Monday, 27 June 2011

That Guy

I've been using Matt for years to appear extremely cool to my cousin William and his friends. "I know someone in the animation industry. Oh, yeah, that's right. He worked on Star Wars: Force Unleashed."

Matt keeps coming up in blog conversations. Just this morning we spoke about kakapos and he sent me a gif of a penguin jumping on a walrus. But in case you wanted to know more about him than the fact that he sends me the occasional animal gif, then this is for you.

What's your name?

Matthew James Higgins

What's your job? Where do you work/have you worked?

Currently I'm a Cinematic Scripter/Designer at 2K Games (Marin Australia studios), previously a lead Cinematic Designer at Krome Studios, and before that a random freelance multimedia/film worker guy.
What games have you worked on? What was your favourite project?

Quite a few now - mostly part of larger franchises such as Spyro, Transformers and Star Wars, and more recently the game tie in of Legend of the Gaurdians. Currently I'm working on the new X-COM reboot.
I think my favorite was Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, being my first project I learnt how to do a lot of cool stuff, found out how much hard work it is; and then got the satisfaction of seeing it released to the public's enjoyment, leaving me wanting to do the whole crazy process again.

A screen capture from Star Wars: Force Unleashed

How did you get where you are today?

I walked home from work yesterday. 

What got you interested in video games and animation? And how old were you when you started?

When I was 3 or 4, it was all my Dad's fault. He showed me this new game "Battle Chess", seeing these board game pieces come alive and follow out the player's command left such an impression on me that it's one of my earliest memories and as I got older I was always wanting to see what other experiences could be given with medium.

How did you get into it? Did you just play around on your computer, a self-taught genius? Or did you take classes? 

I spent far too much time on games such as Prince of Persia, Commander Keen and Doom rather than doing homework or playing outside. Then I got my hands on Duke Nukem 3D and it's level editor and it changed everything. I'd spend even more time learning and experimenting with creating my own levels than playing the game. It was quite a rush plotting down rooms on a grid, do some scripting, then launch into the world I'd just made. From then on if a game had editing tools or could be modified in some way I'd get in and see what I could create.

The Quake and Unreal games took this to another level with editors which practically allowed for the creation of entire games, naturally I set about starting an epic fantasy game using Unreal 2 as a base (a sci-fi shooter). 

As the end of school drew near I thought I'd better stop and see what sort of career I should chase after. Upon learning that I could actually get paid to do what I was already doing I went to College to hone my skills.

Screen capture from Legend of the Guardians: Owls of Ga'Hoole video game

Was there ever a moment of indecision where you wondered if you should do something more "normal," like go to university and get a "regular" job? Or did you know from the beginning that this was what you wanted to do?

Last year, as I was leaving Krome, I was considering going back to Uni to do something more sensible. However, I quickly got sidetracked working on my own game, then not much later joined 2K. Perhaps someone should start a Developers Anonymous help-group or something... 

Yes, I think I've always known that I've wanted to work in a creative position such as this.

Victorian explorer created by Matt

Do you believe your job to be a perfect synthesis of vocation and avocation? In short, do you enjoy your job?

While not perfectly synthesised it is fairly well balanced, swinging between "AAARRRGGGHH what am I doing, this is too hard..." to "HELL YEAH!!! Did you see that!? That was awesome... let's do it again!"

Got any advice for those struggling with career choices?

Look for something which you enjoy and are interested in, you'll be spending a lot of time doing it. Also talk to people in the field you are looking to get into, the internet has made this incredibly easy. 

For anyone thinking about developing games - enjoying playing games doesn't necessarily mean you'll enjoy making them.

That's all,

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