Q. What sets working at Bungie apart from those more traditional software engineering gigs?
Max Dyckhoff steps into the field this week to cut a swathe of deterministic destruction straight through today's Broken In. Every action you've undertaken and every single decision you've made has led you up to this exact moment in time. Lucky for you, Max is more than willing to take a few of his own moments to share his industry insights and expertise should you happen to find yourself determined to land a gig with Bungie. If that is in fact your goal, read on for an opportunity to help improve your chances of success.
Q. Who are you and what do you do for Bungie?
A. I’m Max Dyckhoff and I’m one of the Character Engineers at Bungie; essentially I am responsible for large swathes of the artificial intelligence in our games. Yes, if a Marine drives you off a cliff in Halo 3, I am sitting somewhere chuckling.
Q. How long have you been applying your own intelligence in the gaming industry?
A. Well I’ve been in the industry since 2003 when I started at Free Radical Design in England fresh out of University. After three years at FRD I made the jump across the Atlantic to Bungie, and haven’t looked back since. Before I started in the industry I was doing my Masters degree at York University in England, and did a handful of software engineering jobs which involved sitting in grey cubes writing databases and web pages.
A. Everyone is made to feel a part of the process, and even the newest hire’s concerns and ideas will be heard and weighed with the same weight as those of the ten year veterans. Combine that with the fact that every single employee here is ridiculously intelligent, unfathomably inventive and the absolute best at what they do and we have the ultimate boiling pot for innovation and ideas. I have seen dozens of crazy ideas come up over lunch, been laughed at for the bizarre implications, go through production meetings, design documents, teetered on the verge of extinction and then make it into the final product.
Q. During your tenure with Bungie, is there one moment that boils up to the surface and ultimately defines the experience for you? Have you witnessed any dramatic shifts at the studio since you've come aboard?
A. One of the most memorable moments in Halo 3’s development was a couple of months from the end when the most elusive determinism bug was finally tracked down; it was something like 9pm and the engineer who was hunting it stood up from his desk and cheered. For a bit more context; it was this moment which enabled Saved Films and network co-op play to be available, until that point they were just one of the crazy ideas we had been running with for the last couple of years. I’m glad they worked out.
As for what has changed, to be honest not much. The company has grown in size by about 50% I think and yet it still maintains the close familial feeling that it had when I started here. The level of scheduling and production has stepped up too, and in a good way. It’s become a nice mix of formalization to make sure we don’t forget about things, but at the same time there is enough leeway for the crazy ideas to be realized.
Q. How do you continue to bring the high level of drive and passion required to realize those crazy ideas day in and day out?
A. It isn’t hard to maintain the drive and passion; I look at the games we are making and I know how great they’ll be if I invest my time and energy into them. It’s a big snowball effect, you see all the awesome things everyone else is doing and it’s hard not to try and push yourself.
Q. If you could issue a threat to upstarts looking to invest some of their time and energy pushing themselves into the studio what would it be?
A. Diversify yourself. I know everyone has their favorite game and their favorite platform, but ultimately you are hurting yourself if you don’t remove your blinkers and try all the competition. It doesn’t mean you have to like it, but at least you will be in a position of power to criticize it and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes in the future.
Q. Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? If you had to prioritize and choose only one of these qualities in a candidate, which quality would be paramount?
A. It has to be talent; you can have the most experienced engineers who work eighteen hours a day but if they lack the talent to understand not only how to write good code but how to craft a fun experience for the end user, they are worthless.
Q. Bonus Round! Give us your Top Three things people looking to sneak into the industry should and shouldn’t do.
A. Future developers should persevere with their goals, question everything they learn, and improve themselves at all opportunities. They should make themselves visible and make contact with as many developers as they can, while remaining professional and courteous at all times.
The top thing you shouldn’t do is assume it’s going to be an easy ride. The games industry is a hard task master and your friends and family will need to understand that you might be called away at 2am to fix a build breaking bug which is stopping 100 testers from doing their job.
They also shouldn’t confine themselves to making “top three lists,” they are super restricting and annoying.
Thanks to Max for breaking free of our restrictive questions and offering up some answers sure to provide potential candidates with new goals and opportunities to explore. If you've just read through this interview and think you have the talent, perseverance, and crazy ideas to help make a name for yourself at Bungie (and you're not looking for an easy ride), you should head on over to our Jobs page
and see if anything suits you. We're hiring.