This time A Conversation with… tracked down Morgan Davidson, from our 10th graduating class, at BigPark.
- Tell me about what you are doing now in the Games IndustryCurrently I am working as a software engineer at BigPark splitting my time between working on an unannounced project and the next iteration of the NFL video streaming app for Xbox One.
How has this changed since you graduated?
Since graduation, I’ve been lucky enough to get to learn a wide variety of engineering disciplines. From web development, to building mobile games using Unity, to helping to design and build a brand new app/game engine from scratch using C++ and LUA. I’ve bounced around a lot and have had the benefit of being exposed to a variety of different programming disciplines.
Can you describe a typical day in your office?
On a typical day I get in around 9:45ish and go through my e-mails. I then have a scrum at 10:00 to sync with my team and discuss what we got accomplished the day before and what our plans are for today. After that I’ll go back to my desk and code from around 10:30 to 12:30 when I go take a lunch break. Then after lunch I’ll come back and continue coding until around 2 o’clock or so. Usually after 2 is when most of my meetings take place. On any given day there will be several meetings, some impromptu at a coworkers desk or the nearest whiteboard for a brainstorming session. These meetings will involve either systems architecture discussions with other engineers, or planning sessions with my PM, or briefs from the design team where we discuss the latest changes in design from the last few days. Usually these meetings are peppered throughout the remainder of the afternoon up until around 4:30 or so when things start to quiet down again. After that I’ll usually put my head down and try and get whatever I was working on that day finished up by around 6 and then head home.
What’s the most fun thing you get to do? What’s the most stressful/challenging?
The most fun thing for me is systems design. I love working through a complex technical challenge and coming up with an elegant and robust design to solve a problem. Sitting in a room with a bunch of engineers brainstorming ideas and coming out with a strong, solid plan for a new system in our engine or framework is a very satisfying feeling to me.
The most challenging aspect of my job is the deadlines. When you’re coming up to a large milestone and have a large overflow of tasks assigned to you, it can sometimes feel like you’ve been working for days only to see the net amount of tracked work has gone up. Thankfully these periods of incresed churn and overtime are few and far between for the most part.
What games are you playing right now, and what elements have impressed you?
Currently I am hopelessly addicted to Hearthstone. The level of strategy and depth of gameplay possible has blown my mind. There are virtually limitless deck building options combined with the drastically different gameplay possibilities that each class provides. I found that as I started working in the games industry though that my time and drive to actually play large games has been reduced drastically. This is something else I love about Hearthstone is it allows for very bite sized gaming sessions, without sacrificing gameplay quality like you do with so many other mobile titles out there.
What are some trends you see in upcoming games?
I personally hope that Blizzard has started a new trend with Hearthstone. A very simple, yet extremely high quality game with a tonne of depth designed largely with mobile platforms in mind. I’d love to see the end of the countless number of low quality clones that appear on mobile today.
What do you feel was the most valuable skill that you learned in the Game Design program at VFS?
I feel like it is really helpful to have at least a basic knowledge of every discipline in game design in order to have the context to perform your job to the best of your ability. VFS gave me that exposure, from writing, to level design, to programming, to art and animation. I may not be rigging up characters or writing giant game design documents, but I have that perspective now which deffinitely impacts how I design the systems and tools that these people will actually be using. This combined with the very practical production like setting that VFS creates for the students really gave me a headstart over someone who was maybe coming from a more traditional degree based education path.
If you could give a current student in Game Design some advice, what would it be?
Simply showing up to class and doing the assignments is only a very small part of what your education should be. Go above and beyond what’s minimally required of you. Use every ounce of the resources that are available to you. Experiment and fail lots. Get feedback from not only your instructors but more importantly from your peers. If your peers see that you are fully engaged, they WILL want to work with you in school and outside of school as well. It’s all about work ethic. Don’t restrict your learning to just class time. Continue learning on your own. Read up about the subjects you’re being taught outside of class and really get absorbed in them. This is your time to really give everything you have and impress people. Do you remember that guy that simply showed up to class and did the bare minimum to pass? Yea, me neither.
Thanks for the update Morgan, best of luck with the Unannounced project!