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Home  > Insider profile
Adrian
Software Design Engineer

"How does one break into the games industry? I wrestled with this question for years when I was younger, trying to come up with a way around the catch-22 that if you want to work on games you need experience working on games."

What have been the most defining moments along your career path?

I consider myself a passionate person almost to a fault - I get so excited about so many things that people can tend to tune me out. Still, it's a vital skill to have while working in a team environment; passion and excitement are infectious if done right. To be paid to do a job that you would be doing on your own time makes you passionate about your job in all the right ways. On the other hand, that same passion gets me into trouble sometimes. In hindsight, signing up to write a game-programming book while I was taking my hardest year of college probably wasn't the best idea I'd ever had. That year I was working or studying 36 hours a day, every day. I lost 70 pounds. But figuring out a way to make it through that experience allowed me to take my incredible passion and turn it upon myself, making me a better problem solver. It makes me a kind of bull in a china shop sometimes, but I like to think that Microsoft ends up with a net positive win having me around.

How did you get your big breaks?

Receiving the opportunity to work for Bungie Studios straight out of college was an offer I couldn't refuse. I had been excited about Halo since the initial reveal, and I had been driving myself to become a game developer at a top-tier studio since my freshman year of high school. Being involved in the intern program at Microsoft helped me tip the scales toward achieving that goal. Also, the people you befriend in the internship program will, in all likelihood, end up at Microsoft themselves. Therefore, having to rebuild a post-college social network is simplified immensely. When I was evaluating multiple job offers, that aspect was a tremendous plus. Seattle is a great city to live in. Having grown up on the east coast gives me a good appreciation for how laid back the Pacific Northwest is. East coasters carry their stress around with them everywhere, and it comes through in their interactions with other people. Seattleites, as a people, are better at keeping things in perspective; you can be eccentric in this town and it's not a big deal (since everyone is). That mutual respect for people is something I haven't yet found in such abundance elsewhere.

What was the best advice you received when you were first starting out in your career?

How does one break into the games industry? I wrestled with this question for years when I was younger, trying to come up with a way around the catch-22 that if you want to work on games you need experience working on games. The real thing is; developers of every industry want to work with people who are not only good problem solvers, but also finishers. Finishing the first 90 percent of a project is easy - when I was writing my book I had almost a full draft after 6 months. It's the last 10 percent that stops most projects: the constant tweaking, rewriting, editing, and polishing that anything made for public consumption needs before it can be considered finished. If you can take a hard project and follow it through, all the way through, that's all you need.

What have you learned from your experience?

In competitive software development, there is always more work to do than time to do it. There's a prevailing mentality here that if something is broke and can be fixed, then get to it! One of the first tasks I was given when I started full-time was to write a better loading screen for the first Halo game. The constraints were daunting: I had about 48 hours to do the entire thing. I'm happy with the results, and feel like I made a positive impact on the final product. The fact they let a green, new-hire take on something like that is a testament to how much of a difference one can make.

What most excites you about your job right now?

The last month of development on both Halo games have burned a hole in my brain, which I guess could be referred to as memorable. The hours are insane, but it gives you an opportunity to watch this unbelievable union of creative people. This is when something that would normally take days of collaboration instead takes hours because everyone is working as fast as their fingers will let them. The effect you get has been described by others as akin to watching a cathedral self-assemble brick by brick in the middle of a tornado. Being in the midst of all that energy is something really amazing. The camaraderie I see around me every day continually surprises and inspires me. Everything has a team-oriented mentality to it. That mind set really pushes people because they're not just trying to make themselves happy with the product. They also want the entire team to be happy. We work intense hours during crunch time only because of a mutual pride, a feeling that we won't let each other slip back and fall. I wouldn't give that up for anything.

What would you like to have achieved by the last day of your career?

Long term, I want what many game developers want, to someday run my own team. Like every waiter in LA with a script under his or her arm, every game developer is always hoping for their chance to make real the genre-bending masterpiece floating in their head. The only trick is becoming a good enough developer so that the people with the money will decide you're a worthwhile investment. Microsoft is a great place to grow into a worthwhile investment.

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