Thursday, April 23, 2015

Sean Weiland

Name: Sean Weiland
Twitter: @Male_npc
Gender: Male
Nationality: USA
Birth date: 20/02/1984
Title: Project Leader
Company: Risen Phoenix
Some games that you have worked on: 

Go Go Galago

1-What did motivate you to become a game developer? 

I spent most of my childhood playing games. Then I made a series of choices that sent me to seemingly completely contrasting career paths (theatre, bartender, dance instructor). At one point I realized that all of the work that I enjoyed doing was also work that needed to be done to make games, a product I loved any way. I was 24/25 when I made that realization and actually started pursuing game development. 

2-What does inspire you creatively? 

Just about everything inspires me creatively. It's probably why I have a large number of projects going on at any one point in time. Music and live performance are among my top favorite things that always leave me feeling jazzed to work on my own projects. 

3-If you had unlimited resources to make any game you wanted, what kind of game would that be? 

An Oculus RIft style VR MMORPG. I want to be plugged into an online world. 

4-What was the biggest challenge of your career? In which game? How did you overcome it? 

The biggest challenge was probably getting into games. I was already trained and good at other work. After starting to get work, market was/is the biggest obstacle. I don't think I've overcome it yet. Getting people to know about you and your game is one of the hardest things for an indie to do. 

5-What do you usually do for raising the possibility of success in your projects? 

Talk about what I'm working on to whoever will listen. BTW Steamalot (tactics game) has been greenlit and we are working on a spiritual successor. 
I do ^that^ 20 times a day. 

When it comes down to the project I try to go for the highest quality result that I can afford by time, talent, and money. Even if it is harder and pushes deadlines to the limit; every extra effort is worth it. 

6-What is the most helpful piece of constructive criticism you ever received? 

"You haven't begun to be creative until you've thought of everything. Once you've gotten all of that out of the way, you can start on the real work."

7-What are the advantages/downsides to working in games?

The advantages for me are that I get to leverage many facets of my interests. I love working on projects that have lots of unknowns (which can be VERY stressful for lots of people). I like planning projects, working on designs, and providing feedback to my co-workers. 
The downsides to working in games is that it is still intensive work that can take a long time and still result in failure. It is also a field where people constantly underestimate the amount of work that goes into a project. The work is also highly project based; meaning that when development is over many people find themselves looking for work again. It can be unsettling to look for work/move every few years. 

8-What is your best advice to a beginning game developer?

Learn things besides your core skills. Take history, literature, art, psychology, and anything else you like. Take a class in something you hate too! Games are an art form and art is the reflection of the world around you. If you don't experience the world your products will be flat and uninteresting. 
Also fail early and often. Don't wait for someone to tell you to make a game or to get that "big break". This isn't Broadway or Hollywood. Start making games and get all of the suck out of the way now so you can start making some really good stuff. 

9-Which skills are the most important for a game developer in your field/position?

:-O, dam. The most important skill for an indie developer is everything ;-) I wish that weren't true. I am a poor coder, but I still can sit down and understand what code is doing. The same goes for art, I don't have very refined skills for art, but I can describe what colors, shapes, and lines are doing for specific assets and give feedback accordingly. For an project lead/designer, flexibility, thick skin, and the ability to communicate with every type of person you meet is essential. 

10-If I want to become a great dev in your field, what games should I play, what books should I read, and whose work should I follow?

Hmmmmm, that's a toughie. You should play as much as you can get your hands on. Even bad games can teach you about what to avoid in game design. Hit up best of lists for the last 10 years as well as IGF nominations/winners from forever. There are good books for every field within games. This is so subjective that I can really only say start following the people you like that make games you like. If I were me, I would and do follow Jane Mcgonigal, Brenda Romero, Jesse Schell, and Richard Garriott. That's just a sampling though. There are many people out there to learn from. 

11-What changes do you want to see in the game industry?

There needs to be a larger forward facing movement to be inclusive in games. Its seems like developers are on board with diversity in games, but the games themselves are only slowly changing. I think due to unwanted backlash developers/companies have been quite about big social issues over the last year or so. 

Bonus: Tell us a funny story from your adventures in game development.

I don't know that anything really funny has happened while making a game (except for lewd design proposals). Since coming into game development most of my silly happenings have occurred from being in close proximity to influential people and been totally unaware of it until after. 
One of my favorites happened 3 years ago at the very last GDC Online in Austin, TX. I was hanging out with some new friends at a speakers social. I was volunteering at the event and then told to hang out and drink. I obliged. I saw a kid commenting on a guys t-shirt saying it "was funny". The gentleman kept a straight face and said he didn't see how his Disney script shirt that read "malt whiskey" was funny, and stolidly rejected his remarks. THAT made me laugh. "malt whiskey" and I started chatting. We introduced ourselves by first names and met up a couple of times during the week to have drinks and hang out. On the very last day Steve ask about my volunteer coordinator and asked me to deliver a message to him, saying that they were old friends. It was something about calling my coordinator an old man. 
I was all in, went to my coordinator, delivered the message, and awaited the laugh. He instead responded "Who exactly told you to deliver that message." I paused realizing I only knew this guys first name. I said "Steve", and described him. The coordinator and his wife looked at me and agreed that they know who sent the message and asked if I did. I said it was the guy I was drinking with! They laughed even harder and told me to google him. I immediately felt nervous. Being able to search for someone with expected results means I completely missed something. "Steve" is Steve Meretzky, game designer and one of PC Gamer's "Game Gods". 
I had no idea who he was. The jaws that dropped when I told people who I was hanging out with were enough to inform me that I had been painfully oblivious. On the up side, whenever I see "Steve" at an event, I know exactly what scotch to order. 

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