Have you ever wanted to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at some of our studios? This week’s EA Tuesday Exclusive takes you inside Firemonkeys and the team working on Real Racing 3.
Ptolemy Oberin has worked at Firemint, before they merged with IronMonkeys to form FireMonkeys, since the studio’s earliest days. “When I got hired,” he says, “Firemint was run from Rob Murray’s (Firemint Founder) apartment”. From those humble beginnings to today, Oberin has been a part of the process for 19 releases from the studio.
Want to know more? Read our Q&A with Oberin below.
What's a typical day like for you? Give us all the details.
Currently I'm half producer, half programmer. My mornings usually revolve around assigning bugs to the team, checking to see if anything important needs to be done, and then replying to emails (being located in Melbourne means a lot of emails from people located in the US and Europe after hours).
Once all that is taken care of, I usually try to fit in some programming in the afternoon. At the start of our update cycles there is usually a lot more programming, while at the end there is usually a lot more producer work to be done.
What keeps you up at night?
StarCraft II mostly. Thankfully I’ve never been one to needlessly worry. RR3 has been out for quite a while now, we’ve had quite a lot of practice at putting out updates, and our users are constantly giving us new ideas to put in the game.
What is the best part of working at the Firemonkeys studio?
The team. I’ve worked with most of the core members of the RR3 teams for eight to ten years. Over half of the current dev team have been with us for five or more years. FireMonkeys has a hugely talented bunch of people and that’s very reassuring. We’ve all been in tight spots before and come through. Everyone can be counted on to deliver when necessary and it’s great to be part of that.
Where do you play mobile games the most?
I’m guessing my desk doesn’t count? Because if it does then that’s a winner. For games outside of work honestly it’s the bathroom. It’s the single greatest location for mobile gaming. Anyone who says otherwise is just in denial!
How would you suggest someone get started in your field?
For programming, definitely university. If you learn to be a good programmer, then learning to make games is easy. 90% of the code in games is general code that isn’t games specific, the other 10% can be self-taught once you’ve learnt how to do the first 90% well. (and for at least the first few years, you’ll only get to the work on the general 90% anyway).
For producing there doesn’t seem to be an easily described path. In my case, I was a programmer who just started doing the producer tasks myself because they needed to be done. It wasn’t a definite career decision. Quite a few producers seem to follow my path from artist/programmer/QA to production. If you like looking at schedules and fixing problems then just apply for any junior role you see. There isn’t much formal training that’s required.
What’s your creative outlet when you’re outside the office?
I just really like building physical things like RC planes, or virtual things like websites and games. They’re surprisingly similar and equally satisfying.
What are some of the projects you’re most proud of?
Flight Control Rocket, and it’s also the game I most desperately want to revisit and update. I wrote the engine it runs on in my spare time, and the core design including most of the special ship types I came up with during an early prototype.
For the first 6 months, it was just me and an artist as a two-person team. Of all the games I’ve worked on, Rocket is definitely the one that I contributed to the most. I learned a great deal, and while it wasn’t a massive commercial hit, it’s still pretty fun to play.
What are some of the biggest challenges in making entertainment?
Predicting fun and enjoyment. It’s such a subjective thing and what I find entertaining isn’t necessarily what our players will find entertaining. The interplay between different systems can have massive and unrealized consequences. Predicting how all those factors will combine, and then predicting how the general public will react is definitely the hardest bit.