How I Got Into the Industry

I frequently receive emails or questions in person about how I managed to get into the industry. It’s not the most interesting tale to tell, but I’ve answered the question so many times that I thought it might be worthwhile to talk about my journey here. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a brief retelling of how I got to my position today at Green Monster Games.

It all began years ago before the release of Ultima Online. In reality, it probably began shortly after I was born, but I’m just going the MMO route here since that’s the genre I’m part of. Anyway, I became infatuated with The Realm Online, which was one of the first graphical massively multiplayer games, shortly after its release. I had also heard of a little game called Ultima Online that was on its way later in the year, and started doing my research.

I loved the Ultima series, and I loved The Realm Online, and Ultima Online looked to be a beautiful combination of the two. This is when my first fansite was born–The Ultima Online Press. It’s actually preserved on its final host, and in its final form, at FortuneCity. You can see that after it came out, I made one day’s effort to update it (during a server downtime, no doubt), then stopped updating it for good because I was infatuated with the game, and in love with the genre.

That was just the first in a string of gaming websites I worked on, but I won’t go in depth about all of them because they’re only interesting to me. More importantly, I played games. And I played, and I played. I can’t count the number of MMOs I’ve played extensively on my two hands. The Realm, Ultima Online, EverQuest 1/2, Asheron’s Call 1/2, Shadowbane, Final Fantasy XI, PlanetSide, Dark Age of Camelot, World of Warcraft, City of Heroes/Villains, and the list goes on.

Addicted? Maybe. I like to look at it as doing my research that lead me to getting into the industry. Danuser (Moorgard) likes to think of me as a bit of an encyclopedia of MMOs, stating that my obsessive nature and short attention span have lead me to learn a crapload about a lot of different games without ever dedicating myself to any of them. I think he means it as an insult, but I take it as a compliment. Bah, I digress.

Basically, I played a lot of games, and decided that I really wanted to be part of the industry. The first tangible effort in that direction was probably learning DirectX to some extent, and going to school for programming. While in school, I became an intern at a small studio called Maximum Charisma Studios, which made a short-lived MMORTS called Fighting Legends. A great experience, which only lead me to want to be a bigger part of the industry.

While still in Colorado, I took an interest in a game called Lost Continents, which was under development by a place called VR1. I interviewed. I liked it. I interviewed again. They seemed to like me. I interviewed yet again, and it looked like a great fit from both sides. Ah, this was it, my opportunity to become a Game Designer on a massively multiplayer game! YES! And then it was canceled… before I got hired. Ouch. But I didn’t give up. I interviewed at other companies, and kept turning up jobless. But damn it, I wouldn’t give up!

Eventually, I created a site called EQII.com with my old buddy OnyxRaven. It was the biggest pre-release EverQuest II site by far, which got the eyes of SOE on the site and on those who ran it. On a journey to E3 before there was Moorgard (well, in the EverQuest II community), EQII reared its ugly head for the first time. I was invited in for a private showing, and seemed to recognize the guy doing the demo. John Blakely. The guy who did my last interview at VR1. And he wasn’t the only guy on the team who remembered me from those interviews.

After running the site for a couple years, I knew some of the folks at SOE pretty well (partly from email interaction, and partly from hanging with them at Fan Faire), and decided to apply for a temporary position as a Quality Assurance Analyst (a pretty title for Tester). I got it, and took a chance by moving to San Diego, CA from Denver, CO (for a temporary position? Egad!).

It paid off, just as simply interviewing for that position at VR1 did. I worked hard and made myself known by doing so, then got offered a position as a Community Relations Representative for EQII. My previous work on the game’s premier fansite had a lot to do with getting the job on the development team, without question, as did knowing some guys who used to work at VR1.

I then continued that position and worked overtime as an Apprentice Designer for a while. It was fun, but my boss (Moorgard) decided to “demote” himself to Game Designer, and I got his position after he left (Community Relations Manager). I managed to work my way up to a position in Production Management in about 1.5 years, which was a little insane.

And then we come to now. I was offered a position as a hybrid Community Relations Manager and Game Designer by Curt Schilling at his forthcoming startup, Green Monster Games. The idea for the game was the best I’d ever heard, the other team members he’d extended offers to were top-notch, and his business plan was simply amazing. So I decided to investigate it further, and clicked so well with Curt and the other folks who were checking it out at the time that I immediately agreed to move to Boston, MA and start work on the best MMO ever. And working here freakin’ rules.

So that’s where we are today. It’s been an interesting ride, and I’ve now lived in 3 different states as a game developer (and 5 total). The moral of the story, I think, is that the right amount of dedication and perseverance can get you where you want to go, whether it’s in the game industry or elsewhere. Do you want to be a game developer too? Grab the industry by the horns and make it happen. It’s not easy to get a coveted position as a Game Designer, but if I can do it, so can you.

10 Responses to "How I Got Into the Industry"

  1. sex, the story needs more sex.

  2. Greetings!

    You very much remind me of an old friend of mine that I used to work with! Back in the day, when we were selling video games instead of working for their companies. I was listening to a video with your voice on it, introducing the new Echoes of Faydwer expansion (which, by the way, is awesome!) and I could swear you sound just like my co-worker from days of old. Don’t suppose you knew any bewiskered young men working at Electronics Boutique in ’99? (Is that just a silly question?)

    Toodles!

  3. Actually, I did work at EB at Southwest Plaza in Littleton, CO. The manager, Jesse, also found his way to SOE (without my knowledge).

  4. You also established VanguardLive.com with Justin. At least, that’s what I was led to believe, but that’s also where I first encountered your evil presence…

  5. Heh, indeed, and UXOO.com (which didn’t last long, but was fun nevertheless), GameWatchers.net (which never went as far as we intended), kkthxbye.com (which was all too much fun until some guy threatened us with the FBI… it will be seeing a resurrection near the end of Q1 2007…), uh, probably a couple other ideas we didn’t really take anywhere.

    Ryan did what I decided not to do – that is, take a risk on a temporary position with crappy pay to move into the industry. I was close to signing that evil contract, but ended up staying in Boulder doing web development. I still have aspirations to get into the industry, but it’s getting harder and harder to imagine going down the road Ryan did.

  6. I’m running into that same problem myself, only I have mostly a sys/net admin and LAMP background, so unless there’s a position available in that realm of things for getting my foot in the door, I’m pretty much up a creek at the moment for “breaking in”. Alas, such is life, and I continue to dream while posting my thoughts on interesting discussions around the blogosphere. We all do what we can =)

  7. Nocte

    Now you need a blog entry to discuss how you began beat-boxing.

  8. Very inspiring story! Although my dreams of just being cute to get into the business just went down the drain! Jking:p… sorta. I start school in January for graphic design, that was as close as my hubby would let me get to game design:( Athough the argument went on for awhile, he eventually won:( It will be fun though:) Again, very inspiring:)

    Thanks a bunch!

  9. my obsessive nature and short attention span have lead me to learn a crapload about a lot of different games without ever dedicating myself to any of them. I think he means it as an insult, but I take it as a compliment.

    I finally understand why you don’t appear to read my blog – You’re my polar opposite !

    We’re all looking forward to Green Monster’s game. Come up with a name for it already.

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