I am freakin’ lucky to be here.
If I tell you something about my history, I think you’ll agree.
I got my break into game development over 15 years ago. I got a chance to work as a freelance writer and illustrator for Activision on a short-term contract for a game called Apocalypse. It was the first video game to star “A List” Hollywood talent – Bruce Willis had agreed to contribute voiceover and motion capture to our game. I busted my ass to over-deliver on the content that I was developing and the studio liked my work enough to fly me to Los Angeles from New York and offer me a full time job.
The project was wildly ambitious. We had a brand new team, we had no idea how to build a “video game buddy picture” and we were trying to roll our own engine from scratch on Playstation 1. With so many risk factors combined onto one ultra high-profile project we were doomed from the start, and our inevitable failure was a spectacular implosion.
But I did one thing right: I stuck to my guns. The project was in trouble from the start and I was brutally honest about pointing out the flaws and trying as hard as I could to fix them. In the end, we failed. The internal project was cancelled and 99% of the team was laid off. The IP that I’d helped create was shipped over to another developer that had a 3rd person engine ready and waiting and they were able to crank out a game around the remnants of the material that we developed.
But Activision management remembered that I was one of the people who’d seen the impending trouble and tried to do something about it, so I was spared the axe. Instead I was lent to a small studio that was developing a new IP for Playstation at the time. That studio was called Luxoflux, and the game was Vigilante 8.
There were only four of us in the office at the time, and that’s where I learned how to do this job the right way. The principals of that company were game development veterans – real pros who did the job with humility, diligence and tremendous skill. There were no meetings – there were just short conversations where the best ideas were recorded on a whiteboard and we all got back to work producing assets.
Eventually Activision recalled me to the mothership, only to lay me off a short time afterwards as internal development shut down. But by then I’d learned a lot. I had some skills, a better understanding of what it actually takes to make video games and some friendly contacts that knew what I brought to the table.
It was those contacts that helped me land my next gig, and I’m proud to say that’s true of many of the folks that I’ve worked with in my career: we almost always part as friends.
Since that start I’ve done just about every type of work you can imagine in games, and at just about every level. I’ve been the low man on the totem pole. I’ve been the big shot executive from the publisher. I’ve been the unsung audio guy. I’ve been the ‘creative visionary’ that pitches the entire studio’s next big idea.
But some things haven’t changed – I stick to my guns. I’m brutally honest. I work tirelessly to make the projects that I’m working on better in every way I can. Those traits have won me friends from among the people who can stand to hear what I have to say, and who have the courage to change. And they’ve earned me some enemies among people for whom my big mouth is at best an annoyance, and at worst a dire threat to their status quo.
But refusing to compromise – to always drive to make things better – cleaner, more fun – I believe that has been the absolute key to my career. The fact of the matter is that I have been a part of fantastic teams of talented, creative people that have shipped some pretty amazing games. And I’m still thrilled when people learn that I worked on a particular title and say to me, “Damn, you know – I loved that game!” That’s a product of that drive. That OCD need to always make it better until they pry it out of my clenched, obsessive grasp.
I used to be a console gamer, but not anymore. When I got my first iPhone it wooed me away from the console and I’ve never looked back. I still love PC gaming, but consoles are a different breed. Sure – gamers love ‘em, but game developers do not. Making games on console is essentially a prison. Only the biggest teams have any chance of competing in that market space which means that freedom and creativity take a back seat to marketing-driven features and focus group testing.
So here I am at Industrial Toys. Alex Seropian (a guy that has my utmost respect as a boss and as a person) clued me in to the fact that he was leaving his high level corporate gig and starting a new studio. I immediately threw my stuff in the trunk of my car and drove straight down from Seattle to Los Angeles. And when I got here I asked “Ok, so… what are we doin’?” That’s the kind of opportunity that Industrial Toys represents – one of those chances that can change your life.
For me, this is a chance to bring what I do (crazy, relentless focus on quality, fun, polish) and synch up with Alex Seropians’ business savvy and big heart, Tim Harris’ creative vision and amazing knowledge of, well- everything really- and Brent Pease’s heavy duty technical chops to make something amazing happen.
You know what I’m going to say, right?
I’m freakin’ lucky to be here.
*** I’m going to take a moment to point out that when I say “I’ve shipped” what I mean in reality is that “I have been a part of fantastic teams of talented, creative people that have shipped…” However that does not sound quite as interesting, and (I think) it does not describe my ‘special sauce’ contribution to the development process, which is (in part) to be the OCD nutcase who obsesses about every detail.