jc_chamberlain FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Game Engineer @ RT Games

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from Austin, TX

  • Activity

    • Xuelder asked jc_chamberlain a question

      @Skilltacular forwarded me to you to ask this question so: What is your favorite game engine to work with, and what engine is not your favorite but find interesting?

      Answered: Feb 26, 2018

      Honestly, I haven't worked with that many game engines. Unity3D and Unreal are the two I have the most experience with by a wide margin, with a few proprietary ones far behind those two. Usually the engine you're working with is either dictated by the company you're working for or the type of game you're working on, with Unity and Unreal scooping up the lion's share of that latter. I haven't met that many devs with extensive experience on a variety of engines (though I'm sure they're out there), usually it comes down to a handful including one or both of the two U's.


      At the moment I'd say that Unreal is my favorite engine to work with, but that likely comes down to recency bias since the game we're currently working on runs in Unreal (ssshhhh...). I actually have much more experience with Unity and many fond memories of doing so, but I've found that I enjoy using C++ a bit more than C#, so Unreal gets the edge.


      As far as an engine I find interesting, I'm really intrigued by Amazon's Lumberyard. I've never used it (or CryEngine, the engine Lumberyard is a fork of) but I have worked extensively with AWS. The idea of an engine prioritizing connection to cloud services is very enticing, and something that could be extraordinarily useful going forward.


      Thanks for the question @Xuelder! Keep 'em coming!

    • From Performer To Programmer: Dénouement

      1 year ago

      jc_chamberlain Game Engineer @ RT Games

      There’s plenty more that happened, of course. I moved to Los Angeles, attended grad school, taught myself how to program, and worked a few different jobs before landing in Austin at Rooster Teeth. Plenty of stories came out of each of those experiences, but for some reason they don’t quite seem to fit here.


      Whenever I tell someone about my background, they usually ask me why things ended up this way. Why spend all that time pursuing acting only to about-face and do something completely different? My typical throw-away answer for this is “I discovered I wasn’t any good at it.” But that’s not quite true.


      First and foremost, what led me to change directions was that I discovered a new passion that thrilled me. I found myself staying up till 4:00 a.m. several nights in a row working on Brad’s assignments; not because they were unreasonably large, but because of how excited I was about the work. As much as I loved theater, I had never felt that pull to focus all my energy on it.


      On top of that, the joy I used to feel onstage had gone. There’s a quote I heard somewhere, but don’t remember where, that goes something like, “You can either be a magician or believe in magic, but you can’t have both.” So it went with me. Embedding myself in acting removed all the mystery and wonder until what was left was just a job. A job that I loved and desperately wanted to succeed at, but a job nonetheless. When it became completely about doing whatever it took to get “noticed” and “ahead,” I knew I had to stop.


      Recently, I was doing a panel on what to expect when going to college, and was asked what advice I would give to an incoming freshman. I told them to be prepared for their dreams, goals, and ambitions to change, and to not fight it when they do. Quitting theatre was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but it’s also one of the things I’m most proud of. Dreams are meant to be somewhat ethereal, so it feels like there’s something special about allowing them to evolve and change.


      I don’t regret the years I spent acting any more than I regret making the switch. I constantly find myself drawing from the lessons I learned as part of a cast. Teamwork, preparation, being able to change on the fly and keep up: those skills grew in front of an audience, not a computer screen.


      So tonight, I’m going to do something I haven’t done for nearly six years. I’m going to perform. For the past three months I’ve been rehearsing a musical, my first since graduating from undergrad. Tonight, instead of going out as someone hoping to “make it,” I’m simply an actor who dearly loves performing. Perhaps this will lead to doing more shows in the future, perhaps not. But one thing’s certain: for the first time in as long as I can remember, I’ll be doing it for myself and no one else.


      Curtain up.


      ---


      If you’re in the Austin area, the show is SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD. It runs September 2nd-17th and tickets are available here: https://secure.buyplaytix.com/ohdragontheatre/rese...


      Many thanks to any and everyone who read these posts. A GARGANTUAN thanks to @Becca, who edited every post on her own time out of the goodness of her heart. She is a rockstar and we should all bow to her.


      Until next time...

    • From Performer to Programmer: The Most Important Cup of Coffee

      1 year ago

      jc_chamberlain Game Engineer @ RT Games

      Suddenly I found myself faced with the problem of reevaluating the course of my entire life. It had been a given that I would be moving to New York for so long, and I hadn’t really formulated a backup plan. I was pretty sure I wanted to go to grad school, and I was starting to dig the idea of trying to become an Imagineer. Trouble was, I had no idea how to even begin to figure out how to do that.


      There were a few programs I’d researched that sounded perfect. After seeing Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture” video, I became obsessed with the Entertainment Technology Center he’d created at Carnegie Mellon. One of my friends who studied film was a big fan of USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, and their Interactive Media program was getting a lot of attention. However, both schools were private and out of state, which meant lots of change and lots of money. I decided instead to get my masters from the same school I’d received my undergraduate degree. I could keep my apartment, I wouldn’t have to be apart from my girlfriend, and I could attend almost for free. It just made sense.


      In the midst of this decision, I asked my professor and mentor if he wouldn’t mind meeting me for coffee to discuss it. He was the same one who had given me the first “F” of my life only months earlier. Fortunately, I’d been able to overcome my terrible first impression. That class became my all-time favorite college course, and I had tremendous respect for him.


      I grabbed a danish and a cup of something with too much sugar in it, then joined him at a table next to the window. He asked me what I was looking for from him, and I launched into my long-winded explanation. I told him how I’d decided that I didn’t think I could be an actor, how I wanted to do more of what I’d experienced in his class, and that I thought grad school would be the place to start. As I was wrapping up, I mentioned that I wanted a program “like” the ones at USC and CMU, but not those specifically since they were too expensive and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get in.


      He stopped me right there. “Those are the best programs for what you want to do?”


      “I think so,” I replied.


      “But you don’t want to go to them because you don’t know how you can afford them?”


      “Yeah.”


      “So you’re not even going to apply?”


      “I don’t think so.”


      “That’s the worst fucking reason to choose a grad school I’ve ever heard.”


      For the second time, he’d found a way to render me speechless. He asked me how I could say I wanted to be a MASTER in a field, not just pursue a degree but actually acquire the skills and knowledge to earn the title of master, and yet not go to the best program for me because I was worried the logistics would be too hard. It would have been different had I been unwilling or incapable, but that wasn’t the case. I was just scared. And he refused to accept that. If I was to receive his blessing to pursue an advanced degree, I had to choose the route that was the best, not just the easiest.


      He wasn’t being mean, or even harsh; he was just honest. Like my acting teacher who had helped me before, he opened up to me and told me how he had faced a similar dilemma to my own and was confident he had made the right choice. I had to go for it, or else what was I even doing?


      When we were done talking, I walked out of the coffee shop; before I had even reached my car, I had called my parents and told them I was applying to my two dream schools. Months later, just as I had given up hope and was beginning to plan on moving back home and getting a day job, I heard back. I was accepted to both schools and, after much deliberation, made the hard choice to attend USC. The rest is history.


      ---


      I often look back at that trip for coffee and wonder what might have been. Any other professor could have easily brushed off the request or said they were too busy. Not Brad, though. He wouldn’t take credit for it, but I feel like I owe much of what I am today to his unwillingness to give up on me or let me take the easy way out.


      During the months I was preparing for Los Angeles, I called Brad often, always showering him with as much gratitude as I could possibly give. I asked him how I could ever repay him.


      “Just this: someday, someone is going to come to you who is struggling and needs help or guidance. Don’t let that person go. Even if you’re busy, or tired, or dealing with your own problems. Remember this moment, and where you were, and help that person to the best of your abilities.”


      Those words have stuck with me. They’re in my head every time I meet someone new. And it’s why I felt this whole story was worth telling.


      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      Edited by @Becca. From Performer to Programmer updates every Friday. Follow me here or on Twitter to be notified of new posts.

    • From Performer to Programmer: Goodbye

      1 year ago

      jc_chamberlain Game Engineer @ RT Games

      In the fall of my senior year, my professor invited me over to her house to chat. By that time, I was already starting to feel like acting may not be the best choice for my future, and she had graciously agreed to talk to me about it.


      That semester, I’d already failed at two auditions. The first was for the department’s productions, during which I’d dearly hoped to be cast in a straight play instead of a musical. After making it all the way to the callbacks for a meaty role in a drama, I ended up being cast in the musical once again, meaning I would leave college without ever having been in a play.


      The second audition was worse. Ask any BFA theater student, and they’ll likely tell you that the summation of their education comes in the form of showcase. Showcases are special performances given to professional agents so they can evaluate and potentially sign students about to receive their degree. They take place in the big performing cities (New York, LA, and Chicago) and participation is a major commitment. At my school, you had to audition in order to actually earn the ability to be in the showcase at all. I had gone to the first audition, for the showcase in Chicago, but was one of a handful of students who were unceremoniously rejected.


      At that point, I wanted answers. There must be something I was doing wrong, something I could work on, something I could fix. Acting had been my passion for as long as I could remember, and I wasn’t quite ready to give it up.


      I had gone to the professor I respected most in hopes that she might be able to offer something resembling an explanation. She reminded me that of course I hadn’t done poorly, that there were plenty of other students who would have been excited to be cast at all. She was right, and while I was aware of the arrogance that lurked in my indignation, I knew there was something that wasn’t right. Surely there was something I could improve that would have put me on the same level as my classmates who would be going to Chicago in a few months.


      I pressed her, and finally she relented:


      “When we’re casting these shows, you’re always someone we consider. You’re just never the one we want.”


      It was hard to hear. I had spent my entire performing life striving to be “the one,” only to hear I wasn’t it. I think something broke upon hearing that sentence. As if a long journey I’d been on had finally reached its conclusion, though not the one I had expected.


      Every urge I had at that moment said to run away and find a corner to cry in. But I didn’t. I stayed and kept talking. My teacher opened up to me about her journey. She had started as an actress, after all, and hadn’t necessarily seen herself ending up where she did. We talked about the sacrifices she had made, all the hard choices and difficult decisions, and how she had always been the happiest when she’d been onstage. Above all, how that happiness was not something that could always be explained or understood by others; it had to come from a place inside.


      As I sat and listened to her story, it helped me realize that my favorite time wasn’t onstage. I was happiest when I was able to make others happy. Hearing applause after a curtain call or the satisfaction in my singing teacher’s voice when I’d performed a song well. Their approval came far before my own. I hadn’t always been doing it for them, but somewhere along the line I’d switched. Somehow, my sense of self-worth had become so twisted it relied completely upon the approval of others. And that was unsustainable.


      It didn’t hit me all at once, but gradually, over the coming months, I came to realize that my place was not onstage. I needed to do something that thrilled me, that gave me satisfaction, that I was willing to stay up until 3 in the morning perfecting. Acting just wasn’t that for me anymore. I thanked my professor, gave her a hug, and left, leaving any dream I had of becoming a professional actor behind me.


      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      Edited by @Becca. From Performer to Programmer updates every Friday. Follow me here or on Twitter to be notified of new posts.

    • From Performer to Programmer: Reviews

      1 year ago

      jc_chamberlain Game Engineer @ RT Games

      I played my first major role in the fall of my junior year. We were doing the musical Hair and I was cast as Woof. It wasn’t necessarily a “lead,” or even all that crucial to the plot, but it was a real character with depth.


      Side note to answer the question of anyone who is familiar with Hair: Yes, we did the nude scene and yes, I participated. You might think that would warrant its own post, but there’s not much more to the story than, “I was naked on stage and a lot of people saw.”


      When the cast list was posted, I was ecstatic. It was exactly the part I had hoped for, and I was determined to make the most of the opportunity. I immediately started growing out my hair and beard so I could look the part, which was all for naught since a few months later I would be required to cut it for another role.


      The months of rehearsal were a blur. I had landed on a manic interpretation of the character that saw me constantly bouncing and sprinting around the stage. At one point, the blocking had to be changed because, by lying on the ground, I was creating a pool of sweat so large it was a hazard to the other actors. When I got home from rehearsal, I would often eat an entire pizza just to regain the energy I’d lost. (Or at least, that was my excuse. I also just really like pizza.) I did it all gladly and without complaint. This was my chance, and I damn sure wasn’t going to waste it.


      4kY1psi.jpg
      Everyone knows, when taking a photo, lead with the forehead.


      Opening night came and I’ve never been more proud of a performance. I felt like I had finally taken a role and done something unique with it. What’s more, the show was a hit and we were selling out the theatre every night. They were starting to set up folding chairs just outside the theater so even more people could watch. That probably had a lot more to do with the prospect of seeing naked college students than the quality of the show, but I didn’t care. I couldn’t have been happier.


      Every fall, each show the department put on was viewed by a judge for a regional competition. Their job was to select two actors to compete in the acting portion later that winter. Whenever they came, they would stick around after the show to share their thoughts with the cast and crew. I’d been through this process before, but never played a role meaningful enough to actually be commented on.


      The judge LOVED Hair. As soon as he sat down in front of us he started spouting off platitudes about what a great achievement this was for a group of young actors. Then he started going down his list of actors, specifically commenting on each one. Again, each actor received a glowing review consisting of endless praise. I was so excited for my turn I could feel my heart pounding.


      When his eyes finally landed on me, he said, “I felt like we weren’t really seeing the character; I felt like we were seeing YOU, the actor. Are you really like that in real life?”


      Thud. All my breath left my body and the blood drained from my face. I couldn’t even stammer out a vocal response, just a slight shake of my head. The director piped up to say that I was not in fact anything like the character I had portrayed.


      “Oh, well then perhaps I was mistaken.” And then he moved on.


      The rest of the run was ruined for me. I couldn’t shake the criticism out of my head; it stuck with me every time I went onstage. As if “NOT GOOD ENOUGH” were tattooed on my forehead in hot pink. The joy was gone.


      ---


      The next semester, I had my heart set on being cast in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Instead, I was once again cast in the musical. This time playing the comic relief, which was an even bigger role than Woof. I couldn’t complain, but after the previous semester’s experience I was desperately hoping for something different. Still, I was resolved to make it work.


      The rehearsal process was much rougher than the last one. A faculty member was playing the lead role, causing a palpable strain amongst the cast. The pressure to never mess up was heightened, even as the professor stumbled through his own lines. It was hard to experiment or make choices that might fail when the professor who held your degree in his hands was the one onstage with you.


      Nevertheless, I found joy in exploring what I could do with comedy. My timing wasn’t great, and I didn’t have a great sense of wit, so I doubled down on trying to be fearless. I brought the same attitude that had allowed me to strip in the audition room sophomore year. Fortunately, it fit with the show, and I found myself having fun with the role. It even allowed me to screw with the professor’s character quite a bit, which I was positive would garner laughs from the audience.


      During one of our final dress rehearsals, another professor from the department sat in the audience. It was another normal practice, a way for the director to get a last impression from fresh eyes before officially opening the show. She didn’t share directly with us what her thoughts were, but the whispers amongst the cast were not very positive. Apparently people had heard her speaking to the director, and the phrases “over the top” and “not grounded in reality” came up quite a bit.


      The next day, with three rehearsals left until opening, there was a large post on the dressing room door. On it were the notes that arose from the previous night’s rehearsal that the director wanted us to take. Most were fairly mundane: “Please move to the left more on this line,” “Don’t cross too early during your solo,” etc. That is, until you got to my scenes. There sat a litany of, “Jeff, please cut this bit” and “Jeff, no longer do this.” They were all the comedic moments we had developed together in rehearsal. The ones the director had guffawed at not two days before. And now, (seemingly) because of one professor’s opinion, they were all cut.


      I felt betrayed. On opening night, I performed what was supposed to be my funniest scene without a single laugh from the audience. There was a tradition in the department of going out to a local restaurant after the opening of every show so the cast and audience could celebrate and congratulate each other. That night was the first and only time I didn’t go. I was too ashamed of the performance I had given.


      ---


      The lesson I took from that year wasn’t that I was terrible at acting. It certainly felt like that was the case at the time, but I don’t think that’s what turned me away. The problem was, if I was to be a professional, I should have been able to handle both of those experiences. Not that I shouldn’t have been sad, but I never should have allowed it to ruin my entire performance. Bad reviews and last-minute changes happen all the time in theater; it’s all part of the life. A true professional, someone who is meant to be an actor, responds with conviction and resolve. I crumbled.


      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      Edited by @Becca. From Performer to Programmer updates every Friday. Follow me here or on Twitter to be notified of new posts.

    • From Performer To Programmer: Tiny Foam Beads

      1 year ago

      jc_chamberlain Game Engineer @ RT Games

      Some of my fondest memories of college came from the summers. My school sponsored a program that produced a show at a local theater every summer break. A small selection of students were cast, and even received a small stipend for their time. It wasn’t enough money to even cover rent for the summer, but it allowed us to feel like professionals whose talent was valued.


      The real joy didn’t come from performing anyway, at least not entirely. It came from getting to spend the summer together as friends; doing what we loved away from the politics and stress of the theatre program. I was lucky enough to spend two summers there, and both of them were a blast. One year we organized a weekly “night games” group that took over the campus quad with games like capture the flag and fugitive. Another I received a harsh life lesson in the values of temperance when I participated in my first and only ever “Tour de Franzia.” That’s a story for a different blog.


      The shows themselves were aimed at an older crowd. Nothing dark or complex, usually bright, comedic musicals that were low on depth and high on cheese. It made for a relaxed atmosphere, as there wasn’t much call for complex character studies. Those summers were the only times post-arriving at college that I truly felt like I belonged onstage.


      The first summer I was cast, the show was comprised of a series of “vignettes” centered around the theme of relationships. There was no plot or persistent characters, each scene stood on its own and had nothing to do with the next one. In one part, I played the father in an overbearing couple that had just had its first child. The “joke” was that the characters were complete caricatures of new parents. They finished each other’s sentences, spoke in disgusting “widdle, cewtie babyyy” voices, and, above all, took being protective of their new offspring to outrageous extremes. Part of this gag involved me “testing” a stuffed bear to make sure it was child proof.

      How the bit was supposed to go, was that I was meant to beat the bear violently against the ground and tear at its fur in exaggerated ripping motions. That was the funny part. Then, once satisfied, I would say “It’s child-proof!” at which point the actress playing my wife would respond “What a lovely gift!” Quick, silly, sight gag. Nothing more.


      The prop bear they chose was massive; at least three feet tall. I suppose the size was supposed to make the scene funnier, but it also made it difficult for me to thrash about. I really had to exaggerate in order to get a laugh, and as such the bear got tossed around quite a bit.


      One night, I picked up the bear and body slammed it to the ground when sure enough: “RIPPPP,” it came apart at the seams. Except this bear wasn’t full of stuffing like every other teddy bear I’d ever come across. Nope, this one was filled with millions of tiny foam beads like the ones they use to fill bean-bag chairs. The kind that go literally everywhere the second they are exposed to open air. As soon as it ripped, the floor went from black to pure white as the beans spread into a fine coating across the entire stage and cascaded in massive waterfalls over the edge. They covered lights, stuck on costumes, went into the audience’s drinks; it was an unmitigated catastrophe.


      I was frozen in shock, unable to comprehend what I had just done. Without missing a beat, the actress playing my wife chimed in with:


      “Well, it’s the thought that counts.”



      I could barely finish the scene I was laughing so hard.


      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      Edited by @Becca. From Performer to Programmer updates every Friday. Follow me here or on Twitter to be notified of new posts.

    • From Performer To Programmer: Probation

      1 year ago

      jc_chamberlain Game Engineer @ RT Games

      I want to preface this by saying I do not regret getting my degree. I am extremely happy with where I am today, and I firmly believe I would not have gotten there were it not for my college experience. There are positives and negatives to any program, whether it is artistic or not. Hopefully it has come across in my previous posts that I am very confident with the choices I’ve made.


      Placing theatre in an educational setting is kind of an oddball proposition from the get go. Impressions of performances are always incredibly subjective. For every universally loved actor there is an infinite number of critics who will point to them and say, “Hack!” There isn’t a “right” way to act or sing; you basically just have to explore the techniques available to you and find what personally works best.


      Education, on the other hand, tends to be the opposite. It requires metrics and structure. Every student must be ranked, weighed, and measured in a way that can be easily processed via paperwork. If you don’t assign grades, then how do you determine things like GPA, honor roll, and scholarships? How do you decide who gets to stay in school, and who gets kicked out?


      You can probably see how this mindset doesn’t exactly jive with the theatrical method of learning. What’s the point value for exploring a character or performing a song? That led to many classes grading mostly on effort and preparation. As long as you showed up on time and stayed focused on the material, your grade was fine. However, that did not lead to much separation between students when it came to report cards, and education demands separation.


      That is where juries come in. Juries are a common practice among all conservatory-style performance programs, and my school was no exception.They are a tortuous, soul-breaking week at the end of every semester where your skills are evaluated by the faculty. On the first day, we had to sight-read (sing a piece of written music correctly after hearing only the first note) a random selection, then play a short song on the piano. After that, we had to stand alone on the stage of the big music hall and sing any song we had practiced that semester on command. All under the watchful, scrutinizing eyes of every teacher in the program.


      If your performance during any one of these tests was deemed unacceptable, you were put on probation for the following semester. Probation is the boogeyman of the undergraduate theatre world. It’s spoken about in hushed tones by fearful students awaiting its death hammer. If you were on probation, you might as well walk through the halls with a big, red “P” pinned to your shirt, because everyone knew. It was the gossip of every semester break: who got put on, who got taken off, and what happened to the poor souls who had been cursed with it the previous semester. After getting put on probation once, you didn’t get put on again. If you failed to meet standards for a second straight semester, you were out of the program, and had to find another degree.


      It’s an archaic practice (in my opinion at least) borrowing from the idea of thesis defenses. The key difference being that the things we were tested on during juries said absolutely nothing about our talent or ability to succeed in our chosen profession. You can read music and learn a song without knowing how to sight read, and you certainly don’t have to play the piano to be an actor. I suppose you do need to memorize songs, but usually they all come from the same show, not the random assortment from across the musical theatre catalogue that was asked of us.


      You could argue the idea was simply to test a student’s dedication to the program, but how does that distinguish between students who are truly focused and those who might be quick learners? I never had much of a problem with juries, but that had far more to do with me having a knack for memorization than it did my commitment. Since we had the book of sight-reading samples that we’d be tested from ahead of time, I simply pounded them all out until they were imprinted on my brain. Same with the solos I might be asked to sing. Playing piano required a bit more effort, but as long as I did it enough times I could get it taken care of.


      Meanwhile, I saw countless classmates struggling and giving themselves legitimate panic attacks over juries. Every semester, someone always broke down crying in front of the professors. People stayed up in practice rooms until early in the morning repeatedly sight-reading line after line over and over. We were so conditioned to fear this thing that the end of every semester became an endless wait for the executioner’s axe to fall. And fall it did, for several of my classmates anyway.


      The practice of holding juries is self-perpetuating. So many of the “top” schools have it that not holding them comes off as second-class. There’s a certain majesty and desirability associated with a program that kicks people out. It means there are people who “aren’t good enough,” which suggests those that are must be exceptional. This works because, in theatre, the expectation is failure. Even after getting a degree, nobody expects you to ever work on Broadway. Most probably don’t even expect you to make a steady living acting. So if one student out of 100 finds a way to “make it,” it’s proof that the system works.


      I don’t blame my school for having juries; like I mentioned, it’s almost undesirable not to. But while I found them incredibly silly, they did help me realize how little merit meant in the world of acting. Ultimately my talent and drive didn’t matter; I could still end up struggling regardless. In school, juries were the test by which I lived or died. In the real world? Something far less meaningful, like my hair color, could do me in.


      - - -


      At the same time all this was going on, I was also working toward a minor in digital media. I had always had a deep affinity for technology in general, and was astounded by the possibilities that the emerging interconnected world provided. It was in one of these classes that I was asked to write a report on a relevant research topic.


      Papers had always come easy to me. I generally threw them together in the hours before they were due, pulling random thoughts out of my ass and sprinkling in a liberal helping of run-on sentences. I perfected the art of writing page-long paragraphs that could usually be summed up by one sentence like: “Achilles had a bad ankle.” Yet, these half-efforts always garnered me full grades, even in my college honor classes, so I never paid them much mind.


      Which is why I was all the more shocked when I saw my digital media report return to me with a glaring F on the front. The only F I ever received throughout all my years of school. I was furious. I even called my parents and whined with indignation at the nasty old professor who dared question my ability. Hadn’t he seen my high school transcripts? I demanded that he meet with me in private, to which he agreed.


      I still remember my enraged stomp to his office. In my head, I went over all the things I was going to say to him, and practiced how I was going to point out all the ways my paper met his criteria. When I punched at the door, he warmly greeted me and invited me inside to take a seat. That immediately caught me off guard, as I had the juvenile expectation that he was mad or disappointed with me. Still, undeterred, I marched straight into his office, shoved my report under his nose, and demanded he explain its grading.


      Then, the most miraculous thing happened. My professor took the paper, leaned forward carefully in his seat, then proceeded to carefully, but deliberately, CALL ME OUT ON ALL OF MY BULLSHIT. It was stunning. He knew every trick I pulled, every argument I had extended using bad grammar, every topic I had only fleetingly researched, and every false conclusion I had made without backing them up. What’s more, he wasn’t doing it in a hurtful way; it was so matter-of-fact that it was almost painful. He truly did not give two shits whether I cared or not, but he wasn’t about to reward me for faking it. Uncovering know-it-all bullshit artists was his craft, and I was his ninth symphony.


      By the end, I was speechless. I stumbled out of the room a changed student. I wasn’t hurt or upset, I was resolved.


      I finally had something to work for.


      - - -


      To read someone else’s take on themes similar to the first part of this post, but put more eloquently and taking place in a much more intense environment, please read the masterful Gillian Jacobs’ reflection on her time at Juliard: http://www.lennyletter.com/work/a213/gillian-jacob...


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      Edited by @Becca. From Performer to Programmer updates every Friday. Follow me here or on Twitter to be notified of new posts.

    • From Performer To Programmer: Arabesques and Assault Rifles

      2 years ago

      jc_chamberlain Game Engineer @ RT Games

      Being an actor means doing a lot of things that make you uncomfortable. When I decided to get a degree in musical theatre, my brain was full of stereotypical “theatre school exercises” I was terrified I would have to take part in. Things like singing entire songs without the use of consonants, acting in a way that evokes the feeling of the color orange, and taking off my clothes in front of all my classmates. Of course, by the end of my second year, I had already done all of them.


      But above all, the thing I dreaded most was dancing. I was blessed with two awkwardly large, flat feet that poke out from my legs like clown shoes, and a body type oddly resemblant of Grimace from the McDonald’s commercials. That, and my sense of rhythm can best be described as “overwhelmingly white.” These qualities did not make for a naturally gifted dancer.


      When I was much younger, I took several dance classes. I tried all sorts of styles, from jazz to ballet. I even became quite adept at tapping, enough to feel confident performing it onstage. But when I reached middle school, I abruptly stopped studying it completely. I had noticed that I was rapidly becoming the only boy in class, and felt like the odd one out. To my own great detriment, I quit dancing to avoid being looked at as weird. It was a dumb decision, but felt like the right choice at the time.


      In college, avoiding dance was not an option. My degree required at least eight semesters of classes, so unless I was ok with three quarters of a degree, I had to grin and bear it. I was at least somewhat familiar with tap, and jazz I could reasonably fake with enthusiasm. I wasn’t fooling my teachers or classmates, but at least I didn’t stick out like an untalented troll. Each class I made my way to the back of the room and went through the motions, doing my best to not be noticed. That all fell apart though when I enrolled in ballet.


      My ballet teacher was one of the nicest, most polite professors I ever had, but I think she may have taken sick pleasure in my abject misery. Every day, as I tried to slink my way to the back row, she’d screech, “Front row, Chamberlain!” and I’d slowly begin my trudge of shame to the front of the room, where she’d place me in a spot dead center of the mirror so I was completely exposed. Some days I’d get lucky and she’d forget about me, but I think that was only to give me enough false hope to make the days she did that much worse.


      There’s no faking ballet. It’s like an art form designed solely to embarrass those that cannot do it. In jazz or musical theatre dance you can somewhat distract from your inability to land the steps by keeping your face up and showing as much forced emotion as you possibly can. Ballet though? Ballet is more like, “You can’t point your foot at a perfect 180 degree angle? Your knee doesn’t quite touch your cheek during leg lifts? There’s literally nothing for you here. Enjoy spending the next hour being repeatedly shamed by your teacher as you fail over and over.” Every inflexible joint and weak muscle is amplified so much that you become acutely aware of every minor bodily flaw you may have once ignored.


      The worst part was the tights. Previous teachers had mercifully allowed the men to wear basketball shorts over them to maintain some shred of dignity, but not my college professor. She instituted a strict dress code for class. Underneath the tights, we were required to wear a dance belt. This is a medieval torture device designed to constrict your man bits so much that by the end of class, your junk has taken on the texture and consistency of tapioca pudding.


      dance_belt_original.jpg

      Check out them butt muscles. Buscles.


      On top, we were specifically instructed to wear a TIGHT white tank top. Given my aforementioned body type, and the fact that I was roughly 90 pounds overweight at the time, this meant that not only was every class an exhibition in the intimate details of my package, but everyone was also treated to the mesmerizing sight of male sideboob as mine flapped in the wind while I did chaîné turns across the floor.


      Three times a week I would run to the gym locker room, squeeze myself into this supremely unflattering uniform, then sprint upstairs to the classroom before anyone could see me. It wasn’t the other students I was worried about. Since we were on a small campus, we often shared buildings with other programs. The dance gym had the most fortunate status of doubling as the home of the college’s ROTC program.


      One day, as I was sprinting out of the bathroom to make it up to class, I turned a corner and ran smack into two ROTC students. Both of them stood a full head taller than me, and had biceps roughly the size of bowling balls. They must have just come in from some sort of practice maneuvers, as both were decked out in full military fatigues and carried assault rifles (we’ll call them AK-47s because that is the only type of gun I know).


      And there I stood in front of them. In my tiny ballet shoes, chub billowing out of my tank top.

      I felt like I was shrinking. Their glare was a look of simultaneous fury, disappointment, and shame that they had to share a gender with me. I panicked and frantically searched for a way to diffuse the situation. I decided it would be wise to apologize for running into them. However, my fear was so great that I couldn’t decide whether to say “Sorry” or “Excuse me.” So instead I blurted out, “Sorry me!” and quickly shuffled away as their glare turned from pity to confusion. I can only imagine they assumed I was apologizing for my very existence, which was not entirely inappropriate given the situation.


      Upon graduation I immediately tossed my ballet shoes in a dumpster. It’s really for the best.


      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      Edited by @Becca. From Performer to Programmer updates every Friday. Follow me here or on Twitter to be notified of new posts.

    • From Performer To Programmer: Foreign

      2 years ago

      jc_chamberlain Game Engineer @ RT Games

      One of the first things I did as a newly christened college freshman was sign up for my first semester “practicum” job. Since freshmen obviously weren’t cast in any shows, they were expected to help the productions in other ways. You could make the costumes or sets, work in the box office, serve as an usher, or, in my case, be part of the running crew. It was essentially a way to “pay your dues” as a newbie to the theater department, while also gaining some valuable backstage experience.


      The signups were held after the department’s big freshman orientation meeting. Five or six tables had been set up onstage, each representing a specific production from that season’s lineup. Sheets of paper listed out all of the available jobs, from light operator to laundry duty. Each one was first come first serve, so if you wanted to work on a specific show, you had to be quick.


      The mainstage shows filled up first. They were always the higher-budget productions of the semester and thus the most desirable to work on. I decided to aim instead for one of the smaller, black box productions, ending up as the sound operator for an intimate drama with a cast that consisted solely of two of the department’s faculty members.


      I was initially excited for the opportunity because I figured I’d get a closer look at the process of a pair of professional actors. However, it turns out the sound operator’s job doesn’t really interact with the actors very much. The majority of my duties consisted of climbing into a dark, cramped booth; sitting at a computer displaying a stark, gray piece of software; and pressing the spacebar whenever the stage manager said “Go.” That was as complex a task I could be trusted with.


      The show was definitely interesting and well-produced, but not exactly action packed. I don’t remember much about the story, but I do remember that very scene was a long, drawn out conversation in which the two characters debated ethics and morality. That’s fine if you’re hearing it for the first time, but by the third or fourth run through we could quote all the dialogue by heart, and it had distinctly lost its luster.


      To make matters worse there weren’t many cue changes to focus on. Throughout the entire one-and-a-half-hour show, I think I pressed the spacebar maybe three times. Twice to play the sound effect of a knock at the door, and then a car horn toward the end of the show. It was pitch black in the booth, so there was no way to read or study. You just sat and waited for your cue.


      We found different ways to keep ourselves occupied. We were often having hushed conversations amongst the crew over headset. My friend, the lighting operator, loved to quote exaggerated lines from the show. We would find ourselves in a quiet moment, and all of a sudden came a booming voice crying “You are FOREIGN!!” through our headphones in an affected African accent. We laughed so hard the audience below probably heard us.


      Another night, after a particularly stressful week, I remember trying as hard as I could to focus on the performance. I tried to understand why the actors made the choices they did, what led them to choose to read the line in a certain inflection, how they learned to move in a way that reflected their characters’ emotions. The more I thought, the more time slowed down around me and all sound started to blend together. It continued until I felt the stage manager’s hands on my shoulders roughly shaking me back and forth. I had fallen asleep, drooling face first on the desk in front of me. Luckily my forehead had just barely missed the spacebar, or else the knock at the door sound effect would have arrived several minutes early, completely ruining the show.


      Another aspect of my job involved shutting off the different monitors that transmitted sound from the stage down to the dressing rooms. These were located in the booth that was above the mainstage across the hall. Every night after the performance, I traveled alone to the booth by climbing an extremely steep staircase that I’m positive does not meet OSHA standards. Once inside, there was a large, empty room overlooking the stage that held the spotlights, boards, and other various apparati. I had to traverse this room to get to a second, smaller space where the monitors were kept, then backtrack and reverse my steps out, locking the door behind me.


      The kicker was that there was no show going on at the same time on the mainstage. That meant the entire booth, not to mention the cavernous theatre it was overlooking, was completely dark save for a few select glowing LED’s that provided just enough light to create menacing shadows on the walls. I don’t know if you're aware of the superstition that all theatres are haunted; I, myself, do not believe in such supernatural silliness. With the one exception being the location of that booth, ‘cause that place is haunted as fuck.


      One night, after shutting off the monitors without incident, I distinctly heard the sound of footsteps echoing off the walls, causing me to stop dead in my tracks. Now, I’m guessing my mind was playing tricks on me and warping some innocuous sound into the sound of footsteps. Regardless, it didn’t stop when I halted. In fact, it grew louder and drew closer to me.


      I have never exited a space so quickly in my life. I bounded down the steps three at a time and launched out of the theatre back into the light. I invite anyone who thinks they might have done better to spend the night alone in an empty theatre with the lights off and then get back to me.


      Some nights, though, I got lucky and the mainstage show would be wrapping up rehearsal at the same time I went to turn off the monitors. I always lingered in the booth on these nights, struck by the student cast. It was impressive to see just how advanced everyone was, despite only being a year or two older than myself. The entire group was fit, present, and attentive to the director’s commanding presence.


      As I watched, I couldn’t help but feel like the group was far beyond my skill level. Everything seemed so damn professional, to the point that all my prior experience felt fraudulent. As I watched them nailing complex harmonies and practicing fast, difficult choreography with ease, I wondered, “How could I ever measure up to that?”


      --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


      Edited by @Becca. From Performer to Programmer updates every Friday. Follow me here or on Twitter to be notified of new posts.

    • No blog today

      2 years ago

      jc_chamberlain Game Engineer @ RT Games

      Still reeling from RTX and the RWBY: Grimm Eclipse launch. Be back next week!

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    • Joron093 FIRST Member Star(s) Indication of membership status - One star is a FIRST member, two stars is Double Gold Keeper of The Forges

      1 year ago

      Happy FU day!

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  • Questions answered by jc_chamberlain

    Honestly, I haven't worked with that many game engines. Unity3D and Unreal are the two I have the most experience with by a wide margin, with a few proprietary ones far behind those two. Usually the engine you're working with is either dictated by the company you're working for or the type of game you're working on, with Unity and Unreal scooping up the lion's share of that latter. I haven't met that many devs with extensive experience on a variety of engines (though I'm sure they're out there), usually it comes down to a handful including one or both of the two U's.


    At the moment I'd say that Unreal is my favorite engine to work with, but that likely comes down to recency bias since the game we're currently working on runs in Unreal (ssshhhh...). I actually have much more experience with Unity and many fond memories of doing so, but I've found that I enjoy using C++ a bit more than C#, so Unreal gets the edge.


    As far as an engine I find interesting, I'm really intrigued by Amazon's Lumberyard. I've never used it (or CryEngine, the engine Lumberyard is a fork of) but I have worked extensively with AWS. The idea of an engine prioritizing connection to cloud services is very enticing, and something that could be extraordinarily useful going forward.


    Thanks for the question @Xuelder! Keep 'em coming!

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