Posted by: Tj'ièn | April 25, 2010

How did you get into game development?

It all started when my parents gave me my first game system, a Nintendo Game & Watch, when I had the measles. I remember that it was a great distraction as I didn’t feel bothered anymore by the children’s disease; I was only interested in beating my own score.

Nintendo Game and Watch

Not too long after that, my dad bought his first PC for his work and he bought me Commodore 64, which was way cooler then his monochrome black and white displaying PC. It loaded games using tapes, the same ones that held music back then, and it took up to an hour to load a single game. Sometimes there was a read error, forcing you to reload from the start. It was worth it though, as it kept me occupied for hours on end.

Commodore 64

I remember my friends owning a NES and others owning an Amiga, both of which we played frequently. I was jealous but I knew something more awesome was on the horizon and I saved all my allowance money which my dad doubled to get it. A Sega Megadrive (Genesis in US) with Sonic the Hedgehog, there was nothing coming close to how cool that game was. It was so cool that all my friends came over just to watch me play it. I took it to school and we played it there. Sonic was the coolest!

Sonic the Hedgehog

Creating and designing stuff was my biggest hobby. As a youngster I always drew elaborate mazes which my parents had to complete and I was always playing endlessly with my Lego’s. But ultimately I think Sonic pulled me into games. After I was done playing another session of Sonic I remember I got my pencils and paper out and started creating new level lay-outs, complete with alternative routes and secrets spreading several A3’s.

On one of our drives towards my school, my mom asked me what I wanted to become when I grew up. I think I was 12 at the time. I replied that I wanted to become an industrial designer, because I remembered being to a car exhibition with a friend of mine and saw some designers drawing cars. That made such an impression that that’s what I wanted to be. This thought together with my dad’s endless patience pulled me through education because I didn’t enjoy it at all up until the moment I could choose my own education.

Eventually I ended up in Eindhoven, where I attended the Design Academy. Here I would become an industrial designer, which was the idea anyway. But during my time there I was more occupied with my hobbies, playing on my Playstation and later my Sega Dreamcast with my roommates and creating music and designing Quake 3 Arena levels on my PC. Eventually I tried combining my school assignments with my hobbies by creating a board game, but it didn’t make any sense for the school assignment.

Q3 Editor

When I noticed after four years of trying that industrial design wasn’t going to work out for me I decided to leave school and start looking for a job. Within a week after I quit the Design Academy a friend of mine called me that the school he was attending started a new course and he thought it might be something for me. That school was the School of Arts Utrecht (HKU) and the course was Game Design and Development. I had 2 weeks to do the admittance assignment, so I worked day and night to make it. Lucky for me, they liked my design background and my idea enough and I could get started a few weeks after my interview.

During my education several industry people and teachers made it clear to me that a game design position, something I knew I was born to do, wasn’t directly attainable and that I had to find another “way in”. So for the first 2,5 years I focused on 3d modelling, which I thought I could do pretty well, but when I applied for a 3d modelling internship it was clear that my level of expertise wasn’t near high enough. So as you can imagine I was pretty disappointed.

Then Jan Pieter van Seventer came into the picture, he had been in the Dutch industry for years and was one of my teacher’s at the HKU. He contacted Ard Bonewald, a game designer at Playlogic Game Factory at the time and convinced him to give me a try as game design intern. This was unheard of at the time, as interns were an exception, let alone game design interns. After giving me a hard time for my admittance Ard hired me and this internship gave me a “foot in the door”.

From that moment on, I believed that I should focus all my attention on becoming a game designer. During my education I also did my graduation internship at Playlogic Game Factory after which I was invited to stay and become a game designer for real, which was about 4 years ago from the moment of writing. And to this day I still enjoy being a game designer a lot. Five of my projects have been published by both our own publisher Playlogic International as well as for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe. My latest game: Fairytale Fights.

I’ve setup multiple experimental and prototype projects and currently I’m working on secret stuff which I hope to be able to talk about soon. Next to this I’m now even lecturing, consulting and teaching students of different educations all the stuff I’ve learned so far. But I believe we’re never done learning and the new generation is already showing that we should be aware not to sit still, as they are approaching fast, something which is tremendously inspiring.

So there you have it, my brief history of getting into game development. I can’t imagine doing something else…

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Responses

  1. Fun article to read!
    Sega megadrive for the world! (and PS1 too)
    I’ve worked on a couple of projects with you and my opinion is that PL/ Ard made the right choise hiring you as an intern in game design! 🙂

    • Thanks G-man!

  2. That’s a nice article! Cool to read that Jan Pieter helped you with getting an internship. He helped me too when I couldn’t find a company to do my graduation project at by myself.

    But you really have tell me about the “secret stuff” you’re working on lately 🙂

    • Hey Thijs. Nice of you to drop by. Yes Jan Pieter has probably helped out a lot of us to break in the industry, he’s pretty connected :). About that secret stuff, you’re part of it! So there’s no other secret stuff to tell about… Then again, things seem to change rather rapidly in our business so you never know…

  3. It’s a treat to read about the history of a game designer, it shows their drives and motives and it gives some insight on the origin of their ideas and inspiration. It was a very fun read and I’m surprised that some of the choices and wishes you had in life are similar in some way to my own. I’ve always been a bit overwhelmed by your theoretical knowdledge regarding Game Design and it’s refreshing to learn where that knowledge originated from. Looking forward to the contraptions you will cook up at Playlogic.
    And yes Sonic was the coolest.

    • Thanks buddy!


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