Warcraft: Orcs & Humans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
From the outside looking in, just getting a job in the games industry seems like an impossibility. I think the game developers who entered the industry in the late 80s and early 90s are part of the reason for that perception. It seems like all of us have a crazy story about how we got our first gig. Hell, we use words like "gig" instead of job; like we're old touring artists who have seen it all and know all your troubles, because we've been there. Well, I'm probably not going to buck the trend with my own story, but hey -- it is sort of a crazy story, so you might enjoy it.
Partly, our crazy stories are because of the age of the industry at the time. The games industry felt like a frontier and the folks making video games were the hardy pioneers brave enough to go there first and blaze new trails. Most studios were small; I remember Ron Millar commenting in a 1998 PC Gamer Article that he left Blizzard because, "it was getting too big and corporate." I was employee 35 at Blizzard; I believe we had 70 or so people at the company when I left it myself in 1997. Just to compare it to today: When I lead the design team on Rift, it was 35 or so people -- our design team was as large as Blizzard itself was when I joined it. A smaller industry means a smaller number of gatekeepers and so maybe it really did take crazy brashness to get into it back then. Everything really was fast and loose. Or at least, it felt that way to me...
You've heard me talk about Kickstarters before. From our friends, from our clients and from the folks we think are just badass and cool, but this one's a little different. Read more»
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My sister is a kennel manager for a local humane society. She has a tough job, they all do there. It's not just that they fight against community apathy to save the lives of animals every day; they also often have to fight each other. It's one of those startling parallels between her job and my job as a creative director in the games industry.
I should probably explain what I mean by "fight each other" before I go on much further: Everyone comes onto a project, or into a new workplace, with their own goals and agendas. Most of the time, these individualized ambitions are in accord, if not harmony; that is to say, they usually don't get in the way.
Usually... Read more»
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I hack away at side projects all the time. They're a way to indulge this absurd passion I have for creating interactive things, without having to think about my day job. You see, when you make games for a living, you're working under all sorts of constraints and restrictions. You can't choose to do things the way you want to, unless that's also the choice the stakeholders you answer to want to make. No choice is ever just made - every change to a game, every decision on a path forward, is a series of negotiations and compromises.
Helmuth von Moltke's famous quote, translated roughly as "No plan survives contact with the enemy intact" pretty much sums up the problem and the reality. We're not enemies, obviously, but when it comes to getting done the things you want personally, it can feel that way. Ask any frustrated level designer that ended up on a mmo that wasn't nearly as much like WoW as he'd like. Short of a complete mutiny in which you oust the guy calling the shots (something that would get you fired at anywhere but at a ridiculously incompetent studio), what can you do? Nothing. You grit your teeth and you make the compromise because at the end of the day, that's your job when you're a professional game developer. Read more»