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The Annual Blog Update

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  • Tuesday, January 15 2008
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Alright... it's been quite a while since my last post, so I am going to keep this one as brief as possible. There's a lot of updating to be done.

Here we go:

* Our daughter, Indiana Christian Crook, was born in October and is doing very well.
* Our son Oliver calls Indiana "Bubba" and has learned to run (fast), as well as fall (hard).
* I resigned from Relic and became an independent producer, designer and game industry consultant.
* Lara and I bought a new house in North Vancouver.
* We sold our properties in Coal Harbour and Toronto.
* I started a business blog called Free to Play that's been featured several times on GigaOM, Kotaku, Worlds in Motion, etc.
* I am speaking at Game Developers Conference 2008 in San Francisco, as reported on Gamasutra.
* I started teaching Team Management at Vancouver Film School one night a week to students in the Game Design program.
* I attended a couple conferences: the Virtual Goods Summit at Stanford University and the Casual Games Conference in Seattle.
* Bought new tech: MacBook, 58" Panasonic Viera Plasma TV, Nuvi 360 Portable GPS, iPod Touch, Canon SD800 camera, Nintendo DS.
* Finished (playing) Puzzle Quest DS and some other casual games.
* Took a trip to Vancouver Island in the summer.
* Posted a bunch of random family videos to Blip.tv
* Moved all our photos to Flickr.com

Another Future Canuck, On The Way

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  • Sunday, May 06 2007
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Well I figure I should update this "blog" again as it's been more than six months since my last update.

Let's start with the news that we are pregnant with our second! Lara's due in October, so we've already started compiling the list of names in order to have enough time to properly test each finalist. The last thing you want is to hastily settle on a name, only to find out it is the name of a famous stripper or porn star. There will be just 16 months between Oliver and The Unnamed One, which is great for them (easier to relate to one another) and for us (less overall time spent in the diapering phase). In any case, we've very excited to welcome a new little one.

On a much sadder note, Lara's brother Christian passed away unexpectedly in January. He had been completely paralyzed for over a year as a result of a severe attack of ADEM (Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis), a rare neurological virus. He spent half that time in ICU, but the latter half was spent at home where he had begun to recover small movements in his arm and chest (he had begun to breathe significant lengths of time on his own). Lara, Oliver and I flew out to Toronto in time to say goodbye to him as best we could, but he leaves a hole in our family that will never be filled.

Oliver is 10 months today - boy how time flies. For about the last 6 months he's been sleeping 10-12 hours a night, which has been great. Hopefully the next one is as good! He's a very vocal boy who will often repeat "dada" back to you if you say it to him. Does that count as his first word? He's patient and calm, spending loads of time just sitting on his play mat in the living room, playing with his toys. He's also started "dancing" when we put music on, by bouncing up and down when sitting.

We bought a "new" car in December. Our finance guy, Mark Huber, says "pay cash for depreciating assets and borrow for appreciating assets", so we found the cheapest car we could, a 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and paid cash for it. We wanted something with a West Coast utilitarian vibe and lots of space, but most importantly, we didn't want to spend much money as we only drive once a week or so. It's been great for loading all of Oliver's stuff up and going to Grandma or Grandpa's place on the weekend.

In work-related news, Lara started a new job as Project Manager at Riptown - the hugely successful online gambling destination. She's working on their primary consumer-facing site, Bodog.com, and enjoying it as she has some friends on the team and throughout the company. Our nanny, Daisy, has been wonderful as well, arriving early enough in the morning and leaving late enough that Lara and I can walk to and from work together. Daisy also does chores- shopping, cleaning and more - which means we can just focus on Oliver when we get home.

Amazingly, this month marks three years at Relic for me! Again, where does the time go. In the last 6 months I have created a concept incubation program (dubbed "Relic Labs") in order to improve the number and quality of game concepts the studio moves into production. It's been a success so far with more game concepts generated in 6 months than were generated in the 10 years prior to Relic Labs' inception. It's also allowed me to reconnect with my design side, working on a wide range of ideas: from casual to AAA, across numerous genres and platforms.

And in other news:
* My Dad testified at the Air India inquiry in Ottawa last week.
* I was interviewed by GameProducer.net.
* I acted as a judge in this year's Canadian New Media Awards.
* Urban Vermin, the IP I co-developed which is now a TV series, is also a Nintendo DS prototype.

Oliver, CGoTY, Urban Vermin, IMDB, and more.

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  • Monday, October 30 2006
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The "blog" portion of this site is turning into more of a quarterly update. And it's that time of the year again.

Things have settled down a bit since I last wrote. Oliver is nearly 4 months old now and has recently started sleeping 7 hours straight most nights. He's up over 14lbs now and about 26 inches long (I'd say "tall", if he could stand up). He's got the typical Crook hairline - I call it "pre-receded". He smiles a lot and likes to vocalize so much that I swear one day soon he'll say "hello" or something equally shocking. He's very well behaved and chilled out. He's been to Toronto already (slept both ways on the plane) and he slept throughout 18 holes of par 3 golf in Stanley Park last week.

As you'd suspect, Oliver has been the focus of our attention lately. As a result, I've got a bit of a media backlog building up. I have had less than an hour playtime each with four of my newest Xbox 360 games: Dead Rising, MotoGP 06, NHL 07 and Saints Row. I've read 1 of the last 7 books I've bought of Amazon.ca (the one I read was The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki). And our PVR still has multiple unwatched new episodes of CSI, CSI: Miami (we watch it for the unintented humor of Caruso's "acting"), Weeds, and Intelligence, as well as the final two MotoGP races of the season (hoping Rossi wins, but please don't tell me!) and four movies: Hustle and Flow, Syriana, Walk the Line, and Good Night, and Good Luck. The movies are particularly tough to watch, since finding 2+ hours where we're free and not dead tired is nearly impossible.

In career-related news, The Outfit won Canadian Game of the Year at the Canadian Awards for the Electronic and Animated Arts. That was surprising, since we had some pretty stiff competition. This year has been a good one for critical acclaim, as I won the Producer of the Year award in May of this year as well.

An IP I co-developed when I was at Decode Entertainment in Toronto has now gone into production. We originally developed and pitched it to be a videogame and TV series, and now it looks like at least the TV series has been funded. Slated to air on YTV's prime-time animated comedy lineup in 2007, Urban Vermin is a 26-episode CGI-animated series that follows the adventures of two gangs of animals - one good, one bad - in a turf war for city garbages, dumpsters, and restaurant back alleys. Coincidentally, one of Lara's friends, Joe Motiki, was cast to be the voice of "Madman Munson" - a skunk known for manic behaviour and a nose for trouble.

And in other news...
* I found out via Google Alerts that I have a credit on the Internet Movie Database now.
* A personal photo of mine was used as the cover of issue #12 of a WWE magazine called The Suplex.
* The Vancouver newspaper, The Westender, recently featured our condo in its "My Digs" section.

Oliver Crook Arrives!

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  • Saturday, July 22 2006
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As usual, long time no update. To quote Vince Vaughn in Made, "A lot goin' on... but then again, there always is."

Our baby boy, Oliver Aaron Crook, has arrived! He was born Thursday, July 6 at 9:14pm at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver. Because he was three weeks premature, he was a bit on the light side (5lbs 14oz), but he's long and lean and will likely be drafted first or second overall by the Canucks in 2024. But seriously, he could grow up to be so many things... from a defenseman to a right winger... or even a goalie. Hopefully not a goalie. Anyway, Lara and I are elated, but also overtired... definitely enjoying the first couple weeks of Oliver's life. He's a wonderful little boy who, of course, we believe is the cutest, best-behaved child ever. I'm on paternity leave from work, so I'll be home with Lara and Oliver until September.

In sadder news, my Grandma passed away in May after a terrible accident. All the family converged from as far away as Ghana, Africa. We had a bit of time with her to see her off, but I'll always remember her not for those final days, but for the incredibly vibrant life she led as the matriarch of the Roberts family. We all loved her dearly and will never be able to fill the hole her passing left in our hearts and our family. Lara and I made this video that we played after her memorial.

At the same time my Grandma was in the hospital, I was supposed to be in Toronto for the Canadian New Media Awards, for which I was a finalist in the Producer of the Year category. I cancelled the trip due to my Grandma's failing health. As luck would have it, I won the award and my friend Justin Dowdeswell accepted it on my behalf, enduring a roasting by the celebrity host as he walked up to the stage to accept it.

In other random media news, in May I appeared on Shaw's Urban Rush live talk show for the second time in my career. I was on to discuss my then-nomination for the CNMA award, videogames in general, myself, etc. Lara came with me and it made for a nice extended lunch hour. In more media news, I wrote a small article for Xbox 360 World magazine about Rockstar's Table Tennis game (with a little bit of a personal slant). Additionally, an article on me winning the Producer of the Year award appeared in the newspaper of my old hometown, The Tri-City News in Port Moody. This one was mostly for my mom. :) And lastly, I did a small interview for the Financial Post Business Magazine. It appeared in their Wild City issue, guest edited by Tony Hawk. Here is the cover of the magazine, and here is my article.

The two bedroom condo we purchased in Coal Harbour had its renovations completed one day before Oliver was born. Our contractor spent three months gutting and rebuilding the interior of the condo and did a fantastic job. Among the improvements: a much larger and modern kitchen, wrap-around corian countertops, new stainless steel appliances, natural slate and dark hardwood floors, marble fireplace with flush-mounted TV and built-in shelving, recessed lighting and thick baseboards throughout, under counter washer/dryer, and a generally more open "feel" to the unit. Of course we also painted the whole thing and bought some furniture to match the new decor. Check out the before and after photos in our Properties gallery.

That's it for now.

The last three months, recapped...

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  • Saturday, March 11 2006
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It's been a long time and a lot has happened since my last update... where to start...

First things first: Lara and I are pregnant! Well, it's mostly her, but you know what I mean. We're due July 28th. Check out the obligatory ultrasound photo gallery.

In light of our impending parenthood, we figured we'd better get a larger place. So we've bought our second property (the first one being the Toronto house), a 900 sqft condo 1 block away from Stanley Park, in Coal Harbour. It's two bedrooms and 1 very swank bathroom (heated floors!) that Lara will put her own touch on in April/May after her return from Toronto, when we'll have some renovations done before moving in June 1. Before photos of the property can be found in the gallery - you'll have to wait until June for the after photos.

My project with Relic, The Outfit for Xbox 360, is finally done! It hits store shelves worldwide on March 14th and the multiplayer demo can be downloaded via Xbox Live now (over 170,000 people have already downloaded it!). After two intense years of work, I have three weeks of vacation to recuperate. The Outfit is THQ's first Xbox 360 project and Relic's first console title and first non-RTS title. Plenty of other firsts as well... we're pretty stoked.

I was in Las Vegas (photos here) February 6-8 for The Outfit's multiplayer launch event. Over 30 journalists along with myself and three colleagues shot machine guns and handguns and did some indoor skydiving before I gave a presentation and a bunch of interviews about the game back at the presidential suite of the Four Seasons at Mandalay Bay. We stayed at The Hotel at Mandalay Bay, a place so posh that my hotel room was about twice the size of our current apartment - with it's own fax machine/copier as well!

In other travel news, last week I was in Los Angeles to appear live on G4TV's "Attack of the Show". It was a three-minute spot on The Outfit. In the green room I bumped into the guys from Threadless.com, who were also on the show, and did a quick little video interview with them using my new High Definition video camera, the Sony HDR-HC1. I'll work on getting that video posted as soon as I figure out how to edit it down from its massive 1080i format.

And finally, the Canucks made all the right moves on trade deadline day, while the Leafs continue to flounder. Ah... I feel a bout of "I told you so" coming on, Daryl... ;)

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