As I write this two and a half years has already passed since I got hired and started working at Expansive Worlds in February 2010. Time passes rapidly in this business as you often combine a certain amount of stress with having lots of fun at the same time. The stressed out part though is something you learn to pay attention to to avoid hitting the infamous wall. While speaking in very general terms here the work of a game developer is quite often about maintaining a balance between your own and other peoples ideas and motivations. Beside being incredibly fun and rewarding It´s also a high risk and demanding buisness where anything can happen in the blink of an eye and the sooner you fully accept and adapt to that the longer you will survive. Life at EW and theHunter can be seen as somewhat different though, at least for me and compared to my past experience. While we still set deadlines and constantly push ourselves the absence of a publisher watching over their multi million dollar investment like hawks makes a pretty big difference. Also the fact that we take one step at a time, developing and releasing new items, features, fixing bugs etc helps to bring focus to the work and reduce the overall sense of risk. While it´s hardly possible to make everybody happy with everything I don´t think we have yet to fail completely with a release causing us to seriously reevaluate our direction. But of course we´re not entirely off the hook just because there is no publisher directly involved with our production. We still have to make the business work and look after the investment that was made by Avalanche Studios to begin with, acquiring the rights to theHunter and setting up the studio where I work, and it´s really only thanks to their previous hard work that we have the privilege of existing today. The fact that we´re also providing a very niched type of entertainment also makes it harder to market and sell.
Starting out at EW was a similar experience to my old company where key staff was more or less still in the process of begin hired, and it makes me very happy to be part of creating a company and a culture as well as just a piece of software. When I started there was only one person actually working for EW, our Lead Programmer Andres that had previously worked at Avalanche and moved on to theHunter. The company CEO (Stefan) was also hired but wouldn’t start working at the office until a few months later. I met and had lunch with Stefan before getting the final go on my employment and all I remember was our discussion about the project and everything else just became a blur of excitement. I’ve learned to really appreciate the times when you find yourself working with someone you just naturally and totally professionally argue and solve problems with. Stefan was actually the third person during my career with whom I felt I had that kind of connection with, and at the moment I´d say the feeling is now moving on to include the the entire team which is also something new. As I have previously worked in larger teams between thirty and sixty people it was great getting back to a small company and team where creativity runs more free and bureaucracy is at a minimum. It´s a bigger responsibility, but also more fun in the long run!
Beside getting into how everything worked around the game engine etc my first proper contribution to theHunter included the art for the Pheasant and the Side by side shotgun. Loggers point and the Feral hog was already made by people at Avalanche before I started, but they had not been released to the public yet. I also started getting in contact and communicating with the community of players, and I admit I was pretty jumpy about it at first as that was nothing I had ever done before (as a developer in a larger studio you rarely communicate with anyone outside the studio about your work). I soon found it interesting and very rewarding though as I was learning many new things, widening my own ideas about product development, teamwork and last but not least developing my argumentation and diplomacy skills. While I´m sure this is the modern way of product development , letting the customers have a proper say and the privilege of being listened to, it´s also a hard balance to keep as working creatively require a lot of peace and quiet at the same time. I have no idea of how many actually appreciate the complexity of what I´m speaking of here. I´m pretty sure a common thought, especially in a community such as ours, may be “how hard can if be to get things right when having access to all this expertise?” The problem has nothing to do with access to expertise or lack of information but the challenges of interpretation and implementation. One good example of this is the topic of fishing and whether that would be an interesting addition to theHunter. The problems mostly concern how to translate the more basic things into the game/simulation; like the sense of relaxation you get while fishing, the suspense and the thrill of something partially unknown catching that bait as well as the struggle of landing it? These things which form the basic incentives behind the whole thing are more abstract and have little to do with flashy fishing rods, matching clothes, impressive numbers or even a lifetime of knowledge about what bait to use in different situations.
I want to point out though how much respect I have for people that know things like hunting, similar to farming, construction and real world engineering (you know, real work). and my ambition to provide a great simulation experience to all of you. While I have little against commodities of modern life I´m also very interested in good old survival skills.
I will not delve much further into details here as I could easily and up writing a whole book about it. But I should say the biggest highlights during my time with theHunter mostly concern things indirectly connected to it; such as how my responsibilities makes me grow as a person, and the stuff we do at the side of the production. Visiting the US and the Eastern Sports and Outdoor show in early February 2011 was one thing I will never forget. Meeting some great and friendly people, and being really surprised to see all that archery stuff rather than just guns. Later that year me and Stefan went to ELMIA, the biggest hunting expo in Sweden, which was also a great experience. Among other things I met and almost fell in love with a young and super cute girl in camo clothes, making a living as a wildlife painter when she was not out blasting clays and grouse with her Beretta (there´s definitely something about women who can handle guns). In the end I have nothing but admiration to the people within this world that I have met and which is so far from the common gamers (cough, nerds, cough) that i´m more used to. I´m definitely a huge nerd myself though, but not really the dungeons and dragons type!
I often find my work, hobbies and personal life to blend together, which is how I like it. Every time I´m out and see wildlife nowadays I stop and look more carefully, appreciating it so much more than before, and working on theHunter gives me a lot of ideas for things I want to do on my spare time. It kind of weird because despite the fact that I’ve grown up on a farm I’ve never had any direct contact with hunting specifically. If you don´t include chasing runaway dairy cows around, which can also be pretty fun.
theHunter really ends up being a great combination of things I personally value and appreciate in life right now, the moral/ethical statement combined with an educational/simulation aspect and hi-end game technology. I appreciate learning, replicating and simulating real things rather than coming up with “star-trek” stuff, even though I´m pretty good at that too. Working within a small and extremely creative team and being in a position to really influence the work being done, feeling I have a lot of freedom but also responsibility and working on something that I truly believe in. I have no idea where we all will end up, but for now I defenitely sense it´s somewhere nice!