I've just been headhunted for the first time! Well, alright. It's the second time, but the first didn't really count. More on that later.
After seeing a capture of "K", the abstract shmup I worked on during/after uni, someone from one of the big companies asked if I'd be interested in doing prototyping. Obviously, I had to decline (our game comes first), but being asked to work in prototyping was really tempting. I'm glad that prototyping is something that's being taken seriously by the big guys - it seems like the only realistic way to push new ideas forward without risking vast sums of money.
Rudolf Kremers from Beautiful Game Studios told me that the longer you're in the industry, the more frequently you'll be propositioned. While this first time was certainly flattering, I can imagine it could get boring, especially when you get the more pushy agents lying through their teeth about a company which you know (from other sources) isn't all it's cranked up to be. But he says, "No, no. It's all fuel for the ego!". Good-o!
The first time I was headhunted, I was 17. I had just finished the less popular second version of Matrix Quake. Cevat Yerli of Crytek (at that time just a tech-demo house - I think only X-Isle had been released) saw this and asked me if I'd like to code on their new project.
Precocious, naive little shit that I was, I thought I had hit the big time. It was a dream come true! I was ready to drop everything and get to work, even though I had less than 3 years of coding experience under my belt - not even coding, really: more like high level C / scripting. I was ready to ditch my A-Level retakes (retakes due to too much modding and not enough study in the 6th form). In the end, my parents intervened and told me that I could only code remotely. I'm glad they stepped in, because the next two weeks were pretty silly:
I started off as a game play coder on an unannounced title, working from the school computers (the only internet I could access at the time!). The next week, it seems that the Lead Coder left the project, and I was promoted to Lead. It was only then that I got to see the game engine and design documents.
A fellow modder was previously brought on board to design the weapons in this game. He was renowned for creating some of the most... erm... "unrestrained" weapons designs on the scene. The weapons were designed with real passion. Whole pages were dedicated to pulp sci-fi elaborations on the history of the weapons, their manufacturers, and their most prolific users. As a sort of side note, you got one sentence descriptions of the functionality.
Being a mechanic-centric sort of guy, I complained (probably in far stronger words than were necessary). I don't remember if I got a response from the Project Lead, because mysteriously, the very next week, I was promoted to that same position.
It was then that I realized that I was just a 17 year old, who had only made games by standing on the shoulders of giants, and that I was in no position to take on this work while studying for A-Levels. Needless to say, I felt like a prick for walking away, but there wasn't much else I could do in the situation.
A couple of ECTS's later, I saw Cevat giving an interview to G4 (I think?) in front of his FarCry booth. Everyone at the show was swooning over the game, so I went to see what the fuss was about. I gave it a go behind him as he did his little pitch to the cameras.
I needed to invert the mouse to play, so I went to the options. Unstable as most convention builds are, the game crashed on me, possibly in plain view of the camera. Realizing that I might have created a PR blunder, I looked left, and looked right, and ran outta there as fast as I chubby legs would carry me. If I wanted, I could claim it was a sort of weak attempt at revenge, assuming I had any lingering resentment toward the company. But I don't. These things happen, especially in start-ups.
The menu is coming on really well since I broke its back. Tommy and I are working on a way to keep each game mode's menus in their respective DLL so that the main menu can populate its special case game mode related pages just by looking in a game mode directory. This extra work up front makes it incredibly easy for us to add new game modes without having to change the core game. You need that kind of handling if you want to be able to submit downloadable content/game modes without having to resubmit your core download for QA.
Downloadable content has only really recently evolved from buzzword to technically understood possibility. I think a lot of people rushed in, attaching the phrase to their pitches for sexification, not realizing that the process of making extra content starts with planning way before the core downloadable is ever finished. If you start after the game's done, you're encumbered with a lot of retrofitting to make things work. Just sayin'.