This week Broken In interacts with Dave Candland, one-time Bungie web designer turned prime-time Interface Lead. If you've played any of Bungie's titles from Halo onward, you've already experienced much of this man's work, right up close and personal. If you're looking to drill down a bit deeper and get some tips and tricks on how you can earn experience in the gaming industry, pull up a chair - Dave's ready to guide you through his own experiences here at Bungie.
Q. Who are you and what do you do for Bungie?
A. I am Dave Candland, longtime Bungie fan and Father of six. Yes, six. Didn’t you see the video? Anyway, I am the Interface lead at Bungie. I’m responsible for the Menus and HUD that you see in our games. I’ve been doing that since Halo and love it.
Q. Were you in the gaming industry prior to Halo? What did you do before Bungie?
A. I was a huge gamer as a kid, pumping my hard-earned paper route money into arcade games. Finally I saved enough to buy an Atari 2600 and bought my first console. At that time I knew I wanted to grow up and make games. I bought a cartridge for that system called BASIC PROGRAMMING and it came with a numeric keypad and a massive manual. After working at the instructions for several hours, all I managed to do was make a block quiver in the center of my screen. At that point I knew that I needed to stick to art.
After going to school at BYU Idaho and later on to the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, I landed a job at Microsoft making CD-ROMS and later Web sites. From there I went to Sierra, and then Bungie, still doing web sites. In my early days, I designed several Bungie sites (the 7th column, Bungie Support, Bungie Store, the Myth codex, et cetera) I also redesigned Bungie.com and Bungie.net. You can visit cached Internet sites like the Wayback Machine
to see some of my old work.
Q. What about your current work? What about Bungie sets it apart from the other jobs you’ve had?
I was always a big fan of Bungie. I took a pretty big hiatus from games after my Atari days, until a college buddy got me hooked on playing Marathon on our small network of Macs. That kind of rekindled my love of gaming. I also played a ton of Myth. When Microsoft bought Bungie and relocated the studio to my home town about the same time I was looking for a job, there were a lot of Mac gamers that felt a sense of betrayal. I personally was ecstatic.
When I first came to work, I was a bit starstruck. I saw all the faces and names I’d grown to revere over the years. I must admit, some of that still permeates to this day. There are still days when I have to pinch myself. I couldn’t think of a more awesome place to work.
Q. When you sit back and evaluate your experience with the studio, is there one moment that really stands out?
I think Gooch hit the nail on the head in his interview
. The Halo 2 launch was amazing. But you’ve heard that one already. Aside from that, I’d say the early days were pretty amazing. There were about thirty of us trying to put together this game called Halo. While doing that I was juggling my production duties with trying to maintain several web sites, make T-shirts, draw Bungie webcomics, and support the fan community. It’s a little sad to see that as we get bigger everyone’s job becomes more and more specialized, but this way, we can all do what we do much better, and have a higher quality bar.
Q. As you become more specialized and as the bar keeps getting raised higher and higher, how do you maintain the same level of drive you came in with in the early going?
I continue to play. It is a bit weird to be a 40+ dad that plays games, but I am constantly looking at what other people are doing, analyzing and thinking about what I would’ve done different if I was making their game, picking it apart and taking mental notes.
Last night I was having a discussion with my seventeen year old son about a game we were both playing, giving each other tips. He had a friend over that started laughing. He says, “Dude, that’s awesome. I could never talk to my dad like that.”
My passion for games just keeps driving me to make the best experience possible for everyone else, because I know there are thousands of eyes looking at my work, picking it apart and doing the same. The unique situation for us is, we have a very high bar to hit. This is Bungie. Everyone is trying to out-do us. We just need to keep exceeding expectations.
Q. Any advice for people out there looking to get a job in the gaming industry, exceed expectations, and ultimately end up working at the studio?
You’ve got to be really good at what you do. The successful game designer/artist/engineer is willing to do that which the unsuccessful person is not willing to do. Study hard, get good grades. A passion for games alone is not going to get you anywhere. You really need to work hard at developing your skills because there are thousands of other job candidates out there that want the same job.
Q. Speaking of job candidates: Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Which quality is paramount?
Well, talent would be the highest in proportion for an artist, but really without the other two, you’re probably not going to get hired. Prior to Bungie, I worked with some artists that were extremely talented, but dumb and lazy as a sack of bricks. They could make the coolest looking designs but there was absolutely no way to actually implement them without making the web page a 520MB download, require a beefy 3d card, and have heretofore undeveloped mind-reading technology. In interface design, you really need to be talented to make things look good, but also some serious smarts to make the experience easy and require as little effort as possible to do what you need to do.
Q. I won't ask you to name those brick-filled meat sacks. I will, however, ask you to participate in our Bonus Round! Give us your top three things people looking to get into the gaming industry should or shouldn’t do.
Never expect a handout. You think you’re good, you know you have good ideas, but unless you have the proof to back it up, you will never get hired. I get messages every day from people that want to know how old you have to be to work at Bungie. There is some crazy notion that we offer teens and tweens some kind of “play-our-unreleased-games-from-home-and-give-us-ideas” job. No such thing, but that would sure be sweet.
Be willing to get your foot in the door with an entry level position. You can’t expect to be the next big game designer from day one. If you think you have the ability, be willing to take a job as a contractor making space crates. When you show ability with what little you are given, you will be given more responsibility, and on and on.
Get a well rounded education. People that go to schools that simply teach tools like 3D Studio Max can become experts at their trade and can model with lightning fast precision. However, if you are not taught how to think, to understand art theory, to develop a good critical analysis of your work, to understand the way people think, you’re not going to go very far.
And unfortunately, that's as far as we're going to go with Dave's interview today. If you read over these words and think you're more well-rounded than a sack of bricks, have good ideas and you're ready to back them up, and you're not just a tween looking for a pay-to-play gig, you should head on into our Jobs page
and get acquainted with our offerings. Help us make space crates (and kick ass games). We're hiring.