Breaking In - Joe Venzon

Even art needs a vehicle...

Never mind what doubters or pundits might tell you. Video games are driven by art. At Bungie, we stretch the boundaries of our imaginations to create vivid worlds where you can fight for your lives. Yet, without the right necessary programming, that art would never reach you. That’s where Graphics Engineers come into play. They are some of the most crucial players on our team – and we need more of them. What does it take to fill this role? Let’s ask one of them to find out.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

I’m Joe Venzon, a graphics engineer at Bungie. As a member of our graphics programming team, I work on designing and implementing the rendering techniques that turn cool source art into pixels on the screen. That’s a pretty broad work statement, which can mean anything from working out the math for physical phenomena we’re trying to approximate, to engineering a multi-threaded rendering pipeline, to using a bit of artistic sensibility to figure out how to meet artists’ feature requests. I enjoy the fact that one week I can get really nerdy and work on the nitty gritty details of engine programming, and the next week I might be engaging my creative side and working with artists to help bring their concepts to life.

We would like to know about the Engineer, as much as the Engineering. What are you bringing to life when you are outside the studio?

My number one interest recently has been my nine month old son. Being a dad changes your life like that. When I can find the time, I also play a lot of video games. Lately I’ve been into hardcore PC simulations, like DCS A-10C Warthog (an A-10 flight sim), Dangerous Waters (a submarine warfare sim), WRC (rally racing sim), Arma 2 (infantry sim), and of course Day Z (zombie survival sim). Sometimes on the bus to or from work I also fiddle with little game side projects. I have too many hobbies and not enough time: basketball, skiing, shooting, photography, working on cars, you name it.

Working at Bungie seems like a logical extension of most of those hobbies, although we don’t do a lot of skiing in the studio. Would you plot for us the career path that prepared you to join our team?

I worked at Flying Lab Software on the Pirates of the Burning Sea MMO, and before that I designed flight control system components for the Boeing 787. Working at Boeing was a good first job and I learned how to be an engineer there. It also gave me a broad survey of practical engineering and physics that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise (anyone want to know how an electro-hydraulic servo-actuator works?). When I got an opportunity to get into the video games industry, I jumped. Working at Flying Lab was an interesting change because it was such a small company, and I pretty quickly had a ton of responsibilities, including being the only graphics programmer at the company. It was a fun time, and I worked with some great people, but when I saw Bungie was hiring, I made another leap.

Was that leap a long term goal? I mean to say, when you were just a wee lad, was making video games a component of your playground agenda?

I assumed I’d be designing boring consumer electronic devices or something; I knew I wanted to be an engineer, and I loved video games and did a lot of game programming side projects for fun, but I had no concept that I could end up doing that professionally! My first PC was an 8088, the precursor to the 286, with a 4-color video card and built-in BASIC interpreter. I also had a Nintendo, and I played both PC and console games. Once I got a 486 with a sweet 256-color video card (talk about graphics!), I became a huge fan of LucasArts adventure games like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, which I can still enjoy today. On my 486, I wrote an early DirectX (back when it was 2D-only) clone of Escape Velocity, an old Mac-only top down space exploration and shooter game. In college, I took an open-source physics engine and made a 3D racing game out of it. That’s how I got my start writing 3D engines. I also started making a first-person 1600s naval combat game, and a Privateer-style space sim; those didn’t get finished, but they were a lot of fun to work on.

Oh, my wasted youth! It seems like you are self-taught in many ways. Did you enhance all of that personal exploration with any formal education?

I have a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Washington with a specialty in embedded systems and a minor in Mathematics. The embedded systems track gave me a lot of exposure to programming and especially low-level programming. I originally was going to do a Computer Science degree, but they had just switched the coursework over to Java when I started there (and they switched it back to C++ the year I left!) and I wanted to go a bit lower level than Java. I also did a semester at USC in their Computer Science Master’s Degree program, but haven’t had time to go back and finish it.

I bet you were quite the party animal. With all of that higher learning in hand, what was your grand strategy to put it to work as a Bungie Engineer?

When I saw Bungie’s job posting, my company was pivoting to do more casual games. I knew I wanted to continue to do 3D graphics, and Bungie’s job description made it clear they’d be right there at the bleeding edge, writing a new graphics engine for a cool new IP. How tempting! In my cover letter to Bungie, I showed off the work I had done at Flying Lab revamping the character lighting for the Pirates of the Burning Sea expansion. It involved spherical harmonics, and graphics programmers are suckers for spherical harmonics. I also showed off my side projects, and even pointed to a game I wrote for a 48-hour game competition called Ludum Dare. My entry was the first written entirely in Haskell, I believe.

Speaking of the bleeding edge, let’s relive the nightmare that we intend to be the Bungie job interview. Which cut was the deepest?

The math! I had taken a lot of math and physics classes in college, but it had been a while, and only the bits I had used recently were fresh in my mind. At one point, I had come up with a solution that involved some matrix multiplication, which I was pretty sure was correct, but the interviewer (Hao!) requested I multiply it all out symbolically to check my math. Half an hour later, the board was filled with writing, and that really ground me down. It was a very long interview in an uncomfortable chair.

Now that you have successfully made that leap, is a more comfortable chair your favorite perk? If not, reveal for our readers the best thing about working for Bungie…

Being able to work with other professionals that are at the top of their respective fields! I’m blown away by the consistently amazing people that work here. It’s actually a bit intimidating being around so many sharp engineers. There’s just no dead weight around here. And the artists we have are the kinds of people that can make amazing, gorgeous art and do it on a schedule.

If you would, break that schedule down to one 24-hour unit. What is one day like inside our studio?

I’m usually one of the first people in my row to get in to work in the morning, arriving at around 8:30. I’m lucky in that I don’t have a lot of meetings, so I can maximize my time working. Most of the time that means the usual “coding, compiling, testing” loop familiar to any programmer. Some days I get to make dumb programmer art to test out new features, that’s always fun.

Of all the things that we do to make that coding, compiling and testing worth your while, which one is the most worthy?

Free lunches with new employees! That’s a great way to meet people and spend some time interacting with co-workers without talking about work.

You are supposed to talk about work at those lunches, Joe. That’s the whole point. I am so telling on you. Once I get you into proper trouble, what is the one accomplishment about which you will boast to save your job?

Huh, how am I supposed to answer this without revealing too much about what we’re working on? Well, I’m pretty happy with how the atmosphere system turned out. It’s got a nice blend of a plausible physical basis, artist controllability, and speed. We looked at a ton of different papers and implementations, plucked the best ideas from all of them, and then turned it into something artists could control in a straightforward way. It’s super gratifying to then put that in the hands of a talented artist, and then watch him turn his renders into badass in-game content.

The approach to your work that you are describing sounds very investigative and improvisational. Can you apply that same aesthetic to keeping your skills on the forefront of evolution?

For graphics, I try to keep up with graphics papers and blogs. When I see something that seems cool, or have an idea, I’ll try and implement it in my free time to see how well it works. There are a lot of techniques that are presented as “real time” but wouldn’t work in a game for various reasons. To keep up my general programming skills, I like to work on small game projects as a way to learn new languages. I’m especially interested in applying functional programming to games.

You’ve set an example that many young geeks would no doubt love to follow. Let’s pretend that they are gathered into a classroom, and you are perched proudly at the lectern. What would be the meat of your lecture to them?

Make games. It doesn’t matter how simple or stupid they are. Pick a super simple idea or clone an existing game design; something that you know you can complete. Even if your main talent is as a programmer or designer or artist, you should learn enough to wear all the hats for your simple projects, and see if you can do them alone. This is the best way to learn about the game industry, and it will provide you with an impressive portfolio if you decide you want to make a career of it. Game competitions like Ludum Dare that provide a deadline and short timeframe are a great way to get you to learn how to reduce scope and complete a project, skills that are incredibly useful.

You have a lot of Engineering to get back to, so let’s wrap this up. Here is your final question: Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.

Talent, experience, work ethic. I put talent first because if you’re sharp, you’ll gain experience over time. I put work ethic last because, at least for graphics programming, just hammering away on code doesn’t always yield the best results. Stopping and thinking and playing games and watching movies can be pretty important; we’re not just banging out widgets here. That said, everyone who works at Bungie has a fantastic work ethic, because to get here, you must.

Readers, please join me in thanking Joe for taking a break from his most important work to describe it to us. If you are a Graphics Engineer, or know someone who packs the gear to serve as one, apply within. There is more work to be done in realizing our next universe. In fact, we need developers on all fronts, and you can explore them all in the Breaking In archive.

Breaking In 6/18/2012 6:03 PM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Joey Gibbs

Assisting all things Production...

Team Bungie is an elaborate machine, propelled forward by a maze of moving parts. To keep that machine in good working order, we need stewards who understand all of its functions. Production staffers like Joey Gibbs are like the grease between the cogs. They make sure that artists, engineers, and designers are operating in perfect mesh. To learn more about how we keep ourselves from breaking down, I cornered one of our newest faces in the studio.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

My name is Joey, and I’m a Production Assistant at Bungie. I like to think of myself as the guy in the cartoon rowboat who tries to plug all the leaks with his fingers - with mixed success. I help the real Producers by taking care of the little things so that they can focus their attention on bigger issues, like making sure that we ship on time. This involves doing all manner of things, ranging from the small and menial (like scheduling meetings, taking notes, and logging minor bugs) to the large and utterly terrifying (like organizing the design test process, running studio meetings, and managing the logistics for our internal Bungie Day). I was hired on to work specifically with our World & Activities team, and I do for the most part, but I also do a lot of things that require coordinating with groups from all over the studio.

You must be a man of many talents to be tackling such an array of challenges for us. What are you coordinating when you are outside of the studio?

Well… [checks Facebook profile] Oh yeah! I do a little bit of everything, really. Lately that’s involved going to the gym (yes, I have been working out), reading (sci-fi/fantasy, for the most part), painting (I’m not as suck as I used to be), catching movies (there’s a theatre across the street, which is awesome), and of course, playing games (lately a ton of Diablo 3 with a little Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning sprinkled in). I love RPGs and anything that’s heavily story-driven. I am also a Ninja. No, seriously.

If that were true, you would never boast about it. So, let’s talk about what is true in terms of the jobs that you may or may not have had before you came to us.

I’ve done a lot of interesting things for money. Okay – that sounded better in my head. At separate points in my life I’ve been a caddie at a golf club, a camp counselor at a zoo, a pizza chef, a convenience store clerk, an office assistant, a commercial roofer, and a server/bartender. Those experiences together taught me three very important lessons: First, delicious pizzas are made with love, not magic. Second, being severely dehydrated, horrifically sunburned, and covered in fiberglass insulation is even less fun that it sounds. And finally, spend some time working hard labor and/or in the service industry. Not only does it build character, but it will absolutely make you more empathetic and, consequently, a better human being.

Since it is highly unlikely that you used to daydream about fiberglass and sunburn, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Batman. But in a surprise lack of childhood foresight I told everyone about it, effectively ruining the whole “secret identity” thing. Um… Oh. I think I wanted to make movies for a while. Not direct them, per se, not act in them or film them, but make them. I’m not sure how that translates to a real profession. The truth is that I don’t think I ever actually knew what I wanted to be. You know, besides Batman, but I kinda dropped the ball on that one. My problem has always been that I like doing a lot of different things. I don’t think that at any point my brain ever said, “That one.” And, never in a million years did I think I would end up making videogames professionally.

Well now you make video games – and it took much less than a million years for you to break in to the industry. How did you prepare yourself for this career on which you are embarking?

Two years ago I was sitting in an LSAT prep class at the University of Michigan planning on taking my liberal arts degree in economics and political science with me to law school. Somewhere between learning even more obscure vocabulary terms and practicing effective techniques for solving logic puzzles, I realized that the legal profession wasn’t really something I was interested in. On a whim, I picked up a copy of Ernest Adams’ Breaking Into the Game Industry: How to Get a Job Making Video Games. I read it cover-to-cover over a weekend and decided that, someday, I would be a producer at a AAA game studio. Two years, three Game Developers Conferences, one IGDA Leadership Forum, two professional certifications (CSM and CAPM, if you’re interested), and one master’s degree from Full Sail University later, and here I am working as a Production Assistant for Bungie, a studio that I have loved since I was 13.

We’re glad you made it. Tell our readers how you got your foot in the door…

Lots and lots of footwork. There’s a Thomas Jefferson quote, “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find that the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Super true. When I was studying at Full Sail I went out of my way to go to industry events like GDCs and IGDA meetings to network with and learn from people in the industry. This required a lot of extra time and a decent amount of extra money, but I kept at it because I knew that meeting the right person could make all the difference in the job hunt. Then, in October 2011, I got lucky.

I was busy working as a conference associate (an extremely fun and awesome way to network and cut the cost of GDC admission – I highly recommend it) at GDC Online 2012 in Austin, TX. I had a break early in the afternoon and decided to hit the career pavilion, resume in hand. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Bungie had a presence there, albeit a small one. Bungie was one of my stretch goals – Yeah it would be awesome to work there, I thought, but right out of school? No experience? Fat chance. I stood in line with the rest of the hopefuls and when my turn came, struck up a conversation. We’re not hiring entry-level producers right now, she said, but we might be in the next six months or so. She told me to keep an eye on and to let her know personally if I saw anything interesting. I felt good about the conversation, but I knew that I was just one of hundreds of faces that she’d see over the course of the show. I stopped by the Bungie booth to say hi once or twice more throughout the remainder of the week, but I didn’t get my hopes up.

A month later the production assistant position opened up on I immediately sent in an application, making sure to put the HR rep’s name on the top of the cover letter and to tailor it, referencing our conversation from the month before. That was the very end of November 2011. Bungie didn’t get back to me until midway through February 2012, almost three months later. But when they did, it was to schedule me for an interview with one of their executive producers.

Ah, yes! The interview! This is always my favorite part of the story. Was yours as hard as the horror stories we have heard?

To be honest, the interviews themselves weren’t all that bad. I’ve read a lot of these Breaking In stories on and every single time I do I thank the good lord that I’m not a programmer. Yes I went through a day-long gauntlet of interviews, but I’d been through so many other interviews (eight to ten at that point, if I recall) that the process was kind of old hat. All of those industry conferences, all of those conversations, and all that studying had left me pretty familiar the current state of production in the industry - woefully inexperienced, yes, but relatively well-informed. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I’ve been a huge Bungie fan since I was a pre-teen. Being able to talk passionately about Bungie’s games and its awesome studio culture certainly didn’t hurt.

The worst part of the interviews was that I was horrifically sick that day and had loaded up on Dayquil just to render myself functional. It was just one of those things – I felt it coming on during the plane ride over (I’m from Detroit, by the way) and hoped desperately that I was just nervous. Not the case. I survived the interviews on Friday, but I spent most of Saturday lying prone on a sofa in the dark surrounded by clumps of used tissue and empty cans of ginger ale.

It was nice of you to create your own uphill battle, since we seemed to have gone easy on you. What is the most rewarding thing about the work that you do for Bungie?

A truly massive portion of my job is spent staring at Excel spreadsheets and Outlook calendars. It’s not always the most entertaining thing in the world. I nerd out a little bit when I learn new Excel functions, and I secretly love sitting in meetings, but it’s definitely not as glamorous animation or as magical as design. I went to Harry Potter world at Universal Studios two or three (read: 20-30) times while I was living in Orlando. Every time I walked through the gates I looked around and thought to myself, holy crap. This, all of this, used to only exist inside some British lady’s head. And now it’s right here. I am literally walking through somebody’s imagination. It’s one of the coolest things ever.

Describe a day in the life of working in our own imagination foundry.

My days are never the same. One of the best things about being a producer is that there are always weird, quirky problems that need solving. Yesterday, for example, I spent most of the day frantically organizing rules and rosters for our new playtesting initiative. After six hours of wrangling, scheduling, and putting out fires my reward was a thorough face-rolling at the hands of our heartless test team. The pride hurts, it’s true, but all the exposure and feedback are definitely going to lead to a better game in the long run.

Do we do enough to nurse that pride back to health? Chronic face-rolling can lead to permanent damage to the psyche.

Bungie pays for a membership to the gym across the hall. It’s literally across the hall. Oh, and apparently the studio just bought out a show at the movie theater in town so that we can all watch Prometheus opening night. That was cool. And have I mentioned the snacks? Oh, the snacks…

Those snacks are part of a secret plot to make sure that we use that gym membership. While you are a relatively new kid on our block, has there been a moment that made you feel like you have what it takes to go the distance at Bungie?

The last team meeting I ran went perfectly. We have a long history of challenges when it comes to these monthly meetings. Sabotage has been suspected on more than one occasion. In our defense, it’s not easy to corral hundreds of grumbly game developers and make them sit still for an hour on a Friday afternoon. But, thanks to the efforts of the team meeting brute squad (who deserve all the credit for the real work involved) everything just worked. I received congratulations and thanks from people who I hadn’t even met yet for days afterward. The whole experience still gives me the warm fuzzies…

Warm fuzzies are a great start, but we are never done challenging ourselves at Bungie. How you plan to make yourself more and more valuable to our (not so) secret agenda of world domination?

I feel like I keep coming back to industry conferences like GDC, but they’re really important. Doctors have to attend current best-practice seminars to maintain their licenses - I’m a big believer in treating my work the same way. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve learned by talking to other people in the industry. Every single studio is different and every single studio approaches solving similar problems in different ways. You might not always agree with the way another group does things, but at the very least being exposed to different views and methodologies will make you take a look at old problems from new perspectives.

We are lucky to have a man for all seasons in the form of you, Joey. Assume that your story has inspired other eager young minds to follow the trail you have blazed. What else would you recommend to them?

Playing games is a given. If you’re really serious about breaking in, I highly recommend attending industry conferences like the Game Developers Conference (GDC) and joining the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), especially if you don’t have much prior work experience. There is simply no better way to network and to learn what life is really like on the inside. Go to the conferences, talk to people, be humble, and ask intelligent questions. Print out some business cards, polish your resume, make a LinkedIn profile, and build a web site filled with information about you and your side projects. Above all, be professional. Everyone loves passion, but fan-boy/fan-girl-ism is best left at appropriate venues like PAX and E3. Oh, and don’t forget to smile.

You’ve been a delight. Time for the final question: Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. There will always be people out there who are more talented than you are, but if you really want to, if you want something bad enough, you can out work just about anybody. Experience is nice to have, but you don’t get experience unless you’re willing to put in the effort. I don’t consider myself to be particularly talented. On June 9th 2012 I’ll have been in the industry for a grand total of six months. So much for experience. I’ll put my money on hard work every single time.

The reward for hard work at Bungie is more hard work. Following that logic, we are very fortunate to have people like Joey committed so passionately to our common goal. If this brand of labor sounds like the stuff of your dreams, you may find your calling in this industry. Of course, Production is but one of many disciplines that keep our people engaged. You can learn about the other components of the machinery that manufactures the games you want to play in our Breaking In archive.

Breaking In 6/11/2012 3:43 PM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Clay Carmouche

Toiling in the mines of fiction.

Last week, a member of our writing team told us all about his adventures in creating the fiction that will inspire players to conquer our next universe. As he spun out his own tale, he made mention of his partner, a fellow writer he referred to as “The Mouche” (pronounced: moosh). Ever the sucker for codenames, I had to track down this mysterious figure, and compel him to spill his own helping of beans. There he is, right now…

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

My name is Clay Carmouche and I am a writer at Bungie. I collaborate with the rest of our crackerjack story team and work closely with the Design teams who are building the spaces we will use to tell the stories of this universe. We write the scripts actors will perform in cut scenes, and try to weave all the crazy stuff in the game into a coherent narrative.

All of this contemplation of things imagined needs to be balanced with things that are real. What have you been doing to keep yourself rooted in reality when you are not weaving our fantasy?

Playing Legos with my son, good music, Kung Fu, movies and books, good food and company, apologizing to my wife.

Let’s rewind this story back to the days when those Legos were all yours. What did you think you would be doing when you passed those building blocks down to a new generation of Mouches?

Chronologically, from age six to eighteen: a Muppet, David Copperfield, James Brown, Vigilante, Writer.

As much as I want to devote the rest of this interview to exploring your aspirations as a rogue crime fighter, that’s not what we do (officially) here at Bungie. Instead, can you recount for us the steps you took to become a conjurer of imagined worlds?

I’ve worked as a newspaper reporter and a screenwriter. Do both for a while and you learn pretty fast that having a good idea is not enough. Cruel realties intrude upon your happy world. Things like deadlines, budget, technical limitations, etc. There is a lot of that around here but one thing I didn’t have before was an amazing team to tackle these problems with.

What sort of book learnin’ did you subject yourself to so that you could be molded into a member of your new team?

I studied History in college. A lot of good it did me.

It has been said that those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it... Actually, that saying has no bearing here. Let’s change the subject to how you convinced Bungie to alter your history.

A very good friend who contracted with Bungie vouched for my character and ability before I interviewed. In exchange, I burned some incriminating photos. Then I worked my ass off on the pre-interview writing test and, on my first interview day, I wore a Speedo.

And now we have some incriminating photos of our own. Aside from the humiliation of donning minimalist swimming attire, what was the hardest thing about being scrutinized by our hiring managers?

Trying to stay charming, fresh and odorless over the course of two 10 hour days locked in a windowless room. The interrogation is conducted by a battery of people from different disciplines who cycle through, one every hour, each more determined than the last to prove you are a charlatan. My plan was to spend the evenings after the interview scouting neighborhoods to see how I might feel about living in Seattle. But each night, I just shuffled back to the hotel and slept the sleep of the dead.

It is my pleasure to tell the world that you are very far from dead. What would you say is the best thing about the vivid life you lead at Bungie?

Working with the story team. I love being in a room with these guys, hashing out ideas, bearing witness to the wild feral stare of Eric Raab, taking a drink every time Dave Mongan says “Is there a version…?”, getting a laugh out of Mr. Joe Staten. Beyond our group, there are an alarming number of smart and cool people here and it is great to have a chance to collaborate with them all.

What is one day like in that life? Write for us a very short story that encompasses one orbit of the moon – what some people call “a business day.”

I usually show up some time after 9 AM, grab breakfast in the kitchen, take a shot at the punching bag, and then work my way over to my desk. Mongan’s on his third cup of coffee already, but I pretend not to notice as we talk over whatever yesterday’s fire was. I read through my scripts. I take a shot at Mongan. At lunch I find someone willing to hit the food-by-the-pound place with me for the third time that week. Then it’s back to the mines for a meeting with one of the Design teams to take a look at the cool stuff they’re working on and try to determine how it jives with the fiction of the game. After that, a story meeting with the other writers.  Then we pitch new ideas and return to our desks to write them.

Of all the rewards that follow a day in the mines (your word, not mine), which is your favorite?

On her birthday, my wife got a gift certificate from Bungie. It was great to see the smile it put on her face, and to know I’m working for a company that would do something like that. It was a beautiful moment that lasted until she asked what I got her. Beyond that, there are the free movies in Bungie’s theater, the gym membership, the holiday gifts, groovy music in the bathrooms and an unlimited supply of Reese’s Sticks!

Bungie demands that we all grow as professionals, and you can’t accomplish that by gorging on chocolate and peanut butter. How do you sharpen that which is mightier than the sword?

I read constantly, watch a ton of films and play games. I swear, honey, it’s research!

Who are you calling Honey? Let’s keep this on the level for our readers. In fact, why don’t you give them some pointers on how they can nudge you out of your coveted seat, many years from now.

I can only speak to the story side and my own experience since I barely understand what everyone else does around here or how it works at other studios. I know that Bungie was looking to assemble a fiction team with a diversity of writing backgrounds, not just people with video game writing experience. If you want to write for games, or anything for that matter, I would suggest reading exhaustively and trying your hand at every type of writing you can. The old cliché holds, “Don’t give up.”

You have endured the challenge of this interview well, and we have arrived at the final question - a riddle of the utmost depth and importance. Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.

Work Ethic, Experience, Talent. I think that goes for the world-at-large, not just my role here.

You are free to go, brave wielder of the pen. You have a universe to realize, and an audience waiting in the wings.

Clay is a member of only one team that is hard at work on Bungie’s next game. His efforts are lost without the other pieces that fit together. To assemble the whole puzzle for yourself, check out the other perspectives in the Breaking In archive.

Breaking In 6/5/2012 10:20 AM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Dave Mongan

Truth, stranger than fiction.

Writing is a big part of the development process at Bungie. Most of us write code. Some of us write elaborate design briefs that inform the writing of code. A chosen few of us sit around all day and write outlandish lies. Those writers call their work “fiction,” which is just a fancy word for stuff that is made up. To see if I could move one of these story-tellers closer to the realm of truth, I cornered him at the concept art wall, where he was foraging for inspiration.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

Howdy, I’m Dave Mongan, Senior Writer here at Bungie. I’m part of the team that’s crafting the story for our new game universe. Birthing characters. Scripting cinematics and mission dialog. Concocting destination fiction and deep, deep backstory. In a nutshell, I work with the other writers to wrap plausible explanations around everything that players see and do in our game.

Before we delve deeper into the experiences of the Senior Writer, Iet’s learn more about the man behind the pen. What might we find you doing when you are not concocting elaborate fabrications of reality?

Let’s see, what do I do when I’m not slaving away at the office? Lots of “research” – at least that’s what we writers call it. Watching movies, giving into the guilty pleasure of a little TV, and staying up until the wee hours of the morning playing video games (mostly shooters, currently Modern Warfare 3). I’m also an avid photographer, and when Seattle weather permits, I get out and swing the golf clubs. If I ever have extra time leftover, I spend it playing with my 9-month-old little boy, and my lovely wife. (Kidding! If my wife reads this, and she probably will, she’ll kill me for implying that anything’s more important than the Little Dude… especially golf, which I’m really not good at.)

A man has to have his priorities straight. Before you were a man, dreaming about what it would be like to grow up, what priorities did you have for your career?

For as long as I can remember (which is only back to age 13), I wanted to be a TV writer. Then I did it, and frankly, the gig didn’t live up to the hype. The worst part, in case you haven’t noticed for yourselves: Most TV these days is painfully unoriginal! Shows are hybridized, bastardized clones of everything that’s already been done. And the ones that aren’t, well, they’re nearly impossible to sell.

If I knew back then I could write video games for a living instead…? Suffice it to say my path through life would’ve been a wee bit different. For starters, I wouldn’t have wasted 15 years toiling away in the TV world. I‘d have wasted it developing mad gaming skillz so I wouldn’t get embarrassed every time I play with my Bungie coworkers.

Tell us more about your adventures in TV land. The road to writing for television had to have some interesting first steps.

Before that, I was working my way up the entertainment industry ladder for a decade and a half – starting all the way at the bottom as a Production Assistant: making coffee, running copies, taking my boss’s vomit-stained down comforter to the dry cleaner, shuttling Peter Weller to-and-from set while he hot-boxed my car with Cuban cigars. You know, the usual…

Working on-staff definitely taught me how to be a productive part of a writing team, how to give and receive notes with tact, how to write and rewrite scripts (mine and other people’s) inflicting as little damage as possible, and how to swallow my opinion when it won’t make life in The Room any easier. Development, on the other hand, made me appreciate the value of thinking outside the box, all the while keeping one eye inside the box – because you gotta know what’s selling and why if you’re gonna break new ground and do it all better. As for my days climbing the ladder? I learned never to give up.

Your tenacity is inspiring. Is there an education that equips a person to climb that ladder?

I went to USC and double-majored in Film/TV and English Creative Writing. While there, I penned some of the most treacly short stories and poetry ever to grace the page, and produced more self-indulgent student films than I care to admit. Because I knew from the get-go that I wanted to write for TV, I was mocked incessantly by the other film students, the ones who fancied themselves the next George Lucas, Quentin Tarantino or Woody Allen. The worst of the lot wanted to be all three. (Trust me, not a pretty combination.) Luckily, a lot of my professors were more understanding about my aspirations and encouraged me to start writing teleplays. I scribbled out some pretty mediocre specs of “The Simpsons” and “Seinfeld” – and a few original gems (okay, stinkers) – before realizing that comedy was NOT my forte. By the time I made the switch to more serious fare, I was out of school and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was firmly on my radar. So I wrote another spec, and rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it again. After about the 11th draft, I thought it was decent enough to show around, and it actually started to get some attention. Didn’t get me any jobs, but it got me to the finals of a pretty prestigious Warner Bros. writing contest, and landed me my first agent. The rest of my education… well, that was mostly on-the-job training. Like I said before, I worked my way from the bottom up, and made sure to learn as much as possible from every writer who would share their wisdom and experience. Some were far more generous than others.

Once you had your fill of cigar smoke and literary theory, how did you make the transition to funneling your imagination into games?

Ironically, Bungie reached out to me via a company called Blindlight in L.A. A TV-Writer friend of mine put me in touch with the guys at Blindlight about writing the next project for Heavy Rain creator David Cage. Bungie saw my credits and my samples and came calling.

That is very much to your credit. It’s rare that we are the pursuer. Of course, no one gets past Jerome without surviving the audition. Tell us about yours.

It began on day one with an intensive writing/brainstorming session with Joseph Staten, interrupted only by a lunchtime grilling with Chris Barrett and Jason Jones. The next day, starting promptly at 9 AM, I was locked in a conference room as reps from practically every discipline came by to hurl questions my way. I met with members of the Cinematics team, Production, Environment Art, Combatant Design, Mission Design, Audio (and probably a bunch of others that I don’t even recall now). By the time my loop was complete – 8 hours later – I’d lost my voice and felt half brain-dead. But I knew one thing for sure: every single person I’d met was immensely passionate about working at Bungie… and I was immensely lucky to be interviewing to join them.

And here you are, as a member of our team. What is the best thing about that?

Coming up with the craziest ideas imaginable – then making them crazier – then pitching them to other members of the team and having them embrace the insanity.

Tell us a story (a true story) about a day in the life of a Senior Writer.

Usually, I roll in around 9 AM. I hit the kitchen for a cup of coffee, a piece of fruit, or maybe a protein bar if I’m feeling particularly peckish. I walk the maze that is our open bullpen, shouting-out hellos to the gang, making sure to pass by our wall of amazing concept art for a boost of inspiration. Finally I arrive at my station, where I boot-up my system and launch all my go-to programs, especially Final Draft.

I like to get started by reading whatever script I was working on the previous day – a task which often leads to a quick bout of self-loathing, and deletion of said script. But then an even deeper bout of self-loathing strikes, and the previously-deleted script gets un-deleted. Eventually, I realize it’s wisest to take a moment away, so I catch up on email, laugh at some Photoshopped pics of Marty O’Donnell on email, check a slew of industry websites as “research,” then pay a visit to the cinematics folder on our network to see if there are any new cuts of scenes. (Not strictly in that order, of course.)

Somewhere along the way I’ll revisit my scripts with a slightly more constructive attitude – usually just in time to start attending meetings for the day: story planning meetings, notes sessions, table reads, motion capture shoots, fiction syncs with the world teams, playtests…

When lunchtime hits, the work stops and we break away from the office to grab food from one of the “delicious" dining options within walking distance. The afternoon is often a repeat of the pre-lunch routine: re-check email, get a good laugh at Marty’s expense, sit-in on a meeting or two, then get back to hating my scripts ‘til quitting time.

Bungie tries pretty hard to make sure that quitting time is not the best part of our day. Is there something that we do to make this studio a great place to work that stands out in your make-believe-addled mind?

Oh man, there are too many to list. But since I’m a lover of words, I’ll list a bunch anyway. Favorite perks: the never-ending supply of red apples, Red Bull, and Red Vines in the kitchen. Oh, and the beer fridge that’s fully-stocked for team meetings. Oh, and I can’t forget Pentathlon day, when the entire studio shuts down to play games together, all in the spirit of morale-building. All in all, pretty sweet.

How does that morale best manifest itself? Can you describe that one moment in which someone appreciated your work, and assured you that you belonged here?

I definitely think the best is yet to come. But if I have to give an answer, okay… Remember what I said before about pitching crazier-than-crazy ideas? Well, there’s one particular zinger that comes to mind – an idea so hair-brained that one of the other writers, Clay (aka The Mouche), laughed out loud in my face. In all fairness, it was a laughable idea. But there was a kernel of something super-cool there. So we talked it over a bit more, amping the cool way up, and toning the absurd way down. And eventually when I pitched it to Staten, he loved it. Then we started sharing it with other members of the larger team… and I’ll be damned if they didn’t love it too!

It’s good to know that you are challenging us with levels of craziness that we can’t anticipate. How does Bungie challenge you to grow as a writer?

I analyze story in every way possible. Whether I’m watching TV or a movie, playing a new game or reading comic books, I’m actively breaking down the plot and characters… much to the chagrin of my very patient wife and co-workers. Because in truth, “analyze” usually means “complain about ad nauseum,” or gripe “I should have thought of that first!” It’s amazingly cathartic and educational to see how other writers build their stories – what they do well, and what they royally screw up. Not only does it help you learn and grow as a writer, but occasionally it makes you feel much better about yourself.

All of this back-breaking, mind-bending labor must sound like candy to many of our readers. What would you tell them, so that they can steal your job someday?

This may sound kinda touchy-feely-granola, but it’s true: set your intention, then do whatever it takes to make it happen. That includes getting the necessary training and education, spending long hours honing your craft (yes, writing is 99% re-writing!), putting yourself out there even at the risk of rejection, and not being afraid to work your way up from the bottom. The long hard slog from chauffeuring Peter Weller to helping create Bungie’s next big universe builds character, and arms you with a lot of ridiculous, sometimes embarrassing stories to share with the rest of the writing team.

Final Question: Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.

Work ethic matters above all else. Assuming you have a modicum of talent, and at least a little experience under your belt, it’s all about the right attitude. In short: Don’t be an ass. Be confident, but for the love of all that’s holy stay humble. I’ve known a lot of talented writers in my life, and more than a few who’ve felt some perverted sense of superiority, entitlement even – as if they were god’s gift to the written word and opportunities should be laid at their feet like virgin sacrifices. News flash: You have to earn things in life. It’s a universal truth. Unless you’re one of those lucky bastards who has insanely good fortune just drop in your lap. If that’s the case, a) Screw you; and b) Buy a lottery ticket, don’t jump into a field where you’re surrounded by insane creativity as far as the eye can see. Because at the end of the day, we’re all working our asses off together to make the most kickass new game imaginable… and if everything goes to plan, paving the way to world domination.

We should have known that a writer would be so generous about sharing the story that led him to Bungie’s open bullpen. Thank you for dispelling the myths about your gig, Dave. Not all of these features are this long, but all of them cut equally close to the truth. If you would like to know about all the disciplines that go into Bungie’s next project, and how people come to practice them, our Breaking In archive is always available to provide you with some lighter reading.

Breaking In 5/29/2012 2:15 PM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Josh Poley

Give us the tools and we'll finish the job.

It has been said that poor craftsmen blame their tools. Whoever said that never had to develop a video game. At Bungie, our creative process benefits enormously from the tools we use to make games, and given the uniqueness of what we’re building, we often have to create these tools ourselves. That requires really smart people who can create helpful systems from scratch. One of those people is Josh Poley. Let’s corner him and make him tell us how he came to be a Tools Engineer, shall we?

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

I'm Josh and I'm an Engineer on the Core Tools team. We work on general-purpose tools for the studio, with the goal of trying to make things run a little more smoothly around here. When our system crashes (which, of course, it never does), my application takes over and collects a bunch of internal data to make it super-easy for the developers to find and fix the bug. In general, we make it so our engineers can focus more of their time on the important parts of delivering a kick ass game.

It sounds like we would be lost without your talents. Where did we find you?

Working at Microsoft. The majority of my time was spent on the Operating System for the Xbox and Xbox 360 consoles. One of the cooler projects was being involved with the "emulation ninjas" who worked on the backward compatibility engine. I've also had my fingers in Zune, Windows Live ID, Project Courier, and the C++ compiler.

You are a man of many talents. When we are not putting them to work at Bungie, how do they manifest in your life?

Aside from things that look like work but aren't, I'm into photography, backpacking, and places that are hot (the Pacific Northwest has a pathetic excuse for summer).

It must have been hard to choose between all of these interests. As you were coming up in the world, was there one thing that you aspired to be?

An Astronaut. Then, I got addicted to computer games and decided that was probably going to be more fun. The moment that really cemented me into a development career path was reading "The Official Book of Ultima". The story around Origin definitely tugged on something in my subconscious, and I knew that line of work is where I belonged. Besides, it can get freaking cold in space.

I also hear that NASA’s training program can be a real pain. Describe for us the training that equipped you to blast off into the exciting world of games development.

I got a Computer Science degree in Boulder, Colorado. Possibly more important was an extensive amount of programming on the side. It was super-beneficial to find a random project and jump into it. Even if it doesn't go anywhere, the experience and knowledge you gain is invaluable. It is that kind of chain-reaction that bolsters your skills and abilities. Aside from coding projects, I definitely spent a bunch of time gaming. And, apparently, all that "research" into computer games actually paid off.

There are a lot of gamers out there who would love to claim that their time spent playing could qualify as on-the-job training. Once your “research” led you to this industry, how did you entice Bungie to size you up as an applicant?

I would like to think it was my awesome hair style, but it was probably more likely my passion for low-level software systems. Digging into the internals on operating systems, good debugging skills, working with compilers, and my experience working with the Xbox console software all contributed to help pique Bungie's interest.

Once we become interested in someone, we can be a little brash in the get-to-know-you phase. What was the hardest part about your interview loop?

Convincing Charlie Gough that I don't suck. I'm still not 100% sure that I succeeded. He definitely had one of the harder questions. He gave me a problem and left me alone to code up the solution. I thought through some possible approaches, and wrote up the best one I had. Charlie came back and said something like "Yeah, can you make it faster?" I was thinking, "Damn, I thought I did that." After a fair amount of back and forth (and some amount of hand holding), I realized what the solution was. It totally made my first approach look like a Pinto racing a Lamborghini.

Now that you are your own racecar in the red, what is the best thing about running our track?

The most rewarding thing is how much Bungie cares for its employees. Towards the end of March I ended up in the hospital and had to have surgery. The following week I was sauntering into work like a zombie trying to get caught up and my manager basically kicked me out (with essentially some free sick time) saying that it was more important to Bungie that I take the time to heal. That is definitely not something that would have happened with some of my previous managers.

We will need for you to be strong if you are to survive the development schedule for our next game. Give our readers a window into that world. What is a day at Bungie like?

I typically show up about 8 AM. I grab a couple of drinks from the fridge and get logged in on my box. After a quick browse through my news reader, I have about two hours of distraction-free work (spent mostly in Visual Studio) before more people file in. I try to get any big code changes checked in at this point. If there are issues, I've got plenty of time to sort them out. Shortly after 10 AM, the Core Tools team gets together for a quick standup in front of our status board. We talk about what each of us is currently working on. From there, it’s back to our pod where we dig back into our work. At about 12 PM, the studio typically empties as we flood the nearby distributors of sustenance. Following lunch, we've got about two more hours of coding, debugging, and coming up with wicked solutions to problems before the "coffee train" starts rounding people up. If I get sucked in, I will get an oatmeal cookie. I'm probably the only person in the Seattle area that can't stand the taste of coffee. The afternoon is typically spent addressing bugs, feature requests, and other spontaneous activities. Shortly after 5 PM, I turn off my monitors and head out the back stairs to go catch my bus.

You have done a wonderful job of proving that we don’t just sit around and play games all day. Of all the things that we do to make your hard work worth the effort, what is your favorite?

The presents we got during the holidays were super cool. The fact that Bungie gave presents to our families as well is simply amazing. For a day-to-day perk, the climbing wall is a total win. It's great to be able to take a break from a hard problem and go stretch my arms and back out on an equally hard problem on the wall. If you are familiar with the route markings at bouldering gyms, you won't see them here. Instead we've got "easy", "normal", "heroic", and "legendary" routes.

Aside from climbing to the top of a legendary climbing route, what is your favorite accomplishment as a member of the Bungie team?

One of the recent projects that I was able to slide into my schedule definitely resulted in the best work-to-praise ratio. Some of our developers have been asking for the ability to easily file a bug from a block of selected code in our development environment. Writing the plugin and a quick web page was fairly straight forward, but the response from the first two Bungie veterans to try it out was definitely rewarding: "Holy crap! Totally awesome."

Just like the rock wall, Bungie is always challenging people to ascend to new heights. How do you elevate your skills?

If there is a very blurry line between work and play, then you are on the right track. I spend a big chunk of my free time outside of work programming or playing games. The more you push yourself, the more you learn and the better you get.

Your story will likely inspire a great many coders to follow in your steps. What advice would you give them?

If you are going the developer/engineer route, you definitely need to know your C and C++. Those should be as familiar and comfortable as breathing. With a good foundation there, it is easy to pick up other languages and technologies, enabling you to use a good tool for the job. I also recommend being able to read through and understand assembly. There are definitely times when you will want to debug some gnarly problem, and being able to grasp what the hardware is doing on each instruction of your code can mean the difference between figuring it out or not. I would then toss in some networking, web, and database technologies to round things out.

Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.

They are all about as important as Food, Water, and Air. Without having the experience to back your ideas and decisions, your output can be limited. You need the ethic (and passion) to get in and crank through problems. And if you have no talent, well, then your output will be crap. But obviously having awesome team mates and an open environment can help balance minor deficiencies.

We thank Josh for giving us a window into his world. The stories that lead people to Bungie are as diverse as the people who work here. If Josh’s tale doesn’t appeal to your specific ambitions, you just might find an interview that suits your dream in our Breaking In Archive.

Breaking In 5/21/2012 1:53 PM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Noah George

Raging against the machines.

If you haven’t heard, the development of video games is an endeavor that is heavily dependent on computers. These machines, while incredibly valuable to our process, can’t fix themselves. And, thankfully so. For, if they could, they would enslave us as their preferred energy source. To keep the computers that we use to create our next game well behaved and working properly, Bungie staffs an entire team of information technologists. Look, there is one right now. Let’s shake him down to learn how he etched his name onto the roster of our IT Bullpen.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

I’m Noah. I maintain servers, deploy internal tools, and build super computers.

I don’t know what a lot of that means, but it sounds like hard work. How do you balance out the rigors of bringing super computers to life by making your own life worth living?

I’m all about music and video games. I split my time between playing guitar, “Battlefield 3”, and “Star Wars: The Old Republic” these days.

You should feel right at home here. What were you doing before your career led you to this foundry of music and video games?

Before I came to Bungie, I spent time maintaining email services for 60,000 clients at Microsoft, and running the IT team for a local marketing agency. At Microsoft, I had a chance to work on very large and complex infrastructures, but didn’t have any knowledge of or input into the direction of the organization. At the marketing agency, I ran the IT team and was present for high level meetings in the organization, but the infrastructure itself wasn’t complex or very challenging. I think I’ve found a happy medium here at Bungie. Bungie always has new projects around the bend that push you to a new level, and places a high value on internal communication and input into the decision making processes.

Have you always been such an Alpha-geek? When you were a kid, did you take apart your toys and “optimize” them?

I used to watch Saturday morning cartoons. There was one cartoon about a mad scientist inventing all kinds of odd and nonsensical solutions. I thought “I want to be that guy when I grow up.”

Since very few institutions of higher learning offer degrees in Mad Science, how did you prepare yourself to oversee our sprawling network?

I didn’t actually go to college until I had been in the field for several years. By that time I wanted something to round out my technical skills, so I majored in Business. Then, I went back for my MBA. I was going to University of Phoenix at night and running an IT team during the day. The idea was that I would never really be able to excel in the higher levels of IT unless I had a good working knowledge of how the entire corporation worked. One graduation and a global economic crisis later, some men in black asked me if I wanted to work in video games. I paused my Mass Effect game and gave an ebullient “YES PLEASE!”

You have an MBA? Shouldn’t you be a Vice President in some soul-crushing financial services firm? Wouldn’t you be happier telling people how to do their jobs and bragging about your golf swing in the executive restroom?

As it turns out, the kid in me is bigger than the buttoned-down job-slasher, and just wants to be a part of the next big thing in video games. Besides, hitting a small ball into a hole in the grass just doesn’t cut it after you’ve made your best friend explode with pink needles and rage quit. Here, my ideas can impact the whole studio. I’m challenged by the smartest people I’ve known. I’m exposed daily to master level art and music that the world hasn’t even experienced before, and sometimes I even get paid to play games.

Okay. Fair enough. No complaints. We are glad to have you. Tell us how you convinced Bungie that we needed a Mad Scientist with a Master’s Degree in Business Management.

I think my Microsoft experience got me in the door, but the best way to describe my interview was a technical beat down from some of our high level engineers, and I survived. That gave me the opportunity to contract with Bungie until I could prove myself on the team. I won them over with hard work, and following through with a detailed internal project.

Back up now. Tell us more about that beat down. We do love to scare the squeamish away from our Careers Page.

When someone interviews with Bungie for a technical discipline, you are given rapid fire scenarios of increasing difficulty. Their goal is to turn up the difficulty until you can’t honestly solve the issues anymore, and we have engineers smart enough to stump most people. The hard part is understanding that everyone fails the interview at some point, they just want to see how far you get.

I wasn’t pressed to fail my interview, but we don’t build Super Computers on the Community Team. Now that you have passed your version of the test, what is your favorite thing about working at Bungie?

I’m in awe every day I go to work. I look around and see some of the best engineers, artists, composers, and creative visionaries available in this industry. To work with these people and actually be a part of their process is mind blowing to me.

Describe for us a day in the life of the Bungie IT Bullpen…

I typically come in, check on the status of our infrastructure, have a meeting or two about current and upcoming projects or maintenance windows, and spend the rest of the day troubleshooting an issue or working on one of my projects. When it’s late enough and I don’t have any off-hours work, I’ll sometimes play a video game or two with co-workers before I go home.

Aside from having one’s mind blown on a regular basis, what is the best perk of the job?

One day I worked with Troy, our motion capture specialist, on a project. After I helped him out, he showed me around his studio and how it all works. To top it all off, he then showed me the props he used to capture performances for Reach. As I got to hold the various prop weapons used to capture the actors’ performances in Reach, it was clear to me that every day working at Bungie yields massive perks for people like me… gamers. I can’t pick one.

What is your favorite accomplishment as a member of the Bungie team?

I’ve been wrestling with a product that allows us to take over a hundred server nodes and cluster them all together to create a super computer and run distributed applications across them. Many days this product is the bane of my existence, but I have to admit that I am most proud of working out the kinks in that system and showing off all the cool things I can do with it.

How do you advance your craft?

I advance my craft by taking on projects that I am not entirely comfortable taking on myself. I am a firm believer that pushing yourself beyond your limits, with proper research, is the only way to get to the next level.

What recommendations would you make to people who want to work in this industry?

Most places you go in life, there are people eager to tell you that you aren’t good enough to do something, and you won’t be able to achieve whatever it is you are looking for. Accept their criticism as a challenge and then prove them wrong. There is no more satisfying revenge.

Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.

Work ethic, talent, and then experience. Hard work gives you all the talent and experience you need while turning you into a high value stock that keeps paying dividends.

Your MBA is showing, Noah.

Please join me in thanking our Support Engineer for configuring our perceptions for what it takes to keep Bungie working in an orderly fashion. Without his tireless service, sharing this conversation would not have been possible. Of course, his contribution is just one color in the spectrum. To sample the rest, you should check out the archive.

Breaking In 5/14/2012 11:57 AM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Ben Litowitz

Fresh off the boat.

At Bungie, we get asked a lot of questions by students who want to know what they should study to prepare themselves for an exciting career making video games. Sometimes, we suppress the urge to warn them to run as fast as they can in the other direction and provide some helpful suggestions. Those answers can be more diverse than the questions. To help you plan your course-load, meet a student of the world who seems to have taught himself as much as he learned in school. That helped him infiltrate our studio before the ink on his accreditation was dry.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

My name is Ben Litowitz and I’m a sandbox engineer. I work with gameplay designers to make their ideas come to life in the game. I also provide them with tools to make their lives easier and toys to play with.

Your job description makes me picture our studio as one big day care center – one where the kids just happen to use toys to make kick ass games. What were your career aspirations back in the day when a cache of toys was the best thing in life?

My childhood aspirations ranged from pilot to policeman and were entirely driven by the latest movie I’d seen. I started programming young and was always making games, but it wasn’t until high school that I started thinking about programming as a career and not until college that I considered developing games for a living.

How does making that living translate to actually living?

In my free time, I play games and do a lot of programming. Before I came here, I played a lot of games from Valve Software on my PC. Since I started working for Bungie, I’ve been converted to a console gamer. These days, I try to keep up with the latest and greatest titles while also experiencing classics that I’ve missed out on. I also enjoy playing with my cat, Wheatley, whom I’m currently trying to teach to walk on his hind legs. On Wednesday nights, you can find me and the rest of the Bungie soccer team taking on other local game studios.

Fear not, convert. Even though I spend all of my game time in front of a console, I still know the namesake of your kitty. Tell us what life was like before we seduced you into abandoning your PC.

I started at Bungie right after finishing my undergraduate degree in Computer Science at Georgia Tech. I spent one summer as an intern at Bioware Austin working on Star Wars: The Old Republic. I helped write the companion gift system, the foreign language support for the combat log, and the interaction between the various factions and races of the Star Wars universe. Outside of work and school, I also did a lot of programming and thinking about games in my free time.

Your fresh-out-college tale is an inspiration for students the world over. Would you share more about your time as an Athletic, and how it prepared you for the trials of working for Bungie?

At Georgia Tech I studied Computer Science with a focus in multimedia and networking. The computer graphics, animation, and networking classes were instrumental in helping me build a better understanding for all of the disciplines I now interact with at work. The video game design class I took was a great opportunity to work with others, get my hands on a real game engine, and create something from start to finish.

And, as graduation day beckoned, how did you convince Bungie to be your first employer?

During my last semester of college I started compiling a list of links to the recruiting pages of game development companies. Around October, a news post reminded me to add Bungie to the list. When I visited the website and saw that they were looking for an entry level gameplay engineer I decided not to wait. In my email I mentioned my passion for games, my history with Halo, and what I had gained from my experience with Bioware. In addition to my internship, I think my website helped demonstrate my dedication and experience; on it I had screenshots and links to many of the games I’d made and a couple of relevant school projects.

The words “self-taught” certainly come to mind. When it came time to defend what you had learned in the dreaded Bungie interview loop, how did you fare?

I found most of the interview day challenging and fun, but stumbled when another former Georgia Tech grad, Ben Wallace, grilled me on spatial hierarchies.

Spatial hierarchies? I would stumble, too. What are those? And how do they impact games?

A spatial hierarchy is just a way to organize all of the objects in the game world (based on their positions in space) to make the game run faster. They’re such a fundamental part of many games, but one that most programmers don’t have to think about on a day-to-day basis.

Now that you are with us on a day-to-day basis, what is your favorite thing about being part of the Bungie spatial hierarchy?

The best part about this job is being able to come to work every day and create something new and exciting. The time from when I start working on something to when I see it on screen is so short that it’s almost addictive.

Of all the addictions that have graced your screen, which do you regard as the most intoxicating?

After having to debug numerous animation related issues, I wrote a debug tool that would let me pause the game and step forward one frame at a time, much like I was used to doing when debugging code. It wasn’t a complicated tool to make, but I use it every day and it’s been pretty useful for others around the studio.

Making the creative process better for everyone is a fantastic contribution. We can never settle for the way we have always done things. On that note, how do you make yourself better as a professional in this industry?

Being fresh out of college, there’s so much to learn from all of the experienced members of our team. I’m always harassing our networking, animation, and graphics engineers for more details about how they’ve solved problems for Halo titles or other past games. It’s also great to be able to ask other disciplines about their mental processes and work flows.

That collaboration is something that many people would love to enjoy. What would you tell them in order to help them break in to this industry?

First, be proactive and tenacious: don’t wait for opportunities to create awesome content. Second, recognize the scope of your undertaking and don’t bite off more than you can chew: a well-polished Tetris clone with a soundtrack and a scoreboard is better than a few design ideas and some skeleton code for an MMO.

Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.

You need them all, the ability to develop and improve on your weaknesses is key.

Thank you sharing so deeply from the well of your experiences, Ben. For those of you reading these words, we hope the path that leads into the wilderness where games are made has become a little easier to follow. If you want to know more, some of our other trailblazers have also been profiled. You can find them in the Breaking In archive.

Breaking In 5/7/2012 3:40 PM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Darren Bacon

Bacon is good for me.

A game begins with an idea. You could even call that idea a concept. To bring that concept to life, you need an artist. At Bungie, concept artists are a crucial chef in the kitchen where we are cooking up games. Darren Bacon is just such an artist. To learn how he came to tackle the raw space of our next game, join us at his cutting board, where he is slicing the pork nice and thin (obligatory bacon joke).

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

Darren Bacon. I am a Senior Concept Artist here at Bungie.

Can you tell us a little more about what that means? Your role sounds rather… conceptual.

A Concept Artist at Bungie works directly with the Art Director to establish a style and feel for the environments, characters and objects for new titles. We also work closely with the production art team to help them envision what the finished results can be for the in-game content they are creating.

It sounds like you live in the center of the storm here. How do you interact with the rest of the studio in the way that you do your work?

Concept art is the first step in the process of developing all things that will eventually go into the game. The writers, designers, creative directors, and art director come up with an idea or story moment that we must design and illustrate based on their description, reference, and any research. The final result we produce could be anything from an illustration of key art expressing a story beat (mood and emotion) to a sketch of an asset such as a weapon or character. The design process usually follows along a visual development cycle that starts with sketches or composites and ends up as a finished illustration or illustrations that a 3D artist can build from or be inspired by.

What inspires you when you are not inspiring us?

Art and design. My personal life and work life look a lot alike. Not in a bad way, it’s more like my work life looks more like my personal life, meaning, if I were not working I would be doing this anyway.

Then it makes all the sense in the world that you are getting paid to do it. Have you always been so fortunate? Or is this your first gig doing what you love the most?

Before working at Bungie I was working for Disney as a Concept Artist for several feature film projects and most recently a television series.

That sounds like a job that any child would dream about? Is that when your aspiration took root? Think back to those years when Mickey Mouse was the leader of your club. What did that young man want to be when he grew up?

I grew up fascinated with all things automotive and really wanted to be a car designer. It wasn’t until I got into my college career and met some people in the car design industry in internship settings that I shifted tracks. I learned from these experiences that if I stayed in the car design route and was lucky I would probably end up drawing door knobs, at best. Also, around that time I was getting very interested in Concept Design for games and film. So much of my inspiration came from Artists in the Entertainment Industry, especially guys like Syd Mead, Ralph McQuarrie, and Doug Chiang. Those guys were super stars to me and working at that level (or near it) seemed unobtainable when I was younger, so I never imagined that I could do it for a living. After a few years in design college however, I started to feel comfortable enough with myself as an artist and designer to begin to move in that direction.

It’s always great to hear about people learning their true calling. Where was this design college that convinced you that you had the chops to envision concepts that would drive a story?

I studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. While there I studied Product Design, Transportation Design, and later Entertainment Design and Illustration.

When you decided to make the move from Disney to Bungie, how did you convince us to cast our gaze in your direction?

I submitted a portfolio with a lot of art from various film projects.

A good portfolio packed with previous accomplishments is a great foot in the door. What was it like to walk through that door for your job interview at Bungie?

I wouldn’t say my interview was very difficult in any technical terms. I was more excited about being here and getting the opportunity to meet so many talented people who I have so much respect for as artists, designers, game makers, and story tellers.

The fact that you are here is evidence of their mutual respect. Now that your name is on our roster, what would you say is the best thing about being a member of the team?

The most rewarding thing about working for Bungie is working for Bungie. I have been a fan for a long time, and it is very cool to get to work here and be able to peek behind the curtain and see how everything is made.

Many of our readers would love to pull back that same curtain. Give them a glimpse from your perspective. How would you describe a day in the life of our studio?

Coffee, work, lunch, work, Coffee, work.

Fair enough. It’s not all fun and games here. Building a new universe from the ground up is not easy. Aside from the unlimited supply of caffeine, what else do we do to make that hard work worth the effort?

Free t-shirts.

Ah, yes. The Bungie Uniform! Aside from the irresistible force of peer pressure to keep things casual at Bungie, it also seems as if we are always daring our people to do better and better work. How do you expand your horizons as an artist to keep up with the rate of evolution that Bungie demands?

When I am not drawing or painting at work I am usually doing it on my free time. Practice makes perfect (or in my case, a little better).

It’s good to know that illustrating concepts for Bungie hasn’t crushed your desire to create art outside of work. What steps would you recommend to all of the artists out there who aspire to follow a path similar to yours?

If you would like to be a Concept Artist or Designer, the most common route is by spending 4 -7 years in a design college, like Art Center College of Design, or something equivalent. Some people can do it without schooling by getting their foot in the door at a studio and learning on the job. Either way though, there are no real short cuts. Getting proficient at art takes nothing but time – it’s all about mileage.

Final question: Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.

Work Ethic, Talent, Experience. Like I wrote above, getting good at your craft is all about mileage, so if you have a good work ethic you can get there a lot faster. Talent is important too, some people have “got it” while others don’t, but I would say number one is being able to grind through the first ten years or so of your career building your portfolio and skill set.

We thank Darren for shedding some light on the subject of turning a passion into a career. His is but one story about turning that thing that you would do for free into a job. Many more of these stories are archived in other Breaking In features. If you would like to write your own story about getting paid to do what you love, Bungie is always on the hunt for new people who want to follow their dreams.

Breaking In 4/30/2012 4:49 PM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Brandon Whitley

Impressing the girls with love songs written in code...

The process for creating a video game is a lot like a symphony. Many different disciplines come together to weave a beautiful tapestry of noise. Brandon Whitley understands this metaphor as well as anyone. The path that led to his career at Bungie started in the unlikely study of music. To learn how a musician evolved into being a member of our development team, listen in on our duet.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

My name is Brandon Whitley. Around Bungie, people refer to me as a graphics engineer. FX artists create all sorts of visual candy. Fire, smoke, explosions, lasers, swarms of bees… lots of stuff. My job is to ensure that they have a flexible and intuitive system for creating this candy. The truth is that I was hired to hold the hand of Steve Scott, our lead FX artist. It is a good strong hand, yet sensual and somewhat weathered.

When you aren’t holding hands at Bungie, how do you keep them busy? It has been said, after all, that the devil will find work for idle hands to do…

Lately, I’ve been getting back into piano and guitar. I think I’m trying to relive my high school glory days, where I enjoyed the overwhelming popularity that all high school choir members receive. I also have an 18-month old son, so I am very interested in cars and ducks.

From musician to video game developer is an unlikely career evolution. Did we pluck you from some smoke-filled piano bar? Where were you before you were entrenched with Bungie?

Working at Zipper Interactive on a couple PS3 titles (MAG and SOCOM 4). Before that I was at Georgia Tech getting a Master’s Degree and researching computer animation.

We still have to solve the mystery for how the lounge lizard became a graphics engineer. Let’s go back to the beginning. When you were a child, dreaming of being a man, what did you imagine you would be?

Broadway star, of course. For most of my childhood, I didn’t plan on entering the game industry. In middle school, at a school assembly, a friend of mine performed an incredible guitar solo. He displayed talent, creativity, and true artistry. He helped me form an opinion of mine that has stuck with me to this day: impressing girls is really important. Naturally, I took up guitar lessons. I found that I had a real passion for it, so I spent close to the next decade focusing my efforts on all things music. Eventually I decided I wanted to be a music teacher. There were some theatrical dreams in there as well, but I hardly admit those to myself, much less to the entire Internet.

There is nothing that makes the ladies swoon more than a music teacher. How did you set yourself onto the path of infusing eager young minds with song?

I majored in music education and computer science. My goal at the time was to become a music teacher. The computer science thing was just something I did on the side, ya know, to make my life more ridiculous. After graduating, I realized I couldn’t stop thinking about computer graphics, so I applied for a bunch of graphics positions. I scored a few interviews, which helped me to realize I didn’t know anything about computer graphics. So I went back to school and got my masters in computer science, with a focus on computer animation and rendering.

So now we know how your mutation from music to games happened. Once you put yourself on a path that would lead you to Bungie, how did you entice us to open our doors to you?

Unfortunately, I don’t have much to discuss here. I sent Bungie an e-mail with my resume attached. That’s it.

That must have been some resume. I suppose the Master’s Degree didn’t hurt. What were some of the more harrowing moments of your interview with Bungie?

Mine was a little longer than usual… around eleven hours. Towards the end of the day, when my brain was fried, I was interviewed by a producer (Mark Noseworthy). I assumed it would be pure fluff, and we’d be talking about our favorite beers by the time it was over. Instead, we went to the whiteboard and worked through the scheduling details of a complicated task that I had completed at a previous studio. It was much more difficult than it sounds. Mark questioned a lot of assumptions I made and noticed possible dependencies with other disciplines that I should consider. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but the professionalism and intelligent thought-processes Mark demonstrated just made me want to work with Bungie even more.

And now you are here, with all of our lofty expectations and grueling production schedules. What is your favorite perk about working for Bungie?

Free babysitting.

We offer free babysitting?

Yes we do!

I suppose I should engender an offspring so that I can take full advantage of that. On the subject of creation, tell us about your proudest moment as a member of the Bungie team?

Hmmm, I don’t have much to boast about yet since our next game hasn’t shipped. I am really happy with the design and current implementation of the FX system that Chris Tchou and I have developed, but there’s still a lot of work to do. I also have a trophy sitting on my desk, reminding me every day of my clutch victory at the most recent Bungie Golf Tournament.

(In reality, it was my team members who brought that trophy home. I just had to hit one usable drive every nine holes... a goal that I reached, but did not exceed).

When you are not perfecting your golf swing, how are you working to raise your handicap as an artist that adds visual punch to explosions?

Just being at Bungie and learning through osmosis provides plenty of advancement. This happens mostly through collaboration with other developers. Whether we are looking at code, discussing system designs or analyzing a competitor’s product, all of these interactions facilitate a lot professional growth. I also read books, blogs, conference proceedings, etc..

That special variety of osmosis is craved by many. What recommendations would you make to people who want to work in this industry?

I would recommend specialization (it worked for me at least). Find a game industry related skill that you love and then work your ass off becoming a master of that skill.

Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.

Tough to choose between work ethic and talent. Talent is probably more important for getting a job, since it is easier to demonstrate during an interview. But if you lack either one, keeping a job will be a real struggle.

Thanks for sharing your tale of music theory and computer science, Brandon. It’s always a pleasure to learn about the people who contribute to our chorus. This is, of course, just one story about what led people to work for Bungie. The rest of them are preserved like sheet music in our Breaking In archive.

Breaking In 4/23/2012 4:14 PM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Alex Loret de Mola

Engineering everything you see here.

If you are reading these words, you are partaking in an experience enabled by an entire team of developers whose sole focus is making a great place to visit. One of the newest members of that team is Alex Loret de Mola, who is helping to ready our base in cyberspace for an overhaul. To learn how Alex found himself in the service of the Bungie Community, follow along as our discussion topic unfolds.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

I’m Alex Loret de Mola, a newbie Web Engineer for Web Engineers enable the community-driven aspects of Bungie: things like the forums, the internal systems used to add content to the site (such as this very article you’re reading right now), and any experiences that you see on the web or on mobile devices. We also mine data from our games (as in the case of the recently migrated Halo stats features) to provide you with information about your gameplay history and to provide interesting statistics from people around the world who play the game. If you are passionate about web or mobile development, there’s definitely a place for you here at Bungie!

Before we talk more about the work you are doing to improve upon those features, let’s luxuriate further on the notion of passion. Tell us what are you doing when you are not web engineering our happy home?

Poetry, Programming, Philosophy, Politics… basically anything beginning with the letter “P”. So… Podiatry? Sure. I’m not ashamed: I enjoy knitting, though I don’t do it frequently. I also love to play games: video games, Magic: The Gathering, board games, you name it.

Philanthropy? Paleontology? Choosing a Profession is a crucial choice. What were you Pursuing before your career led you to Bungie?

I was working in the Healthcare industry, actually. We were making software for electronic communications between doctors’ offices and health care plans. Yep, it’s as boring as it sounds. Kids, don’t join the corporate world if you can avoid it.

Were there helpful adults to provide such sound advice when you were a younger lad? What did you want to be when you used to dream about growing up?

In truth, I wanted to be a game developer when I was very young. In college, however, I fell in love with the languages and eccentricities of web development. Though I’ve done some game development on the side, I can’t picture myself leaving the world of servers and the web.

We can’t picture that either, since we are all relying on you to help build for us a new and exciting place where we can troll one another. Tell us what forms of higher learning equipped you for this challenge.

I got my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at California State University, Sacramento. If you love programming, and you can manage it financially (or via grants), get yourself to a more CompSci-oriented school – not only for the additional quality in programs, but for the increased motivation of the CompSci students around you. I hear about guys who went to MIT or a polytechnic institute who got together with kids in their dorms to make awesome projects, and I’m envious!

Well, now you are the envy of many a web developer who dreams of engineering a site teaming with such a devoted community. Before you rolled up your sleeves to start banging out code for our website, how did you get us to pick you out of the crowd?

I guess it must have been the answers to the programming questions that Bungie gave. I worked my butt off for a weekend (and a couple of days leading up to it), and everything moved quickly from there. Honestly, I didn’t think they’d even respond to my resume! “Why would they want some guy working in healthcare software,” was what I thought to myself at the time… but I figured I’d try anyways. I guess that’s an important step: don’t assume defeat before you’ve even started.

Sage counsel. It should also be warned that victory is not assured. What was the darkest moment of your uphill climb to emerge triumphant from our interview process?

For me, it was the phone interview. If I have a board in front of me – or a keyboard – I usually can be reasonably communicative. When I’m talking to a person on the other side of a phone, however, I’m a bumbling buffoon.

Since so few of us actually have phones on our desk here, not many of us have seen that side of you. Aside from the emphasis on face-to-face interaction, what would you describe as the most rewarding thing about being a web engineer for Bungie?

Being around people who are trying their hardest to do the best they can every day. It’s inspirational, especially coming from a more corporate-oriented world where people tend to lose their sense of urgency over time. Being surrounded by passionate people with a fire under their feet really is fantastic.

Disclaimer: Bungie does not motivate their people through the use of fire. That is how rumors get started, Alex. To set the record straight, describe a day in the life in our studio.

I usually swing into work between 8 and 9, and start coding after I grab some of our delicious free coffee. Code until noon, play a little Magic: the Gathering for lunch (that was me with the Tamanoa deck in DeeJ’s recent twitter photo), and code until I’d get in trouble with my wife if I left any later.

And what is the product of those long hours? Of all the functionality that you have helped to build, what is your favorite?

So far I’ve been working primarily on our internal web tools – I’m proud of where they’re at so far, but we’ve got a bit of a way to go before they’re ready for prime time! I’ll feel like it’s an accomplishment once I see people in the company really using it every day.

These things evolve over time. As for your evolution, how does working at Bungie make you a better engineer?

I used to do a lot of reading – books, articles, etc. I still do these things, but once I got to Bungie I found that I’m engaging in a lot more “social learning”: attending coding events in the area, learning from other developers in-person. It wasn’t something I could do as easily with my previous work situation, and now I’m really enjoying it.

For those would also enjoy such work, what recommendations would you make?

Don’t assume that you can’t do it: remember that there’s 0% chance of success if you don’t even try to get in the game. For web development – you’ll want to keep up your skills in the area. Knowing how to code a game won’t be as important as knowing how to code for the web.

Let’s bring this conversation home and send you back to work. Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.

Personally, I think it’d be a tie between Work Ethic/Talent, and then Experience. Experience can be learned from those who have come before you; especially here at Bungie, there’s a large pool of talented people to learn from. However, work ethic and talent go hand-in-hand. If you’re talented but you don’t want to put any work in, you’re going to be just as bad off as if you want to work hard but don’t have the core skillsets needed to get the job done.

Thanks, Alex. I will keep you no longer from your most important work. The members of the Bungie Community are eagerly awaiting some shiny new digs to vandalize. If Alex’s tale reminds you of your own hopes and dreams, you may yet find yourself seated beside him. If you would rather follow a different path into the video game industry, we map as many of them as we can in the Breaking In Archive. Tune in next week for another in the continuing series.

Breaking In 4/16/2012 5:39 PM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Daniel Hanson

Interfacing with Bungie.

A crucial component of a video game is the interface that guides the player through the experience. A good user interface tells the player if they are doing well, or if they are about to meet a tragic end. It combines many disciplines to set the mood and support the gameplay. To learn more about this intersection between art and science, as well as the path that leads to such contemplations, get to know Daniel Hanson.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

My name is Daniel Hanson, and I am an engineer on the user interface team. Some might not consider it the most glamorous work in game development, but it’s pretty important to get right. Everybody has something that they want to expose to the game interface, so we have to coordinate with several teams to make sure that the player gets all the necessary feedback. We also work on providing our UI artists and designers with the right set of tools to create spiffy screens, widgets, animations, and all that other kerfuffle that gets rendered over the game itself. It’s an interesting blend between being an engine programmer and a tools programmer. There is no shortage of interesting challenges to solve here.

Before we delve into those challenges, let’s back up and talk about the very first challenge of arriving here in the first place. What were you doing before your career led you to Bungie?

After graduating from college, I worked in the Windows group at Microsoft for three years. If you’ve seen Windows 8, you’ve seen some of my code in action. I understand that this statement will be received with mixed opinions.

In the end, I decided that OS development wasn’t my shtick, so I started looking for the next step in my career. I had already been working on hobby game projects, and I wanted to see what life was like in the professional game development world. I figured, if I’m gonna take the plunge into game development, I may as well apply to Bungie!

You are in the deep end now. Tell our readers how you learned to tread these waters in the first place.

I attended Washington State University for five years. It took me a while to settle on a degree program. I started as a Math Education major, intending to be a high school teacher. Then I signed up for Air Force ROTC and did that for a year, before I decided that the military wasn’t my thing. Finally, I settled on Computer Science. Turned out to be the right choice!

Making the choice to be a computer scientist is but the first step that leads to an exciting career at Bungie. What were some of the other steps you took to make us court you as an engineer?

Well, I had my three years at Microsoft to help beef up my résumé, but I knew that I needed more than that. I had no game industry experience, and I didn’t know anybody who worked at Bungie. The odds seemed overwhelmingly stacked against me. I did have several game projects that I had been working on, most notably an Xbox 360 roguelike game that I had been developing using XNA. So, I put together a personal website to show off my projects. I spent a lot of time setting that up, writing about each project and explaining the challenges that I encountered and what I learned.

After brushing up my résumé and writing a heartfelt cover letter, I emailed my application and waited. And waited. Oh man, it was nerve-wracking. I installed Google Analytics on my website so that I knew when someone was taking a peek, but this did nothing to calm my nerves. Finally, I received a reply from a Bungie recruiter, telling me that they wanted to talk. I don’t remember exactly what happened when I saw the email, but I think it involved incoherent babbling and tears of joy.

Tears of joy can turn very quickly to just tears. I am talking, of course, about the Bungie interview process. What was the hardest part about your professional interrogation?

Geez, do I have to pick one? The whole day was pretty intense. I think the interviews added up to almost 10 hours, and that’s not counting the programming test and two phone screens that led up to the day. The morning interviews were largely technical by nature: data structures, algorithms, technical design. It was the usual technical interview fare, but none of it was easy. Many of the problems were actually based on real-world problems that Bungie engineers had encountered. Let me tell you, it was a huge confidence boost to come up with a solution and hear the interviewer say, “Yeah, that’s what we did, too.”

The afternoon interviews were softer and tended to involve my previous work experience and side projects. I was mentally exhausted at that point, so I was happy to talk about other topics for a while. I got the feeling that the interviewers were trying to determine if I was a good fit at Bungie, so I followed up with my own questions to determine if Bungie was a good fit for me. Everything they said made it sound like working at Bungie was a dream job, so I was thrilled at the end of the day when they gave me an offer.

You mean they didn’t make you sweat it out for a week or two? You were lucky. Now that you are tucked safely away behind Jerome’s forbidding glare, what is the most rewarding thing about working for Bungie?

Being surrounded by amazingly intelligent and ridiculously passionate people. I am constantly learning from everyone, and I am always challenged not only to do my best, but to push myself further, to be even better than I am. The work environment encourages everyone to improve themselves so that we can achieve greater things. I can’t imagine being happier working anywhere else.

Does that intelligence and passion rub off on you? Would you say that a job at Bungie enables you to advance your craft?

As a Level 1 Engineer, the important thing I’ve realized is that it is not your programming skills that distinguish you. Everyone who works here is a kickass coder; it’s one of the job requirements. What’s really important is learning to communicate with co-workers of every discipline. Designers have requirements, and I have to be able to translate them into a robust technical design that meets their specifications, yet remains flexible when the design inevitably changes. Artists must be able to use the tools I build, so they need to be coherent and well-suited to their needs. Testers need to be able to test my features quickly and easily, with a clear understanding of when and how the feature breaks. And I need to be able to work with producers to ensure that I do all of my work within our schedule budget.

There are always technical problems to consider, but sometimes the greatest challenges are not solved using C++. As an engineer, my time is valuable, and it is up to me to ensure that I utilize my time wisely, for myself and for everyone I work with. The better I can do that, the sooner we can achieve world domination.

World domination is a popular order. What would you recommend to someone else who dreams of standing by our side as a teammate on the day when our evil plans come to fruition?

Work on side projects! With all of the tools available to you today, there is no excuse for having a blank résumé; even if you’re a recent college graduate. Whether it’s iOS, Android, XNA, Unity, Flash, or whatever, there is almost certainly a way to develop on your favorite platform for free or cheap. Focus on small projects at first. If you’ve never finished a game before, you’d be surprised how much work goes into creating a complete experience. It doesn’t have to be a beautiful game (heck, my roguelike was text-based), but it does need to be polished. Having a polished game in your portfolio demonstrates that you have the passion for game development and the drive to finish what you start.

You’ve been very helpful to future developers. In closing, what is more important to you: Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.

Experience is more important for some positions, but I know several people here who got hired fresh out of college. If you have no experience, you can bootstrap yourself by work in side projects, as I mentioned above. More important is that you have the work ethic to finish those projects, even when it gets boring or tedious. It isn’t always fun to develop games! Most importantly of all, you need talent to be competent in your work. At Bungie, we choose to solve the hard problems, and solve them well. Study hard, and practice your craft. The expectations are high, but the rewards are great. Join us, if you dare!

If you are feeling up to his challenge, Bungie is hiring. Or, if you just want to learn more about what shapes the minds that create the games you play, our Breaking In Archive has many more stories like this one. Every week, we will introduce you to another developer who broke into our clubhouse.

Breaking In 4/9/2012 4:54 PM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Jim Levasseur

Staying humble and hungry.

Bungie is constantly challenging itself to be a company of storytellers. Some of those stories are told through moving pictures that give the players of our games a momentary break from blowing stuff up. This week, we are shining the Breaking In spotlight on a member of the team that infuses the action we create with a touch of cinema. His story is another illuminating example of how one can turn aspirations for collecting garbage into an exciting career making video games.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

My name is Jim Levasseur and I animate cinematics at Bungie. Some days I place cameras and edit scenes; other days I clean up motion capture or hand-animate faces and butt wiggles. Mostly I stare at the screen and yell things at my computer.

When you are not pilling verbal abuse onto your machine, how do you otherwise blow off the considerable steam that seems to build up as a byproduct of your work?

I adopted a Chihuahua and she just learned how to use Facebook and then all the boy dogs started messaging her. I’ve quickly turned into an overprotective dad. In my spare time I take photos (still rockin’ 35mm film), animate personal projects, and practice yoga (emphasis on practice).

You are quite the historian, committing imagery to emulsion like that. Let’s delve deeper into history. What were you doing before your career led you to Bungie?

Living in my parents’ basement. Just kidding! Their basement is cold and drafty so I lived upstairs. I bounced around doing short-term contract work for a few years after graduating, everything from talking cars in Kansas City to a crazy independent short film in Berlin. Every time, I’d end up back home and forget how to do my own laundry. These things happen.

I can only assume that those talking cars were where you learned to yell at your computer. Before you became a sworn enemy of Artificial Intelligence, what ambition propelled you through childhood?

Garbage man, hands down. The trucks were unbelievably cool and I held onto that dream for a long, long time. My parents were so relieved when I decided to attend college; at least until I told them I was majoring in art (see: living in basement).

Tell us more about majoring in art. Is it true that art school students are required to paint their fingernails black, and are prohibited from bathing more than three times a week?

Everything you’ve heard about art school is true, for better and for worse. I received a BFA from a state university. I learned a lot from my peers and spent many long hours making countless mistakes in the computer labs. I also found other opportunities to learn after graduation, including several remote online courses with really talented and experienced animators.

That’s fine. You don’t have to tell us exactly where you went to school. For all we know, you were under the protection of the government as the witness of a terrible crime against technology. What you do have to tell us is how you attracted the terrible scrutiny of employment candidates for which Bungie is known.

Besides the briefcase full of money and decadent chocolates, I also submitted a tightly-edited animation reel showcasing character and personality. But chocolate is always welcome.

Given the wealth of chocolate that springs eternal from the depths of our snack bar, I can only assume that the character and personality in your demo reel was what made you attractive. Now that you are here, what is the most rewarding thing about working for Bungie?

Being part of an insanely talented team. I know, I know – cheesy answer. But every day I’m humbled when I see someone else’s work or receive feedback from a coworker. The bar is set really high.

It has been said that you are the company you keep, so don’t be too humble. Let’s set the philosophical rewards aside and get shallow. What is your favorite perk about working for Bungie?

I’m a big fan of Taco Fridays. Granted, the tacos here look a lot like bagels, but this is Seattle so I don’t expect authentic Tex-Mex.

This town might not be known for occupation-inspired cuisine, but it is a nice place to create and innovate. How do you keep your chops sharp as a creator of interactive adventures?

I study cinematography in live-action movies, animate personal tests, and read books. And I sit in coffee shops and watch people, which is fascinating but also a little creepy (bring a dog, it helps).

Such a student of man should be able to teach those who have become inspired by the path you have traveled. Share with us your wisdom, ye reformed garbage man. What recommendations would you make to people who want to work in this industry?

Ask questions, always – questions are the best way to engage with the world. Cultivate diverse influences outside of games and film (and make sure that includes reading non-fiction). Don’t be satisfied with your teachers or the classes your school offers; seek out opportunities to educate yourself whenever possible. Don’t fall into the trap of believing your work is perfect, because it can always be better. Surround yourself with dedicated people who are more talented than you, then ask for their feedback often. Never stop making personal work. Don’t mistake networking for bothering strangers without offering anything of value in return (your best network will always be your peers). Don’t be afraid to do your own thing; having an awesome portfolio or reel that also reveals your personality is rare but essential. And when you do make it, stay humble and stay hungry.

We thank Jim for reaching deep into his well of career advice. His is but one tale of elevating a personal passion out of the basement. Our Breaking In Archive is the place to collect many more stories just like this one. Perhaps you can even try your luck at becoming a success story of your very own on our Careers page. We are, after all, hiring. Or, just check back next week for another serving from the bucket.

Breaking In 4/2/2012 4:32 PM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Danny Bulla

Even rock stars have to audition.

Bungie is always on the hunt for the best and brightest developers. This exhaustive search brings new faces to us from every corner of the map. One of them is Danny Bulla, a rock star who left a land of infinite sunshine to join us under the misty canopy that hangs over the majestic Pacific Northwest. Read on to find out how and why he made the trip.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

Your new best friend, right DeeJ? Right? In all seriousness, I’m new to these parts, ever passionate about game design and world domination. I’m a gameplay designer on the sandbox team. We try to make all the things you do feel and play amazingly. So much, that you’ll want to do it over... and over... and over again! In fact, we should just make a jumping game. Jump. Jump. Jump.

I am not sure how well that would be received by our patient community, Danny. Some of them need a little healthy competition to keep them engaged. You can relate, I am sure. So that they can relate right back, tell them about your interests outside of work.

I’m big into music, all music really, though recently I’ve been listening to a lot of WubWubWubWub. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I love gaming. I tend to focus more on the competitive games: Marvel vs. Capcom (Thor/Tony/Wesker accepting all challengers), DotA 2, card games (like MTG and Ascension). Really anything that I can win in. Losing sucks.

When I find time - or just need to relax - you’ll find me playing my piano. Nothing like 88 weighted keys to end the day.

We are indeed fortunate to have that competitive spirit on our side, now. What were you doing before your career led you to play for our team?

Getting Sun. I moved up from Southern California where I was working on Red Dead Redemption. Before that, Austin, TX, where I worked on Blacksite: Area 51. Both games taught me a ton. I wouldn’t be doing this interview now if it weren’t for the things I learned on those projects.

This is the easy interview. Can you remember the hard interview? Or have you blocked it out like a long-repressed childhood trauma? What was it like to face the panel that sized you up as a potential employee at Bungie?

The interview process at Bungie is intense, more intense than any interview I’ve ever had. That being said, there wasn’t one part that stood out as harder than the rest. Everything I knew about game development and playing games was analyzed. Bungie wants people that are as passionate about games as they are about making them. I didn’t know if I had the job when I left the interview, but I realized that I wanted to talk to those guys more. The amount I learned just by interviewing took me by surprise. That was the moment that I knew I wouldn’t be happy if I wasn’t here.

Sometimes, getting our attention can be even harder than surviving the audition. What did you do to make Bungie take notice in the first place?

I tried a few different approaches at first. Goat sacrifices didn’t seem to work, so I decided to give my résumé a shot. Thanks to my good friend and fellow gameplay designer Ham-Ham (Josh Hamrick), I was able to get my foot in the door!

They say it’s all about who you know. You just proved them right. Now that you are here, what is the most rewarding thing about working for Bungie?

How about two things? The first I’ve already touched on: Knowledge. I’ve already learned so much here. Everyone here is just so good at their job. The second, which is equally important as the first, is Bungie’s dedication to its employees. They continually go out of their way to make sure we are happy, creative, and genuinely excited about our games. If we aren’t, they find out why and address it. If they don’t, we riot. Pitchforks and all.

You make the experience sound so lofty. We do have fun here as well. What is your favorite perk about working for Bungie?

No joke? The endless supply of Raisinets. My dad and I would always get a box of these when we went to the movie theatre. Never, and I mean ever, did I think I would be able get up from my desk, do a few pull-ups, then go get some delicious chocolate covered raisins.

Now that we know how easy you are to please, we will have to keep those stocked. A competitive guy like you keeps track of his achievements. What is your favorite accomplishment as a member of the Bungie team?

Getting runner up for the Drunkard category at our annual Golf tournament. Just kidding Mom, I don’t drink… It has to be the DotA 2 Pentathlon victory. My team of Newbies and I decimated the rest of the studio. Yes. Decimated. Mad?

While Danny is busy fending off the waves of anger that are sure to come from vanquished Pentathlon opponents after this is published, you are welcome to track all of the trails that leads to Bungie. This is just one story about joining the cause for world domination. The rest are stored for safe keeping in our Breaking In Archive. More are to follow. Watch this space.

Breaking In 3/26/2012 3:55 PM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Nate Hawbaker

Plotting all courses to world domination.

If you have been following the Bungie employees who have graced recent Mail Sacks with their deep wisdom and infinite irony, you may recognize Nate Hawbaker as a perennial panelist. He has been as passionate about Halo games as he has been about the community that has played them. That’s why he agreed to step away from the storm we’re brewing to discuss a path that led him to an exciting career in controlling the weather. Let’s learn more about how this self-made man broke in to the business.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

Nate Hawbaker. I design the tools that we use here at Bungie to develop The Next Big Thing™.

Don’t get excited, everyone. That is not what we are calling it. Nate is just being colloquial.

So, Nate, when you are not misleading the community about the working title of our next game, what pastimes do you use to balance the rest of life with your aggressive workload at Bungie?

I help cover photography at our local exotic car show here in Redmond, Exotics@RTC. Does taking my Corgi to the park count as an interest? It definitely should.

I would say that your enormous Corgi thinks so. Let’s change the subject from the dog path to the career path. What were you doing before your professional leash led you here?

I was working in QA at Nintendo, “testing” Mario Kart 7 – aka trash talking my coworkers at ear-shattering volumes.

Beware the blue shell. It is a crusher of all dreams. Speaking of dreams, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Oh man. I think this is the part where I say Astronaut or race car driver, right? Honestly I can’t recall. Let’s just assume I wanted to shoot aliens in the face.

Very few institutions of higher learning offer degrees in that very particular field of study. What education did you pursue to prepare you for a life in the trenches of video game development?

Outside of my High School education, I was working towards an AAS transfer at Bellevue College. I got bored of that after a year before I decided to dedicate my time towards personal projects and education.

So you are a student of the world, and a professor in your own hall. How enterprising of you. Once your own class was dismissed, how did you show Bungie what you had taught yourself?

I made a nifty piece of software called Vanity. It grabbed enough attention to get a front page mention, before melting my servers of course. Apart from that I was an active member in the community through HBO for 8 years.

We pay homage to the same Godfather, in that respect. Tell us about the rigors that led to the offer that you could not refuse.

The initial phone interview was one of the most fun conversations I had ever had for a job. I never had so many common things to talk about, from hobbies to rendering technologies. That instant commonality left a huge impression. The hardest part: The 11 hour long in-person interview. So much problem solving…

Was the experience up to this point worth the trials? What is the most rewarding thing about working for Bungie?

Being surrounding by such extreme talent every day – it’s so creatively conducive.

But how does that manifest in terms of going to work and doing your part? Describe a day in the life in our studio.

Initial run through the kitchen to pick up free food. Morning meetings to make sure everyone has a clear plan of attack for the day. And then around 30 minutes into the day you usually find yourself walking away from your desk to ask about The New Hotness™ that is on someone’s monitor.

We are not calling our next project that either. Back to the details that flavor the grind, what is your favorite perk about working for Bungie?

Did I mention the free Red Bull AND gym membership?

You did not. Mass quantities of the former seem to beg of mass quantities of the latter. Tell us how you expend all of this spare energy. What is your favorite accomplishment as a member of the Bungie team?

Every single time I can make someone say, “That’s a good idea, I’d never thought of that.”

Do these collaborators of whom you speak return that favor of inspiration? How do you advance your craft while wielding it to help us make kick ass games?

Keeping busy. Here, it’s impossible to be bored. But even outside the studio I try to occupy my time with personal projects.

You are like your own program for Continuing Studies. What recommendations would you make to people who want to work in this industry?

Don’t be afraid to take a little bit of time to yourself to try something new. You’d be amazed at what you can do when you give 100% of your time towards a new personal goal for even a month.

Finally: Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.

Talent, Work Ethic, Experience – This is a trick question!

As you have taught yourself, the best tests can be the ones that are not graded. By that measure, you passed with flying colors, Nate. We thank you for sharing your story with hopeful souls who dream of turning their hatred for aliens into a career.

If you are one of those dreamers, you are welcome to peruse other stories like these in the Breaking In Archive. No two paths are the same, after all. Stay tuned for the remembrances of more trailblazers as they recount the steps that led to the development floor of Bungie.

Breaking In 3/19/2012 3:17 PM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Tom Sanocki

Lighting the road, one newbie at a time.

If you’ve been tracking our careers page, you know that Bungie is locked in the grips of a rampant growth spurt. On a weekly basis, eager new faces are led wide-eyed through our studio.  Behind every ambitious newbie is a harrowing tale that illuminates their road into our humble home. For this week’s Breaking In, a stretch of that winding path is being lit by an animated personality who we know as Tom Sanocki.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

I’m Tom Sanocki, and I eat tasty snacks. That’s what I do. Coincidentally, I do stuff that makes our characters better – but I’m sure other people are doing that as well.

Snacks power the vessel, but they do not make the man.  When you are not animating heroes and villains in our brave new world, what makes life otherwise worth living?

I have two children, so I am constantly weighted down by the responsibility of having precious lives in my hands – no undo, no saved game. That usually paralyzes me just when they’re about to do something incredibly unwise. After saving them at the very last instance, sharing a teachable moment about an important life lesson, and sending them off to bed, I enjoy hiking/backpacking/camping, video games, film, books, drums, and sporadic attempts at writing.

Teach our hopeful future developers a life lesson of their very own.  What were you doing before your career led you to Bungie?

I spent 11 years as a Character Lead at Pixar Animation Studios. I created character pipelines, wrote rigging and simulation software, built master rigs, poured over schedules and spreadsheets, led teams, rigged/modeled/simulated characters, and went to meetings. Lots of meetings. Did I mention meetings? Those were some great meetings. Yet, strangely, something was missing...

To help fill in those gaps, let’s peer into the darker recesses of your childhood memories.  What did you want to be when you grew up?

A game developer! As a kid I spent my spare time writing computer games (and in rural New Jersey, you get a lot of spare time). I wrote a bunch of games in a variety of styles and techniques, sold one copy ($3 pure profit, baby!), and realized years later that none of them were fun to play. At all. After a decade in computer animated film, I’m doing games again. Funny how life works, no? Hopefully the games will be more fun this time around!

Life has a way of teaching us those lessons.  Further to the point of teachings, what sort of education put you on the path of bringing life out of code?

My dad helped me learn the BASIC programming language when I was eight, and I taught myself more programming languages after that. After high school, I got my Computer Science Engineering degree at Princeton University, where I realized there’s a lot more to writing code than just learning programming languages! I fell into computer animation accidentally, by auditing two animation/graphics seminars at Princeton after I graduated. Finishing one project took two all-nighters in a row, including a full day at my actual job. That was my idea of a crazy post-college social life!

What did a crazy party animal such as you show to Bungie to grab our attention?

A clearly organized demo reel showing the characters I rigged, modeled, and simulated. I made sure I had an intro to each section that clearly described what was coming up and what I did in it, and I made sure to show calisthenics tests and progressions as well as finished shots. There was no sound at all on the reel, because no one listens to reels with the sound on anyway! I’d like to hope my love of finding clever and efficient solutions, being flexible and adaptable, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible made an impression too, but I’m sure I’m just being silly.

As anyone who has infiltrated our team recently can attest, a candidate is given a full day to make an impression.  What was the hardest part about your interview with Bungie?

It was super fun, but dude, it was long and intense! Lots of super-smart people to talk to, across all sorts of disciplines, so we were switching topics constantly. And these weren’t fluffy conversations – I had a producer ask me how I’d make character design more predictable, and after every idea he’d say, “We already do that.” I had a lot of fast thinking to do!

Now that your thinking is clocked at near supersonic speeds on a daily basis, what is the most rewarding thing about working for Bungie?

We are making something insanely great. We can get cool work done without bureaucratic hassle. People trust you a lot, even when you’re new. If something needs to be done, I can just do it, or get someone to help, without clearing it with eight bosses or filling out TPS reports. I can walk over to anyone I want and ask him or her a question, even if it’s Jason Jones. That’s more than one rewarding thing, and that’s how Bungie works – ask for one good thing and get five. It’s hard at first, but you learn to accept it after a while.

What recommendations would you make to people who want to work in this industry?

Care deeply about the work you do, even the boring and tedious stuff. Care so much you’re willing to toss it aside and start over when someone suggests a way to make it better and you realize they’re right. Raise your standards on what is “good” and “good enough.” Learn to love working with people, even the ones who can be a bit prickly. Work hard, work efficiently, be persistent without being annoying, and always make it great.

Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent?  Rank them in order of importance to your role.

If you work hard, and have the honesty to see where you’re lacking and the courage to ask others how to make your work better, you’re gonna make it. Experience is great, and talent is awesome, but it doesn’t go anywhere without sheer crazy hard work.

If crazy hard work like this is the sort of punishment that you desire, our Careers Page has plenty of calls that require your action.  At this very moment, our hot seats are open to the next brave soul who thinks they can fill them.  If Tom’s story leaves you wanting more, you are welcome to pour through all of the life stories in our Breaking In Archive.  You can also drop by this time next week for a tale from another new employee.

Breaking In 3/12/2012 4:04 PM PDT permalink

Breaking In - Derek Carroll

Derek Carroll describes a road less traveled.

After months of silent dormancy, the Breaking In feature makes a triumphant return this week.  Every Bungie employee has traveled their own road into our studio, paved with curriculums of study, professional accomplishments, passion projects, and life goals.  For aspiring developers with similar goals, today’s inside scoop is being served up by multiplayer veteran, Derek Carroll. If you find yourself outside the industry looking in, and you want to make the leap, Derek’s here to help you stick the landing.  Read on to learn more about the man with a winning smile and dreams of world domination.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Derek Carroll, and I’m a Senior Game Designer currently working on secret stuff that I’d love to talk about, but can’t.  I’m pretty good at making games and not talking about them until they’re announced.  It seems like only yesterday that I was hired to do multiplayer design for Halo: Reach, but I guess that was about three and a half years ago.

Ah, the past.  Instead, let’s talk about the present.  Tell me about your dreams, hobbies, and inspirations.

I enjoy making and playing videogames, watching movies, building cameras and taking photographs, and generally messing around with technology.   I have a hard time getting rid of old tech on the off-chance that it may become useful someday.

Actually, let’s talk about the past, too.  Complete the following sentence as you would have at twelve years of age: When I grow up, I want to be a…

Millionaire.  Seemed like a pretty good gig if you could get it.  Astronaut or Secret Agent sounded pretty good, too.   Now that I’m older and wiser, I realize that you shouldn’t announce your intentions to become a Secret Agent.

And, becoming an astronaut requires endless hours of physical training and a willingness to wear (and fill) diapers.  What intention did your High School Guidance Counselor have in store for you?

I have no idea.  In high school, the last people I would pay attention to would be the office staff.

Did you pay attention long enough to earn yourself a college degree?

Nope.  I went to art school in Chicago for photography, but got a job at an ad agency that taught me more and had better computers.  Oh, and they paid me, which I liked a lot more than the other way around.

So, how did you make first contact with Bungie?

The advertising industry in the 1990s was dominated by Macintosh computers, so my work machines were ideally suited to playing lots of Marathon after hours.   Making multiplayer maps for Marathon was an alliterative way of edging my way closer to the game industry. (Fun time-waster:  Find my maps online and try to play them 15 years later!)

I made the jump from the ad industry proper to being the web guy for FASA Interactive, which allowed me to meet people and make contacts in the games industry.  When Microsoft bought FASA Interactive, I freelanced for a while before taking the leap from marketing to makin’ games for a living.  I moved out to Washington and worked on games like MechWarrior 4, MechCommander 2, MechAssault, (notice a pattern?) and Shadowrun.

FASA Interactive and Bungie were in the same building at Microsoft for several years, so I knew some people at Bungie before shadowy agents approached me to talk about coming in for an interview.

What sort of charms did you bring with you to the interview?

Nothing but my winning smile and dreams of world domination.

We don’t put much stock in the former.  Is there one moment in the interview that makes you smile when you look back on it?

Well, it was a pretty standard interview loop, similar to what you’d see at Microsoft.   I think I may have been too honest with my personal feelings regarding FFA Slayer, and set off some alarm bells.  Luckily, I convinced enough people that I wasn’t here to “Ruin Halo,” so they offered me the gig.

In one sentence, describe what it’s like to work at Bungie.

Working at Bungie is incredibly cool and as long as I don’t use punctuation I can make this as long as I want and I guess a lot of people play our games so there’s a bit of pressure to deliver awesome stuff that will blow people away but everyone here is so talented and driven it’s totally sweet.

Aside from rejecting punctuation, is there any advice for would-be applicants looking to construct their own syntax monstrosities (and make kick ass games)?

Make stuff.  Lots of people have good ideas, but it takes hard work to actually make things that other people will value, and your ideas will only be improved by the process. 

Show off your work.  It’s important to get feedback, especially from disinterested strangers.  Your mom is not going to tell you that your work is bad.  If your stuff is bad, you need to hear it, and you need to know why, so you can improve.

Speaking of disinterested strangers, if you’ve already made some stuff and shown it off to people who loved it, you should scoot on over to our Career Opportunities page.  We are hiring.  Big thanks to Derek for lending us his insights on how to breach the fortified confines of our happy home.

Breaking In 3/5/2012 5:32 PM PST permalink

CJ Goes to GDX

We're experts!

If you hadn't already noticed, I shameless stole all of this morning's news straight from HBO's front page. What can I say, they scooped me good this morning. They even found out that CJ was going to be the keynote speaker at this year's Game Developer eXchange, and the guy sits barely a stone's throw away from me!

"SAVANNAH, Ga., March 9, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Savannah College of Art and Design will host the 2011 Game Developers eXchange, the Southeast's premier game development conference, May 13 in Savannah. This year's keynote speaker is SCAD graduate CJ Cowan (B.F.A., computer art, 1998), who is currently the director of cinematics at Bungie Studios, the creator of award-winning Halo. Cowan was a cinematic designer on Halo 2 and directed the cinematics teams of Halo 3, Halo: ODST, and Halo: Reach."

Breaking In 3/9/2011 9:26 AM PST permalink

Troy's Prop Workshop

Where does he get those wonderful toys?

Read Full Top Story

Breaking InFAQs and InfoHalo: Reach 6/2/2010 2:24 PM PDT

Ultimately About Fun

Building sincere animation with a small amount of frames.

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Breaking InAbout Bungie 5/26/2010 1:54 PM PDT

All the Right Moves

Troy McFarland takes you on a tour of our own private Spandex Palace.

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Inside BungieCareersBreaking InHalo: Reach 2/18/2010 2:05 PM PST

The Man Behind The Music

Marty sounds off.

HBO noticed that Marty O'Donnell is in the spotlight on Inside Xbox today.  Fire up your Xbox 360 and have a listen.  Or else.

Breaking In 12/14/2009 8:41 AM PST permalink

A Certain Sense of Movement

Bill O'Brien sort of sits down with us to sketch out his animation process.

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Inside BungieCareersBreaking In 12/3/2009 2:11 PM PST

Broken In - Natalya Tatarchuk

Passion, process, and perspective.

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Inside BungieCareersBreaking In 11/12/2009 4:40 PM PST

Breaking In - Dave Gasca

Informatics, flexibility, and making first impressions.

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Inside BungieCareersBreaking In 10/8/2009 5:23 PM PDT

Breaking In - Mike Hoffman

Mike Hoffman helps you stand out in the crowd.

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Inside BungieCareersBreaking In 10/1/2009 6:26 PM PDT