From Webdev to Gamedev, Part 3

This is a continuation of my first and second posts detailing my journeys as a programmer. This final post will be about returning to the land of Gamedev, and once it’s done, I hope to write more about games that I love, and what makes me love them.

In my last post, I explained how I went from a junior sysadmin to a Sr. Technical Yahoo working on one of the most exciting social web projects in a matter of 5 years. It’s dizzying to think of how quickly I ended up with so much responsibility, but I learned to ride a wave when it’s there for you, and do your best to get up on your board again when you fall down.

At Yahoo, I had to re-humbleize myself, as they do business at a scale that is unimaginable until you’ve actually seen some of it. You can’t imagine what it’s like to prepare for gigantic mainstream audiences. Think Grand Unified Theory of n00bs, but having to prepare for that from the very beginning.

It took about a year, but I was able to get up to speed and lead the technical side of a transition from small, good ol’ Upcoming.org to Upcoming.yahoo.com, ready to bring in a much wider audience and handle substantially increased traffic. We continued to be a tiny team, and making it all the way to a yahoo.com subdomain was a big accomplishment for us.

While attending SXSW in 2007, I got kind of bored with the insider-ish web panels where nothing substantial was being discussed, and instead I headed over to the gaming panels to see what that was about. I ended up being wowed by the content, and inspired by the conversations that were both foreign and familiar. The gaming industry was going through many of the same transformations to handle the networked expertise of the new generation, and it was fascinating to see how they were trying to incorporate participatory media into games. It inspired me to go deeper and analyze game mechanics more deeply. I ended up writing a well-received three-part analysis of avatars in which I tried to sort out the orthogonal components of social representations of ourselves that we use on the web and in games.

Because of that interest of mine, I spent part of my time creating an achievements platform for the web at the internal incubator called Brickhouse. It was intended to be an XBOX Live-style achievement system where anyone could make an achievement for anyone else, but I eventually realized that it wasn’t the right time or place to do the Bravonation experiment and nurture it for three or four years until it could grow. Andy had a great writeup of it here. Part of the concept – the platform API for achievements and recognition – seems validated by the achievement platforms operating for iPhone games such as AGON Online, but the other part still hasn’t really been accomplished yet.

I resigned from Yahoo! in March of 2008, two and a half years after starting there. I had come in as a social media programmer, and the trajectory I was on when I left was leading me towards the intersection of social websites and games. I was kinda burnt out, and I spent a good amount of time just playing games again, in a way I hadn’t really done since middle school. I did some consulting work for great clients, and kept myself afloat that way. Actually, because of my love for Halo 3, I ended up meeting some really interesting people, and started renting studio space from the Flight Comics folks.

It was here that I started developing some game prototypes, such as Skybox and the work-in-progress Monster Boxing title. It’s going to take some time to really transition my skills, but the availability of Javascript-like Unityscript in the Unity3d game engine is helping me get going quickly. Right now, Apple devices are my target of choice, and it looks like it’ll be that way for a few more years at least. It’s impossible to tell what the future holds, so it’s time to just hustle my way to building games, websites, and software that helps people out. Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll stay tuned for blogging that will be less about myself and more about actual games. 🙂