Thursday, May 31, 2007

Moving on

I keep trying to come up with some witty line but I’m failing so here it is – I’ve quit Sony.

Before we get to any of the how’s, why’s, etc let me recap a few things first. A long long time ago in a state very far far away lived 2 kids with big dreams and ambitions. The first is Ryan Downey who wanted to work for MTV and the other is myself, who wanted to make video games. We lived together in Indianapolis, Indiana in a stereotypical punk rock location – next to a KFC, Liquor store and a DIY space known as The Sitcom. Not wanting to turn this into a laundry list of who is who but the amount of people that stayed on our floor is amazing. Early Vegan Straight Edge warriors such as Petey Wentz called our couch home when he was in town.

In late 2000 (November, December’ish) me and Ryan both realized that for us to continue growing as humans and to even think about reaching our goals we had to move to California. He moved to Nor Cal around February of 2001 and I moved to So Cal in March of 2001. My original plan was to join a startup (they were all the rage back then) with David Sirlin, Tom and Tony Cannon which was funded by the guy who funded Napster. Metallica sued Napster around this time and the startup quickly went bust. Quicker than I could even move out to California for haha. The Cannons had left Microsoft for this startup but they went on to go do probably even more amazing things like VMware.

So here I was stuck with no place to live in Indy and no place to live in California. Tommy ‘Waterb0y’ Ho of Tekken fame (/ducks) offered me up a space on his floor in West Covina, CA. So I packed up my 2 bags and 1 pillow and moved to Southern California. Southern Hills Golfland (an arcade with the best competition in America) was going super strong at this point so I hung out there more than I should have. I already knew most of the top players like Valle and Watson but I got to become friends with almost everyone there, some I still see to this very day.

Around this time a videogame designer named Mark ‘FlipMeign’ Acero who was part of the SHGL crowd who worked at Paradox Development along with Ben ‘Tragic’ Cureton and fighters.net crowd – Eric ‘Gouken8’ Williams and Adam ‘Three11’ Puhl. They let me know of an opening, which I was immediately hired for. I packed up my 2 bags and 1 pillow and lived with Mark and the amazing animator James ‘Liu Kang’ Che in the middle of fucking nowhere LA aka Moorpark. Boy, does not having a car when you are in LA suck when you live that far way.

So I finally made it! I’m making videogames! I’ve lived on someone’s floor for like 6-9 months and now I’m living on someone’s couch!! Hella upgrade in life!

The first game I’m involved with is none other than He-Man! I’m so excited, coming up with moves for He-Man and Skeletor. The original plan was going to be like Guardian Hero’s and make every character playable, including all the enemies. I learned my first hard lesson in videogames very shortly – most games get cancelled, including mine. I hear some of what we did was eventually given to a European Developer but I never saw anything since it wasn’t released in America.

So thinking that my career in videogames was over with I was moved on to the Xmen: Next Dimension project along with John Edwards and Omar Kendall. Ben had left a little before I go there and Mark had switched from Xmen to go work on Backyard Wrestling.

After Xmen finished up – the company tried to have 3 teams going – The Backyard team, a team doing a new IP for Sony and my whacky 3rd team that no one knew what to do with. My whacky 3rd team actually landed a project that we were all super excited for – there was a core team that worked really hard on it – me, Eric, Cory Barlog (back when he was an animator ^_^) Romalis and Richie. The project turned out to be none other than Kill Bill! Here I was, still young in the industry (relatively) and I’m getting to work on this amazing game!

Well….I learned another hard lesson a short while later, most games get cancelled. It was around the time Quentin went crazy and announced it was going to be 2 movies and I’m guessing most of the budget went to that or something. I don’t really remember that well at this point anymore.

The new IP for Sony was going well and Mark left to go work on The Incredible’s down at Heavy Iron so Omar, myself and Eric finished up Backyard Wrestling 1. After the game finished Cory took off to go work on a game called A Dark Odyssey for Sony, which none of us had heard of.

So we did what most developers do – we worked on the sequel, Backyard Wrestling 2. I forget the exact timeline but I know this around the time we hired Jason Cole who was a big help. About 6 months into the amazing 9 month development cycle, Eric left to go work on A Dark Odyssey with Cory. I still knew nothing about this game except that it sure did look pretty.

After Backyard 2 finished to stellar reviews and somewhere along this timeline is when the new IP for Sony got cancelled Midway started doing Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks with Adam Puhl and John Edwards as the main leads.

It was during an Evo Street Fighter tournament where Cory and Eric showed up to watch the best of the best go at it when they invited me to join A Dark Odyssey. The name had changed to God of War and I guess it did ok at E3. BYW2 had finished and I really couldn’t add much to MKSM that Adam/John and now Omar/Cole couldn’t add so I took off. This was a very scary thing for me, almost as scary as moving to California. I really knew nothing about the project (aside from some crazy guy working on it who had made Twisted Metal which I won’t lie about…I was never impressed with – come on…small brawl?) but I really liked working with Cory and Eric so I said fuck it and went for it. The first combat designer who in all honesty laid a lot of the ground work on the game – Richard Foge left to go work on Socom. Without him leaving I would probably be making Backyard Wrestling part 9 by now.

I think it was during God of War 1 when I caught up with my good old roommate Ryan Downey on AIM. He landed his dream job of working at MTV writing the news and some other things. However, he was almost afraid to admit something to anyone – how do you strive to achieve something for years and when you do, you still aren’t happy. I told him to follow his heart and fuck everyone and everything else. He quickly quit soon after that and is now happier than I have ever seen him.

Fast Forward to now. Everyone has gone their separate ways – Omar and a gang of others from Paradox work at Neversoft on Gun, Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero. John left to go join Midway in Chicago and is like hella high up in the Mortal Kombat franchise. Adam joined me/Eric during God of War 2 when things were getting out of control. Cole is still at Paradox now Midway LA working with some of the most amazing game designers ever to be in the industry – Sal Divita.

The ‘team’ of myself, Eric and Cory have released 2 amazing games – God of War 1 and the sequel. There are a ton of other people that are sooooo responsible – especially the rest of the animation team like Bruno, Gilley, Kang and Tommy Ho. Without them me and Eric would have nothing but ideas barely written down on post it notes. Nor can I forget the most amazing sound designer in the industry - Todd Piperi.

So why am I qutting? I’m just as scared as when I moved to California and when I quit my first videogame job but I just feel like it is time to move on. The combat team at Sony Santa Monica is absolutely amazing, perhaps the best in America – Eric, Adam and Jason McDonald. I can’t imagine leaving the game in anyone’s hands besides theirs.

I’ll post where I’m going and what I’ll be doing next in a while but I just wanted to let everyone know. Here is something to watch and laugh about.

16 comments:

GodModeGOD said...

Moving on you say? This saddens me. As you and Eric were the only guys besides Corey I had the chance to even briefly communicate with.

There were a number of things I was looking to talk about in the past but I'll now just focus on what bothers me:

"Why was the technique I refer to as 'homerun' snuffed out for use in combat?"

It was all in good fun. Or am I mistaken in thinking that it was a deliberate action rather then just something that happened.

I rather liked launching enemies over invisible barriers. Shinobier did too as seen in his God Mode NUR+ video:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=cUlAf04Ru4w

Without it I wouldn't have spent time mastering Artemis let alone finding the High Jump. I even made videos covering some combat and exploits a bit more extensively then I had in the past:

http://youtube.com/profile_videos?user=BigVEE

~I suppose I'll just have to wish you luck with your alternative plans to what you've been doing so well (IMO)

Anonymous said...

A Derek Daniels, that video brings back some memories :) I'll never forget the good old days when it was you and I and Adam, Omar, Eric, Cory and the animators, Kutcher, Mike B. and all those old Paradox people "living the dream"! We have all since moved on to different things, but hopefully someday we will all get to work together again...it was truly about the most fun you could have at a job (even when working 100 hours weeks for a year :P).

The only thing I don't miss about it is you backyard people playing the Street Fighter move in the designer area back to back for about a month!

Good luck to you on your new job, I am sure you will own it up over there like you do everywhere you go!

John Edwards

Devin Greer said...

Follow your heart and what YOU want to do, I think that's what everyone should do with their lives, do what you love and what feels right. I love and appreciate everything you've done for God Of War, I can't wait to see what you work on next. I'm not sure where my life is going, it's going to be somewhere in between something with computers and videos games and playing the guitar & screaming. Screaming as in.... metal, I don't like to judge myself on my scream, because my bias opinion will never disappear, but everyone that has heard it seems to like it or love it, and that's awesome.

-Devin Greer

Kevin S. said...

I must admit, it took me a minute to believe the first sentence.

I just want to wish you luck with whatever project you're moving to, and looking forwad to see your new adventures in life.

Just not abandon the blog, OK? lol

Jeff said...

Your work on GoW1 and 2 no doubt helped create amazing games. It looks like Sony is now hiring for your old position based on a new Joystiq post now, and it seems like whoever they get will have some big shoes to fill. Good luck with your future endeavors.

Anonymous said...

You're changing jobs? happens all the time. Most people don't feel the need to blog about it though.

SKleckner AKA Sosage said...

I just saw the news that Sony was looking for a senior combat designer on Kotaku and was like "WTF? Isn't that what Omni was doing?". So I dragged my eyes over to your blog. Hah. I'm mad sleuthy. ;)

It has been a long fucking journey hasn't it? I remember almost every little step you just talked about and the IRC conversations about it (well...when you could get on IRC).

I hope whatever this new move is will reward you with even more success. You know no matter what, you'll always have a friend willing to exchange CPS2 boards via the USPS (even if we're using our unemployment checks for the postage ;P).

Faith said...

I hope our conversation helped you make this decision.

You need to find your happy place and though it will be scary leaving Sony and the comfort zone that will be God of War III, I know you will be awesome in whatever job you choose to go too.

Eric said...

Leaving?!? Who's going to kick ass for God of War 3?!?

Best of luck, Derek.

Jonathan Hawkins said...

:(
gonna miss you dude!!!

Max A said...

Dude It's a sad day today at Sony.
I will miss you Derek but I will never forget the crazy crunch times we made it thru when everyone said we couldn't get it done on time.

Enjoy and Kick ass where ever you are!

Max

SFX Jack ASS

Potatoes said...

Double D! Sorry I couldn't make it over to your desk in time to say goodbye. It has truly been a pleasure working with you, and we all will miss you for sure. A lot of us are still bummed that you are leaving.

first chance you get, fire someone--just kiddin man. since you are still local, I am sure that I will see you soon.

Hyung said...

Wow, you are quitting Sony!

I'm 10000% sure that it's all for the better. As they say, change is scary but it almost is never for the worse.

Good luck with your new job, and I too hope to join the video game industry in the coming years. :)

- LB

Devin Greer said...

Just as you leave Sony your comments are shooting up. It may be that Cory mentioned you in his blog, though. Haha, nonetheless, it still suck that you're leaving. By the way, Derek... I was wondering do you play WoW?

Zodiak said...

I dunno if I'll ever move away from the east coast to start a career in gaming, but it would be kinda freaky for me.

Sucks to see the team break up a bit but if its for the better then it's ment to be. Will you focus on more video games or are you just shooting for another career?

good luck in the future.

Rick said...

Dude... You impress me to no end.

I can't imagine I could have kept up with you had I stayed in Indy.

Keep up the good work man!


-Havokmon