The People

John M

Game Designer
Joining us from an ornate wicker and brass seltzogene comes John. Procedurally generated by the great Meme-Mills of Tartary, John is one if not all of the Lagrangian points of the Design team, remaining motionless against the gravitational tug of our Enthusiasms and Fears. Like a pitot tube (some say annubar), by him we measure and maintain a steady trajectory through the buffeting clouds of This and That. In some ways John is the Tuyere through which Design is blasted into the molten mass of game ideas roiling in the forge that is Production. Indeed, one might even say that he is the allegorical Pozzolana of the game design team, being metaphorically mixed with lime (work) to form a rheologicaly plastic paste (um, more work?) which then sets into a hard cementitious mass (I've lost track of this metaphor), even underwater (nope, no idea).

He’s four buses long, and can only be leapt with written prior permission. He’s OVER THERE!

Things You Were Too Afraid To Ask...

Every once in a while, we interrogate one of our own and put their answers up for all the world to see. Read on to find out more about what John does, how he ended up at Splash Damage, and more.

What do you do at Splash Damage?

I'm part of the design team and mostly work with our dev tools to create content for the game itself. I’ve just finished some [censored] content and am now working on in-game [censored]. The rest of the time, like everyone else on the design team, I provide feedback to other members of the development team as they implement features.

Why did you want to work in the games industry and how did you get started?

Games have been part of my life since before I can remember. I tried a few other ‘serious’ jobs before returning to college (aged 24), to get the skills I needed to make games for a living. How I got started depends on what you consider my start was. My parents were my main influence, my Dad is a primary school teacher in Dublin with a love of all things tech. Thanks to him I was writing text adventures on a BBC Micro when I was about 10. My Mum is a gymnastics coach (amongst many things) with a love of puzzles and board games. She had me designing 2D vertical scrolling shooters using cardboard and egg cartons around the same time I was writing those text adventures.

But I suppose what you’re really asking is how I got started in commercial video games. I studied for 2 years at Ballyfermot College in Dublin to earn a diploma in computer games development, and then a further year at Brunel University to earn an MA in Digital Games Theory and Development. While I was writing my dissertation for the MA I got the chance to do 2 weeks work at Lionhead Studios and that turned into my first job in the industry which was junior designer on Fable 2.

Do you have any tips for people wanting to break in?

Go to university. Yes there are plenty of examples of games developers that didn’t go to university, but for new starters thats the exception not the rule. Further education isn’t about learning how to do a job, it’s about learning how to learn, and in video games you can’t afford to stop learning. Universities also give you the time and opportunity to make contacts and build up a solid portfolio.

What games have you worked on? Which one did you enjoy the most?

I've worked on Fable 2 (Microsoft Games, 2008) and its two DLC packs Knothole Island and See the Future, as well as Brink.

Seeing as we're not finished with Brink just yet, I'd have to say Fable 2: See the 'Future is my favourite.

I joined the Fable 2 team a year and a bit before the game was released so pretty much all of my work was something I was supporting or taking over from someone else. When we started on the DLC packs I got the chance to experiment and try out some ideas. See the Future has a few things that I’m really proud of, parts of the game that I can point to where I know I was involved with from start to finish and that made a real difference to the quality of the game.

How did you end up at Splash Damage?

I knew Bongoboy through some friends and he asked if I’d like to come in for a chat. Someone must have liked what they heard because I got the job.

What is it like to work at Splash Damage?

Fun, friendly, frenetic. It's worth battling through the weather for.

What are the best and worst parts of your job?

The best part is seeing the game come together piece by piece. The worst is the air con in my little corner of the office, I'm freezing here!

What was your first gaming experience?

Probably a video game, and I think it was either Pete’s Monsters, Gold Digger or Frogger. I remember my mum playing Gold Digger all the time so maybe she gave me a turn of that. I could of course have the name completely wrong. The computer would have been a Dragon 32 or a Spectrum ZX80.

Editor's Note: John's mum has since contacted us to shed some light on his early computer history and to let us know exactly what the Molloys got when:

  • 1983 Dragon 32
  • 1984 Memotech MSX
  • 1987 BBC Master 128

We’re also told that John’s first games were Toado and Goldmine on the Memotech MSX.

So there you have it! Bless you, Mummy Molloy!

What types of games do you like, and what's your favorite game of all time?

Must have co-op, must be action orientated, and must have a strong story. I’m going to go with The Secret of Mana on the Super Nintendo a 3 player co-op RPG

What's the meaning behind your nickname?

I’ve been called Nifty since I was 10 years old. Originally I was Big Nifty and my brother was Little Nifty, we picked it up in a martial arts class, but it didn’t stick for him. The ‘big’ was dropped from my nickname pretty quickly since I was the second shortest guy in my class.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not at work?

Spending time with my better half. Reading, last year I set myself a challenge to read a book for every week, but fell short by about 10 books. Games wise I like board games and small video games. Lunch times at work I play bigger games with the rest of the team.