Twenty Years in the WorkForce

My first job out of college started 20 years ago. That’s two whole decades of mostly consistent employment. Here’s a retrospective!

Short Burst of Educational Game Dev

You never forget your first time.

Mine was at Whoola Inc. The project was open-source(!!) and can be found here.

I don’t think anything I coded is in there though. The stint’s duration was less than a year but I learned a lot, especially because of good mentorship. The biggest takeaway was about how to think about code architecture, something that still helps me today.

I think the oddest thing about the job was it was at a dot-com tech incubator after the dot-com tech bubble burst. That is to say, it was mostly dead. Rows of grey cubicles, nearly all of them were empty. It was eerie.

Video Tutorials Galore!

All that we are while we are, we are teaching.

I sacrificed four-and-a-half years of my prime here. It was great until it wasn’t and the “wasn’t” was caused by fast growth, believe it or not. Teaching can be rewarding but selling tutorials is not. Piracy was rampant, competitors were petty and critics were everywhere. The company had to adapt to survive and what it adapted to, I didn’t agree with so I departed. Eventually, the company was acquired by Pluralsight and some of my training material is still accessible there. Here’s a comprehensive list of my works.

Pub. Date Cover Title Notes
2005/03/03 Backwater Bunch 5 Curriculum Research/Development
2005/03/23 Intro to Hypershade Curriculum Research/Development
2005/04/06 Mastering Render Nodes Curriculum Research/Development
2005/04/29 Advanced Shading Networks Curriculum Research/Development
2005/05/06 Ultimate Fluids Curriculum Research/Development
2005/06/24 Intro to RealFlow 3 Curriculum Research/Development
2005/07/22 XSI Particles Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2005/09/22 XSI Soft/Rigid Bodies Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2005/10/04 Intro to Render Tree Curriculum Research/Development
2005/11/15 RF3/Maya Integration Curriculum Research/Development
2005/12/02 ActionScripting for Games Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2006/02/20 XSI Rigging Curriculum Research/Development
2006/02/20 XSI Enveloping Curriculum Research/Development
2006/02/15 Intro to RFM Curriculum Research/Development
2006/03/14 Maya Toon Curriculum Research/Development
2006/05/09 Using Syflex in Maya Curriculum Research/Development
2006/05/07 Intro to Trax Curriculum Research/Development
(A personal favorite)
2006/08/23 Game Techniques in XSI Curriculum R/D and Instruction
(co-authored with Kyle Green)
2006/11/08 Intro to RealFlow4 Curriculum Research/Development
2007/02/05 Shave and a Haircut for Maya Curriculum Research/Development
2007/03/01 mental ray Nodes in Maya Curriculum Research/Development
2007/06/11 Artists Guide to MEL Curriculum Research/Development
2007/07/11 Intro to RFM 2 Curriculum Research/Development
2007/07/18 RealFlow Dynamics Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2007/09/20 Intro to XSI Hair Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2007/11/15 Intro to Dynamics in Maya Curriculum Research/Development
2007/11/27 Intro to nCloth Curriculum Research/Development
2007/11/27 Python Scripting in Maya Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2008/01/03 Introduction to Houdini 9 Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2008/01/16 Introduction to Houdini Dynamics Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2008/02/06 Introduction to Maya Muscle Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2008/02/27 RealWaves in RealFlow Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2008/03/06 Intro to CDK Curriculum R/D and Instruction
(Another personal favorite)
2008/03/24 RBD in Houdini Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2008/04/09 Realtime Shading with XNA Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2008/05/01 Maya XNA Pipeline Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2008/05/09 Flash Maya Integration Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2008/07/09 Shader Pipeline with XSI and XNA Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2008/08/06 Introduction to ICE Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2008/09/25 ICE Node Reference Library Curriculum R/D and Instruction
(Longest material I produced, 10+ hours)
2008/10/13 Introduction to Mantra in Houdini Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2008/10/23 Introduction to nParticles Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2008/11/12 Scripting in RealFlow4 Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2008/12/19 Fluids in Houdini Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2009/03/20 ICE Strands in Softimage Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2009/03/26 mental ray Online Reference Library Curriculum Research/Development
2009/06/05 Intro to Maya 2009 Curriculum R/D and Instruction
(Authored by all DT Instructors, Last Physical Product)
Pub. Date Streaming Content Drops Notes
2009/08/03 Houdini Courses:
Fur; Stereo; Rigging; New Features; Digital Assets
Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2009/08/03 Softimage Courses:
GEM; Normal Maps; Python; ICE States
Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2009/08/03 Others Courses:
Physics in MotionBuilder; RF Particle Morphing; Pixel Bender Intro; Pixel Bender Filters
Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2009/08/03 Animation Tips and Tricks Instruction Only
(R/D by Mark Nunn)
2009/08/04 Rigid Body Tips and Tricks Curriculum R/D and Instruction
(some of the craziest hacks in Maya ever!)
2009/09/03 Houdini Ocean Toolkit Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2009/09/16 RIB Archives in RFM Pro Curriculum R/D and Instruction
2009/09/16 Python in Houdini Curriculum R/D and Instruction
Date Live Instruction
2005/12/03 3December
2006/08/02 XSI Training Center @ Siggraph
2006/09/07 Austin Game Conference
2006/10/15 Nerjyzed
2006/11/16 Brooke Army Medical Center
2008/06/07 Industry Giants
2009/01/19 Motorola
2009/04/20 Motorola
Release Date Special Training DVDs
2006/08/02 DT XSI Siggraph 2006 Edition DVD
2006/08/02 Pixar Siggraph 2006 Special Edition DVD
2007/02/06 DT Artist’s Guide to XSI (XSI 6)
2007/08/06 Pixar Siggraph 2007 Special Edition DVD
2008/07/17 DT Artist’s Guide to XSI (XSI 7)

Gone in a Flash!

This too shalt pass…

Resigning during a Great Recession in the hopes of seizing a better life in California was one heck of a move. In the end, it did pan out but the initial road was rough.

I got on the iPhone game development train and that went nowhere. XNA game projects were taking too long to make. And the runway was slowly but surely dwindling. I did get some familial support but that came with hidden costs. I took small web development projects to keep money coming in but that ate into my development bandwidth. The writing was on the wall…

Before I knew it, my first attempt at going Indie came to an end and I found myself back in the WorkForce as a Flash developer. I worked at a Japanese MLM company and moved on to an “umbrella” company that even Facebook was afraid of (and did illegal things to). I was earning more than I ever did and things were looking up. Until Steve Jobs proclaimed Flash was dead.

The tides were shifting and the gravy train I was riding was about to run out of tracks! Right as it went off a cliff, I found myself leaping off and landing in the game industry. It turned out that UI development in AAA games was mostly Flash-based, driven by a quirky middleware called Scaleform. That was my ticket into the industry I struggled to break into.

BTW Steve Jobs died before Flash did.

Finished Level 3

The game has just begun.

Getting into the game industry was one thing. Surviving it was another. Crunch was real and it was no joke. Beyond that, burnout and stagnation were other issues to contend with.

It’s worth noting that Scaleform reached its End of Life but I learned to not fear obsolescence but to embrace it. Part of that process is improving my skills, learning new tools, and never getting complacent. Oddly enough, I also think about ways to make myself redundant such as documentation and process automation.

It’s been 12 years since I started at EA. I somehow survived, through luck and persistence more than anything. While I was at Ubisoft, the COVID-19 pandemic happened which changed things up. Feeling that life was short, I tried to go Indie one more time; unsurprisingly it didn’t pan out but it did sharpen my skills and also undid my burnout.

With remote work being more prevalent in the game industry, I was free to try contracting and take other risks with my career. I got lucky and found steady employment at Plastic Fern Studios. I currently work on porting Indie games; so in some sense, I have succeeded at going Indie. My goal now is keep making games and add to my ludography. Whether AAA or Indie, make no mistake, game development is difficult; it can be addictive, it can be challenging but it’s mostly difficult.

Still, I’m here.

 Date: May 4, 2024
 Tags:  musings

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