My Time at EA Vancouver
My first job in Canada (outside of my experience at Vancouver Film School) was with Electronic Arts Vancouver (EAV), a strong branch of the international entertainment giant. Here's an overview of how it went.
I found employment through VMC- a contracting company- as a Capture Specialist for Mediaworks, an award-winning department within EAV whose crowning achievements at the time were trailers and promotion media made for FIFA. They did work for other sports titles- even Battlefront- but the team I was placed with was focused on FIFA.
Their main push was for FIFA 19. It's actually really cool browsing through the FIFA 19 website, watching the trailers on YouTube, and looking at the box art because I was sitting right there in the room as most of those videos were being captured and images were being photo-shopped. The walls of the room I was in (pic far below) were covered in football jerseys and everybody had a pair of cleats or two in a drawer beside their desk.
The team I worked with was a close-knit group who came from all around the world. There were a few Englishmen, two from Brazil, one from Ireland, one German and myself as the only American. They were an energetic group who knew how to get the most out of the impressive EAV campus. Each week there was soccer, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, floor hockey games and more with sign-up sheets being emailed around. I felt right at home with the team almost immediately.
As for the actual work I was doing there, while I was seated with the capture team for FIFA, I was the only Mobile Capture Specialist and my direct manager was actually in California. I began working on mobile Madden aka Madden NFL Overdrive, and eventually worked on NBA Live Mobile and just touched FIFA mobile before leaving. My work consisted of taking rough 'creative treatments' as they're called- which usually came in the form of A/V scripts or sometimes simple two-paragraph descriptions- and extracting shot lists from them, and then capturing the required shots.
The creative treatments were provided by creative directors with influence from the global brand managers. Sometimes the treatments were fantastic, clear, easy to follow. Other times, they were confused, impossible to capture due to tool limitations, or they included content or features that did not exist. When I first joined, we were already several weeks behind schedule for producing the assets, so time was also a factor that had to be negotiated. There was a healthy amount of communication with the creative and brand leads to crystallize an achievable vision for the final product.
After a shot list was agreed upon, I'd set to work capturing. It wasn't quite as simple as recording myself playing the game. Some skill and luck was required to pull off the perfect plays for legal reasons. We only had the rights to certain players, and stadiums, and even then there were specifications. For example, we could use a certain player, but only if he was the only person in view. We could use anyone on a certain team as long as we had at least four of their teammates in picture. Some stadiums had branded signs from real-life companies, which we couldn't include. At the time, we had no tools to add or remove players from a shot, or to edit jersey names, so often great shots would have to be discarded because they didn't meet our licensing rights.
There was technical and organizational work too. We had to capture at specific resolutions that could be scaled down to work across all platforms. I had to trouble shoot build issues and use a backend tool to grant myself the in-game players and items I needed. I developed a naming system to keep track of the hundreds of clips I made each day. I modified a pre-existing database they were using to enable tracking the capture and re-capture requests.
After I captured the shots, I packaged them up and sent them one of several editing teams we outsourced to. I was glad I got the opportunity to give input to and workshop with the editors to improve the products before sending them to the brand leads for a final review. Sometimes there wasn't much communication between the different offices, so part of my job would be to help the editors understand the vision for the product and guide them along the way.
On any given day, I was on the phone half a dozen times with people all across North America. The only phone we had was on the other side of the office, so I'd have to sit next to my buddy to talk, or string the phone line across the office like an obstacle for my office mates. It didn't take long before I commandeered an unused phone from a nearby office to setup right at my desk. My co-workers and I joked that I was opening a call center.
Eventually, I did elect to leave EA to pursue other opportunities. The main reasons for this were some inconsistencies with VMC- the contracting company that placed me at EAV- and my long-term desire to work in game development rather than game marketing.
Here are some random final thoughts I had about my time at EAV:
The EAV campus reminded me a lot of the NSA facilities I'd worked at in the past. The resemblance was uncanny. EAV was more aesthetically pleasing, and their focus was on making profitable video games rather than terminating threats, which I considered to be an improvement, but somehow the atmosphere was the same.
The people were great. I was cautious when joining because I'd heard stories from previous EA employees- of which I know many- who had no shortage of negative experiences there. Perhaps it's because I was working in MediaWorks doing marketing instead of development, or maybe things have improved a bit, but I had a fine experience, excellent managers, and good co-workers. Although, I did not enjoy my dealings with VMC.
I mentioned it a bit already, but there were many opportunities for improving communication. Sometimes it was because certain individuals hadn't actually used the product they were in charge of marketing. Other times it was because certain offices were keeping details too close to the chest that other offices needed, only dishing them out after delays had already been caused. If I'd stayed longer, this would've been my main focus for improvement. As I trained in my replacement, I made sure to identify these areas to him so he could work on them.
I'm glad I was there during the summer! Their facility can make great use of good weather. Also, if you're a sports fan, you'll find many people here who share your passion. I used to play a lot of soccer- I'm more into E-sports now- but I had a lot of fun out on the EA pitch.
It was a valuable- albeit brief- experience on my way into the games industry. Who knows, perhaps I'll return there one day...
EAV careers website.