Few can forget GTA Vice City – it’s an absolute classic, one of my all time favourites. Amazingly enough I had the good fortune to actually work at Rockstar North on this title. Just hours after my last Computing Science exam I got a call about an interview with DMA Design, which was weird because me and a friend had just been looking at their advert in Edge magazine! It said “Join the family” and now I was being invited to do just that, this was arguably the most exciting thing that had ever happened in my life, given my lifetime obsession with getting involved in the games industry. Ever since the ZX Spectrum days I would stare at anything on the screen and wish I had been involved somehow, and I was especially interested in becoming involved with “famous” games and brands that people have actually heard of, or brands that I downright adored, like Sinclair or them blokes who made Lemmings on the Amiga!
I still get excited watching this trailer, in fact I have a VHS somewhere full of every time I saw it on TV!
Needless to say I was super excited, I went to the interview, and got the job! I joined DMA Design on my 21st birthday, on June 10th 2001. A week later they were Rockstar North, which means a lot more now than it did back then, it meant nothing. In fact for a while they were simply Rockstar Studios if I recall, we even had a tartan logo at one point, which of course is not the real logo now (I got pics but I don’t want a slap from T2 🙂 ).
Rockstar North is such an amazing place to be, surrounded by talent as far as the eye can see and treated with respect. Not to mention the fact that we were all sitting with £20,000 development PS2s, joypads and nice tvs working on a freaking awesome game! It was the dream job, and I felt like I had landed on my feet more than I had even expected, surely this is it for a man of my dreams!
Unfortunately no, my brain would have other ideas. I became quite depressed that I couldn’t be the designer of anything, merely the implementer. The prized role of “coder” on a AAA title was prestigious and ego inflating, but it didnt touch the soul like really designing what you develop does. Collecting bedroom coders doesn’t always work, because almost always they have been the designer, the coder, the musician and the tea lady in their last productions. They can probably happily be relieved of being the tea lady and the musician in most cases, but a large part of the brain is lopped off once you also lose designer status, coding is fun sure, but is it really that fun if you aren’t implementing your ideas? If the task at hand is not something you really want to do right now, or will receive much gratitude from, it’s more or less like doing maths homework to get the right answer, you don’t get that zombie head exploding moment in the same way.
I resigned after 4 months and ventured intrepidly into the world of mobile games development, telling myself, yes one man can still make a game alone, it’s time to look at mobile like you looked at Amiga, and get a game out, where you are the designer again. I did exactly that with Super Wah Wah Ball.
On a final note, I have “grown up” quite a bit since these days – this was literally my first industry job – of course I have to code things I don’t enjoy, constantly and daily, for months on end, and probably I would have done well to stay with Rockstar. But, these days, more or less I reserve my game skills for my own personal projects and in that way I am always the man with the ideas, giving myself the right task when I actually feel like doing it. With any kind of development if you are left alone for long enough every single module can be enjoyable to write, given enough time to be in the mood for each one. This is probably why personal projects and indie games end up so great most of the time.