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Young v. Old: Dev Debate

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Young v. Old: Sigil Odd Couple Debates

Sigil Technical Director Ryan Elam (old) and Designer McDevitt (young)

Editor's Introduction: Every month, the Sigil odd couple will debate and discuss in this feature we call "Young v. Old". Derek McDevitt is a Game Designer with Sigil Games and the rookie in this pairing. Ryan Elam is the Technical Director for Vanguard and plays the role of the veteran.

Derek McDevitt: My name is Derek McDevitt and I'm a Game Designer at Sigil Games Online. I got my start at Sigil back in July of 2005 when I was hired as an Associate Game Designer. I've been in love with games for most of my life. When I was just a young lad in elementary school my dad found a perfectly good Atari and a couple of games in someone's trash (he was a trash man, not a garbage digger) and brought it home for my brother and I to play. Ever since those days of 'Pong' I have been hooked. As far as MMO experience goes, the one I've played the most is Everquest. I started playing in middle school, but playing became hard after my parents found out that I preferred EQ to homework. More recently I have played World of Warcraft and, of course, Vanguard.

At Sigil I do many things, including playing ping pong and being pretty much the ping pong champ of the design team. When it comes to Vanguard though, my main responsibility is that of overland population. This includes, but is not limited to, allocating creature types per regions of the world, planning out level progressions for the overland game world, designing and building overland camps, and meticulously documenting all of the things that I've already mentioned. Some people here at work think that I have a slight case of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), but they're probably just thrown off by my documentation and how I organize the copious amounts of Sobe bottles on my desk by the color of their caps.

Even though I've only worked in this industry for a little over a year, I've really enjoyed what I've done. Working on videogames is pretty much like a dream come true for me. There are so many times that I have been playing a game and have said to myself 'man, this would be so much better if they had done this,' and now I am in a position where I can make 'that' happen.

-Derek 'Ryan is so old he references The Beatles' McDevitt

Ryan Elam: Welcome! My name is Ryan Elam, and I am a code-aholic. My story begins with a young child with horrible handwriting. I'm using horrible not as an exaggeration, but quite literally. It wasn't that I was teased for it, I was reviled by teachers for it. I clung to the excuse of being left handed, and did every report I possibly could using an old typewriter. I knew how to type pretty well, in fact, by the time I was 8 years old. It was around that time that word processors first surfaced, and for anyone who used white-out more than five times, a word processor sounded like heaven. That's how it began, with a computer and a printer, and being too cheap to BUY software, I had to write some. Bulletin Board Systems, Door games (my first being a text-based dungeon crawl), fight games, EverQuest, and now Vanguard mixed in with a liberal amount of 'real jobs' has put me in the position I'm in now. My game experience integrates well with the experimentation of military programming, the communications experience of transaction processing and the precision of software diagnostics, and each of those jobs truly helps balance the controlled chaos that is game development in general, and MMOG development specifically.

I currently hold a project title of Technical Director of Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. It is my enviable task to collect a crew of uniquely talented, insanely bright, and exceedingly hard working programmers to mold and create what is probably the most ambitious MMOG title ever. Then to top it all off, I was lucky enough to have Amanda Tarr, a well-known veteran of the industry, to be this project's Lead Programmer. It's a great job if you can get it, kind of like what being the manager for The Beatles must have been. Still, they won't just let me sit in my office and pat myself on the back all day, so I also write some code.

If you get past the fact that I've been programming longer than many of the company's employees have been alive, and the impending grey hairs from an ongoing, five-year project, life is good. Vanguard is on the brink of open beta, and every single month the game improves by 80+%.

Derek McDevitt: One of the biggest challenges that I've faced so far in this industry is to resist the pessimistic outcries of 'naysayers', or, people who immediately reject innovative and fun ideas because they are too insecure and stuck in the past. The people who act in this manner are generally the 'old people', like my coworker Ryan Elam. Sure, some great things came from the past, like ice cream, the wheel, and power steering. But let's face it, if a videogame company was made up of a bunch of people like Ryan Elam, the only thing that company would do is sit around and forget what they were suppose to be working on while they reminisced about how good they all used to be at Ms. Pacman. The point I am trying to make is clear; without the youth, this industry would never evolve. Sure, the old guys know a lot of stuff; I'm not saying that they're completely useless. But without the insight and high energy of the young developer, the old guys might as well spend their time making time machines so they can go back and try to compete with calculators.

Ryan Elam: One of the challenges that face us veteran developers is The New Guy™. People like Derek who while eager, jumping around like an excited puppy, tend to distract from the real work that needs to be done to make a game. They come on board with their idealistic views and just see making games as a vacation, with ping pong tables and free soda. Let me tell you, Derek, your journey into the Real World of development has only just begun. See, while Derek's intro points out that this is his first job in the industry; he fails to mention that it's also his first job. For goodness sake, I knew seven programming languages by the time he was born! And when I think how much more work could get done if us veterans weren't constantly having to explain WHY we have a system the way it is to young pups who think they can just barge into your office and say "man, it would be so much better if you'd just do it THIS way...".


Guest Writer