At a young age I was introduced to two things which would become life long passions of mine: comic books and video games. My allowance of 25 cents forced me to make a choice between buying a comic or playing a game. Most of the time the comics won out because even back then I preferred to have something tangible to hold on to for the money spent. But there were times when I just could not resist the sights and the sounds and had to plunk that quarter into the coin slot and get whisked away into the digital world even if it was only for a few minutes.
My family did not have a lot of money so game system options were pretty limited for me. The Odyssey 2 and Vic 20 were my introduction to home gaming. Thery might not have been the most fancy of game systems but they were enough. I was hooked for life. As I got older and my allowance increased, video games became a bigger part of my life. Me and my two best friends spent many weekends riding our bikes all over San Diego searching out arcades. They might have been buried in the lower levels of a JC Penny’s or be attached to a movie theater or even be a stand alone place (which were always the best). No matter where they were, we tracked them down and spent hours locked away discovering whatever magic they had to provide. Other days, I would quickly finish up my homework, ride my bike 5 miles to the nearest Toys R Us to buy a new game and then race back home before afternoon cartoons started.
But even back then, as much as I enjoyed playing the games, I also loved trying to create my own. I bought books on Basic just so I could make my own text based adventure games that I was sure would rival Zork or Leather Goddesses of Phobos. Any game that had any sort of editor built in, I would spend more time trying to build things than play the actual game.
My passion for comics was still as strong as ever though as well, and drawing became another passion of mine. I loved to draw and would make my own comics from time to time blatantly stealing ideas from the books I had read trying to make them better. Now that I think back on it, whether it was trying to make games or just drawing, it was the fire to create things that drove me and that still pushes me forward every day. When I got into college, art was still very much my passion but knowing how hard of a life Fine Artists had I chose to go the Graphic Arts route. I figured I could always draw and paint on my own time. In my senior year of college we finally got an upgraded computer lab and that changed my life forever. I absolutely fell in love with creating art work on the computer, especially interactive art, and decided right then and there that whatever job I got out of school, it had to be about interactivity. If the World Wide Web had actually existed back then, I would have most likely ended up becoming a web designer. But that was not my destiny.
I spent almost a whole year after college trying to find a job at any interactive company that was doing the kind of work I wanted but I couldn’t get anyone to bite. And then came the day that put me down my life path. I was looking through the Classified section of the L.A. Times and came across an ad for a video game company in San Diego. It asked three simple questions: Do you like to do artwork? Do you like working on computers? Do you like video games? The answer was yes to all three. “Then you should be working in the video game industry” it answered back. And the light bulb went off. I don’t know why I never thought about it before, but it had never dawned on me that there was actually a career out there that allowed you to make games. I got the job and have been making games professionally ever since.
I started off in the industry as an artist, but back in those days there wasn’t an official position for a designer. But I made sure to help out in designing the games that I made anyway I could, whether it was creating fighting moves, or mini games, or even just designing the UI for menu screens. I got my first real solid experience with level building when Unreal Tournament came out and included the Unreal Editor. I spent months playing around with that tool building levels, populating them with traps and enemies and even learned how to import characters that I had built and animated myself.
Fast forward to BottleRocket and Rise of the Kasai. I joined the team after all the design had been done and the level work had started so I missed out on helping to shape the game initially. But once the game was finished, I sat down with the toolset and within two weeks I had built and populated some test levels hacking together some game play ideas that they hadn’t gotten to work like rolling boulder traps and a ship to ship battle. The boss was suitably impressed and he allowed me to shift over to becoming a full time designer. When our lead designer quit, I was promoted up to that position having shown passion, creativity, organizational skills and the drive to get things done no matter what the obstacles.
Being a designer at BottleRocket is the kind of work I always wanted to do. I got to be involved in the shaping of the game from the initial ideas, putting together documents, maps and flow charts. I got to create the systems that worked behind the scenes, endlessly tweaking the variables until everything fell into place. With my artistic background, I created the white box play spaces that then seamlessly became beautiful works of art when the art department got a hold of them. And I got to populate those play spaces with enemies and weapons and power ups, everything that made the game what it was.
Making games is what I love to do no matter what form that might be or what role I might have to take to do so. I just want to create something that people will pick up and play and lose themselves in. Maybe one of those people will get the spark like I did, and eventually find themselves behind the scenes forging the games for the next generation of players. But in the meantime I still plan to create games however I can for as long as I can.