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Raven Software Interview

 

We got a hold of some of the good people over at Raven Soft and got to pick their brain and ask a few questions and get to know some of the people behind the great games we love to play!

 

Interviewees:

  1. Brian White
  2. Shen Spurgeon
  3. Ryan Hummer

 

Question: So, tell us a little about you and what you do?

A:

  1. My name is Brian White and I am a Technology Programmer at Raven Software.  I do mostly low level engine programming.  I work on graphics, animation, and sound systems as well as doing a lot of console specific programming and profiling.
  2. My name is Shen Spurgeon and I’m a visual effects artist.  I created visual effects for Singularity to give the environment movement and atmosphere, worked with designers to make small and large scale events more personal for the player and created multiplayer-specific effects for soldier and creature classes.
  3. My name is Ryan Hummer, and I am a Tools Engineer.  As a Tools Engineer it is my job to make applications or plug-ins for other applications, like Photoshop or Max and Maya that help our artists, animators, designers, and engineers get content into the game quickly and efficiently.   For example, if you are familiar with the Unreal Editor that Epic provides with the UDK.  That is something I would be working on to add new features people request or fixing bugs that people report.

 

Q: When did you decide that this was something you want to do for a career?  How long have you been doing this?

A:

  1. I always knew I wanted to be a computer programmer, and video games was always a dream of mine.  It wasn’t until my junior year in college when I joined a startup company making video games that I realized that it was a career I could get into.  I’ve been doing this for 7 years.
  2. I went to art school for animation, but after many starts and stops, I was left with a desire to chase non-artistic pursuits.  Eventually the gig fell in my lap and I’ve been doing it for over three years and enjoying the challenge I’m given every day.
  3. I decided I wanted to work on video games as my career when I was in high school.  I grew up being an avid gamer and as I grew older I realized this is what I wanted to do.  I like problem solving and with my job I do a whole lot of problem solving pretty much every day.  I’ve been doing this for five and a half years now.  Raven is my first job in the industry.

 

Q:  When working on a project, how long does it take to do take an idea for a game and turn it into a playable finished product?

A:

  1. It varies greatly on the project, from 2 to 5+ years.
  2. Really depends on the size of the idea.  There’s a lot of iteration on the portion of the game you work on, at least for me as an artist.  I must have set-dressed the environment for the village with weather effects more than ten times.  The environment would change for gameplay purposes and I was last in line to fix the effects.  Flexibility in creating new art assets or just helping other artists if they are swamped is important as well.
  3. That varies project by project.   On average it usually takes two to three years to take a game from inception to completing.  That is far from the norm in this industry, as there are games like Duke Nukem Forever that has been in development for 10 years.   At Raven we have finished a few games in just over a year and other games have taken five years, for example Quake 4 and Wolfenstein.

 

Q: What would you say is your favorite part of making a game? How much of yourself do you put into something like this?

A:

  1. I think my favorite time is at the beginning, during pre-production.  Everyone is trying out new ideas and there’s more freedom to be creative.
  2. To see the art asset you have slaved over for hours end up being used the way you intended is quite nice.  As an effects artist, it’s hard not to be connected to the work because so much of it is you problem solving and making a particular vision be seen for everyone else.
  3. I have a behind the scenes type role.  So for me my favorite part during projects is adding new functionality to our tools, or adding a new tool where we I can see the users of that tool see their productivity increase so they can make the game better and faster.

 

Q:  After you have completed a project/game do you end up getting your self a copy and playing it at home? Do you say to yourself, “yea, I made this!”

A:

  1. Yeah, we’re all very proud of what we make.  My favorite part of finishing a game is poster signing day.  Everyone gets a poster and all the people that worked on the game go around and sign each other’s posters.  I keep all of mine in frames at home.
  2. I do.  I even showed my friends and forced them to buy it.
  3. Here at Raven we get a free copy of the game when it is released.  We get to choose which platform we want our copy for, if the title ships on multiple platforms like the PS3 and Xbox360.  For me I really can’t point out and say “Yeah! I helped make this level” or I helped make that boss fight or AI.    I’m more a behind the scenes guy so  I only get to say I made it possible so that level could be made or so that boss model could be put into the game.

 

Q: Out of everything you have worked on, what would you say is the best you are proud of? And what took the most time to complete?

A:

  1. I would say Wolfenstein is the game that I am most proud of.  It was a long road, but we put our heart and souls into it.  It is such a great IP, we were honored to be involved with it.
  2. In Singularity, the thing I’m most proud of would have to be the blue burst of energy that happens when you successfully capture the beacon in multiplayer.  It’s very satisfying.  The teleport effect probably took the most time to complete just because of how it would be viewed in first and third person.  Another one of my favorite visuals, but it had the potential to look goofy.  Thankfully it didn’t!
  3. I spent a lot of my development time on Wolfenstein; so improving the tools used for that project is something I’m extremely proud of.  The most time I spent working on one thing would be around 4 months to do a lot of reworking of the code for our level editor so it would be easier to add all the features people were requesting to be added.

 

Q: What are you working on right now? Can you give us any hints or any upcoming surprises in store for us?

A:

  1. Unfortunately, no.  They don’t let us talk about ongoing projects.
  2. I’m knitting some fingerless gloves.  They may or may not keep my hands warm when I play video games.
  3. I’m afraid I can’t talk about what game I’m working on right now.  All I can say is I’m busy making better tools for our developers.

 

Q: Is there anything you want to say to the fans of your work?

A:

  1. Thanks for supporting us!  Without you we wouldn’t be able to do this wonderful job!
  2. Vitamin C is good for your health!

 

2 Comments

  1. WatchGrassGrow says:

    Oh nice, I’ve always been a big fan of id Software and Raven Software so it’s pretty cool you got to do this!

  2. Jokerzwild says:

    Cool interview, it must be so challenging to have a project take so long while tech is changing so much, the stuff you started with is dated by halfway through the project.