1) Hello Julien, how are you doing?
Just fine, thanks for asking!
2) Can you tell the readers what you’re currently studying?
I’m following a course called Advanced Computer Graphics at Linköping University in Sweden and I’m working towards a master’s degree. What I study at university is mostly Computer Science however my first two years were orientated towards business, my third year was a general theoretical year. I’m currently in my 4th year out of 5, and the program I’m in at the moment is two years long and ends with a master’s thesis. Also I study game design in my free time, how to make awesome art in general, what the mental processes of people are, that makes them like or dislike things, mostly personal research.
3) What studies did you do before that? And what are you planning to do after
I had a science-specialty in high-school, but it’s not that relevant to what I do now. During my second year I also followed an online course about video game development with the Open University (UK), it was 10 weeks long and the course taught students to use Game Maker, as well as well known game design theory classics, monetization techniques for video games and general video game industry related problematics. The final exam was mostly theory questions, but we also had to make a short advertisement-game (or adver-game) for a charity of our choice with Game maker. That was nice. I’m still not certain what I’ll be doing after my master’s degree, maybe I’ll apply for a job as a programmer at a gamedev studio in Sweden (probably in Stockholm, there are a lot of international studios there). Or maybe I’ll start working as an indie gamedev if that looks appropriate by then. Or maybe I’ll start new studies in art, to reinforce my knowledge. That would be a good idea as well, since I want to be an Art Director or Creative director, not just Game designer. It’s hard to get a paid job as a game designer, since there aren’t many places in the industry, and you have a LOT of people who want to get those jobs, so there’s a lot of competition, plus you’re not paid as much as programmers. That’s why ideally I’d like to end up working on my own, writing the code, designing the game, making the music, etc. possibly while having a well paid job as a programmer at the same time.
4) Studying isn’t everything of course. You made some games yourself during your studies?
Not as much as I would liked to. I haven’t really finished anything of satisfying quality yet. I had this small game for the gamedev module with the Open University. I made a small flash game prototype where you have to send shock waves to make bombs bounce back against a “boss”, but I didn’t really finish it. I also worked on a simple prototype to practice using a 3D engine / Physics engine / Audio library / etc. to add to my portfolio, to show recruiters that I could do some fancier stuff than simplistic 2D games, though I didn’t finish it either. Then I have plenty of unfinished prototypes on my hard drive, but none of them are even worth mentioning. BUT, I did work on a rather big project for about a year. In second year, I met a girl who was good at programming, and when I told her I was interested in game design, she thought we should work on a game together. And we did, I worked on design and art direction, and she worked on implementing everything. We got quite a lot of work done on each side, but at some point we realized the scope of the final version of the game was a bit too big. For instance, it was a multiplayer game, so we would have needed to use some networking libraries and add a lot of code to make that work. Also, she got sick of working with Flash Actionscript (well, more specifically AIR), because it was buggy and everything. So we decided to give up. The prototype we had did help her get an internship at a small gamedev studio in France though, so it wasn’t all for nothing hopefully. I’m now working on a new game by myself, hopefully It’s going to be high quality enough so that I’ll end up being proud of it, but we’ll see about that in a few months when it’s finished.
5) What is the biggest motivation for you to study your upcoming profession?
I love thinking in a technical way about creative issues. That’s what makes me a game designer rather than a pure programmer or a pure artist. I literally study game design for fun in my free time. I want to make the best games in the world, I want people to enjoy themselves. I work hard to get all the skills necessary to be able to do that. I’m trying to learn how to make music for my games at the moment, I’m making some nice progress, I hope I’ll be able to make some good music for my next game, and those that will come afterwards. I’m basically working towards being as autonomous as possible. I have plenty of ideas for awesome experiences, and I want to be able to share them as fast and as high-quality as possible. What I like most is finding knowledge that feels that it would be cheating to use it because of how effective it is at making games suck less. Mostly I clarify some stuff that sounds very obvious but that most people actually don’t realize how important they are.
6) Can you give some tips to the readers if they want to become a developer?
7) What are some of the games that inspired you to become a game developer? Or some games you just really like to play
I usually say that my top 5 is : World of Warcraft, Warcraft 3, Kingdom Hearts (PS2), Might and Magic 6, 7, 8 (not heroes), and Megaman X, X2 and X3. I also often play Quake 3 arena, Warcraft 3 and Dance/Dance/Revolution when I organize LAN parties with my friends. Also Zelda Majora’s mask, F-Zero X, Age of Mythology, Pokemon yellow and silver, Lego racers (not kidding), the old final fantasy games (4-9)… I used to play the same old games over and over for quite some time. Then I started playing a lot of games on steam since Portal 2 came out, as well as a lot of games from the humble indie bundles. The first games I wanted to make were probably Lego racers’ clones, final fantasy clones, WoW clones, beat’em’all’s, virtual card games like Yu-gi-oh or magic the gathering, capture the flag mods. A bit of everything really. But I always wanted to work on something that had a particular feel to it. And not just duct-taping components together. I’ve been making Warcraft 3 mods for about 3 to4 years in middle school, I really LOVED the visual ambiance and themes in that game. It was like a box of legos, but it was the world editor. I was literally spending all my free time trying to make good tower-defense mods, or arena mods for wc3.
8) What is your ultimate dream as a game developer? Like studio or game series to work on
I’ve already worked at DICE as an intern for three months this year, and I learned a LOT while working on consoles (xbox360/PS3). I didn’t apply because of battlefield, I applied because of Mirror’s Edge and the knowledge of the people working on the frostbite engine. I wouldn’t mind working there again. Otherwise, maybe Crytek or Valve. Maybe Japan, though that might have to wait a bit however I don’t really have any particular target over there. I wouldn’t really move to the US, I’ve been told the work atmosphere tends to be a lot more toxic there than here in Sweden, I was told the only thing interesting they have is money (I would totally make an exception for Valve though, I used to aim for Blizzard, but I’ve heard the ambiance isn’t exactly the best over there). I wouldn’t mind going back to France, if only they had a decent AAA studio there, all we’ve got in France are casual/social/mobile games’ startups, which isn’t exactly exciting from a creative perspective. That might be that the skilled French people leave as soon as they can. Ideally, I’d want to make my own studio, with myself and people that are more skilled than I am, but err, I have literally no idea how I would go about hiring people for now. So I’m aiming to become a programmer, maybe a designer, hopefully a lead designer, and ideally an art/creative director at my own studio, working on my own stuff. If I had to work on a particular series of games, hm… well series tends to be rather messed up lately, so I can’t really see that being a good idea.
9) What is your biggest flaw or mistake when studying? Like underestimating the study or the competition?
My girlfriend tells me I don’t read enough reference material / classics. I also get told that I should start making smaller games first, rather than going for the bigger projects (I dismiss that one by saying that I already have done the “simple” stuff, and that I don’t want to work on crap anymore). But yeah, my biggest problem right now is that I haven’t finished anything noteworthy yet. Also, my other big problem is that It’s going to be hard becoming an art director by starting out as a programmer, so ideally I would need to either continue studying in my free time, or start new studies in art, that would be ideal, but I can’t ask people to pay for my studies forever (working part time would totally undermine my progress, except if I manage to sell what I’m working on at the moment, that would be cool.) My main graphics programming studies aren’t a problem, my carrier plan is. Few people can claim to be doing what they would like to, I’m almost in a situation where I could say that, but to be able to be in such a situation for real, it will take more work and free-time research and development. The competition is pretty huge, but I’m not really concerned, I will always have a job as a programmer anyway, and I’ll always work on creative stuff in my free time if I don’t get a job as a designer. Beating the competition is just a matter of working hard for long enough.
10) How can people stay up to date with you?
I have a twitter account @meteotrix, I don’t use it much, but I might start to at some point. I don’t use facebook. You can try checking out my posts on AltDevBlogADay or on my Word press blog meteotrix.wordpress.com. I might post my articles on Gamasutra instead of Altdev in the future though, there’s less traffic on Altdev these days.
11) Any final words?
I’d add that if you are interested in the video games industry, you should go and follow important developers on twitter, do some networking, try finding other people who are the same level as you are and maybe make a game together. You can try attending events organized by the IGDA (international game developer’s association), or go to the GDC (game developer conference, for developers, unlike E3 which is for the press), it’s quite expensive, but it might be very valuable (they release some of the conferences on their website, you can go and check that). There are lots of articles and resources online, lots of game developers have blogs, maybe even most of them, I’m not sure. Here’s a link to the effective networking in the Game Industry -> http://tinysubversions.com/effective-networking/ and thanks for interviewing me!