This page is a portfolio of sorts - or more specifically, a kind of
forward-looking version of my CV,
which describes where I'm heading in my career, and what kind of useful
abilities I've gained throughout my career so far.
I do not provide any samples of my work here - I believe that the videos on the games page are a more than good enough introduction to that. However, if you need any particular samples, feel free to contact me.
Over the years, I have served in a pretty wide range of functions - from QA and level design all the way through to scenario writing and project management. In recent years, I've especially picked up a fascination for team management and leadership. I've seen strong, well-motivated teams go down in flames due to bad leadership, and I've seen teams of fresh novices go from strength to strength thanks to good leadership and morale.
What are my short term goals?
I want to lead teams and contribute to their growth and development. I am also looking for opportunities to gain skills in the more logistical aspects of project management (budget control, et cetera), to which I've had relatively little exposure so far. At the same time, I do not want to completely give up creative work (such as scenario writing) - in so far as this is possible, I would rather be the gaming equivalent of a movie director/producer than an IT project manager.
What kind of games do I want to work on?
I studied game narrative structure, and it is the exploration of this field that interests me the most - I want to create games that combine great gameplay with narrative complexity, giving the player the means to explore and control the unfolding story. This is my preference, but it is not an end-all requirement. Most of the games I've worked on so far, in fact, had linear and uncomplicated stories, and in some cases virtually no story at all.
Where do I see myself ten years from now?
In the long term, I want to be in a position where I can develop projects of my own with (relatively) complete control over their content. Although I would like to eventually own and manage my own games development studio, I do not consider this a necessity. If another company is able to offer me the creative control I desire, in combination with the freedom to develop my abilities and a good income (obviously, this is a strong consideration too) , I'll be happy to work and contribute to that company for many, many years.
My areas of expertise
I have had the opportunity to work in a very broad range of functions in my projects thus far. Some of them, like QA and sound/video editing, are no longer relevant to my career. Reduced to bullet points, my areas of expertise are as follows:
I will describe these areas in more detail below.
I have served as a project manager, either independently or sharing these duties with another person, on a total of six published projects, including four commercial first-person shooters (Terrorist Takedown 2, Code of Honor 2, Royal Marines Commando, Armed Forces Corp.), and two independently-produced game modifications (Wing Commander: Unknown Enemy, Wing Commander: Standoff). More detailed information about these projects can be found on the My Games page of this website.
All the projects at City Interactive involved the specific challenges of working for a budget-oriented developer - extremely tight deadlines (development never lasted more than 6 months per project) and various restrictions imposed by the need to keep costs down (recycling assets, identifying game environments that can be reused, et cetera). The number of design staff was also remarkably low in all cases, and the project manager was also to a significant degree the lead game designer, even to the point of participating in implementing the game.
The specifics of working at City also meant that rather than having full managerial control over all the staff working on the project, all graphics work had to be coordinated with the shared services department, which meant frequently rescheduling parts of the project when the shared services department was unable to meet deadlines.
There were also particular challenges unique to this or another project. For example, Terrorist Takedown 2 was the first game developed at City Interactive for the newly-licensed JupiterEX game engine, which meant that apart from organising the project's development to meet the deadlines and produce a quality product, we had to get the hang of the new engine and ensure that all the requirements of the licensing partners were met. Another challenge was involved in Royal Marines Commando - in light of increasing development costs, we had to find a way to bring the project's costs down by 50%. This meant an increase in outsourcing.
In two cases (Royal Marines Commando, Armed Forces Corp.), my work as a project manager also involved training newly-hired project managers for the job, walking them through the first steps of the project and providing them with the knowledge needed to complete the rest of the game within the specific environment at City Interactive - i.e., helping them establish proper relations with various people and departments both within and without the company (the shared services, localisation, marketing and publishing departments, the external providers of the game's multiplayer component, et cetera). I also trained a third project manager on a project that I was not in charge of - Battlestrike: Force of Resistance 2.
Our two independently-produced game modifications (Wing Commander: Unknown Enemy, Wing Commander: Standoff) were a completely different ball game. In these cases, I had to manage a large team of volunteers, all working in their spare time (the same was the case for me). The team (both projects involved more or less the same people, although Standoff had a somewhat larger team) was spread all around the world, including Brazil, Canada, the US, the UK, Germany, Austria, Poland, Germany, and Australia. In addition, we had dozens of volunteer voice artists, also from all over the world. All this meant that a lot of time had to be devoted to coordinating team efforts and juggling time zones.
There is one final aspect of working with volunteer teams on Unknown Enemy and Standoff that deserves a separate mention. How do you motivate a team when you cannot pay them a dime? In recent years, various companies have woken up to the fact that financial bonuses are actually a fairly poor motivator - that's a lesson I had to take onboard right from the start. These experiences have made me very attentive to team morale. I've learned that it is far more important to take care of the team's non-financial needs than merely to give them pay rises. I strongly believe a team of enthusiastic and ambitious novices can ultimately achieve far better results than a team of exhausted, complacent experts. Subsequently, work at City Interactive proved this time and again - whenever the team's non-financial needs were taken care of, the team performed excellently. On the other hand, when their morale suffered, we found that financial bonuses could actually lower morale even further.
I believe I've contributed my writing to (almost) every project I've ever been involved with. I love writing. When looking at a game project, the first thing I analyse is the writing - the overall scenario outline, the dialogues, mission briefings, and so on. Just like in film, the quality of the script is not the be-all, end-all in games - the acting and the gameplay determine the end results. But, just like in film, bad writing can ruin a game, no matter how great the acting and the gameplay are.
In addition, I have a very solid theoretical background - I hold a master's degree in film, I am a university-trained scriptwriter, and I have written a master's thesis analysing storytelling and narrative structure as applicable to computer games. I know that witty writing isn't all - a script filled with hundreds of fantastic one-liners will be, overall, an atrocity. A good story starts with a good structure. I am familiar with the details of the classical three-act story structure and the "Hero's journey" story narrative model, and I have applied this knowledge time and again in my projects.
I also have a solid understanding of the differences between writing for film and for computer games. The player in a computer game is an active partner to the game's developers, and the writing (in combination with game design!) should make him feel like an active participant. We're still telling a story to him (that is what players want, just like film audiences - not everything has changed) but we acknowledge that he is active, and the story must allow a reasonable amount of player influence. The reality of game development does not allow us to ever give the player a wide scope for story-changing decisions - but I have learned how important it is to alter the details of the story, to make subtle changes in the dialogues depending on what plane the player chose, what gun he's carrying, and so on. It is these details that make the real difference.
I do not claim to be a great writer. The writing in my first projects, like Wing Commander: Unknown Enemy, was extremely amateurish. However, that was almost a decade ago. After years of writing for various projects (whether it be from scratch or editing, rewriting and translating into English existing scripts), I've had more than enough time to polish up my writing skills. The final episodes of Wing Commander: Standoff have been very well-received in this regard.
Over the last decade, I've been involved in game design at every level - writing high concepts and game proposals, game design documentation, level design, cinematics design, scripting, tweaking game balance, and so on. Even when working as a project manager at City Interactive, I continued to be involved in game design - in fact, even more so than before - because the project manager at City Interactive is, in many ways, the lead game designer.
My strongest area of expertise in game design is mission design, especially in air/space combat games. I've led the level design teams on every single air/space combat game project I've been involved with - Wing Commander: Unknown Enemy, Wings of Honour: Battles of the Red Baron, Combat Wings: Battle of Britain, and Wing Commander: Standoff. When it comes to first-person shooters, my involvement with level design has been much smaller - working as a project manager, I always preferred to leave this to the people specialising in level design. Even so, I always personally played every level of the games I worked on, providing the level designers with feedback on possible improvements.
My university studies in the area of film also give me an advantage when it comes to game cinematics. In the case of our independent game mods, Wing Commander: Unknown Enemy and Wing Commander: Standoff, I actually planned and storyboarded all of the action cutscenes in the games, and personally implemented the cutscenes rendered in real-time by the game engine. At City, the situation has been different - except for some short mini-scenes in Wings of Honour: Battles of the Red Baron and Combat Wings: Battle of Britain, I have not been personally responsible for the implementation of any scenes. However, working as a project manager, I continued to actively participate in the planning of the cinematics in our first-person shooter titles.
Apart from design, I've also frequently worked using game development tools to implement the game. Obviously, I've had less opportunity to do so while working as a project manager, but the experience remains hugely useful - it is always good when a project manager can understand what his people are actually doing. Besides that, during the final phases of the project, it is crucial that the project manager should be able to actively work on the project, rather than merely standing over his subordinates with a whip. Over the years, I've learned to use a variety of world-building/level-editing tools. I have also had plenty of experience with scripting languages, especially Lua.
Finally, it's also worth noting that I've been playing games for almost twenty years now, so I have a pretty good feel for what works and what doesn't work in computer games.
Copyright 2010 Jakub Majewski