In your own words, tell us a little bit about your role and what you do here at the studio.
I am a Gameplay Engineer at ILMxLAB. My job is to make everything in a game or experience work. I interface with every other discipline on the team and enable them to realize their creative vision, combining all the pieces into something playable, interactive, and fun. I also help fix bugs that come up, and sometimes create some of my own.
When you’re combining multiple types of gameplay systems together to create real-time immersive experiences, what are some of the things that you’re always looking at to make sure everything runs properly?
When I’m working with gameplay systems, I try to think ahead about things anyone using the system in the future would find helpful. These are things like convenience functions, generally clean code, triggers for other potential future events to use later, tracking of useful variables, etc. This not only helps people using the things you worked on in actual production, but helps you and other engineers later when the design changes or that inevitable bug appears.
Since you’re in a very collaborative role, what are some of the disciplines that you work closely with at the studio, and how do you implement the content that they create into the experiences you’re working on?
I work with nearly every other discipline in the studio as an engineer. I spend most of my time interfacing with the designers, who usually come to me with a cool idea for a gameplay mechanic and need me to make the tools to make it happen. I also interact with various art disciplines to help with animation implementation and make sure our work is performant.
What do you feel is the biggest difference between gameplay systems for immersive real-time experiences versus ones for more traditional experiences that are played on a 2D screen?
I actually have only ever worked on VR/AR experiences, not yet on traditional console games. I do know, based on playing traditional games, that there is a lot more depth of interactive possibilities in the immersive side of things. There’s also a lot of “unknown” in terms of what works, what feels weird, and how that changes depending on the style of immersive experience. I can definitely say that no two projects have been the same here at ILMxLAB!
While here, you’ve gotten to work across many of our biggest releases to-date. Do you have a favorite project or accomplishment that you’ve worked on?
My favorite project was the first one I worked on, Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Damage Control. The team of engineers I joined was the best and full of great mentors for me, as I was just starting out in my career. The project was unique in that you got to completely embody the MCU while fighting side-by-side with your favorite Marvel characters. There were certainly some interesting challenges that came with developing an experience that had to accommodate a physical space that players have to navigate with a headset on. We didn’t want people running into walls!
What’s your favorite part about being at the studio? Is there anything in particular that makes you excited to work each week?
My favorite part of the studio is both the IP we get to work with and the novel applications we get to use them in. I’ll never forget the first time I was ominously approached by Darth Vader while working on Vader Immortal, or when I was shrunk down to ant-scale in Damage Control. Moments like that are everywhere and only possible with the sorts of new technologies we work with. Those new technologies also create endless engineering challenges, there is always something new to solve.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever gotten?
Don’t let fear stop you from trying. I got both my job here at ILMxLAB and my job teaching dog training by pushing past the fear that was making me hesitate. For me, it usually sounds like “but what if I’m not good enough?” But you will only have the opportunity to find out and learn if you try, and it’ll be less scary the next time.
For someone interested in a similar career, is there a program or class that you’d recommend taking, or a skill they should learn?
My math and logic skills from my engineering education have come in handy quite often in this career, as well as having a general programming knowledge with a language like C++. For someone interested in learning about game engines, both Unity and Unreal are free to download and have tons of free courses available online to learn from, aimed at all sorts of disciplines.
What’s your favorite Star Wars movie or TV show?
Rogue One, hands down
What do you like to do on your days off?
Train my border collie, Indiana, in agility and teach dog training classes
What’s your favorite movie genre?
Historical Drama, for the costumes
Where’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to?
If you can meet any character in AR, who would it be?