Best Supporting Act

“We see people becoming more efficient, creating cooler stuff, even becoming happier and more relaxed on a personal level as their individual situation improves. To me, that’s a strong driving force.”

Let’s start with the title. Can you explain what you do on a day to day basis?
- As the Studio Lead Architect, I work with the engine technology and the Engine Team to make sure everything we do is geared toward one thing – creating the best open world games possible. That vision has to encompass all technical aspects; tools, pipelines, rendering and more.
- I have to maintain a kind of split vision. First, listen carefully to the needs of the different teams and make sure they have everything required to deliver their milestones. Second, make sure we’re on track in the long term. Maintain a clear focus on where we want to be in 3 years, where we see ourselves in 5 years. In this aspect, we have to stay on the bleeding edge (as they say) and have an idea of what the next generation of consoles or PC hardware will be before platform holders even share that information with anyone.

At 230 employees, Avalanche Studios is a big independent developer, but smaller than many of the publisher-backed juggernauts. How does that reflect on your day to day work?
- As a company, we’re only focused on a handful of projects at any given time. As a developer here, you’re able to see a project through – all aspects of that project – rather than handing your work over to someone else and starting work on the next thing.
- There’s a closeness to what we do. Both mentally – you’re connected to the different projects as they are all developed in-house – and physically; the founders of the company actually sit among us and work on the games just like anyone. At Avalanche Studios, there simply are no closed doors. For me, that very real and tangible lack of visible hierarchy greatly improves my confidence in the leadership.
- Another part of the Avalanche Studios culture, which I think may be connected to this, is to give a lot of freedom and responsibility to the individual. You’re of course supported in various ways whenever you need it, but you are also able to carve your own path, to develop solutions that you believe in.

 

Avalanche Studios is known as a technology driven company.
- And rightfully so, given how strong our proprietary engine is. Also, all the people with the big titles – our CCO, CTO, COO – all have a solid background in hands-on game development, from programming to design, and in most cases still practice their craft on a daily basis. I think that’s a fairly unique position to be in, and it heavily influences their decision making.

Some of the team members closest to you are actually embedded in different projects. How does their work differ from yours?
- A Tools Programmer that is embedded in one of our projects will work very closely with our Designers, Artists or Animators to analyze their needs. Are their workflows efficient? Are there aspects of their day where they are idle, because their tools are slow or transitions between different software are awkward? If that happens, then we try to identify those bottlenecks and develop tools that improve their workflow, and ultimately their workday.
- That’s actually central to the work we do – for most of the truly successful Tools Programmers out there, I would say a common source of passion is the ambition to pave the way for someone else. By doing our work well, we improve the working lives of everyone else at Avalanche Studios. We see people becoming more efficient, creating cooler stuff, even becoming happier and more relaxed on a personal level as their individual situation improves. That’s a strong driving force.
- You know, coming into work in the morning and seeing people actually enjoy using the tools you created, that’s my favorite thing about what I do. Game developers are all highly creative people and they need to enjoy their creation process. If the tools are actually fun and empowering to use rather than limiting, we see the results immediately. That feeling is actually very similar to handing our finished games over to players and seeing the community go wild.

Avalanche Studios use our own proprietary engine. In what way does that influence your approach?
- It really affects every aspect. When you license an engine, many of the low level concepts are typically pre-fabricated out of the box. While it can be nice to have the basics all taken care of, our strength lies in the ability to create customs solutions for every aspect of the engine – all geared toward the end goal of creating explosive open worlds. I would say that’s a prerequisite for us as a relatively small company to be able to compete with the biggest teams and games throughout the AAA world.

What is your favorite thing about working at Avalanche Studios?
- I think we’re working on great games. Games that are interesting, both from a creative and technical standpoint. There’s a great sense of community here – that’s something you hear from almost everyone within the company. People are passionate about their individual contributions and the bigger picture. Both are required to create great games.

“Game developers are all highly creative people and they need to enjoy their creation process. If the tools are actually fun and empowering to use rather than limiting, we see the results immediately.”

Avalanche Studios almost exclusively develop open world games. What do you think is the main draw of working in this genre? As a developer, what's the biggest upside versus a more linear experience?
- For me, the biggest draw of working with open world and sandbox games is to watch the players use and abuse the game worlds we provide. I find it really rewarding to see players mess around with the different sandbox components and invent their own kind of game experience that I would have never thought was possible. Many aspects of our game worlds rely on procedural or semi-procedural, "rule based" asset placement. As a developer it is very satisfying to see my changes and tweaks propagate through all the content and the entire game world.
- For our designers and artists, the ability to quickly visualize the impact throughout the game world becomes very important since you can dramatically change the look of the world easily, sometimes by tweaking a single number.

Compared to teams working on more linear games I think Avalanche Studios has a slightly different team setup with closer collaboration across all disciplines. Our teams are rarely assigned to work on a single level since that concept is relatively redundant in our games. Almost everything we do has to work throughout the entire game world – that can be both daunting and very inspiring.

 

If you could give new applicants to Avalanche Studios some good advice, what would it be? What should they provide with their application, and what should their mindset ideally be?

For your cover letter;

- Explain why you would like to work at Avalanche Studios! What excites you about the games we do and the technology we develop?

- Highlight your unique qualities, especially if you have experience from industries outside of game development. What can you bring to the Avalanche Studios teams that not every other applicant can?

- Make sure to highlight any hobby game projects that you may be involved in, especially if you are a graduate student or coming from outside the games industry.

For the resume;

- Spend your resume real estate wisely, focus on experience that is relevant to the position you are applying for. What have you done in the past that makes you a perfect match for the role?

- Be as specific as possible, explain what you accomplished and how it made the project or product more successful.