Jack Tanner, programmer at Team17, talks about his start in Half-Life 2 modding, how he got his current job and his advice for aspiring programmers
How did you break into games?
I was always fascinated with video games and wanted to understand how they were built. I started my game development life modding Half-Life 2 with my friends, where we would compete to find weird and wonderful ways to alter the game for our amusement.
I enrolled for a Web and Games Development BTEC at college, which opened up all the various paths I could take into game development. After having a taster in all the roles, I decided that programming was the path I wanted to take. I loved being able to write software that would bring my imagination to life, and even with very basic skills I was able to do so much. I then decided to enrol for the Computer Games Programming course at Derby University, which further developed my skills and ultimately led me to an internship at Team17.
I was given an amazing opportunity at Team17, for my first project I was placed on the Worms W.M.D team. I remember being told about the project on my first day and I was so excited to work on it, at that point I knew all my hard work had finally paid off.
What has been your proudest achievement so far?
My proudest achievement is honestly just being able to get where I am today. I’ve worked hard to get myself into an amazing position where I’m able to really make a difference. I’ve been able to put my mark on seven multi-platform titles and work with some amazing people.
What has been your biggest challenge?
I’ve had the chance to work on many different titles, all of which have had unique challenges. The biggest challenge though, is proving to myself that I am good enough for the job.
It’s very easy to get stuck in a problem and feel like you are not up to the task. The challenge is to keep pushing through those emotions and prove to yourself and everyone around you that you can do it, and the result can be very rewarding.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The best and worst part about game development is that every day there’s something new. One day a designer might come up to you and say, “I had a thought about this cool new feature…” or an artist will say, “I’m trying to make this thing…” or QA will say “So we found this horrible bug…” and on some days all three will come to you at the same time! Every time a problem is presented, it’s my job to help find creative and intuitive solutions, keeping every day unique and exciting.
What’s your biggest ambition in games?
My ambition is to push to be the best I can, to be continually learning and finding creative solutions to problems. The more knowledge and experience I have, the better support I can provide to our creative departments. I love being able to bring our very talented team’s vision to life and to help push the boundaries of what we can achieve.
What advice would you give to an aspiring programmer?
Don’t give up, start small and keep pushing the boundaries of what you can do. Everyone wants to make the next big hit MMORPG at first, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed if you set your bar too high. Set incrementally increasing goals and make sure to take time to reflect back at previous work, you’ll often laugh at how you did something and be able to do it in a much nicer way. Lastly, try and not focus on one specific role; take time to understand not only how the role you want to do works but how others work, this will give you a better insight on the entire process of making a game and help you work closer with your team.