A Look Back
I graduated from school in the summer of 1996 with a Diploma of 3D Computer Graphics and I had set my sights on getting hired in the game industry. Vancouver only had a few studios, so I had to apply all across North America. Luckily, at that time it was fairly easy for a Canadian to get a work visa for the US in this field and I was able to land a job at Konami’s studio outside of Chicago. I was hired not only for my art skills and willingness to relocate, but because I was very familiar with baseball, having grown up playing the sport. The team I joined only consisted of about eight people, half of which were Japanese ex-pats, and everyone was older than me. I was only 20 and completely unaware of what I was getting myself into. Not that knowing would have changed anything, but it did mean I had to grow-up fast.
The first thing I discovered was that school hadn’t quite prepared me for working in games. My first tasks were creating the player textures and I had only barely been exposed to Photoshop. I did have decent drawing skills and I was able to pick up the software quite easily. The real challenges came from the fact that I had to draw with a mouse and the model was built in pieces and had to be textured in the Playstation tools of the day, which meant I could only see one piece at a time. Imagine trying to line up the stripes that run down a player’s leg when you can only see one section of the leg!
The next thing I learned, and learned the hard way, was how important it was to follow naming conventions. All the player textures had a very specific format that I had to follow and over time I changed it out of necessity. Changing the format wasn’t the actual problem as I received permission to do so, but rather that I didn’t fully understand the naming convention and why it had been structured the way it had been. The solution I came up with sounded logical, but when we started optimization, everything fell apart. It was at this point that we came up with a new convention and I had to manually rename over 900 files. Needless to say, I never made that mistake again.
Most of the rest of development is a bit of a blur. A lot of my time was spent modeling and texturing assets for the front end. I also animated several scenes used during the credits and scenarios. I even took charge of the QA department, probably because I was really good at playing the game. I remember having to stay overnight, sleeping under my desk during the final submissions. After all of that, I knew that I loved every minute of it.