I’m typing to you on my Alienware laptop. This computer is 5 years old and has been with me through my journey to become a professional game developer.
I got it during the last year of my undergraduate studies in Arkansas. Mid-way through a physics degree, I decided to add a 2nd major in computer science. During my last year of college, I studied for the GRE with this computer. I traveled to California on a massive road trip with this computer. I fell in love with computer science and game development on this computer. Here’s some of my journey.
Fall of 2010:
I was lonely in Arkansas. Some of my best friends, including my brother, had graduated school, and I was embarking on a victory lap (5th year). I’d managed to convince both my favorite physics professor, Dr. John Stewart, and my favorite computer science professor, Dr. Russell Deaton, to allow me to do a cross-departmental undergraduate thesis: Guitar RPG. I built a game using a midi guitar, known as the You Rock Guitar. You battled monsters by playing guitar riffs at them. It was quite fun, and I learned a whole lot working on it. This semester was different than any that were before it. I was in an amazing band, playing bass with two of my best friends, Luke Lorey and Sam Kincannon. But even with how great that was, I knew that I needed to see the world.
I embarked on a journey to study abroad in Amsterdam. While I was there, I made horrible mistakes, had a terrible case of puppy love, and went to a few massive Dutch club events known as Energy and A State of Trance 500. Those experiences were incredible. Living away from home was surreal. I had never left Arkansas for more than a month, and some loneliness and culture shock started to set on me. One night I came home and saw an e-mail that I had been accepted to the M.S. Computer Science Game Development program at the University of Southern California. It was sheer ecstasy to know that I was accepted into my number one program. I tried to finish other applications, but my heart was set. No matter the cost, I was going to be a Trojan.
Fall of 2011:
I was lonely in a huge town. USC was exciting, but I was different from everyone. At the time, I was a real hippy. Smoking whenever I could, playing video games whenever I could, listening to as much new music as I possibly could. I would later consider this time frame, and essentially all of 2011 as a massive waste of drug-induced hypnosis. One day, I was so frustrated by not having friends or connections or desires to make those connections. I’d made one good friend out of my classmates, Dustin Farris. We hung out all the time, and I would drive about an hour to get to his home in Glendale. There we would hang out, talk games, and do homework together. I later made another good friend, who was on a team with me and Dustin. This was new for me, Ajinkya Waghulde: an Indian guy straight from India who didn’t eat meat but man did he know games (after reading this, he reminded me that he does eat meat now). One night I went home for my first game project. As I was working on it, I thought “Whoa, what if what I was placing here was a person? And what if that person was playing music for me just like at a concert?” The idea exploded into infinite possibilities within my mind. I called up my friend Mike Laflamme, who a few weeks before had been the first friend to answer a phone call as I robo-dialed everyone in my phone book out of desperate loneliness. This time I wasn’t lonely, but excited. We talked for over 4 hours about the idea. He agreed that I should work on it, and he offered to use his spare time to help me direct my technology choices and initial development.
I talked Dustin, Ajinkya, and another friend, a business minded one, Matt Lucido, into joining me in the Maseeh Entrepreneurship Prize Competition with Mike Laflamme working with us from his home in San Antonio. Our teamwork was incredible, but the project was a huge beast. We got together a pretty nice demo by May of 2012, but there was a lot more work to do. We made it to the finals.
Fall of 2012:
Now, we were past the competition. It was basically impossible to get people to work with me on Consortya because everyone had gotten busy with their year long school projects. I’d not been the easiest guy to work with. I was obsessive and so insanely driven to work in Consortya that in my passions I’d even given up smoking because it was hindering my brain. I’d actually given up all illegal substances. Which for me put my mind in a huge state of unknowing. I was going to church again which was a welcome change to most of my close family who had seen me struggle with my identity. This year, I was working along on Consortya with the majority of my spare time. I met the love of my life (though I didn’t know it immediately) and she kept me stable. One problem was she lived back in Arkansas. That made it tough, but it kept me from going out and doing insane things to try and meet people (trust me that was for the better if you know me). My best friend, who happened to be a dog named Tripp, was killed by a pit bull that year. I was left devastated because of the only people I’d clung to during all of my passionate soul searching was my dog Tripp. Border Collies are the smartest dogs in the world, and their knowing and understanding makes them seem like people.
Fall of 2013:
Now I had to get a job. No one wanted to just hand me money to work on Consortya. I was dead certain (and dead wrong) that I’d be able to ship it in under a year. I just needed some more time. Well work was word, and my responsibilities kept increasing. My desire to make Consortya exceptional instead of regular pushed back the timelines an extra two years. I learned so much technology. I was writing the back-end server, maintaining the database, keeping in contact with investors, reading business books, and writing the entire front end of the game. Ajinkya gave me a call to come and hang out with him and his roommate, who was also my friend, Teng Lu. We reconnected on a massive scale and he agreed to start working with me on Consortya again. I finally had someone to confide in and relate to again. Someone to make my note-taking and obsessive upkeep necessary. He had to move away to Santa Clara to get a better job that would help him stay in the country. We worked together remotely. We kept at it. Sometimes we wouldn’t be able to work for a month because we were both under massive deadlines. But, we kept going.
Fall of 2015:
Now here I am. I have another friend who is working with me, though for privacy reasons I am leaving his name out of this document. We have just polished off the last of the bugs. I got married in August and now have a wife I need to love and take care of. This past weekend, the most wonderful woman I’ve ever known passed away from old age and cancer, my grandmother. I got to see her again one last weekend. It was amazing. She makes me want to live a good life. We spoke of our Christianity, and we had a marvelous time. When I got home, I knew she wasn’t going to make it much longer. She passed away Thursday of that week. I went home again for the funeral. Now, I am back on Consortya. My desktop computer is kaput because of a fried motherboard, and I am stuck working with the same laptop that I used all those years ago for my very first game. My Alienware m15x. The pride and joy of my collection. Here we are world, Neenah, all my friends, all my family, my mother who is about to start chemo, my bunny rabbit, my new wife, here I am. Come and see what I’ve built, Consortya.