My childhood dream has always been to be a fighter pilot, I even went as far as visiting my local recruiting station only to be told I could never fly jets because I didn’t have 20/20 vision. A rule that would be changed in 2007 but by then I was well underway with my next life passion, video games. When I was young, my father brought an Atari ST home and I played Willow on it for the first time, it was a strange experience, frequently changing 5 1/4″ floppy disk to follow the story.
That same Christmas Santa gave my brother and I a brand new NES console. I was blown away by what was was possible and how even with basic graphics I was exposed to some beautiful stories. I still remember how much I loved David Crane’s “A Boy and his Blob”. Help a Blob save his planet by feeding him jellybeans and watching him morph into various objects to progress in each level, genius.
From that point I was hooked, if I wasn’t going to be a fighter pilot, I wanted to work on great stories. I studied graphic design in university and then specialized in character animation. I was conflicted between a career in animation in film or games. At the time studios like Pixar and Dreamworks were releasing classic after classic. Monsters Inc., Toy Story, Shrek were inspirational as an animator but I loved playing games in my free time. Halo LAN parties were a frequent thing during my university days and fate had decided that my path would be videogames.
I had my first interview with Electronic Arts in college. They were starting a new studio in a city I knew well, Montreal Canada. During the civil war in Lebanon, my family and I fled to Montreal and I considered it my second home. What better way to start a career in games than with one of the biggest developers and publishers in the industry in a city I knew very well. I was a part of the first group of developers to start at EA Montreal, we didn’t have headcount for animators but we were supporting EA Los Angeles with QA on Medal of Honor: European Assault. While supporting MoH, a core team of talented developers were working on a Core X for a new title developed entirely by the team in Montreal. A Core X video is animated footage of what a game could look like once developed. That game would go through multiple iterations and ideas until we finally settled on the adventures of two tough yet funny mercenaries, Tyson Rios and Elliot Salem in a game we later named Army of Two.
(To be continued with Part 2)