Wednesday, July 11, 2012

That's Why They Call Me The...

Well guys, I got good news...for me anyway.  I recently agreed to a programming job at a legitimate game studio!  I got a phone call last Saturday (at the Coke Zero 400 with loud music over the speakers) offering me the job and today I signed the paperwork away.  This "internship" lasts from August to December and comes with a modest hourly wage.  My job duration (and wage) may receive an extension in January assuming I play my cards right and can stick with the company in the future. TLDR: I got a job.

But first, before we move on, I will NOT tell you what studio I am working at.  It could be anywhere in the world.  Any size or number of people.  Making games of any genre or for any platform (including Dreamcast homebrew).  You may or may not have played one of their games recently.  You may have heard of this studio often or not at all.  It could also be Electronic Arts but I'm not telling.  I will also not share my level of "enthusiasm" for working there.

I will give you two hints right now to alleviate any concerns:

1. It is NOT Sega or any studios with ties to them (i.e. Sumo Digital).
2. It's a company that I feel "good" about working at, at least as of right now.  After surveying the field of realistic candidates, it's one of the top studios I had a choice of attending and I feel fortunate to get an offer there.  Other than the inevitable fear of failure & embarrassment, I remain optimistic (hell, it's an internship...I'm supposed to be a "noob" at first so there's less worry about making mistakes).

Also, it's worth saying we're grown men now.  I'll do my best not to make witty remarks about the company or any of its games nor will I spoil any NDA's (assuming there is anything worthy of being mentioned).  It's not school anymore--this is the workplace and your reputation & job is on the line.  This doesn't mean I'll hold back on my cutting remarks--I'll have plenty of good & bad things to say about games but this company is off-limits.  And most certainly no 4chan/Reddit topics like "I'm an anonymous employee of (insert company), ask me anything."

Anyway, sooner or later you may find out where I'm working--either I or someone else will reveal it to you.  But for now, it's confidential.  You're all overwhelmed with curiosity which is you a reason to keep reading my blog.

Still a strange sensation to have a serious job even if it's not until a month from now.  See, beforehand, you went to school for a few years and graduated.  Went to college a few years, graduated.  Went to grad school for a year, graduated.  Assuming you don't do anything egregious like get expelled or arrested, you know when you're going and leaving and it takes a lot of the guesswork out of it.  But here, with a job, there's no telling how long I want to stay here.  I can walk out of here at any time, either by my choice or not.  That is scary since you are more prone to screwing up more than ever yet you have more options available than ever.  Oh well, that's the expectation that comes with being a man.  A working man...


  1. Congratulations, brother! I'm gonna guess Firebrand Games.

  2. Good guess but you may be wrong... ;)

  3. Just don't tell us you work for NG:DEV.TEAM any time soon. If that were the case I'd not only have to kill you in a horrible (but hilarious) fashion and steal your identity, but I'd also have to eat your brain to absorb your knowledge and power.

    Seriously though, congrats on the job. It's a huge step above what most of the people at the "school" I'm at have achieved. Glad to hear it's a place you want to work at as well.

  4. You acknowledge my knowledge and power...very good. BTW, you talk down on your "school" a lot. Is this Full Sail? You're better than that.

  5. It's Westwood, also a for-profit school, and it seems to be a nice target for lawsuits and investigations. The campus I'm at recently got struck with a lawsuit and now owes $4.5 million in damages for dishonest admissions and payment practices (telling soldiers their GI Bill will cover tuition when it doesn't, and credits not transferring to other colleges as told, among other things). ALL of the instructors in the game art program, and they're extremely skilled at their craft even though their actual industry experience is questionable (I know of only two who actually work for game studios, but they're both out), are looking for other/second jobs because their hours are getting axed and need to support themselves, and they're not discreet about some of the shady things that go on there, their feelings of getting screwed over, and us getting screwed over. They complain more than the students do. Quite a few have already quit because it's so sudden and random. Early on they had accreditation issues, and some of the teachers found themselves grading no-shows with C's instead of F's because the consequences would affect everyone.

    Truth be told, I poke jabs (it's supposed to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek) at my school because it portrayed itself as a place to learn game development and from what I can tell, it's nothing compared to yours. Granted, had I known better I would've re-evaluated my choices. There was a legit college out of state that I requested information from, because an online banner saying I could learn game art and game design. But when the actual packet came, it essentially said, "Get your bachelors in art, THEN AFTER graduating pursue your dream of game design." I feel I fell into the same trap. Sure, we learn things like 3D modeling and animation, but we never put it into an actual game engine and make a working game that we can play, evaluate, or pitch ideas. And even from just an art-only standpoint, these guys will get bachelors degrees not knowing some programs that are absolutely imperative to digital graphic design. But I can't honestly say it's been a complete waste either. But certainly not emptying my bank account over either.

    If there's anything to take from my jabs at Westwood, although FIEA may not be perfect, it does have opportunity even if it is EA. Nothing like that here. You'll know way more about actual game development process than I will when we both graduate.

  6. So that said, I consider you the more fortunate man in this mutual quest for making the game industry a better place. Sorry if it comes off as predictable and tedious moaning and whatnot.

  7. No it's okay. We've talked for a long time and, in my opinion, it really sucks when you've got legitimate problems and no one wants to hear them. So fire away. Besides, seldom does your life go well and we all get stuck in dead-ends occasionally. Hindsight is 20-20 and poor decisions are bound to happen. I've had my fair share of stupid mistakes too but I'll save it for later if you want.

    To be honest, going to FIEA isn't a slam dunk for getting a job. Well, being a programmer is, assuming you can pass the course. There's 16 (out of 65) of us in this cohort and most, if not all of us have job offers already. On the other hand, only a few artists and producers have job offers. Most producers I'm good friends with have spammed resumes to nearly to 20+ studios and have done a few personal interviews but still didn't get any feedback. Seriously, a few of my producer friends would love to work at EA (they like football) but they haven't received a reply in a month. I really feel bad and I hate talking about how I got a job when most of us don't have one (yet).

    If there's any reconciliation, it's that there's so few of us programmers and it's a boot camp pretty much. With the exception of the Daytona 500, this Spring semester (January-May) was one of the most miserable times in my life because I had two homework assignments each week and I was sandwiched between that and capstone (Battle Fortress Tortoise). Plus I was feeling down about being away from home, Christmas blues, Super Sprint, not being able to work on racing games, etc.

    Also not to mention that the label "programmer" is usually accompanied with the phrase "subservient lackey" as most of what you do is basically take orders because you're not "creative" enough to design games/art style, or something. Which is why I pitched that racing game, cause I had something to prove. I don't know--being a programmer is great because the game basically rests on your shoulders but damn--it gets frustrating at times and you rarely get credit.

    My best advice is to use whatever software you have at your disposal and pimp the hell out of your portfolio. Most artists here have been cramming artwork over the last couple of months. Faculty assisted us in the resume/cover letter/website/interview process which helps gain an edge over other applicants. At least being able to dedicate yourself to Maya/Photoshop/etc. shows that you have a passion for this kind of thing. I assume that Westwood is an easy degree so you should take the initiative to improve yourself rather than coast on by doing the bare minimum.

    Also, for our capstone games, we're using the UDK and Vision engines. Download those for yourself and try to import some models and stuff and get a hang of it. It seems hard at first but there's plenty of tutorials online that will help.

    As for what you need to know about game design, I'd say some of it is innate to us Internet/gaming-savvy folks. The curriculum was designed for even those least acquainted with the game industry. Some producers may have business/liberal arts backgrounds but they are still welcome as long as they can think things through. Learn things like the scrum/sprint/waterfall processes, organize game plans with teams of 10-20 people, use Perforce, and meet goals on time.

    I know your intentions are good and you want more out of this than to cruise by like so many people there do. If we ever cross paths, I'll put in a good word for you. Damn, I still know a lot right now so if you need information or help, let me know. Let's get you that job.

  8. I read your earlier comment out of context. XP I wasn't sure if you meant "you're better than that" meaning I deserve better, or because of the way I was constantly making fun of WW the way I do was making me look immature. Admittedly I do have an annoying habit of bringing up things over again like beating a dead horse, so worst case scenario, there's my defense. Nonetheless, while things could always be better, it could always be worse, too. Always count your blessings. :) And that goes for both of us.

    Funny how the "subservient lackey" seems to go both ways. A lot of artists at my school don't seem (or want) to realize this, but in a design job, you're not getting paid to go all out and do 'whatever' it is you want to do. Our designs usually have to cater to the vision of whoever's in charge (actual example: you don't want gritty, super-detailed, horror monsters for a children's game). Egomaniac artists believe they override who's in charge, egomaniac programmers believe they're in charge by default. Everyone else reluctantly have to admit they need help, lol.

    I consider myself fortunate that I was able to complete that Hippie game (or at least a small playable three stage demo) within one term, but I did 90% of the work as I had to handle both in-game art and "programming" since I was the only one familiar with Game Maker, making me team leader by default. The others tried but not as much as they could have, one because he was being uncooperative, possibly because I took control from him, and the other just became a dad. The goal was simply to make a working game, and I thought making something through Game Maker was a realistic goal within the term. I thought of something of a 2D game that looked 2.5D, but the other guy shot it down saying it's been done, then immediately pitched an stealth-based FPS through UDK, and none of us knew it, but he thought a friend of his on the programming side would help (who himself barely knew it). Weeks passed, zero progress was made, so I had to take control and pitch a similar idea, adamant that we needed a complete game of sorts. But we threw ideas and came with the idea of a tree eating hippies through stage exploration. A well-intentioned guy, really, a bit innocent and naive where it counts, but hasn't come to realize not everything is going to be his way. But because of their unfamiliarity of the program, they'd only do something when they were ordered to, when I expected them to keep busy by asking what I needed next. So while my eyes were glued to the screen they did nothing, which made me look good and made them look bad.

    By the term's end, mine was the polished piece. One group attempted something in a HUGE 3D environment, but didn't know UDK and were only able to come up with a video trailer. The other, which consisted of one person with the aid of a volunteer programmer, came up with something similar to the earliest flash games. Playable but very limited. But what I find hard to believe is that I've had people tell me that me, one person, someone on the art side, made a complete playable demo of a game - something the programmers haven't been able to do themselves. At all. Projects get started but never get completed, some people get together outside of school but it all falls apart (been there), and I could've submitted this in a contest if not for the gore and dark humor. But that's what I've been told, but I can't be the only one. Might have to put it up for download, though it'd be best if it's not widespread.

  9. But then again the whole student body isn't entirely competent. I did impress someone who worked at NetDevil (Lego Universe) as a 3D artist right when they went under, and gave us his hiring test as our midterm assignment. Here's concept art, make your 3D object look exactly like it. Somehow I was the only one who followed the instructions, and he admitted I would've gotten the job instead had I competed against him. "Damn impressive" he said. Granted, I knew a bit of 3dsMax and had a month to work on it, he didn't know squat about Maya and he had 6 days. What I consider a standard work ethic seems to amaze them, strangely. But you have guys who skip class, put a half-assed effort, don't follow instructions, or do make the effort but miss the mark, and so on. If anything, everyone's satisfied with my work except me, and I've been called the best in the program. I don't know how much of it is a compliment and how much is actual truth though. Me alone or how I compare against the others. Because I have design experience, because I expect a lot out of myself, because I have a solid goal in mind? I don't know. I've had a few people come to me for help, one team intends to make a game for children's hospitals, but the direction is very fragmented and they're shooting for something huge with a team with no experience and very limited on what they're capable of, me included.

    Not to sound cocky, but I don't doubt my skills and my willingness to learn, improve, adjust and adapt. But I'm nowhere near the level you see in concept art of today's big games, either. Take Castlevania Lords of Shadow. Great art and production value, game bored me to death. But even that guy I impressed sounded rather jaded on how the industry works. Being a lackey, having to keep up with trends (and I revile the notion that people feel the need to follow or cater to them), working on someone else's stuff designed only to make green, and so on. Some say it's not worth it, others say it's the best job in the world. Probably just a feeling of uncertainty in this field above all else. I don't want my skills finding their way only toward licensed properties, and I don't want my hair to start graying by the time I can make my dream game come alive either. There are some companies here, but you don't know if they'll last, do anything other than social facebook or mobile app games, or willing to do anything other than their favorite genre. We'll see.

  10. I read everything you said and I think you have a good case. Don't have much to say. Good luck dude, I wish you to the best.