Geek Speak: Samson Mow, director of Pixelmatic Entertainment

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      Samson Mow has worked in Vancouver’s video-game industry for four years, but he won’t for much longer. In May, the 29-year-old game producer will board a plane for China, where he’ll take on the role of Ubisoft’s studio producer in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.

      Born in Victoria, Mow joined Relic Entertainment’s balance team in 2005, and in a few months became the balance department manager. (What is game balance? “It’s kind of like a facet of game design, and you’re trying to make sure the game is fair for everyone,” Mow explained. “It’s really important for multiplayer, so you don’t have one side picking something and winning all the games.”) In 2007, the Simon Fraser University business graduate shifted over to the company’s on-line division as an associate producer, and worked on the Relic Online platform. During his time at Relic, Mow also did time on the Company of Heroes and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War franchises. Later that year, he left Relic for Sitemasher, a local start-up that has developed an on-line Web site management platform.

      Mow founded Pixelmatic Entertainment in August 2008, bringing together a group of friends from Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and THQ. He’ll leave his job as the company’s director before heading to China, but will retain his ownership stake. Pixelmatic is developing two Facebook applications and one game. Mow expects the first app, Gamerbook, to be released in mid April. His company hopes to make an iPhone version of its second app.

      Mow spoke to the Georgia Straight by phone from his home in downtown Vancouver.

      What will you be working on in China?

      I’ll be working on a lot of different things. They have a few technology projects in the works, as well as two game titles. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to mention the two game titles yet or not, but they’ll be out this year—end of this year. But Ubisoft is definitely interesting.

      What have you learned so far about the Chinese game-development sector?

      Well, I worked with Shanda. We codeveloped Company of Heroes Online, and that was probably the most interesting project I’ve worked on. It’s a challenge working with a Chinese development team, especially because they’re overseas. And then there are communication problems as well, but it helps if you speak Mandarin, of course. So, I was one of the main communication points between the two sides.

      What is Gamerbook?

      Gamerbook is a Facebook application that is meant to connect gamers together—sort of an embedded social network within Facebook. The idea is that you play with a lot of people and a lot of friends over the years, but everyone uses a different name in the game and you don’t always remember their name. So, what you can do with Gamerbook is set up profiles for every single game you’ve played. Then you can kind of search through your friends and also search for people that are not your friends yet but you know their handles, and add them.

      What’s your favourite Facebook game?

      Right now, I’m playing a few of them. I don’t really have a favourite Facebook game. A lot of people who are getting into the social-networking games now aren’t really core gamers. They haven’t played a lot of games. This is new to them, so they’re probably happy with what’s out there. But, from my point of view, a lot of the games on Facebook now are lacking. But I guess my favourite would be Elven Blood.

      How does one go about getting a job as a video-game tester?

      It’s quite easy....But, maybe because of the economy, it might be different now. I’m not sure. But, definitely, most people that I’ve encountered, they have experience at EA working in tests—just because EA is so big and they need a lot of testers.

      What will you miss most about Vancouver?

      It’s kind of weird to say, but I’ll miss the weather, even though it’s rainy. But with the rain comes really clean air, and there are days of sunshine....You can’t really beat Vancouver when it’s sunny. It’s not that hot and not that cold—not that hot.

      Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.

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