I’ve just finished production on my first PC and Console title. It was released this week. Here’s how I feel.
I’ll try to keep those short. (looking back, I’ve already failed)
I finished university a couple of years ago and got my first graduate job in May last year. Went through the interviews and test stages and eventually got the job. So I packed my bags and moved to a new country and started working. It wasn’t my first job in the industry, but my first ‘Proper’ Game Design job.
Production had already started. It was about 6 months into production actually. I was tasked with creating a GDD, doing research etc. That was my main task. Mainly staring at Chrome and Word. I had to create a GDD to meet the publishers demands. Trying to tick their boxes. A couple of months later, the GDD was done, and then I move into the engine. Started creating missions by using some custom XML tools. It might sound complicated, and in essence it was, but it was straight forward. What was complicated was actually the simple things. Like clicking a drop-down menu and clicking on a particular object. And then weeks later you realised you’ve actually made a bug by clicking Object_A1, instead of Object_A11. Simple mistakes like that.
What I discovered very early on however, was that I was completely out of my depth. I was lost. Absolutely, completely lost. What I thought I knew about Game Development, was shallow compared to my colleagues. Let me explain. My colleagues are my age. Mid-twenties. And are all native to the country I’m now working in. They’re all nice, but it can be a bit weird. It’s a very very small company, so there’s only a handful of us, and things can get awkward. Especially because I’m not a native, I’m never sure if it’s their culture, or if they are just being ‘A bit of a dick’, but I can feel like they are trying to get under my skin sometimes. So very frequently, I’ve bitten my tongue. More so with one colleague, who is incredibly unapproachable. And will often *Sigh* if you inform him of a bug, or if you need help, or anything. I love him when I don’t need to work with him, I really do, but when I need to work with him, I just think to myself “FFS”. He’s stressed a lot, and a lot of stuff just gets thrown onto his lap. He’s the first one there and also the last to leave. So I try to empathise with him, show him I care, and it works when he’s calm. But the day after, when I need to ask him something, it’s same old, same old. Not all my colleagues are like this, I have to mention.
Back to development… These guys know everything. Everything about the engine. Everything regarding technology. Cube maps, screen space reflections, volumetric lighting etc. And I knew none of that. So it was a massive wake up call for me. My confidence took a blow, I started revaluating if it was worth staying here, if I was going to get sacked. This was made worse when I made my boss 2–3 hours late for a meeting with the publishers because I put in a game breaking bug into the build that he was taking. He had to build 2 times, before he could go. Each build takes more than an hour. My heart was sinking. I felt awful. I felt stupid, worthless, like I wasn’t good enough. A colleague comforted me, but I still felt like shit. Fortunately, I never did it again.
Another thing I should mention is that, my life there was never certain. I was always being given 3 month contracts. Which means, it’s hard to plan things. Especially when your boss wouldn’t tell you until 2 weeks before it ended. And especially rent. To find a landlord that will extend your furnished apartment like that, is extremely rare, but I have been very fortunate. Obviously being in a foreign country, made things more difficult, so there was a lot more risk for me. I knew this before I came though.
I eventually kind of just got sick of caring. Living in fear is never good. So I just went along with it. If it doesn’t get extended, it doesn’t get extended was my motto.
Months went by, I started doing more and more things with the engine. I started making sounds and adding them in, tweaking values to balance the game, writing text, and a lot of other shit. Stuff that was stimulating, and stuff that was mundane.
What I found to be eye opening, is the interference, or rather, the demands of the publisher. Now, I don’t know what it’s like in other places. But where I work, we got milestone reports at the beginning of each month. A 10 page report on average, with some comments and screenshots. Some stuff would be fair, and some stuff would be complete bullshit. Particularly if it was something they initially dismissed, or asked to be changed themselves and are now going back on it. Even some design decisions I didn’t agree with. With the publishers and with the team. But I believe I fought my corner, and I know what I wanted. I didn’t get it, and now it’s up to the players to decide.
Months went on. Long days pursued. Production finished, and I don’t feel any accomplishment. I was invested at the beginning. But I think some of that passion has been lost from this whole, 3-month contract. Which by the way, is now a 1 month rolling contract, on less money than I was previously, but that’s another story for another day.
Production finished. The game shipped this week. My first, multiplatform title. Something great for the CV (hopefully). I obviously want it to do well, but I’m not hopeful. Is that a bad thing? Maybe. Could I have done more? Of course, I’m far from perfect. I’m using it as a lesson. I’m going to learn from it and move on and apply myself to future projects.
I’ve now moved onto a new project, something I’m more familiar with and something more interesting. It’ll be a challenge, it’s quite slow to begin with, but I’m enjoying it at the moment. Will I stay where I am for another year? I don’t think so. I’ve got a girlfriend here at the moment. I’m finally out of debt with my bank, so I’m in + money, and I’m earning money. It’s not as good as some other places sure, but right now, I can’t afford to move. My portfolio and skills need to be updated. So it’s not practical to move. It’s a nice place to work, I enjoy my job. I do, even if it might not sound like it, I do love my colleagues. Initially it was hard, and there are some days that I don’t enjoy, but that’s nothing a little Spotify won’t fix. I’m not a confrontational person, I’m super laid back and approachable. Which I think is inviting to some people. Especially when it comes to pranks or just bring me into topics of discussion. Because they know I won’t care. This is something I’ll change. I’m working on being more placid, and more assertive. A bit like Marco Pierre White. A hero of mine. He has nothing to do with the games industry. But he’s a leader, and he’s an inspiration. An amazing man.
If there’s any advice I would give to someone, that would be, move country. It’s amazing. Even if it’s a neighbouring country. There’s something special, something liberating about it. I take it in exchange for the games I work on. These aren’t games I’m proud to show off. I still dream of a AAA studio job, where I can show off the games I’ve worked on. I’ll get there eventually. But right now, I’m earning money, and in my spare time, I’m making a game that I want to make. It’s a relatively fair trade.
Get a dream, get organised, get a plan, get a life, get a job, and inspire.