I’m going to tell you a story. No worries, I will offset this story in a day or two with a less depressing story. My point is that even if you should, say, break the build, worse things can happen. Please approach this post in the spirit it is written, which is “I can’t effing believe that happened to me” in more of an incredulous tone of voice than an angry one.

At one point in my life, my job was to shadow our creative director, write down what he said to the developers and put it in a prioritised schedule. This was provided he didn’t change his mind the day after, which to be fair, occasionally happened.

At another point in my life, I spent a couple of months with a stopwatch and an excel sheet, measuring unlocks in the game, because we didn’t have working telemetry.1

I’ve also spent time cleaning up a string list, whittling it down from 120.000 strings to somewhere around 60.000, because, really, there’s absolutely no way of searching for a string to see if it exists (there was) before adding a new one.2

I’ve argued with legal departments over a choice of words that happened to be trademarked by a tiny garage in the middle of the US. If you make car games this is a thing. It will happen.

I once did a UI prototype in PowerPoint. The PowerPoint took 3 weeks to make and contained roughly 1000 slides. Because we didn’t have a prototype tool. And we weren’t getting one.

I broke Figma’s memory allocation.

I also broke a build because the devs changed colors on a 256 x 256 pixel map that was used to set regions in the game. They forgot to tell me and because this was when nightly builds were nightly builds that took about 8 hours to build, the build was broken for the entire team for two days, I think it was, before we found the error.

I have placed a lot of rice pickers. I have also given a lot of villages their names and a lot of military bases.

I worked between 10 – 18 hours a day for a year and a half. I had only done that once before, but that was only for 3 months. On the other hand, at that job, we had to bring our own toilet paper, because the studio couldn’t afford to pay for it.

But my crowning achievement, the thing I am least proud of in my entire working life, the thing that made me really want to jump off a cliff or crawl under a rock and die, was when the CEO of a major games publisher stood on stage before the entire studio, and said that the work I was responsible for (although I doubt he knew that, or the circumstances under which I was working) was what was lacking in the game we were making. It wasn’t true, because the issues were much broader than that (yes, the same game that had me working 10 – 18 hours a day for a year and a half), but it made me feel absolutely awful and as if I had failed not only myself but the entire project.

Keep that in mind for when you next break the build. Worse things can happen.

  1. This is absolutely an encouragement to get telemetry and data on whatever it is you are building. Without it, you’re flying blind. Or you need a stopwatch and an excel sheet.
  2. Seriously, devs. You are not doing yourselves or the translators or the game budget any favours by adding temp string after temp string. Have some discipline. In fact have two. Every temp string that is sent to translation costs time and money. I saved half our loc budget for that game. Did anyone thank me? No. I was asked to leave once the project was concluded, because… I have no fucking idea why, but it was my first contact with constructive dismissal. Cleaning up a string database was NOT my job. I think there was a guy there who didn’t like me, because we’d argued about whether Booth Babes were sexist or not, and he just couldn’t stand me, so he… used his influence.