One By One Design

Making The Gaming Scene (A Change in Careers)

And for my second blog post of the day, a much more personal note.

After about three years of working with, what I would consider as objectively as possible, the best digital agency in Ireland, vStream Digital Media, I have made the immense career decision to leave the agency world and enter the arena of Flash Platform gaming.

So, beginning tomorrow, I am taking on the role of Senior Flash Engineer at PopCap Games, International.

This will be both an incredible and incredibly challenging position and, as nervous as I might be at the change and as much as I will definitely miss my former coworkers and bosses, I am extremely excited and cannot wait to dive in.

This certainly wasn’t a decision I came to lightly; there were many factors to weigh over. Over my 11 or 12 or so years of being a “Flash guy”, I never once considered myself a game developer, even on those odd occasions when I was developing games. I have always considered myself more of an application developer, whether those applications were websites, desktop applications, Facebook applications, mobile applications, or, well, games.

Being a game developer requires a whole new paradigm. While not paramount in, say, a website or Facebook app, speed, sound, response, and optimization are suddenly of the utmost essence. There will be a whole new way of approaching, visualizing, and structuring projects and problem solving. So, why did I make this life changing decision?

Well, first there was my general disappointment in the Irish digital market. The Digital Age has evolved in a peculiar way in Ireland which still seems to be dipping its toes into it like a cold pool. Irish clients still seem a bit intimidated by the idea of digital marketing and they tend to budget the smallest possible amount on it. For this reason, digital projects are performed at a breakneck pace with only the smallest amount of attention paid to details. This, then, leads to a rather odd circular cycle. That is, clients expect digital projects to perform badly so they pay only a minimum amount. This minimum amount purchases a product of lower quality which just may perform badly in the market. The clients look at those performance results and say, see that’s why we didn’t want to budget any higher and why we won’t in the future. Unfortunately, Irish agencies do little to stop this cycle (vStream notwithstanding). Rather than competing amongst themselves to see who can produce the highest quality projects, they instead seem to compete to see who can do the largest number of projects in the shortest time for the smallest budget. And, more unfortunately, this leads to much frustration for the creative employees. Me, I like to work with Flash because of its, well, its flashiness. I love interesting page transitions, animations, particle effects, nifty rollovers, etc, etc. These, though, are invariably the first things on the chopping block. Actually, more accurately, they never even make it to the chopping block – they are things “we’ll look into if we have some extra time” and that extra time, sadly enough, just never materializes.

The other biggest consideration for my career change is sort of an extension of the first. I sat down and asked myself, “What do I really enjoy about Flash / Actionscript development?”. The answer is not that I enjoy using the final product. Of course the final product is very important to me, but I spend very little time actually visiting websites or using Facebook applications I create once the development cycle is complete. The joy for me comes during the development cycle. I love the things mentioned above as well as the things that the end user will never experience: a clever twist of code or an optimized algorithm that shaves a few milliseconds off performance time,  or the object oriented structure of a complex program fitting together like a puzzle, or just that feeling of elation that comes when solving a particularly nasty problem you’ve been working on for hours or days. And, let’s face it, game development will bring these enjoyable programming elements in spades. And also, while I’m thinking of it, of all the final products I have actually enjoyed revisiting, games have always been at the top of the list.

Finally, there is the company itself. PopCap is a world renowned casual gaming company. How could any self respecting Flash Platform developer not be thrilled by the opportunity to join the team that brought the world Plants vs. Zombies and Peggle? Just thinking about it makes me look forward to tomorrow more than I’ve looked forward to a Monday morning in quite some time.

Anyway, activity on this blog may quiet down for a bit as I settle into my new role and learn myself some new shiny skills. In the future, though, you can expect to see more posts here on game development, game theory, and Actionscript optimization in general.

But in the meantime, check out Adobe’s new Flash Platform Game Developer Center. That’s where I’m heading right now.

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