What is your current role at EA?
I’m Senior Software Engineer on Frostbite’s Rendering team. I work in the Image Quality group, where we handle many of the rendering features, including lighting shadows and post processing. Recently I worked on Frostbites’ Physically Based Rendering upgrade and revamping the post-processing technology so that we can seamlessly support High Dynamic Range TVs.
How did you begin your video gaming career?
I became fascinated with video games in the mid-1980s, but didn’t decide that I wanted to make games for a living till the early ‘90s. Since I could not code at the time, I studied Maths, Physics & French at school to give myself a good base, eventually I studied Computer Science at University. I joined Criterion Games straight out of University and the studio was acquired by EA in 2004.
What was your first role at EA?
When I joined Criterion I initially joined the Shared Tech group, working on numerous projects including audio and networking code for the Sega Dreamcast. I specialised in rendering since that was my passion and threw myself into learning the PS2 hardware as soon as I could get access to it. The tech group ultimately was disbanded in favour of working directly on the games, building technology that sat on top of RenderWare 3.x and sharing it between games.
I then moved on to lead the Rendering team for the Burnout games and beyond, as well as helping with engine architecture and performance. The shared technology mindset stayed with me and I moved from Criterion to Frostbite a few years ago.
Why did you want to work at EA? What is the most rewarding thing about your job?
Far and away it was the people and their passion. I remember many of us being cautious about the EA acquisition. Criterion was an independent studio that worked well together and worked on a game for EA before that didn’t ship, so there were nerves about joining this large company. But we knew there were some great people at EA, and the decision to join was very quickly justified. We met more amazing people across EA who inspired us with their passion, talent and willingness to share as well as challenging us (a lot!) to improve. We learnt loads from EA but were able to contribute as well.
What has been your favorite title to work on?
Burnout 3. We front-loaded a lot of the work to get the game to what many people would consider shippable with roughly a third of the development time remaining. We probably could have shipped our Alpha build and done quite well. But we spent the remaining time improving and polishing every single aspect of the game, responding to feedback from experienced people who provided helpful critique and perspective, and then I got to help promote it on the show floor at E3 to an incredibly positive reception. It felt like all the stars aligned and it remains one of EA’s highest rated games on Metacritic.
I also have a special place for Burnout Paradise. This was a game we tried to do on new technology written entirely from scratch, on a new console hardware generation (PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360), while simultaneously moving to open world and real-time time-of-day, pushing the boundaries of gameplay while sticking at 60fps, all in 12 months. With hindsight that timeframe was aggressive and it was certainly challenging! It ended up taking 24 months but Paradise ended up superb, and this almost certainly wouldn’t have happened without EA’s backing and the extra time necessary to realise the potential.
What is your favorite thing about the working environment at Criterion?
There are a lot of great people here! I’m co-located with two game teams (Ghost and Criterion) as well as Artworks UK with much of the Frostbite physics team. That alone means I can always speak to people working on current and future games, discuss art workflows and general rendering developments, and work with other Frostbite disciplines with ease. We also overlap the various US and Swedish time zones which helps communication with our colleagues overseas.
What’s your favorite perk at EA?
It may not surprise you when I say it’s the people. I find it hard to emphasize enough how amazing it is to be able to talk to and work with such talented and passionate people daily.
What are some of the challenges you face in your role?
I find the biggest challenge is time management. Being part of the central rendering team is amazing, we provide support to the majority of EAs worldwide rendering community, bring people together to collaborate as well as working on the tools and tech for today and the future. We prioritize as best we can, which is steadily getting easier because we are growing in number. Frostbite Rendering is a challenging but rewarding place to work and I can guarantee you will never be bored.
What advice can you give to someone who aspires to work in gaming?
Communication skills, being open, honest and willing to learn are most important. You can always learn new technical skills, but it’s hard to learn the attitude that enables it. I find it more enjoyable to work with someone who is openly inexperienced yet passionate and willing to learn, than someone who is experienced but jaded or cynical. Also, imposter syndrome seems genuinely common so try not to put yourself down or hold yourself back based on any assumptions that you might not be good enough. Just give it a shot.. There will be setbacks and challenges but seize any chance you get; you likely know more than you give yourself credit for. Also, trust your instincts.
How do you unwind and unplug?
I love spending time with my family and enjoy playing games, cooking and reading. My young daughter is wonderful and it’s important that I ‘snap out’ of any mind-occupying work to give her the time she needs.
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