We speak to Tech Director, Steve Walker, about life at Firesprite.
What has your journey through the games industry looked like over the years?
I’ve been into making games for a long while now - ever since I discovered I could program straight into my zx spectrum 48k as a kid. I moved on to programming games into my graphical calculator in the back of Chemistry class (amazing how many kids needed to borrow that calculator…). I then went to Leeds Uni and studied Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence.
When I left Uni, I applied round a few places and landed a job at Krisalis software as a programmer on Football Manager… I’d say the degree got me in the door, but the football management sim I wrote on my calculator in Chemistry class got me the job. I’ve been in the games industry ever since in various roles. I spent a long spell as a physics / engine coder at Eurocom, then attempted running my own company for a couple of years before another long spell as Tech Director at Slightly Mad Studios (Project Cars), before arriving here today. I’ve also been involved in various indie game projects in my spare time over the years – starting on Xbox live indie games in the 00s. I think this kind of thing keeps you fresh and these days I love getting my kids involved making little things.
What is your favourite thing about working at Firesprite?
The people. It’s a really supportive, welcoming atmosphere here. I’m pretty sure all the other staff spotlights I’ve read have said that, but that just shows you it’s true.
If you could learn to do something new, what would it be?
Ooo, tricky one, so many things come to mind. I’d love to be able to play an instrument really well (I can bash out 3 chords on a uke ). I’d love to be a better artist (maybe one day). I wish I could ice skate without injuring myself every time I try it (lifetime 3 for 3…).
What advice would you give to someone hoping to one day pursue a path into Technical Direction?
First up I don’t think you can or should set out aiming for Tech Director. I know I didn’t. Set out to be a coder. Don’t be in a big rush to become a lead – the longer you spend making games, enjoying coding, and getting experience, the better you will be when you do step up to lead roles.
So, becoming a coder. It’s really not that hard to do. Computers do what you tell them. EXACTLY what you tell them to do. Like an annoying brother who is trying to wind you up!
Computer: “Well, I did what you told me!”
Me: “No, but I didn’t mean….”
Computer – “Well, you didn’t tell me EXACTLY ENOUGH “
Coding is a broad subject too, you need to learn to think logically, approach problems well and confidently, and be a great google searcher, more than you need to learn every last detail of a particular programming language.
Languages and tools are continually advancing and changing, which is great, it makes our lives easier. So, dive in, download whatever you find easiest to work in – maybe Unity or Unreal – and hack the example project until all the characters have your face – or the gravity is like the moon. CONGRATULATIONS you are a coder. From here it’s just time, practice, and knowledge to pick up along the way. You might choose to gain skills at Uni, you might choose to make indie games and pickup skills there. Ideally – do both!