Andy Hodgetts

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For the project zomboid development. How do you guys meet each other in the beginning? There could be a lot of zombie fans in the world but it's not easy to come across someone who can work together on a zombie game development project. There is not many zombie fans in my country. Need suggestions.

Unfortunately I don't think my answer would help you very much. Chris and I were colleagues at a commercial games studio - he was employed as a programmer, I was a technical artist. We were both interested in games design, shared many design philosophies and we worked really well together, so the two of us had always planned to do some sort of game together eventually. Marina, we met on the internet on an Adventure Games forum and we got on really well and she rapidly became somebody we wanted to work with should we get the opportunity. Will was a journalist for a British PC magasine called PC Zone, which we were fans of. We got to know him through a mutual acquaintance, so when we were looking for a writer he was someone we would have loved to work with and for some unfathomable reason, he agreed :D So that was that, four of us - all our other contributors were people who were fans of the game. Most of the time, their involvement with the game started with some modding work they'd done which impressed us.
I guess the only thing in all of this which might be somewhat useful is that me and Chris didn't originally set out to make a zombie game in particular. We wanted to do indie games, but we were open to *any* idea we thought was strong enough. We considered a few different ideas along the way and when we came up with the idea for Zomboid, that idea came from the fact we were both big fans of the early Romero zombie films but this wasn't the reason for us doing a zombie game in the first place. Same with Marina, she didn't come on to this project initially because of anything specific to zombies - she's an artist, she can work with any concept. So I guess the advice from all this is, good artists, good designers, good programmers, good musicians and writers... they're not bound by any particular concept - if the idea is good they can get excited by the idea. They don't have to be fans to begin with.

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How do you identify whether or not you are an "idea guy"?

In the context of being an "ideas guy" in videogame development?
There is no "ideas guy" role. There are designers, and they often have ideas - so do artists and programmers and testers and everyone else. Having good ideas is one of the things which makes you a good artist, a good designer or whatever.
Because it's no good simply having ideas. What good is an idea if it's not backed up by some other skillset? The idea could turn out to be utterly impractical or ludicrously expensive, or wildly ambitious to the point of insanity. In order to filter the ideas you have such that you only blurt out the good ones, you need to be something else other than just "someone who has ideas" because literally *everyone* in games development has ideas.
So I don't really understand the question, really.

Hi Andy, I love your work and am missing an artist/animator in my team, which is working on a restaurant simulator thriller called Harry's Burgers. If you're interested in an 8-16hr a week 12-18 month rev share project let me know via digitalwindow@outlook.com.au

Scott Newton
This is a rather unusual use of Ask.fm ;) Thankyou, but my plate is rather full at the moment.

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What is the exact role of a mapper/level designer? are differences between those or are they the same?

Job Titles can be rather arbirtary and somewhat depend on the studio you're working in. All this terminology is a little inconsistent really. To some, "skinning" is the process of setting up the model to animate according to its bones - to others, that's "rigging" and the former is painting its texture.
So the answer is, it depends. They could be the same, they could be different. It depends entirely on where you work. Which leads me into the, "what is the exact role" part.
This also depends (boy is this answer unhelpful). It could be anything from adding the health pickups to the level all the way up to actually designing the thing on paper to hand to some other people to actually make depending on whether the position is junior or senior.
If I were to hedge a guess though, it would be that on average a "mapper" is probably a more junior position than a "level designer".

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Also, related to that last question "I have been working this last 7 months..." I am Currently 17yo, not sure if that would matter when deciding who to pick.

Well, it means you've got plenty of time - so that's a boon :)
The fact is, every studio is different - the games industry is bonkers, really, in that you've got these giant behemoths all the way down to the indie scene where the output (at least the commercial output) is all there on the same marketplaces, like Steam, Humble Store, GOG, etc. It's all the games industry, just different flavours of it.
One of the worst things you can do at an interview, is have no real idea who you're applying to. So don't just pluck 20 well-known developers from a list of those vaguely close to where you live, pick them based on the types of games they make, whether the size of studio is one which you think would suit you, etc. We're all gamers, working on a game you like is kind of important - it's much harder to work up the enthusiasm for Family Feud the videogame regardless of whether or not there's a bonefide this-game-will-appear-in-shops-OMG aspect ;)
It's such a cliché to say that it's, "all about passion". I mean, it helps - turning up to an interview and gushing about how great their last game was and how much you want to work on the next one will probably win you some brownie points providing it sounds genuine - but it's not the be all and end all. Primarily, as I said before, it's about the quality of work in your showreel/demos.
Really, instead of "passion" we should talk about "enthusiasm". This is what's *really* important. The enthusiasm to learn, adapt, and work hard.
Even if, at first, you fail to find success with your applications / interviews it's not wasted effort. Just by going through the process you'll learn stuff about which types of studio appeal to you more, which aspects of your showreel impressed and which didn't. You can take all that and apply it to your second round of applications, adapting your showreel accordingly. This is where the enthusiasm bit *really* important - keeping at it, even if you find failure initially.
You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone in the games industry who hasn't been rejected at some point or another. When I was younger, I was flat-out rejected (just a "thanks, but no thanks" response) when I applied to Acclaim. It made me re-analyse my showreel and realise it was rubbish ;)
And I'll share with you the same nugget that was shared with me when I first started out in the games industry. There I was, young, naive, and realising I was horribly out-classed compared with everyone I was working with. "I don't know what I'm doing!" I cried to my co-worker who'd been working in games since the Spectrum days - credited on a bazillon games I'd loved growing up. "We're *all* winging it", he said, "*all* of us". Gave me a huge spike of confidence, that.

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I have been working this last 7 months as a Level Designer and Project Manager, but i do not have any studies related to them (left the job). Would you think i still have a chance to join a studio?

It rather depends on the studio and from my perspective I can only speak for the place where I worked. At that studio, myself and the Art Manager were the guys who did the art-related interviews and I can tell you that we didn't give a hoot about prior experience. Whether we got someone in for the interview depended *entirely* on the quality of the showreel - if the person had history at an impressive studio, that was a point of interest but irrelevant, ultimately.
If you got an interview, it meant we felt you were good enough - the interview itself was to see if you were the sort of person who'd fit into the team well, so it was a very informal process.
This studio was a (comparatively) small independent studio - at its peak, maybe 50 people or so. If I were to make an assumption, it would be that the smaller companies would tend to be more like this - a more informal approach to interviews. Larger studios may be more typical in their employment style, looking for certain specific things (qualifications, experience etc) to get you from the main pile of CVs to the pile of CVs to personally look through. But this is an assumption on my part.
So I would say that it's certainly possible that a lack of qualification *could* be a hindrance at some studios that's far from a rule of thumb and, in general, quality of showreel and experience counts for way way WAY more :)

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I believe sometime ago I read you talking about learning C when you were younger. Do still much programming for fun or is it mainly by necessity? Plus what languages?

I first got into programming on the C64. I was young, so it was pretty much confined to BASIC and making sprites on graph paper (this was, incidentally, a terrific way of getting a kid to learn binary without realising they're learning binary and then later, when they do it in maths, discover that it's dead easy for them because they've already done it).
When I got a PC, I migrated to QBASIC and later Visual Basic. Then in sixth form, my computer studies teacher introduced us to C. I remember writing a version of Arkanoid in ASCII - nothing particularly fancy and I really struggled with the language because it was so alien compared to BASIC.
When I went to University, we studied Pascal and then from there we went to C. The Pascal to C transition made C make a lot more sense so I did an awful lot better at it that time round.
When I got a job in the games industry, I played around a little with assembly language on the GameBoy Color (I did some assembly language stuff at Uni too) - wrote a little tile engine, had a little guy moving around using the d-pad. Again, nothing fancy (or even something I bothered finishing) - but a fun little learning exercise. So really, I kinda learned programming languages backwards. I started with the high level languages and worked backwards, ending on the low level languages as computing power increased which doesn't really make any sense, but there you go :D
Nowadays my programming is mostly done with C#, but I've done some C++ too - mainly just as a way to play with DirectX stuff.
Most of my programming is for fun - I write the odd tool or shader as part of my job (I very much enjoy writing tools to make my work simpler) . I've always found it important to have some technical knowledge even when working as an artist. When I was working in the commercial industry I became a Lead Artist (and subsequently Lead Technical Artist) in part because of this - I was a natural bridge between the art and programming teams because I had some knowledge of both. I doubt very much I would've been good enough to have been a programmer exclusively, but certainly the limited programming knowledge I did have was invaluable. I recommend it.

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why don't you pimp your ask.fm page more?

An excellent question which I'm glad you've raised. I would, of course, never stoop to such levels and any insinuation to the opposite is an horrific lie - any evidence from my Twitter feed is due to my account being hacked.

you're totally an industry figure, PZ's whole development is like the holy grail for what we'd like to do someday :) it would just be a small design brief, thanks, will message you once we get more details and you can have a look.... Oh and a question.... erm... Mad Max or Witcher 3?

Mad Max or The Witcher 3? Er... both? They're both terrific. If I absolutely *had* to rank them, then I would have to place The Witcher 3 on top. But I love them both for different reasons :)
Liked by: Adam Lambert

What facet of designing PZ have you enjoyed working on the most? And which has proved the most troublesome? Extra points if you mention NPC's :)

The best part of any game is the part at the very beginning when you put together that initial rough design. With an alpha-funded game, the first pre-alpha release tends to follow very rapidly, so this is also the window of time when you get that excitement when you (with any luck) start seeing interest in what you're working on.
I'm not going to say that making games is "just a job", because it isn't. It's absolutely *nothing* like slogging away in a sterile office, but that said there is an aspect to games development where most of what comes *after* that initial exciting design phase is just the production of what you designed. Making the thing is less interesting than coming up with the idea for the thing.
Also, alpha-funded games can be more flexible. So those initial design plans adapt and change along the way. Rather than a hard-and-fast design document, we have something more like design guidelines. There are certain things which are set in stone - for example, being infected is incurable, but other things are flexible - such as exactly how cooking should function, or skills develop, etc.
In this respect we have the benefit of extending those fun and interesting design discussions throughout the whole of the development process.
As far as the least fun parts of development go... well I can't say I particularly enjoyed throwing away all the sprites I had done literally days after I had completed the set of the female characters in favour of switching to 3D models. But it was worth it :)

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Liked by: Adam Lambert

Being totally cheeky here, but we're a group of final years at Bradford Uni (saw your talk a few years back) and for our final year we're allowed to find someone in the industry to make us a design brief for a game/demo to work on in the final 3 months, would there be any interest from yourself?

Firstly, if you're referring to my talk at the Bradford Animation Festival then I'm tremendously sorry - it was my first time doing a talk by myself and before mine I had seen Brian Horton and Warren Spector deliver flawlessly brilliant talks, so I was nervous as Hell and made a right pig's ear of it :D
I had slides which I totally failed to use, and notes which I totally failed to follow :D
Anyway. Your second point: Depending on the time required (the extent of the pitch, etc) and if I could think of something sufficiently interesting and practical for a 3 month project, I'd be happy to. But that said, I'm not exactly what you'd call a notable industry figure ;)
Liked by: Adam Lambert

"@CaptainBinky Ask him about Morrowind" -@Batsphinx I assume there's something about this game that makes you particularly annoyed/overjoyed?

The rant is not so much about Morrowind, it's more about Oblivion and Skyrim and everything that isn't as good in them as Morrowind :D

Do you feel we're learning lessons from the number of early access foibles of the past couple years? Do you think crowdfunding and early access will continue to be a viable resource for game development?

Oof. :D
Honestly, I don't know. In general, alpha-funding / Kickstarter / etc. are fabulous mechanisms to get games off the ground which may otherwise not exist. I exclude Early Access from that specifically because Valve do not suggest using it as the primary way of generating funding for game dev. But the trouble is, for every game which uses these models well, there will always be a bunch which don't.
It's difficult to look at all the games which come through these models as a whole and talk about whether we (as a group) are learning anything in a global sense. We're all individual developers, and what we learn is down to us individually. Ten developers using the models perfectly does not mean the eleventh won't bollocks everything up.
What I hope, is that failures will not damage the model. It's the best model for getting something ambitious off the ground that has ever been developed and we need to protect it. But we can only do that by individually doing our best to see right by the people who back us - we can't do anything about everyone else.
And regardless of what *I* think, the only opinions that matter are those of the gamers who choose to back or not back games using these models. Regardless of how well we developers use the models, if gamers become disillusioned with the funding model, the funding model will die irrespective of how good developers feel it is to build games.
The only thing I hope is that we will be seen as having a positive contribution to alpha-funding, ultimately. But that's not for me to decide.

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What made you guys decide to make PZ more a plodding survival than a PVP action like so many other zombie games in the last few years?

OMG a question! This is exciting!
Well, the thing with PZ was back when we started (it was originally just me and Lemmy), the likes of DayZ mod were yet to release. So we didn't start making Zomboid in a climate of a bunch of zombie survival games with a heavy focus on PvP.
So it's not like we had the foresight to think there'd be a bunch of games along these lines and cleverly decided to do something different, we just designed the game the way we wanted to, and by luck, most of the subsequent zombie games were PvP focussed or more action-oriented.
Lemmy is a long-time XCOM fan - he's really into his strategy games. I love sandbox games and I've sunk a bazillion hours into various releases of The Sims. Slam those two genres together in a post zombie apocalypse setting and you get Project Zomboid. We never regarded the idea as particularly innovative or unique or requiring some clever design skills on our part. It was simply a game we wanted to make and, at that time, we didn't see it being done - not with more traditional early Romero style zombies, at least.

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Liked by: Blues McGroove

Language: English