Post, First: Jumping from Webdev to Gamedev

It’s been an interesting ride the past 7 months, making a transition from programming Internet-scale web applications to creating and publishing games for my iPhone. When I resigned from Yahoo in March of 2008, I wasn’t really certain what laid in store for me next. To bide my time, I picked up consulting gigs here and there, and also tried to take some time off to relax for the first time since graduating from USC and consider where I’d been and what I’d like to do. Looking back at my life thus far, I owe much of my career success to two passions of mine: games and programming. This is the first in a series of blog posts to try and write a story that goes much further back than that, but may be of interest to young programmers or IT people who aren’t really sure what will come of the seeds of knowledge and experience that they regularly sow.

If it weren’t for games, I’d probably have never started programming in the first place. I caught the programming bug in 9th grade, when I had a TI-81 calculator and a lot of spare time. It was way more interesting drawing pixels on the screen that would entertain my friends than it was to be the captain of the high school math team. Everyone’s first steps are amateurish, but I seriously consider mine to have been downright idiotic. I made a frogger clone, a Star Wars trench run clone, and finally, a simple ASCII character chase game called BAM. Of all of those, BAM taught me that a simple mechanic done well outdoes all of the graphical work you can try to do in a game.

My interest in learning more programming skills didn’t really abate, and when I found myself without work for 5 months in the midst of the tech bust in 2002, I tried to make my first web application, a collaboration suite for graphic designers called PadTie Proofing Site. I convinced myself that names didn’t matter, and plowed forward creating a frame-based way for designers to upload proofs, collect feedback and approvals from clients and sponsors. It wasn’t necessarily a leap of faith that I was taking, and luckily I got hired before I had to try and market the product with that atrocious name. When you don’t have a job, and nobody’s hiring, it’s important to still make some magic happen and build your skills, even if it’s not a “success” per se. The only time you’ll truly push your limits is when you feel like you’re working for yourself, so taking on a personal project when you’re out of work gets my Good Hustle seal of approval.

As it turned out, I got a referral to a Sysadmin job at a local startup, and it was there that I learned important lessons about how to not to run a business by having a front-row seat to a doomed company. I ate a slice of humble pie and learned how to script in bash, ksh, batch, and more. I took on as many responsibilities and as much work as I could, and tried to make sure to be of as much service as I possibly could. Later, when the company folded and I got laid off, my past would come back to reward me in ways that I never expected.

I’ll continue onwards in my next post, because it looks like Skybox 1.1 was just approved, and I’ve got to stop reminiscing and get my efforts oriented around that instead. 🙂

To be continued in part 2…