Success HBX Reflection



Today, July 1st, 2015 marks my last day as one of the internationally select few to be a part of the HBX CORe program offered by the Harvard Business School. It has been a grueling 11 weeks and to be honest, I never thought I’d make it. Technically speaking, at this very moment I’m not too sure if I actually passed as I’m still waiting to write the exams but even if I don’t it’s been a fantastic experience and I’d be more than willing to do it all over again.

Either way I wanted to thank the folks at Harvard Business School running the HBX CORe program for granting me the opportunity to take part of this program as well as all those in my cohort that have made the last 11 weeks tolerable.

Looking back, I never thought I could make the cut or much less do it. Running both a video game studio, a film studio and working overnight for an airline doesn’t leave me much time to do such a taxing course, especially since I clearly never thought I had the smarts for it but since going to Harvard was a high school dream of mine many, many, many years ago, this was definitely an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

Instead of writing things out in a fairly standard format, I figured I’d use Arnold Schwartzenegger’s 6 Rules of Success as a framework. Before I write allow me to first show you a video that quickly summarizes the 6 rules.

(this was originally from his 2009 USC Commencement speak)

1. Trust yourself

When the opportunity to enroll into the Harvard HBX CORe program originally came to me, I didn’t think I could make the cut. It wasn’t just another one of those online courses where you just enrolled and you got in. There was an application process complete with essays and a limited number of spots and I didn’t have the money to pay for the tuition costs, but I applied anyways just to see if I could make the cut and I did.

I honestly wasn’t going to do it. The acceptance e-mail sat on my inbox flagged as important so I could look at it every day just as re-assurance in case I ever felt dumb. However thinking on the last day of the window to pay my tuition fee, I went into overdraft and moved a chunk of cash to my credit card to pay for it. Why? Because as an inner city kid from the ghettos, it’s always been a lifelong dream of mine to go to Harvard and this is definitely the next best thing, so I had to do it. I didn’t want to look back at my life thinking that it was one of those opportunities I wish I took. The pain of regret is far greater than the pain of failure in my book and even if I failed, I’d at least have the satisfaction knowing I tried.

2. Break some rules

No I didn’t cheat. Those of you that know me know that I already break the rule of getting 8 hours of sleep and with the limited amount of time I had, I had to think outside the box and break some common rules for learning by not actually studying.

That probably doesn’t make any sense to anyone but I honestly have no idea how to “study”. Throughout all my years in college and university I never once “studied” in the traditional sense trying to memorize things. Ultimately I want to learn how to utilize what I learn in my every day life and if I can’t learn it and apply it, I clearly don’t know it. My marks aren’t the greatest but at the same time they reflect what I actually know. Instead of “studying” by memorizing things into short term memory, I just learn things and reinforce my learning when I don’t know.

The other rule I broke to cut back on the sheer amount of time required was just to skip stuff. Given the limited amount of time I had per week to do the courses, I skipped a lot of stuff but it was all selectively skipped. I skipped stuff that I knew pretty well (mostly basic accounting) as well as some the stuff where I clearly had no idea what they were talking about. If I didn’t understand something well enough to do an exercise, I just skipped it and made a note of it to find other resources to learn the material(I spent a lot of time on Khanacademy learning stuff for stats.. I just don’t get along with formulas very well). Basically, I learned what I didn’t know in the limited amount of time and just deferred the rest.

3. Don’t be afraid to fail

Unless you were part of my cohort, work with me or game with me on Final Fantasy XIV, I probably never mentioned anything about HBX CORe. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit afraid of failing. Doing HBX CORe was a big thing for me. During the first week of the course and everyone giving their introductions, I felt like an imposter being surrounded by so many brilliant people. I mean I’m the guy that a decade ago took seven years to finish high school and is now just mucking around making video games and film (or trying to). Clearly, I don’t belong here.

It got so bad that during week 3 or 4 when I had the opportunity to tweet or post about my experience in the Harvard HBX CORe program for a t-shirt, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I felt a bit fake being here and didn’t want to mention it on Facebook and I sure didn’t want to tweet about it. Although looking back, I wish I did cause damn it, I wanted that T-Shirt!! (I did however end up mentioning HBX core a few times on Facebook after I had like 30 people from my cohort on facebook who shared the same pain, but it was waaay after it was incentivized).

None the less, the work load piled on and I definitely wasn’t understanding everything, especially when it came to my Business Analytics courses (statistics). I was actually really temped to give up since it was so taxing but realizing that this was truly something I wanted, I decided to push through it. Things I didn’t know (and there was a lot of it), I reinforced by using other resources. When I was waiting for flights to arrive at 1am in the morning or sitting on the bus at 4am going home, I was either half asleep reading about the stuff I didn’t know or half asleep on Khanacademy learning about the stuff I didn’t quite understand.

4. Ignore the naysayers

Luckily there weren’t too many people that told me I couldn’t do it. Everyone I did tell that I was doing these courses were either in the course with me and had a positive attitude about it or were just happy for me for doing it. There was however there was one person that kept telling me that I couldn’t do it and it was myself. Ignoring other people is easy, I do it all the time. Ignoring myself, that voice in my head wasn’t one I could escape. Thankfully the lack of sleep must have caused the naysayer half of me to be too tired to care. There was nothing worse than me telling myself there was no way I could do it.

5. Work your butt off

In life, nothing comes easy. If the HBX CORe program was really that easy, it probably wouldn’t be worth it. I do remember reading a lot of posts on the HBX CORe facebook group by people who complained that they didn’t have the time and that it was too taxing. Seeing these folks made me want to try harder. I didn’t want to be like them. Working multiple jobs, taking public transit for 3hrs+ each day, every day and sleeping for about 3-5hrs a day isn’t easy, but I knew that I had to work my butt off if I wanted this.

Thankfully the pacing offered by the program was actually ok. With different modules due every week and a short weekly assignment, the weeks just flew by as I put in a couple of hours a day to go through the material. That’s not to say there weren’t days where I stayed up until 4am trying to finish the modules(usually a weekend), but looking back, I’m glad I did. Needless to say, there were many nights where I passed out mid way through a module and slept with my laptop on me(ok, it’s more like napped since 3-5hrs isn’t really sleeping to many people 😐 )

6. Give something back

Here’s a secret I don’t tell too many people. Deep down I actually wanted be that guy that inspired others to do something and I can’t do it by taking the easy road. We all have our disadvantages and things we’d much rather do, but I can’t tell someone that it’s possible to do the impossible if I don’t lead by example and do it myself. If you’ve seen my LinkedIn page you’ll know that my title/tagline says “I build dreams and make things happen”. Going to Harvard was a dream I had and I made it happen even if it was rather indirect.

Whether you’re student that just got out to the working world looking for a way to expand your resume, a working professional trying to further your skills or just a regular person wanting to learn more, give the Harvard HBX CORe program a shot. It’s not cheap, it’s not easy but definitely worth it. If you don’t think you’re smart enough to get in, don’t worry. So did I but give it a shot anyways. You can check out their program here and apply here (Firefox or Chrome Browsers needed).

I really wish I could give something back to the folks at Harvard for this opportunity but if anyone has any questions about the course from someone who’s actually taken it, feel free to ask me. No I don’t get any kick backs from recommending it. It’s just that good.

PS. I’ll probably do a proper review of the course later. Who knows, maybe I can talk the folks at Harvard to let me offer “BuddSentMe” as a legit discount code 😉




CryENGINE3 and multiple developers

Ok so every since I started using CryENGINE 3, it works fine when I screw around with the engine on solo projects but is almost always a huge nightmare where I have to add another person onto the project. Why? Because for the longest period of time, sharing .CRY files with team members meant I always had to worry about a file corruption error. Turns out CryTEK accidentally got rid of the old file access permissions error and replaced it with an error that said “files could be corrupt”.

I’ve been working on the Yours Truly Project with Brandon to get it ready for showcasing at th Level Up event at the Design Exchange on April 3rd, 2013 as well as the Toronto Global Game Jam arcade at Bento Miso later in the month. For a while things were ok because I was able to open the cry file he did the terrain and vegetation on and I just worked on a seperate layer. Now during the polishing phase we’re running into file corruption errors yet we know the files aren’t corrupt because the level runs in the launcher just fine.

We tried everything we could and then I was reading on CryDev about something with regards to people who were having corruption issues but the solution was because the login script couldn’t connect to the server properly. That led me to think, “what if I logged in with my credentials on Brandon’s computer?”. So I went over to Brandon’s Alienware (go team alienware!) fired up the editor, logged in with my own CryDEV credentials and proceeded to open the file. Fingers crossed, I clicked on the open button and then…………………… BAM….. FILES LOADED SUCCESSFULLY!!

Who would have thought the Files Could Be Corrupted error was really an access rights thing? Got Brandon to join Team Whisky Tango Foxtrot on CryDev.Net and added him as working on Yours Truly and so far we’ve had no problems.

The take away from the story?

If you’re going to be working with CryENGINE 3 with other people

1. Make sure you’re all on the same team working on the same project. You can assign team members and set them working on a particular project over at CryDev.Net

2. Terrain and Vegetation is stored in the cry file NOT on layers. So whoever is doing your landscape/level design will have to give out their .Cry file. Make sure it is saved to be associated with the project you’re working on or to Global Share if you don’t have a project.

3. Since everything else is on layers, use layers for everything else. If you have an environment artist placing brushes, another person doing cinematics and another person doing flowgraph logic. Have them all use external layers (set as external in the layer properties).

4. Share using source control and import the stuff your team members make. Dropbox works but might mess things up 😐 Given how CryENGINE like the Unreal Dev Kit as well as Maya and 3DS Max like to crash from time to time, you’re better off not taking anything else along with it when it croaks. That and source control like SVN will allow you to roll back to a previous working version that does work.

Just my $0.02 that I hope others will find useful. Althouh CryENGINE3 has it’s quirks it’s by far the best engine I’ve ever worked with (sorry Unity and UDK)


Game Design Canvas refinements

So I sent my Game Design Canvas to a few game designers I know and got some feedback on it. So far the feedback has mostly been positive although I did get one person tell me it seemed a little too simple but in mind, simple is good.

Any ways, added some changes to the current revision of the Canvas. Nothing really major though. Made the lines in the excel file easier to work with by merging the blocks in the same area so you can type in them easier. Also added word wrapping to all the boxes. Moved the player segment over to the left hand side swapping it with the technology/frameworks and metrics to better situate the areas. Seeing that the player segment is very much tied to the Minimum Viable Prototype/Product it made sense that it was right next to it. That and since the stuff on the top right of the canvas was more of the technical stuff it made more sense to put the technology/frameworks there.

It’s not a huge overhaul or anything but some nice refinements on a rather simple but effective tool. Keep the feedback coming folks. I do love reading what you all have to say. It just takes me some time to respond as I type wordy responses 😐



Game Design Canvas

Being a guy with a background in business as an entrepreneur, I’ve written my share of documents and plans. Now that I’m game development, I’ve noticed a lot of similarities between business plans and game design documents. Not only are the documents aiming to do similar things ie. plan things , having to write either one is always a bit of a pain. I’ve been recently challenged to do 10 game prototypes this month which also requires 10 GDDs to made. Somehow that reminded me of having to write a bunch of business plans back in the day and using  Alexander Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas as a bit of a shorter one page alternative for quick analysis of business models as well as Ash Maury’s Lean Canvas for my start ups.

That led me to think, if business plans and GDDs are so similar, why can’t I use the idea of a canvas for prototyping games? So on March 20th, 2013, I walked into the class at triOS college and drew up a standard business model/lean canvas on the white board before slowly redesigning the canvas for game prototyping. By the end of the day and some input from others, I’ve managed to get 8 revisions of the canvas and began cranking out a few game prototypes of my own. Two days later, I’ve managed to get two more revisions that I finally thought was refined enough to share.

So here it is