This is the third entry in our short series of whimsical interviews with current team members of Those Awesome Guys.
Our third interview brings up Josh, resident computer-whisperer, to the mic.
If you missed our previous interview, Stevie summed up a 3D artist’s life pretty well.
Josh is a computer wizard from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Who are you?
Josh AKA “The Skaterdood”
Where’re you from?
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania but I was originally born in Texas. I’ve never been there in my adult life though.
I’m 5. Explain to me what your job is.
I’m a programmer. Basically I sit at a computer and type some fancy words into a textbox to make little dots of light move around in weird ways. When I get something wrong I get scolded by some weird Romanian guy. It’s kind of cool I guess. Alternatively: Have you’ve ever played a cool 2D game on your 3DS? I make stuff like that! … but not as good …
How’d you get to do this for a living?
My first experience with programming was trying to learn basic C++ in 2009.
I didn’t get very far and decided to try to learn another language instead. At the time I happened to be playing a lot of Garry’s Mod, so I decided to see if there was anything I could do with that.
As it happened there was a really popular mod called “Wiremod” that added all sorts of things (as the name implies) to simulate electronics in the game. One of the features it had was a very basic micro-controller that you could write code for. It was actually very similar to an arduino, but instead of C/C++ it was really stripped down and basic programming language. Of course at the time I didn’t even know what an Arduino was, nor would I have been able to convince my Mom to get one, anyway. So it ended up being the next best thing, and I learned a lot about basic electronics and programming.
From there I didn’t do a whole lot with programming, instead I focused on trying to learn level design and things like that so I could make maps. As time went on, I found myself getting more engrossed in making content for games. So I knew that’s what I wanted to do one day but I wasn’t sure how to do it.
After that I decided I wanted to learn how to make my own website, because me and a few friends had a clan and wanted to make a forum for it. Since I already knew a little bit about programming I decided I wanted to to make a forum from scratch. As you can imagine that was a very stupid idea, but I actually managed to do it! It was one of my first actual programming projects ever, and it’s where I learned HTML, CSS, PHP and even SQL.
After that I kind of got hooked on web development for a while. After a couple of years of making sites for friends, I somehow I ended up getting a job making them for start-ups. I was only 15 at the time, so it’s really amazing they hired me at all. I learned a lot on the job doing that, and my specialty was designing back end systems for fairly large scale projects. I kept doing that for about four years, and I kind of got disillusioned with web development. I was tired of working my ass off for other people who didn’t appreciate what I was doing, and I wanted to do something that I actually enjoyed.
How’d you end up working in video games?
Over the course of all this, I worked on a lot of side-projects. A lot of them were little game prototypes that I worked on in my spare time. One of the biggest of which was.. of course.. an MMO. A couple friends of mine had really wanted to make a top-down MMO similar to runescape but with an in-depth faction system in the vain of Planetside 2. We didn’t actually know Planetside 2 was a thing though, so we spent a stupid amount of time designing ridiculous gameplay systems that never worked. We even hired an artist to do art for us, and I personally wasted about $1,000 of my own money on this.
This project ultimately ended up failing, like most aspiring game developers plans to make an MMO.
How did you end up an Awesome Guy?
While doing all of that I had followed the development blog of a certain Romanian game developer named Nick. He and a programmer friend of his were working on this cool game in Love2D called Concerned Joe, and I had played the original flash game so I loved reading their devblogs. I even implemented some of their ideas into my own prototypes.
Eventually, Concerned Joe became Move or Die, and so I bought Move or Die on Steam and played the hell out of it. Initially it was even open-source and I was able to dig around in the gameplay code (which was written in Lua) and reverse engineer a few things.
About a year after that Nick had made a post saying he needed dedicated QA testers to help him do a final round of testing before the game’s final Steam release. I applied for position on that team and we ended up talking quite a bit. I told him about all of my side projects and what I did for a living. Somewhere along the way he asked me to help with a little project of his on the side, which was basically a “Twitch Plays” version of Move or Die. While watching a livestream of the game being played by bots, viewers could vote on which bot they thought was going to win the current game. We both ended up having a lot of fun doing that, and had it done in about a day.
After that, I showed him how I managed to break his (very weak) encryption of the gameplay code in Move or Die. Which he had recently made closed-source over the course of Early Access. He told me that he was looking for a new programmer to join the team, and told me I should apply. I ended up getting the job.
That’s how I ended up becoming more than just a hobbyist game developer, and how I got out of web development. Of course there’s a lot more to this story, including the time I dropped out of school to start my own company. Even some stuff about how I ended working on two separate Just Cause Multiplayer mods in the last four years. I’ll save all that for another time, though.
When are you going to get a real job? Like a doctor or a lawyer?
Probably never, unless someone can offer me a ridiculous amount of money to do web development again. So I’ll probably do this for the rest of my life, or at least, I hope so.
If you didn’t make games for a living, then how would you be putting your mind off the inevitability of death?
Web development, probably, or if I hadn’t dropped out of school I always wanted to be a biologist.
Infinite minerals and vespene gas, what would your ideal game be?
An open-world game in the vein of Grant Theft Auto. Only because I’m an Engine Programming nerd who wants to learn how to make an engine like that.
Longest ‘/played’ on any game ever?
Garry’s Mod: 889 hours
Just Cause 2 Multiplayer Mod: 887 hours
Move or Die: 338 hours
I’d say my most played game in the last year has been Fallout 4, though.
Favorite voice line or sound effect in any game?
Pam Pa Ram Song – Witcher 3
In an escort quest, should the NPC walk faster, slower or at the same pace as your character? Why?
At the same pace so I can avoid my eyes completely glazing over. A good example of this is Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite. She keeps up with you when she need to, but still stops to smell the roses and eat some sweets.
How did you rate your last Uber driver?
Draw a chicken.
Thanks for the hell chicken Josh. We’re back to our regularly scheduled program next week! Stay tuned.