Sunday, May 11, 2014

Do You Wanna Build a Snow… er, Video Game?

While trying to rack my brain for a good blog topic for today, I kept bumping into something lodged in my thoughts. See, while I really wanted to contribute to the Newbie Blogging Initiative 2014, I’ve been rather distracted by large changes in my own life.

For the past 7 years I’ve been a developer for a very large company, building difficult and complex features in a giant suite of applications that literally hundreds of millions of people use on a daily basis. While that’s been a fantastic learning experience, and extremely satisfying to see users enjoy the work that I’ve done, it isn’t what I’ve wanted to do with my life.

I graduated University back in 2006 with a degree in Computer Science. But that only tells half the story: the other half is I also have a minor in Mathematics and a concentration in Video Games Design. Blogging as I have for the past 8 months has really shown me how much I love dissecting, discussing, and developing games and game systems.

So when the opportunity came to jump onto a game project as a developer, I seized it. My last day at my current, stable job that I’ve held for years is at the end of this week, and then I’ll plunge into the world of developing games for an indie game company. Moving from working on sub-teams of 70+ people in a project that has hundreds of, if not over a thousand, developers to a small endeavor of three developers within a team of probably fifteen or so people. To working a project can absolutely never be cancelled or cut, to a product whose future isn’t yet written.

I’m extremely excited to be doing this, to actually be putting my experiences and passion into practice. And for those who follow my blog, chances are you may get a few glimpses into the development of said game. The specifics remain to be worked out, so I’m not sure as to what depth I will be writing about it. But I’ll still be writing about other games I’m playing; that won’t change.

One final week at my current job, a month and a half of “funemployment,” and then diving right into game development. Change can be terrifying, but can also be refreshing. As I take a leap into the next stage of my life, I’m glad to have a platform to share it with.

So, yeah, I’m gonna build a video game!
#Personal, #GameDevelopment


  1. Best of luck, hope it works out well.

  2. Best of luck. I once worked for a game company years ago. Worst six months of my life! Hope you have a better experience.

    1. Yeah, I've friends who've worked for the big names like EA, and have heard horror stories. I'm hoping with a smaller, tighter knit crew even if I do crunch (because most software development has some crunch), it won't feel terrible because I'm working on someone I really want to be.

      It's rather unfortunate most of the games industry is not very nice to the employees.

    2. Game development at all levels is difficult. At larger companies, you lose a lot of the creative control you might otherwise like in a game project. They feel more impersonal, like you're a cog in a machine.

      Smaller companies may give you more creative freedom, but they often lack stability. Indie is great, until a few missed payrolls and you're scrambling trying to look for work. I've left companies with them owing me tens of thousands of dollars in missed invoices/payroll. That's not a situation I'm eager to get into again.

      In both cases, your employment is often precarious. A larger company might cut your project to meet quarterly numbers, and a smaller company might miss a milestone payment or not be able to raise more cash and close shop through no fault of the employees or the project. It's not really the type of career you can have a mortgage and a family to support.

      I hope you've found the magical unicorn that will prove to be the next big thing. But, keep your eyes open and pay attention to what's happening on the business level. Feel free to drop me a line if you need any advice

    3. True! For myself, I don't have a mortgage, and only myself to support. And having been in development for big (non-game) companies in the past, my personal situation is such that I can easily afford 4+ years of my current standard of living. Closer to 8 if I go back to student mode. As you say, if I had other mouths to feed or a major income drain, this would be far less feasible.

      But yes, your point about employment in the game industry is well taken. I'm cognizant of the risks; and agreed on keeping an eye on the business level. This is more about me chasing a dream than expecting to be able to live off this for at least a year. I want it to be awesome, and I want to make it awesome, but I'm not literally banking on it yet. I already have contingency plans in place in case things go south. At the same time, I'm still really driven to make this work long-term, since this is really the sort of thing I'd rather be doing.

      I never enter a new situation without having done research, having asked hard questions, or without a plan! I'll keep your offer in mind, greatly appreciated!

    4. One problem is that you often become emotionally invested in the game/project/company. More than once I've stayed somewhere longer than I should. You say you're able to last 4 years, but what happens when you're 3 years and 10 months into the project and the management says "we're almost there!"?

      I've found it hard walk away at that point. As I said, I've left a few places with them owing me a sizable amount of money because I was emotionally invested into the project/company and felt we were on the cusp of something. In the game industry, it can be hard to tell the difference between garbage and mad genius. :)

    5. Good points, and agreed entirely. We have a pretty definitive timeline/business plan, but the emotional investment angle is definitely one to be wary/cognizant of.

      Garbage and mad genius, indeed :) And occasionally they end up being the same.

  3. Looking forward to hearing about you adventures as an indie game developer.

    All the best!

    1. Thanks! I'm looking forward to writing about it!

  4. Exciting! best of luck - and keep us updated! ;)