Malath Abbas co-founded Dundee-based independent development studio Quartic Llama in 2012, and has since worked on projects such as Other, Moeba and Dama.
In our new regular series of interviews on breaking into games, we speak to Abbas on how he got into the industry, and what advice he has to help you get into games too.
How did you first get into the game industry?
Dare to be Digital 2011 was my first experience of working in the game industry, which was a great opportunity and led to my employment as an artist. Since then I helped co-found the independent studio Quartic Llama and we have been making games for a living for almost two years now.
Before Dare, I had worked in advertising. There were a few game projects but I found it difficult to learn and develop games-specific skills. Dare was an ideal platform to further develop my skills and I also got to meet great people in the industry who I learnt a lot from.
What did you study before getting into games (If anything), and how did this help you?
I studied at Computer Games Technology at Liverpool John Moores University. After getting advice from a local developer, I continued my education with an MA in Animation for Film & Games. My studies helped me to hone my skills. In particular I was able to understand the technical requirements of game development which helped me as a technical artist. Being able to efficiently communicate across disciplines is an important skill to have.
What was the most important lesson you learned early on?
The biggest lesson by far is the importance of teamwork. Appreciating how different disciplines operate and interact with one another is complex. Communication is vital and without it you’re not going to get far. Game development is all about communication and collaboration. The sooner you learn to master working with people, the better progress you’ll be able to make. This is the same if you’re a coder, designer or artist. Even if you’re a one-man band you will still need to speak to the public and the press to help sell your games.
Are there any mistakes you made early on in your career that you can now advise people against?
Like many, I followed the ‘triple-A’ studio dream, even though I craved the independence and creative freedom of a small studio. Triple-A games are still great, but they are not the only route to making games for a living. There is no right or wrong here, it’s just great that there is a choice now, which is only good for games as a business and an art form.
Have you ended up where you intended to be when you first entered the game industry?
Funnily enough I have! I was involved in a family business from a young age so I’ve always had it in me to do it on my own. I pursued my career in games a little late and only finished my studies after my mid-twenties, but within a few years I’ve managed to work with some amazingly talented people which led directly to helping start our own small independent studio Quartic Llama.
What would you say are the key skills aspiring developers need to get a job in games and get noticed? And how can they acquire these?
Networking is an important skill that is often overlooked. It can make a huge difference whether you are looking to land your dream job in a large studio or following the indie route and need business or press contacts. There are countless opportunities to meet great people, from industry events to grassroots meet-ups. These can be in whichever field interests you, be it tech, design or art.
The key is to have the confidence to speak to people, to learn from them, and you will benefit from their wider network of contacts. Attend industry and social events, keep up with the news of the industry – it’s all simple stuff but takes time and commitment.
Is there anything you’d like to add about getting a job in games?
It is wonderful working in games – by no means is it easy, but if it’s your passion and you like a challenge, then it’s for you. There is a genuine opportunity to make a real impact on this industry and that should be all the motivation you need.