We're back to 'Breaking In' this week, and heralding its triumphant return is Network Engineer, David Aldridge, whose wise words are sure to improve the performance of the networked environment we call Bungie.net. When you pop in your Halo 3 disk and give it a good spin over Xbox LIVE, the engineering feat that makes that experience as smooth as possible is the stuff that fuels David's passion.
If you marvel at the prospect of playing with millions of other folks from all corners of the world, read on to learn a little bit about one of the men who makes sure it all comes together as seamlessly as possible.
Q. Who are you and what do you do?
A. I’m David Aldridge, and I make the internets faster. More specifically, I’m a Network Engineer here at Bungie, and my primary focus is improving the performance of our games in networked environments. My passion is reducing the frequency with which players experience subjective simulation dislocations caused by network limitations.
Q. Pretty sure we're in the middle of a subjective dislocation right now, David. We blame lag. How about we switch the subject and talk about a few of your hobbies?
A. X-Wing blew my mind when I was ten. Before that I was a relatively balanced individual, with a wide set of interests and hobbies. I was a demonically-competitive little leaguer, I built model cars, and I liked to play with fire. After X-Wing, it all went downhill. Tie Fighter led my parents to devise contorted incentives to drive me outside once in a while. Jedi Knight almost flunked me out of Calculus 2. Then, during my senior year of college, I spent over forty hours a week sitting in the HPUX lab logged in to a British LPMUD named Elephant MUD on a raw telnet console. I met my wife on that monochromatic stream of Courier New, thus permanently reinforcing my games obsession with an equally unbalanced partner.
These days I would say my top two hobbies are playing games and cooking. I make a mean sausage stew, among many other things.
Q. Courier New and sausage stew, eh? Thinking back on those X-Wing days, how would you have finished this sentence: When I grow up, I want to be a…
A. ...PC Game programmer. The year I turned twelve I put about 300 hours into Tie Fighter. I was strangely compelled to earn all the extra tattoos by doing favors for the Emperor’s secret society. All I had to do was slaughter a few extra innocents! This should have been my first clue that I am easily motivated by arbitrary and fundamentally meaningless progression schemes.
Q. Between favors for Palatine and painful sessions at the tattoo parlor, did you ever pop into your High School Counselor's office to see where your aptitude tests placed you?
A. I was home schooled, so I didn’t encounter any of those things. My GRE results said I should focus on a grad degree in English or Philology, does that count?
Q. Of course it counts. Learning and Literature are noble enterprises. With that kind of pedigree, one can only assume you went on to earn a college degree?
A. Yes, a couple of ‘em, both in Computer Science. Baccalaureate from California State at Northridge, and masters from USC. I was heavily focused on graphics and AI in both programs. Oddly, those are the two areas I’ve spent the least time working in professionally.
Q. And how did your non-graphical, Artificial Intelligence-less professional work lead you to Bungie?
A. In 2006, Bungie hired Chris Opdahl away from the company I was working at, just after Chris and I had finished working together on a PSP action-platformer. Chris is one of the most talented designers I’ve worked with, so I was intrigued by a company that would draw him. He responded to my curiosity by regaling me with tales of ongoing world domination, and when I couldn’t stand the jealousy anymore, I applied.
Q. Besides your intrigue, curiosity, and jealousy, what tangible effects did you bring along with you on your interview?
A french-pressed coffee, a notepad, pens, extra resumes, and aspirin. However, I believe my most important asset was my Math is Delicious tee from QC.
Q. Is there one delicious moment in the interview that stands out?
A. It was hard - a seemingly infinite array of fascinating non-trivial problems. A decent fraction of the questions were difficult enough that I couldn’t answer them well on the spot, and that, more than anything else, attracted me to Bungie.
Q. In one non-trivial sentence, describe what it’s like to be at Bungie.
A. It’s like being a kid in a candy store, except that the pieces of candy are cool problems, and you don’t get sick after gorging yourself.
Q. Any advice for aspiring applicants out there looking to satiate their sweet tooth?
A. Work hard at whatever your passion is, and don’t get addicted to MMOs.
Wise words. WoW is a hell of a drug. Thanks for the time and words, David. If there were any simulation dislocations, we didn't notice a thing. As always, if you read through this brief question and answer and think you have the drive and passion to devise new and improved ways to bring people a world apart onto the same digital couch, hit our Jobs
page and check out our offerings. Silly math t-shirt not required.