A Decade

I can’t remember the exact date, but I know it was early May or the end of April, 2002. I’ve just realized I had started my gamedev adventure almost exactly 10 years ago. It seemed like a logical step, never really considered any other career choice, it was my dream job and quite natural progression after few years of demo coding. I responded to a job advertisement at the gbadev mailing list (wow, I love the Internet, I actually found this post), flew to Palermo for a weekend, survived my first job interview (even though I was still slightly hung over from the party 7th Sense guys took me the day before…) and before I knew it - I was flying to Italy again, this time for good.

10 years is a nice, symbolic milestone and I was thinking about it a little bit. Mostly, I was considering what factors shaped my career and to be honest – the most influential was… blind luck. Sure, we can shape our future to some extent, but for most of us - it’s quite limited. I’m not talking about geniuses of Carmack or Sweeney caliber here - those guys play in another league, I’m thinking your average game developer. This industry is very hit driven, so it’s very important to be in the right place at the right time (and work with the right people). I’ve always been quite spontaneous, maybe even a little bit too hasty for my own good, but in general and most of all - I have been pretty lucky.

  • I could not dream of better introduction to the industry. 7th Sense was a very small company (team of 15-20 people), so they didn’t have junior positions and everyone had to pull his weight. I had to hit the ground running, I was one of 3 coders on our project. There was our lead & engine programmer, tool programmer (and my flatmate) and me, responsible for most of the game code. My first platform was GBA, which taught me to respect limited resources and CPU power. 7th Sense engine & code was all C + assembler, no C++. I was a little bit surprised at first and wasn’t sure it had been the right decision, being fresh C++ coder I couldn’t wait to unleash my amazing template skills… I quickly learnt C++ is not a silver bullet and answer to all problems and C resulted in much leaner, tighter codebase

  • I was lucky and applied to CD Projekt Red almost by accident. My previous company got into some problems and laid off lots of employees, including me. I wanted to stay in Warsaw and the only companies that were hiring at this time were People Can Fly and CDPR. I applied to both, CDPR recruiting process was shorter and I was in a hurry. This way I got a chance to work at the biggest project in Poland (at that time), based on works by one of my favourite writers. Spent there 5 great years, learnt a lot, shipped my first big AAA game. I guess we were all lucky, because at that time there was exactly one company in Poland that had enough money, patience and long term vision to spend 4+ years on a game. In 9 out of 10 parallel universes, The Witcher was cancelled or shipped prematurely, fortunately in ours - we managed to hit the market with a pretty decent game. I was lucky to work with a great team and I am especially grateful to my lead for his patience. It was there where I first started working between engine & gameplay team and initially – wasn’t too happy about it, I wanted to do rendering. We already had a great rendering coder, though, so Jacek persuaded me to give gameplay a try (and still let me code some minor rendering features :). I was lucky to lead a great bunch of guys, which didn’t really require almost any work anyway, so I could focus on coding :).

  • it was a smooth ride from there… After shipping The Witcher, everything became easier. I had a chance to work at two other great companies and learn a ton of new things again. I worked on a FPS for a change, gained practical experience with multiplayer coding, which was interesting and frustrating at the same time. At DE I have a chance to work with the most robust codebase I’ve seen and it definitely opened my eyes…

As you can see – it’s all pretty much a sequence of random events that led me to this point (I only mentioned some of them). Different decisions at every of those point would result in a very different career path, but I wouldn’t change a single one. Here’s to another 10 years! It’ll be interesting to see how the industry/world changes, here’s how it looked back in 2002:

  • Gameboy Advance was the most powerful handheld console out there (well, actually there was also Game Park 32, but it was far less popular). Nintendo DS was released 2 years later

  • Xbox has just been released in Europe, but I didn’t know anyone who owned one, all my buddies had PS2. This included my flatmate, we spent way too much time playing SSX Tricky, Pro Evo (which was superior to FIFA at that time) and MGS

  • there was no Youtube, Google search market share was roughly the same as MSN & Yahoo, there was no Gmail and no Facebook. Most importantly, there was no WOW

  • Poland wasn’t a member of European Union yet. This caused lots of hoops 7th Sense guys had to jump through to get me the work permit

  • there was no Call of Duty games, Infinity Ward has just been founded

Old comments

jack 2012-05-30 16:31:11

sir, i admire what you’re doing.
congratulations on making it to this point in the game;
any suggestions how can i, basically a nobody, do something and get out of this acidland and learn to stop worrying and love the bomb; be able to appreciate the beauty in the world;
you say it’s luck; so opportunity plus preparation; any tips on how to prepare well?
also, when was the first time you watched fight club and do you still think it was a good movie?
i am jack’s wasted life;

admin 2012-06-01 00:27:15

I dont think there is any other way than hard work & practice, not much magic there.
I have seen Fight Club when it was first released, really liked it as angry teenager. Havent seen it in a while, so not sure how well it holds up. I remember being a little bit disappointed with Palahniuk’s book, though

Hern 2012-07-09 16:37:35

Huh, nice story. Always good to read that there is many different ways to get into the industry. Wish you luck for next ten years :)

arz 2012-07-27 17:33:58

It’s nice that you are aware how much you owe to the indispensable ingredient - luck. (although still, one has to be prepared for luck :)
Back in the day, I had real doubts about the Witcher development and predicted it would be a failure, which would complicate the careers of people involved.