Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Developers as gaming entrepreneurs?

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

There was a question thrown around recently that made me think about my own situation: why do developers seem to be less interested in a career as gaming entrepreneur?

Having spent the last couple of weeks getting Capita onto the iPad, as well as digging my way through the iPhone Audio Queue mire, I think I kinda understand why. The work that we do is, for the most part, utterly absorbing. People talk about “flow” as being something that developers need in order to produce their best work, and when coding, it really is an intoxicating brew. The inevitable downside of flow however is that you can be starting the week reading about buffer sizes, callbacks and latency, and the next time you look up it’s a week next Tuesday. Very bizarre.

And actually particularly problematic when it comes to anything business-related. If you’re running your own show, more often than not you simply can’t afford to be “somewhere else” mentally for that length of time. There are typically too many things that need doing yesterday, be it contracts to chase, accountants to appease, lawyers to pay, and all are eager to destroy the flow that is so carefully cultivated and so ruthlessly defended.

Now I’m reaching the end of both projects I get a chance to sit up and look around, stretch the legs, and put some words onto the screen more of an English bent, a rather pleasant side note to the developing. But the more time goes by, the more I’m starting to think I’m more of an exception than a rule. When caught up in the rush of development, I just don’t think that, for many coders, much else matters, which is why many are only too happy to avoid branching out and away from the work they love.

And the development community is probably all the richer and more productive for it, although I have to say, right now, I think many of us are wondering where on earth the summer went…

Small is Beautiful

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Most days I spend my time working from home. DigitalOrigins is a small company, and if I’m being honest, I like it that way. I’m not a traditional businessman, ever searching for a larger slice of the almighty dollar at the expense of everything else. I love the term “small is beautiful”, and I’m lucky enough to be working in an industry that shares the sentiment. The devices of the day are getting ever smaller and more beautiful, and giving people like me, and companies like DigitalOrigins, the opportunity to stay small, but still afford to pay the bills and enjoy the work being produced.

I read a short article recently about a small design company, Sagmeister Studio. Two designers share the workload, both do the work, both have a major stake in the business. On the rare occasion they will take on interns if they can commit full-time to the studio, otherwise it is just the two of them. And it is a conscious choice for the studio head, Stefan Sagmeister, as it is for me, both enjoying the challenge as well as the efficient and focused work ethic that the situation enforces. But for me probably the biggest driver is actually being instrumental in the creation process. Stefan put it better than I could:

If I would want to become a manager I would much rather go to business school and work on Wall Street where you actually have some challenges.

The work we do is challenging and creative, and being involved at the grass-roots level just feels right. Such intimate connection by everyone in the company can’t help but be good for my colleagues, DigitalOrigins as a whole, and especially our customers and clients. As Sagmeister adroitly put it, “We love our job”, and I hope when dealing with me, as well as the company, a little of that shines through.

From the Top

Friday, May 28th, 2010

When I first touched technology back in the early 80s, I cared more about avoiding the Wacky Amoebatrons and climbing the Banyan Tree than what Apple or Microsoft were up to. On reflection it was surprising I even had access to my rubber-keyed friend; Norfolk was certainly not renowned for its presence on the country’s technological stage. Tractors? Yes. Personal computers? Not so much.

However a teenage life spent working in a newsagents surrounded by technology magazines soon opened the eyes to the possibilities of spending entire weekends typing in games from Sinclair Programs that then had to be re-typed as they failed to load from the tape drive. In hindsight at the rate I went through those D60’s I may have been better off spending my time buying shares in TDK. Ah well, vive la patience/typing/BASIC skills.

Failed save/loads aside, the hardest parts en-route to turning dabblings into professional endeavours were the A-level and Degree Computing courses. My technology chops were driven by the colour and passion of the burgeoning games industry at the time, only to then be rudely slapped in the face by courses that had the divine capability of sucking the very light out of the day. Looking back, I’m astonished I made it through University, not because I couldn’t manage the course, but because it was just so grey. Really, really grey.

Fortunately my first position in a small, youthful games company near Oxford recharged the batteries somewhat, and by the time I’d left there to move on to Gremlin up in Sheffield, things were looking far brighter. Gremlin kinda set the scene of life from that point on; the teams were bright, focused, and enjoying themselves. I was lucky enough to be working on some great projects with some great people, and Hogs of War was a real peach, sat as it was amongst the many sports games being developed at the time.

So all told I consider myself extremely fortunate; I was lucky enough to get my break in a very creative industry very early on, and had the opportunity to be involved with some great products on many of the big platforms around today. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of lines of C-variant code to throw 3D missiles around, to make Medic Pigs behave differently to Commando Pigs, and to play entire symphonies in stereo surround sound. It’s been a fascinating and eminently enjoyable journey so far, and a big shout out to everyone that I got close to along the way.

So now with the advent of Apple’s new technology winging its way around the world, it seems I have a chance to take everything I’ve learnt to date and start something completely new with the iPhone and iPad, alongside yet another bunch of great people. Can it really get any better than this? I think we’re all looking forward to finding out…