So the cat was let out of the bag today and it’s true: I’m leaving my very good friends at Aardman Digital and heading for pastures new. Giving up the “day job” and becoming a freelancer / indie dev hybrid. As you can appreciate this is both an exciting and somewhat scary move, especially being the sole income earner for my young family. But I’ve been careful with my planning and sensible with my predictions and will make the best of it that I possibly can.
Fancy working with Wallace and Gromit?
This of course means that Aardman are now looking for a kick-ass Technical Director to join their digital department. If you’re in the UK and either live near or would re-locate to Bristol and have the experience, then I strongly suggest you apply for this job. You’ll get to work with some fantastic brands and characters, including both Aardman’s own such as Wallace and Gromit, and 3rd party. There’s a truly brilliant and talented team there, working on fun stuff in a gorgeous office (complete with its own canteen and cinema). If this sounds appealing and you’ve got the skills then please do consider sending in your CV.
So you’re probably thinking why on earth would I give this up? There’s no one significant reason. It’s more a collection of smaller things which ultimately boils down to wanting a change in lifestyle that allows me to create the sort of games I enjoy and spend more time with my family in the process. I’ve been at Aardman for 6.5 years, indeed I was the very first employee in the department. And I’ve seen it grow and expand, taken on huge challenging projects and then morphed into a director role. Those of you in this position know it’s more about technical guidance than actually building stuff. And while you do have a large amount of creative input into a project, it’s always working with someone elses characters or brand. You can never really push it quite as far as you’d like (and for sensible business reasons too).
But it’s not just about the creativity. In March my daughter had her second birthday, and this was really something of a wake-up call for me. I live quite a long way from the Aardman offices and the daily commute often means I’ll see a maximum of 5 minutes of my children, during a frantic pre-school rush in the mornings, each day. Often they’re both sound asleep by the time I get home. Even though Aardman were great in letting me work from home one day a week, I was still effectively missing my children growing up. And they’re only going to do that once! I know a lot of Dads are in a similar situation, and I’m under no illusion that my new role will be any less busy (if anything, it’ll be more so!). But at least the way in which I work will be under my control, and if I want to go and collect my son from school, I can do that now. That, to me anyway, is worth giving-up my generous monthly salary for.
The Future Sound of Photons
So what will happen from this point on? It’s actually pretty damned exciting. Photon Storm was incorporated as a company on April 18th, preparing for what’s coming. I’ll work out my notice until the end of June and then our new life begins, but with a really awesome project to kick things off. A great company based in New Zealand have hired me to build a fully open-source HTML5 game engine. We’ll be taking all the virtues of frameworks like Flixel, applying what we’ve learned from our HTML5 game development and mixing it all together. Our primary aims will be ease of use, solid documentation, examples and tutorials and a strong plugin driven architecture: A minimal core supported by a huge array of components to extend or replace the engine however you want. Everything that was ever planned and dreamed of for the aborted Reflex project will come to fruition here.
I’ll be working on this solidly for 6 months (and beyond). The nice thing about it, aside from the fact it’s a freaking cool project!, is that we’ve agreed I’ll have free time every week to work on our own games as well. This means you will start to see a rapidly elevated output from us as we set about finishing games currently sat collecting dust, and building out new ideas and concepts we’ve been itching to try but have avoided due to lack of time.
It also means that we’re open for contract work too. I’ve got to be practical about this change. The 6-month starter project is great, but I’m not naive enough to think that after this if I swap to being a full-time indie that it’ll continue to feed my family. Instead I’ll settle for trying to balance freelance/contract work with my indie dreams. This should ensure that we can carry on making great stuff and still pay the bills.
Maybe one day the indie side of it might be large enough, but I’m sure you can appreciate I need to play it safely for now. So if you’ve ever wanted us to create a game for you (HTML5 or Flash), or need help porting a Flash game to mobile browser, now would be a great time to drop me a line
*sniff* You’ve been beautiful guys
I also just want to say a quick thank you to everyone who has supported what we’ve been doing here over the years. Thousands of you have expressed your gratitude for our hard work, be it by enjoying our games or benefiting from our tutorials and code. We really do appreciate it when people drop us a line to say thank you, and I still get a genuinely warm and fuzzy feeling inside when we see or hear about our code helping fellow developers get their games made. We do try our best to answer all emails we get sent, no matter how trivial they may seem, and apologise to all the people who keep writing to us asking for intern-ships
There are a lot of great people out there that we’ve met, both online and off. People who continue to influence and inspire us on a daily basis. Your feedback and support has meant a lot. And as we enter this new and very exciting phase of “Photon Storm” we hope you’ll stay along for the ride.
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