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Some tipping tips for non-American GDC/PyCon attendees (and American ones too)


Games Developers Conference and PyCon are both coming up, which means lots of familiar international travelers in the US. A post on G+ asked about how the tipping system works in the US. I’m not going to list the percentages and people (though I will say aim for 20% and always tip taxis and servers), but I will explain three very important things about ‘how the tipping system works.’

The first thing to understand is, tips are generally a part of wages. The federal minimum wage is $7.25, but may only be $3 or so for an employee that earns tips, because the rest of the money ‘must’ be made up in tips. Tipping is never “extra” money to a tip earner (takeaway, baristas, etc., are generally not ‘tip earners’).

Second is, servers do not generally declare how much they made- there is a standard percentage of sales they must be declare as tips (differs per state but generally something like 10-13%). So if they make $1000 of sales and make $250 in tips, they are allowed to say they only made $130 (%13) in tips and only pay taxes on that (I say allowed, this is ‘illegal’ but everyone does it and there is no expectation to report everything you earn). However, this has an inverse- if you make $1000 in sales and only make $100 in tips, you pay taxes on the $30 you didn’t even make! So if you tip someone 10%, they may be paying taxes on money they didn’t make- you are taking money out of their pocket.

Last and most important is, many servers need to ‘pay out’ to other staff, such as bussers and food runners. This can often be 5% of sales or so. So they may only be taking home 10% of your 15% tip. And the blowback from not tipping is far worse here- if you tip 5%, that server may be earning exactly zero dollars from your table. If you skip on the tip entirely, you are taking money out of your server’s pocket.

So, Europeans, and Americans too, please understand- tipping should never be considered optional, even for bad service. Unless you think it is OK to take money out of someone’s pocket for a job poorly done, or even just if they made some mistakes. Imagine if your pay was docked for each bug you wrote! The only time I would ever not tip is if you were to walk out of the restaurant (for lack of service or some other dealbreaker). Likewise, your server is almost never getting as much of your tip as you write (taxes, payouts to other staff). So if you get good service, tip generously, then add a dollar or two. And if you get bad service, tip anyway.

Enjoy the conferences!

PS- laws are different in each state and restaurants are different. These are just general guidelines. Please don’t nitpick exceptions.


My GDC 2012 TechArt Bootcamp Session


Recently edited it, I’m sure I’ll fix it up and change it some more:

The traditional role of Tech Art has been art support, integration, and tools. As the scope of pipelines have grown and matured, Tech Artists find themselves thrust into roles that require a large amount of programming and systems design- roles which their traditional skills have left them ill suited. To deal with today’s problems, every Tech Artist also must be able to “work like a programmer,” as it is the only way to build systems with the size and scope Tech Art now needs to.

We must first understand how Tech Art teams are generally composed and function. This is especially important because even though teams may perform at a fraction of their potential, they are perceived as productive. We will look at the real problems Tech Artists face and at models of solutions- namely, the composition and function of Programming teams.

Next we will explore how to apply those solutions to Tech Art teams. Strategies for controlling and formalizing support tasks, for introducing code guidelines and review, and continuous skills growth will be explained.

Finally, we will look at the pitfalls involved in taking this approach. We do not want to turn Tech Art teams into Programming teams, even if we model them after Programming teams. Just as importantly, and because each studio is different, we will explore how to preserve all of the good things about how a team works while reforming it so it can become more productive and take on vital tasks.

By the end of the session, attendees will have a roadmap to transform themselves and their teams into a cohesive programming unit that can successfully build the complex systems modern development requires.

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Video interview with me at GDC2011


Here’s a video interview I did with Bill Crosbie, a member of the IGDA’s Education SIG. He was interviewing tech artists at GDC to get ideas for a curriculum the IGDA can give to educators, to help grow and raise awareness of the tech art discipline.

The last part of the video is where I talk about how tech artists need to be ‘ruthless.’ It certainly caught Bill offguard, and gave me a focal attribute to talk about for the rest of the week. “Ruthlessness” will of course need to be a topic for a future post.

Thanks a lot to Bill for doing all this!


GDC Slides/Notes online: Ending the Culture War


I’ve uploaded my GDC slides (with full notes/narration). Here’s the link:

Rob Galanakis: Ending the Culture War, GDC 2011 TA Bootcamp (PDF slides/notes)

The main point of the presentation is understanding how to get your Tech Art and Tools Engineering teams to work together effectively (and why they aren’t working effectively now). I go over each team’s strengths (have you ever considered how differently TA and Engineering are set up?!), how to turn adversarial relationships into positive structures (how are tools supposed to get made when all three departments are competing for the same people’s time?), and actual technical strategies for working together (defining strong data interfaces and laying boundaries for a common codebase).

Please download it, read it over, and tell me what you think!


GDC 2011 Wrapup


So, GDC 2011 was fantastic. Really, truly fantastic, on an industry, discipline, and personal level.

This was the largest GDC yet, with something like 18,000 attendees and 600+ speakers.

Our Tech Art Bootcamp was a huge success. Almost filled room from 10am to 6pm on Tuesday. Incredible. The Tech Art Roundtables were packed every day, and the Tech Animator Roundtables seemed to go better than last year.

I think my speech, entitled “Ending the Culture War: Uniting Tech Art and Engineering to Create a Better Pipeline” went incredibly well. Not a repeat of last year’s disastrous presentation.

Going forward:
I’ll get the bootcamp slides up this week.
I’m going to be posting about some of the trends I’ve noticed and challenges we’re facing as a discipline. will be moving into the mobile/social age soon with some much needed site improvements.

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Hello San Francisco and GDC 2011!


I’ll be giving a talk as part of the TA Bootcamp on Tuesday, entitled “Ending the Culture War: Building a Better Pipeline by Uniting Tech Art and Engineering”. I’ll have the slides up after the talk, with full text narration (as I did last year and will continue to do going forward).

If you’re in town and want to meet up, just send me an email! I’ll also be at the meetup on Tuesday night.

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Speaker at GDC 2009


I’ll be on a panel for “Technical Art Techniques” at GDC 2009.  I am so psyched about going, I can’t wait.  My bio (with awesome Sith photo) is here:

Money is tight but it is always well worth it to go if possible.

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GDC 2008


I just got back from GDC yesterday afternoon, it was awesome. I was working the booth for Digini/Blade3D, an complete game engine and toolset for XNA. I didn’t get to attend many lectures, unfortunately, but this was also because I really enjoyed working the booth. Getting to talk to so many hobbyists, independents, students, teachers, etc., and tell them about Blade3D made me quite excited… I’ve worked on my own games and projects before, and I know how great affordable and powerful middleware like Blade is. Anyway, you can find out more from their site. On March 15th they’ll have the version we were showing at GDC available, so try it out then; it will be live in early Summer.

It was also nice meeting a bunch of people I’ve only met via forums, MSN, and phone. I’ll be blogging about some more GDC thoughts at a later time, including some of the exhibits I was really impressed with.

The reason I was able to go to GDC was because I just left my last job due to their announced layoffs (as I stated on my main site). I don’t know how any of the gaming team is sticking around to work for a company that pulls something like SolutionsIQ did. Anyway, it may have been a godsend for me personally: I got to go to GDC, and on Wednesday I am flying down to interview with BioWare Austin! I’ll post once I know more.

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