends in the world even though many of us are at different studios now. We’ve been to each other’s weddings, we meet up in Vegas now and then, and we fly across the country to visit each other often.

ChorrizoTapatio This question is for the artists over at Bungie: You guys draw some amazing things. How did you hone your skill to that level? Teach me your ways.

For this question, and the next, I went directly to the concept artists who are imagining everything you’ll see in our next game. Several of them were kind enough to sketch some of their unique brand of wisdom on a cocktail napkin.

Ryan DeMita
Practice, practice, practice. Grab a cheap sketchbook and pencil and start grinding away! Draw everything and anything. I started off drawing the 7up dot and Bart Simpson over and over. Eventually, I went to design school and drew everything from the apple on my desk to giant walking mechs. Onward!

Frank Capezzuto
“A teacher must never impose this student to fit his favorite pattern; a good teacher functions as a pointer, exposing his student's vulnerability (and) causing him to explore both internally and finally integrating himself with his being. Martial art should not be passed out indiscriminately…” – Bruce Lee

A way is learned by the student. But to break it down in its simplest form: What subject inspires you? Once you discover this, draw every day, make plenty of mistakes, seek feedback and direction from the art community and professionals alike.

Many great artists are self-taught, but many more go through some form of an education system. If you can get in, I think Art Center is the best. Other excellent education systems are Gnomon or Feng Zhu Design School or Art Institutes International (where I graduated from). If you want to go self-taught route, I recommend Gnomon DVD’s to get some professional insight and tutorials. In my experience, learning how to draw is a lifelong process – no 20 minute ‘session’ with a professional artist is going to transform your ability.

Feng Zhu Design is a constant internal and external process – but I recommend going through some kind of an education system that involves years of study that I listed – covering all aspects of art including set design, human and animal anatomy and vehicle design. Education from an institute of higher learning is the fastest, and even then it takes years. The most important thing is to do your craft every day – so it’s part of who you are.

Zafric When it comes to applying for jobs at Bungie, do you have any tips or suggestions regarding how to present your portfolio and/or resume?

Ryan DeMita
The simpler the better! You want to make sure you work is well presented and easily viewable. I’ve always preferred the blog format. It’s a simple and inexpensive way to present work as well as making you searchable on the web. I would avoid flash portfolio sites, cd portfolios, mail away portfolios or anything that requires more than clicking a button. HTML is always a safe bet. I would keep the resumes short and sweet and in Word, PDF, or HTLM page format. Best of Luck!

Joseph Cross
My best advice for portfolios and resumes if you’re feeling lost, is to find examples of artists you admire and are in the position you want to be in and do what they do, make you website like theirs, organize your portfolio like theirs, and find a professional resume and format it the same way. Look at professional artists you admire as instruction manuals for success.

Frank Capezzuto
A website, along with a DVD or CD, is the best for submission. On an interview, simply printouts or even a slideshow on a laptop or iPad will work. Don’t do fancy flash intros or anything like that for a webpage, since reviewers of portfolios have hundreds of submissions to go through. Loading times or clunky interfaces might make a reviewer pass over to the next submission. You never want to make anyone work to figure out a complex interface to see your work. A simple gallery page is the best if you’re applying for 3D or Concept. Obviously for animation, a YouTube page of demos is free and effective.

Some good examples are BlogSpot pages, like Feng Zhu’s BlogSpot – a simple gallery of images with a thumbnail browser. YouTube can also be embedded into blogspot for animation applicants. BlogSpot is awesome because it’s 100% free, fast and has plenty of storage for art sites. Also, no need to pay for a registered address, they provide you with one for free.

Most importantly, when applying to any game or production company (Bungie), don’t apply there because you want a paycheck or a job. Apply because you are inspired by the company’s mission and you’re passionate about their games. It will show in every aspect of the application process.

GrinnialVex So, I'm going to be in town this weekend for the first time ever for PAX and all, and I want to know what the area has to offer for a food fanatic from Chicago (where we have TONS of good stuff to eat). Since you guys are all living there, what sort of places can you recommend I check out for some really awesome meals?

Pat Jandro
Nick's Grill in Kirkland. Get the burrito.

Alan Stuart
Salmon and chowder at Ivar's on pier 54 (the original location).
Steak at The Metropolitan Grill.
Italian at Bucca di Beppo.
Burgers at Red Mill.
Pub fare and micro-brew at The Pike in Pike Place Market.

Chris Owens
Salumi (A sandwich shop run by Mario Batali’s dad).
Red Mill (GREAT burgers).
The Wurst Place (GREAT sausages).
Volterra (GREAT Italian).

Jason Sussman
Din Tai Fung or Facing East (Bellevue), Maltby Cafe, Skillet (Seattle).

Lorraine McLees
Steak? Got to the Brazilian Steak House in Bellevue or John Howie Steakhouse. Pizza? Go to Kylie's in Fremont. Ice Cream? BlueBird ice cream in Fremont. For that matter, just head over to Fremont, see the Troll, and walk around eating food until you pass out near the Center of the Universe.

Lars Bakken
If you don't mind walking up the hill from the Convention Center, I highly recommend Skillet. http://www.skilletstreetfood.com/. They started out as a food truck, but they have a physical restaurant at 14th & Union. I'm salivating just thinking about it. If you go, definitely get the poutine. My lord it's good.

Austin Spafford
My favorite place to eat when attending PAX is Cyber-Dogs, but it's more for the unique atmosphere, perfect distance, and vegetarian menu (which while not essential, is almost always a treat for me).

dmg04 How many hugs can I give you at PAX?

You have to find me first.  If successful in your quest, I prefer fist-bumps.

emopinatapwns I never have any good questions to ask...

Not to worry. You neighbors in the Bungie Community have you covered. Mail Sacking is just as enjoyable as a spectator sport.

In fact, I have questions in reserve. The customary question/answer drill resulted in an embarrassment of riches this week. There was enough delicious community interaction to fill two mail trucks, so I hid one of them in the nearby forest. When it is Friday again, I will share Part Two of the conversation that took place between us and you.

In the meantime, I’ll be seeing several of you any moment now.

Community 8/31/2012 7:02 AM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Brandi House

Join us in the lab...

Have you signed up for the Bungie Beta? If you haven’t, our User Research team needs you. We know it can be intimidating to donate your body and your mind to Science, but we promise that our series of tests and interrogations won’t hurt a bit. To put a human face on the machinations of our lab, allow me to introduce you to one of the kindest people to ever don a lab coat.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

My name is Brandi House. I am a User Researcher. This means I do everything in my (significant) power to understand the player-experience goals of our designers and artists, and then translate that into studies that measure how well they are meeting those goals. I bring real people like you into our Laboratorium to play our games, and I watch, and I laugh, and I analyze your delicious precious brains. And! I go back to tell our designers how so many of you delightfully missed most of the cues they thought were so brilliant.

In short, I dissect your brains and kill the souls of designers. Awesome.

That is awesome. We need people to help us know the hearts and minds of the gamer. But, when the day is done, and there are no more gamers to scrutinize, what do you spend your time studying?

Beagles! And, subsequently, hiking and walking – those buggers have more energy than a room full of 5-year-olds. Also, games of course – these days I’ve been stuck on mobile/iPad since I don’t get much couch time. Dead Space on iPad is gorgeous, and the translation of the Catan board game is also pretty sweet.

For as much time as you spend poking and prodding the gamers who submit to our tests, I suppose it’s only fair that you are one as well. Have you always worked on games?

I was a contract User Researcher in the Microsoft IT department. The upside – I got some good experience running usability studies. The downside – I learned that I have no patience for wall-to-wall meetings.

We should schedule some time in a conference room to discuss that. For now, I’m curious if you have always harbored a desire to dissect brains. What did you want to be when you grew up?

Anything but an engineer. My dad’s an engineer, and it sounded sooo boring. Turns out, I should have listened to my 8-year-old self sooner – preferably before I was half way through a PhD in the darn field.

Did you finish that PhD? If I looked at your transcript, what series of accolades would I find?

I have a Bachelor’s in Engineering Science and Music, a Master’s in Electrical Engineering, and I got half way through a PhD in systems biology before I jumped ship to start a career in user research. I took a couple of graduate-level courses in UX Research that were a great start for my current career, and I still use some of the math and statistics from my other degrees.

In truth, a lot of what I learned in my bumpy road is that I need to work with people, and engineering is too lonely for me.

One thing that we have a lot of at Bungie is people. Would you remember for us how you began the process of becoming one of them?



No really…

I was a guild officer for a Microsoft friends-and-family guild, so I lead raids and hosted picnics and board-game nights for locals. I was enthralled by being in a group of people who, on average, were even more awkward than me!

So… I met an engineer at Bungie at a picnic, and she learned that I was on the hunt for a more permanent job in User Research. She gave me a referral. Win #1! I got to a phone interview and learned that John Hopson (known to me only by his game name at that time) was on the other line. He was my first ever raid leader, and I was terrible. My fears were unwarranted – he kindly chose not to mention the number of times I accidentally blink-pulled the boss. Win #2!

What the hardest part of the boss fight that is the Bungie Interview loop?

Endurance. My brain turned into mothballs by about the 6th grilling.

Now that you are a valued member of our “guild,” what’s your favorite thing about aiding our own quest for world domination?

The designer facepalm. It’s great getting a designer in the room to watch people play their part of the game, only to discover that all their fears really can come true.

For the players that live outside of our realm, describe a day in the life of the Bungie village.

Dark man cave, an unearthly glow from the men’s room, occasional climbing of the walls. You know, the usual stuff. Oh and relatively few pointless meetings. Woo hoo!

Aside from the minimal time we spend in our conference rooms, what is your favorite reward that comes from the life of science that we provide?

Newbie lunches. We get to take new-hires out to lunch and get ours covered by the company too. I love meeting people, so this one is a double win for me.

Can you recount your favorite win? What’s that one accomplishment that has given you more pride than any other?

DeeJ thinks I’m awesome.

Sarcasm! You clearly have one of the most important skills to go the distance at Bungie. Of course, having skills is just as important as improving on them. How can a User Researcher learn and grow in this dark man cave?

Finding challenging problems around the studio and learning to apply UR in unique and exciting ways. I’m learning to crush the souls of engineers and artists in addition to designers!

There just might be some would-be scientists lurking out there who would love to crush souls for a living. What would you say to help them join you in the lab?

If you have passion for User Research, go give it a try. Every tech company on the planet needs usability professionals. Take a couple of classes and/or work as a contract UR. If the passion lasts and your talents have been proven, you’ll be ready to tackle the game-specific domain of user research.

There are some eager souls in our midst that need crushing. I can feel their anger. We’ll need to bring this to a close with one final question: Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.

1. Passion – love the crap out of studying people, digging through piles of data, and inflicting pain for the good of the whole (work ethic is lame… everyone works hardest when they’re passionate about their job)
2. Talent – UR may sound fluffy, but working with people AND data means you need to have some capacity in both parts of your mind.
3. Experience – Also important, but in truth, anyone who meets the top 2 criteria can learn some of the necessary techniques while on-the-job.

And with that, we return Brandi to craft new and exciting mazes for us rats to run. She practices a very unique (and crucial) discipline that allows Bungie to make games. If the study of the mind is not your chosen quest, there are many ways to raid our world. You can learn more about all of them in the Breaking In archive.

Breaking In 8/27/2012 5:59 PM PDT permalink

Gotta Mail Sack on Friday

It's not news, but it'll keep you warm...

Friday is home to some cherished traditions at Bungie. The day begins with a spread of bagels vast enough to clear the shelves of a small deli. On some occasions, like this very Friday, we look forward to concluding our week with a Team Meeting. It’s always a lovely gathering. With a handful of snacks in one hand and beverage in the other, we converge on our grand ballroom to feast on presentations about our work in progress.

And, further to the point of Friday traditions, these guys enjoy the Mail Sack as much as you do.

Andrew Davis, Artist
Noah George, Server Ninja
John Hopson, User Research
Ryan Klaverweide, Graphic Designer
Dave Matthews, Art Manager
Tom Sanocki, Artist
Austin Spafford, Engineer
Alan Stuart, Engineer
John Stvan, Graphic Designer
Scott Taylor, Producer
Ben Wommack, Production Engineer

We've gotta get down on Friday, gentlemen. Let’s open the Sack.

snipe champpppp Question.


Off to a great start! I know our community can do better than this.

antony X1000 What is the most impressive thing you have seen the community do?

I think it’s a true testament to the boundless creativity of our fanbase that you ascended to the level of developers in your own right with fan-forged maps that were included in playlists for matchmaking. You took the tools you were given you and created battlegrounds that shaped a multiplayer experience that was enjoyed by all.

Our panel also has some favorite moments for which you can take credit.

I’m always blown away by the amount this community contributes to charity, particularly in response to the disasters which struck Haiti and Japan. You people rock.
Ben Wommack

Halo Charts.
John Stvan

Noah George

For those of you who might not remember (or weren't paying attention when it happened), Noah is referring to the time that one of you claimed our dog tags (thus claiming a prize) on a dare during a Ride Along in Battlefield 3.  Was this the greatest moment in Bungie Community history?  Maybe not, but it made us smile.  And, we're always in awe of the skill that you players bring to any game.

Kalriq If you had a Flux Capacitor, where would you go?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Flux Capacitors are intended to propel us to a specific when, rather than a specific where. Settling for a journey to a specific place seems like a waste of rare (and completely imaginary) technology.

TheSpiderChief What is your fondest memory when it came to making the Halo games?

I didn’t make any Halo games, aside from the ridiculous Warthog-intensive customs I forced upon my clan, so I’m turning this question over to the authorities.

Getting Halo and Halo 2 working on the Xbox 360 was hard because the hardware architecture changed significantly, yet it was very rewarding when they finally worked.
Alan Stuart

I believe I was the first internal tester to find Jason Jones in Halo 3 au naturel. I was doing saved film flying cam sweeps and found this weird, oscillating black card in a back corner. None of the other testers knew what it was, so with everyone crowded around I started up the level and made my way over to it. Staring straight at it, still no idea. Flipped on my flashlight…oh my. Many lulz were had that day in Test Land.
Ben Wommack

John Stvan

Forky was a fine steed, but more, he was a fine friend.

FALSE R3ALITYx How does Bungie feel about the occasional member meet-ups?

We think they’re fine, as long as they don’t involve wrongful imprisonment or ransom notes. Remember, kids, not everyone on the Internet who invites you to a hotel wants to play System Link in a conference room.

MiloOmega Can you give us some suggestions on what to do to pass the time?

As a former boss once told me, “If there is time to lean, there is time to clean.”
Alan Stuart

You are your own gym.
John Hopson

Dig through the ooooold B-net forums and read posts made by people predicting/reacting to Halo 2 and 3. Come back here and tell us what you find.
Ben Wommack

Make a video game. It takes a while!
Ryan Klaverweide

Visit a local hackerspace to see if you get inspired by any of the projects people are working on. While it may be intimidating to approach people with cool projects, just keep in mind that nearly everyone loves talking about the things they do for the sake of doing it!
Austin Spafford

Create something (new, if possible).
Andrew Davis

I’m sure DeeJ will edit this, but while working on marketing and web stuff for **********, I enjoy playing ********. It’s got that ********.
John Stvan

Those asterisks are all John, people. If there is a troll in the room, it’s him.

MightyMarcher01 If you could put anything you own into a time capsule, what would it be?

I’ve always wanted to prank a time capsule by including another time capsule that says, “Do not open for another 100 years.”
Alan Stuart

Hydrochloric acid.
Noah George

Twinkies, obviously, so that future generations may survive.
Ben Wommack

Something physical I designed. Most likely a t-shirt.
Ryan Klaverweide

Two rocks and some tinder.
Austin Spafford

John Stvan

Dude, how would you put a website in a time capsule? It’s a good thing you can make art.

IRISH 249 What game or games influenced you to want to pursue a career in video game development?
What caused your a-ha moment where you said, "I want to create something like this"?

The moment I saw “Prince of Persia” in 1990, I knew I was going to work on a game someday. By the way, the original source code for PoP is now available along with a great story of how it was recovered.
Alan Stuart

Chrono Trigger on the SNES inspired me to work in games - it was just so cool. How could I not want make game development my life? Any other alternative was unthinkable.
Ben Wommack

Dragon Realms MUD, circa 1997.
John Hopson

Street Fighter 2 and Shadow of the Colossus.
Ryan Klaverweide

Halo: CE.
John Stvan

I worked with a fellow student on a crazy text-based multiplayer game called Bomberman clone. It was so fun and socially viral that it was banned from the computer labs.
Austin Spafford

Duke Nukem 3D and its Build level editor.
Andrew Davis

Playing Space Warp on the TRS-80. Yes, that means I’m nearly as old as Marty.
Tom Sanocki

Sven Nietzsche Will Zebras serve any important roles in the upcoming game?

Our lawyers tell us that we're not allowed to use fan ideas in our games. Thanks to your treachery, Sven, now no one will know the thrills of piloting the Zebra Battle Wagon. It's probably for the best. Not only was it a real memory hog, but all those stripes were inducing seizures in way too many testers.

pureXownage Will Bungie have anything to show off at PAX?

I just got some new socks that I’m gonna wear. Ask me nicely, and I’ll hike up my pant leg (I’ll let you choose which one) and have a look.

There will be a number of Bungie people at PAX. It is, after all, in our own back yard. We’ll be there as fans, just like you.

Kivell What were your first jobs?

For an entire summer in high school, that mysterious face in the small window at the back of the movie theatre was mine. I could thread a movie projector in 30 seconds flat. Because it was the longest film running that summer, I had to monitor the ending to Terminator 2 hundreds of times. Corner me at PAX, and I’ll act out the final scene for you.

"I know nauhw why you crahy, but it is somezing I can nevah do..."

How about you, Panel?

I fried chicken at a restaurant named “Po’ Folks” in a city named Niceville. Our motto was “We might be po’, but we are nice.” I still have a copy of my first paycheck as a memento.
Alan Stuart

In order: scanning documents in an office, college tour guide, college facilities recycler, Test contracting at Bungie.
Ben Wommack

My first job was a barback/bus boy… at 15.
John Stvan

Tomato fertilizer. I worked in a hydroponic farm, tickling tomato flowers with an electric toothbrush to spread pollen.
John Hopson

Tester at Nintendo of America (summer job while plowing through a computer-science degree).
Austin Spafford

Mohawk Mountain State park maintenance, in Connecticut. Hours of mowing, weed whacking, and getting big diesel trucks stuck in the forest.
Andrew Davis

Does shoveling cow poop every day for a summer count? Even if I had to do it for free?
Tom Sanocki

Working in a sweat shop steaming clothes, handling sticky meat, washing dirty dishes. Ahhh, the more things change...
Ryan Klaverweide

To my knowledge, we have never made Ryan wash our dishes.

Ockeghem When we see another person in real life wearing Bungie swag, what should our response be?

If I were you, I would charge that person and beat them down, all the while screaming “There can be only one!”

(In truth, please do not actually do this. You’d be better off approaching them slowly and introducing yourself.)

ChorrizoTapatio Would you say trying to getting a job at Bungie is like trying to play football in the NFL? Difficulty wise I mean.

I would say it’s a lot harder to get a job with us. The NFL has a lot of teams that need people, and you can try to join them all. Bungie is just one company, and we need people who know how to do things that are more complicated than colliding with other dudes at full speed.

This is not to say that it’s impossible to work for Bungie. Right this very minute, we are looking for some first-round draft picks on our Careers page.

MASTERMIND416 What is one of the most rewarding experiences you've ever felt as a game designer/programmer, etc.?

When I was in college a friend and I wrote a shareware game. It took us about 6 months of hard work, but at the end I was so proud that the two of had done everything ourselves (level editor, audio, graphics, cut scenes, engine). Someday I plan on converting it to a mobile app, so I can’t share the game design with you at this time.
Alan Stuart

Everything we did to celebrate Bungie's 20th Anniversary.
John Stvan

Creating a testing command to hunt down and kill every creature on a map, and for semi-legitimate reasons (nausea due to rapid teleportation), dressing it up to mimic Akuma's Raging Demon (complete with flashing a gigantic omega and emoting the character once the screen stopped blacking out).
Austin Spafford

Seeing the fans at PAX and launch events. The excitement I see, and knowing millions of people will get to see my work make all the long hours worth it.
Andrew Davis

CrazzySnipe55 Is there any clique-y-ness that occurs at Bungie?

Well, sure. We have hundreds of people working on this next game. The social theories that inform our design process tell us that any group larger than five to nine people starts to fracture into cliques of about three people. So, yeah, we got cliques. Some of them even have matching jackets and switchblades. Others just have decks of magical cards and multi-sided dice.

catman6 If you were going to die tomorrow, what would your last meal be?

What's with the recurring theme of morbidity? Last week, one of you asked us what we would put in a bomb shelter. The world won't come to an end before we reveal our next game, people.  I promise.  That said, this question does make for good Panel chatter.

What'll you have everyone?  Apparently, the end is nigh again.

Ryan Klaverweide

A BBQ pork sandwich from Sonny’s BBQ. An ice-cold IPA for a drink. Cheesecake Factory and coffee for desert.
Alan Stuart

Eggs Benedict.
Noah George

I’d buy out the French Bakery, take it all to the Melting Pot, and dip everything in melted cheese and chocolate. Why die ambiguously tomorrow when you can die via chocolate covered pastry today?
Ben Wommack

John Stvan

Probably the usual food, because I doubt I'd see the end coming.
Austin Spafford

Two bites of every meal ever.
Andrew Davis

Ice cream. LOTS of ice cream.
Tom Sanocki

DesertStormer27 Has anyone ever fallen off the rock wall?

Despite your lofty opinions of us, we have yet to conquer gravity. Plus, the best part about climbing the wall is crashing down into the foam pit that awaits below. I have seen grown men release their grip and treat it like a bounce house.

spartan120 Who is your favorite Bungie-created video game character?

Noah George

Durandal of the Marathon series. In my youth, I even wrote a little fan-fiction centered around that rapscallion AI. Don’t tell anyone though.
Ben Wommack

Ask me again in a few years.
Ryan Klaverweide

Noble Six, because it’s me!
Andrew Davis

I can’t tell you yet. SoonTM
John Stvan

Austin Spafford

Kr1egerdude What makes you want to get up everyday for work?

Usually my alarm.
Andrew Davis

My landlord.
Noah George

The siren lure of the coffee robot in the kitchen. Its range is pretty wide.
Ben Wommack

The chance to do the best version of my profession that’s ever been done.
John Hopson

Money How awesome this is!
Ryan Klaverweide

John Stvan

In theory, knowing that I'll be able to help a mind-blowing number of people feel net-positive emotions! But when processed by a just-booted brain, it's sadly just the alarm.
Austin Spafford

Googlz Question to get Jason Jones out of his office: Why do you hate us?

First of all, Jason Jones doesn’t have an office. He moves among us like a General on the battlefield. Second of all, why on Earth (and beyond) would you ever think that he hates you? Jason Jones gave us a Halo, as well as a rich back-catalogue of exciting Bungie games. If that’s hate, my friend, I don’t want to be loved. Ever.

Jujubes Do you guys think there's any merit to blogging and if so, what blogs would you recommend we check out?

I lifted this quote from a movie I saw last week: “Blogging is not journalism. Blogging is graffiti with punctuation.”

I don’t agree with that sentiment – I just thought it was funny. For years, I poured my little gamer heart out on a blog about the Halo Clan scene. That put me on the path to talking to you fine people, so I would have to admit that there is merit to publishing yourself in the Internet.

If you want to read a blog, our esteemed panelists recommend the following…

Noah George

Ben Wommack

John Hopson

Ryan Klaverweide

John Stvan

Austin Spafford

Andrew Davis

AutobahnRacer 'Twelve Monkeys' or 'The Fifth Element'?

Die Hard. We’re talking about Bruce Willis movies here, right? Yippiekayay…

MasterSin If you had the chance to turn a movie into a game, which movie would it be?

Ryan Klaverweide

Scott Taylor

Noah George

Ben Wommack

Dave Matthews

In his infinite wisdom and creativity, Mr. Matthews went as far as to scope some specs for a third-person action brawler that put the player in the oversized shoes of a clown who beats up mimes. After the designation of booze as a healing mechanism, things went downhill rather quickly. The rest of his vision included some GTA homages that I cannot mention on this family friendly website.

randomrosso Why does it seem like I'm the only one who doesn't give a crap about these mail sacks? I want news.

Well, of course you want news! All of the other boys and girls who are being good sports about this weekly stalling tactic want news. And I want more than anything to give you some sweet, face melting news. Now just ain’t the time, yo. There will come a day when I signal the coming of something important – and you will be the first to know – but it is not this day. Until then, try not to spoil the mood for the rest of us.

The only news I can provide you with is that the Mail Sack will return next week. For now, our team meeting beckons. If you will excuse me, I need to claim my beverage before the fridge is cleared out.

Community 8/24/2012 12:57 PM PDT permalink

Bungie Foundation Update

People make all the difference...

One week out of every year, a place in the majestic Pacific Northwest known as Sunset Lake becomes the Stanley Stamm Camp. On that occasion, the guests are children who are too busy battling illnesses to enjoy the great outdoors. The setting is uniquely equipped to accommodate these special guests. As Christine Edwards tells the story: “They take them out of the hospital setting and help them forget about their challenges. Their illnesses would prevent them from going to any other camp.”

“I love this type of work,” says Christine, describing her role as a Bungie Foundation Coordinator. She never imagined herself working for a company that makes video games, but Bungie is a place where she can explore her passions for helping others. When she isn’t keeping our marketing team as sane as possible, her job gives her a chance to make a difference in children’s lives.

“To me, it doesn’t make sense to go through life not loving or supporting the people around you. It’s a natural reaction for me to help someone in need,” she explains. “One of the things that have made me successful at Bungie is my desire to ask people questions about how I can help solve their problems.”

Making video games relies on human talents, so it makes sense that our people would be our most valuable resource. As much as you have heard from our designers, artists, or engineers, there are other people who operate behind the scenes of some of your favorite games. Their efforts make Bungie a great place to work, and impacts the world outside our studio.

Our charitable mission is to ease the suffering of seriously ill children through entertainment. Those goals usually find people like Christine at Seattle Children’s Hospital. There, she and other foundation staffers have been working on a new program to put iPads loaded with games into the hands of sick kids. Recently, we even went as far as to launch a nautical vessel – our first entry into the Bungie Navy.

During our work on the iPads for Kids program, it came to our attention that a guild at Seattle Children’s Hospital shares our mission for entertaining kids who suffer from serious ailments. To a gamer, the word “guild” conjures images of raiders from World of Warcraft. At Seattle Children’s Hospital, guilds are crucial to their culture – they’re altruistic committees of people who volunteer their time to special projects that enhance the lives of their patients.

“We’ve been working with Stanley Stamm for about a year and a half now,” Christine recalls.

Our partnership with Dr. Stamm and his guild began with simpler contributions. At first, Bungie did the obvious things that companies tend to do for charity. We hosted a party. We sold some art. We raised some money. This inspired a more personal touch.

“After that, we told them that we really enjoy doing things that are more hands on.”

Those hands belong to Steve Burnaroos, our Facilities Manager at Bungie. When we learned that life at the Stanley Stamm Camp would be better with a boat that could be enjoyed by the handicapped, we gave him the challenge to build us a solution. Steve loves a challenge, and we have yet to stump him.

“There is no job title that could describe everything I do here,” Steve boasts.

He’s right. Our resident MacGyver can build us anything from a completely random set of supplies. A tour of our studio reveals all of his personal touches, from the LED accented pull-up bar to the full-immersion racing simulator. Whether he’s fabricating equipment racks for IT, changing light bulbs fifty feet in the air atop a hydraulic lift, or building a series of bike-racks overnight, there is no request too weird for him.

“The weirdest thing I’ve ever done was to build a boat from scratch.”

His mission was to launch a boat that could be accessed by wheelchair. To begin, he worked with Avalon, the boat manufacturer, to fabricate a boat to our specifications. Doors needed to be wide enough. Seats needed to be removable for a modular deck.

“Then I customized it and made it more awesome.”

By the time he was done, our flagship emerged with custom graphics, an onboard stereo system with sub-woofers big enough to send ripples across the surface of any lake, and a live-well bathroom. A fish-finder takes the guess-work out of where to cast your reel, and we would come to find that the dual hoses would come in handy in a water fight. It’s even got underwater lights.

You may ask yourself, as I asked Steve, why a boat needs underwater lights... “We don’t need any of this stuff,” he laughs. “It’s just there to make it unique and super-cool for the kids.”

With the boat ready to launch, it was time to make the 100 mile trek to the campgrounds. It was a trip that Steve made every day last week. Every mile was worth it.

“When I first pulled in, there were kids all over the place, cheering and screaming,” he remembered.

According to Steve, the camp counselors were also happy. “The thing is a mother ship. It’s eight feet longer than the end of their dock.”

To hear the stories, the week at Stanley Stamm was filled with boating and fishing to delight the campers. At the last campfire, the staff put on a show for the kids. Players costumed as giant birds embodied the winged theme of the campout. They chased each other around the grounds, taking to the water for the dramatic conclusion.

Our boat served as the set piece for the big finish. As the heroes of their little piece of theatre escaped on our boat, their pursuers following in kayaks. A dramatic water fight served as the thrilling climax, driving every pair of young hands to applause.

As the week came to an end, the campers were asked about their favorite part of the campout. For Steve and Christine, it was with enormous pride to hear them say “The Bungie Boat!” over and over again. “It definitely touched a lot of kids there,” Steve observed.

“We knew that it would be a fun thing, but I underestimated how important it was for them,” echoed Christine. “It was amazing to the smiles on their faces. It was also great to see their parents and volunteers be proud of them for braving the water and catching some fish.”

Community 8/23/2012 3:57 PM PDT permalink