The People

Robert M

UI Programmer

Joining us from the stitching of a rather fine new bridle harness we're contentedly chewing up while tossing our mane and neighing, it's Robert. Must remember to ask him where the nickname comes from. Anyway, he's formed of a series of tubes, well, pipes, through which flows a sort of gas, well, plasma, that is then captured, well, falls into a sort of pot, well, bin, that then gets annealed, well, baked in a sort of oven, well, kiln, heated by, I think it's some sort of OK I have no idea. Sorry. None. There was a dossier. Had everything in it. But I spilled some...some...look, I spilled something on it, OK? Don't ask.

Soooo...he's....he's almost certainly, like, a guy. Pretty sure of that. Wait, what? Oh, him? Why didn't you say so? Yeah, I - no, don't bother, I know this by heart: local lad, has beer in his blood, metaphorically, not literally, that would be dangerous; Chef, both an inventor and taxonomist of cocktails, worked on the seeeekrit military stuffs, simulating all manner of things you don't want to actually do unless you're already very, very good at it.

Furthermore, he's a man sized precisely halfway between moose and marmot; two eyes, mainly for seeing with; he's immune to knitwear; he can fly, but chooses not to; did me a solid once by turning those hyaenas into a desk; prefers tea to beer and bakes amazing pies. Pie. Is pies the plural of pie? It's not just...pie? OK. It's just that "he bakes pie" sounds sort of...definitive. Epic, even. And...delicious.

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 Robert does, how he ended up at Splash Damage, and more.

What do you do at Splash Damage?
I am the UI programmer, gatekeeper to the land of interfaces. I work with artists and designers to implement the first thing you see when you boot a game - the front end as well as all the other visual information delivering systems in games like the HUD and in-game menus.

Why did you want to work in the games industry and how did you get started?
I never planned on working in games. Originally I wanted to follow in family footsteps and become a brewer but that went down the drain when I took Computing at A-level and got my first taste of coding. I quite liked this coding malarkey and found myself switching for a career with computers rather than beer. Of course I was a keen gamer at the time so I did a programming degree that leaned towards gaming rather than a die-hard games degree, in fact, they didn't really exist at the time... that makes me feel old. During university I did a placement year in defense working on simulators to train people to be more efficient killers/drive F1 cars/not crash helicopters/understand the fine but potentially deadly subtleties of fast-jet night vision and after university I worked full time as a chef before becoming an awesome barman. After about a year I had pretty much drunk the bar dry so I sent out some CVs for work in games and Climax allowed me to get my foot in the door.

Do you have any tips for people wanting to break in?
I can only really speak for coders. Don't think you have to do a games programming degree, a degree in computer science or physics works just as well (and is sometimes better). Prepare a demo such as a game. It doesn't have to feature ground breaking game design, something simple that showcases your skills will do. If you decide to make a game try to make a complete. What I mean by that is wrap it in a front end, spend time refining the controls, fixing bugs. Add extra functionality like save games, stats, achievements, little details that show an employer your commitment to complete a project through to the end and not just cobble together a bunch of tech demos. If you specialise in something like graphics, physics, animation etc. obviously pay extra attention to those areas.

What other games have you worked on?
Ghost Rider, Overlord: Minions, Silent Hill: Origins, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, Brink and a few canned projects here and there.

Which of your past projects was your favourite to work on, and why?
Not the most obvious choice but I enjoyed working on Overlord on the DS. I had to refactor and update the particle system to make it easier for artists to prototype and configure particle effects. For some sadistic reason I found working with a really small memory budget quite fun. Silent Hill Shattered Memories was also fun as at the time we were making something quite different for the Wii as well as the Silent Hill franchise.

Why did you join Splash Damage?
I love first person shooters and the opportunity to work for a studio with such a pedigree in the genre was too good to miss plus I wanted to work back in the big smoke although I now find myself working less than 2 miles from where I was born dammit!

What are the best and worst parts of your job?
For me one of the best parts is watching a game develop and evolve over time and ultimately seeing the title on the shop shelf/bargain bin after all your hard work and dedication. The worst parts are watching a game develop and evolve over time as that normally means the UI has to change again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again but that's the nature of UI - Constant iteration until you get it right™.

What was your first gaming experience?
Hmmm... It was a tennis game of some sort on an old spectrum or something that was generously given to my parents by my granddad which worked for about five minutes once we got it home. I think he was just clearing out his old junk and gave us a knackered computer. After that was chucked in the skip we picked up an Amiga 500 and it took off from there with games like Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge, Chuck Rock, Our Run Europa, Datastorm, Speedball 2, Cannon Fodder, Rick Dangerous, Swiv, Flashback and Syndicate oh, and how could I forget Fun School 3, after all, computers are supposed to educational right? Well, that's what I told my parents ;)

What types of games do you like, and what's your favourite game of all time?
I love first person shooters and racing games but I also like multiplayer games. Not the ones you play over Xbox Live with foul mouthed pre-pubescent teenagers but the ones you play together in the living room with a crate of beer and a bunch of foul mouthed mates. Games such as Saturn Bomberman, Death Tank Zwei, Micro Machines, Street Fighter etc. As for my favourite game of all time? I don't really have one but I guess I've spent a disturbing amount of time running people over in Carmageddon and shooting people in Team Fortress Classic.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not at work?
I love rowing but I have a phobia of deep water (weird, I know) so I recently acquired a Concept2 indoor rowing pain machine ergometer device-a-tron. When I am not giving myself calluses on my hands from rowing I enjoy exploring the world from my barstool, supplying the Tyskie, Zywiec, Chimay and Guinness breweries with a healthy income. I have a fascination in all things tech especially hi-fi and home cinema which I regularly like to share with my neighbours. Other than that I enjoy the normal crap - Lego, wearing a kilt, looking at aircraft flying over my house, fixing stuff, eating steak, being rubbish at snowboarding, throwing my weight around in bass heavy club nights and finding humor in almost everything.

What's the meaning behind your nickname?
It's short for my surname you idiot (alright, alright, calm down -ed). It was bestowed upon me by workmates at Climax after five Rob's ended up sitting dangerously close together. Someone would say "Rob" and all five of us would pop up like meerkats. I was labeled Mac from that point onwards which I am fine with but when some people first meet me now they think I am called Mac Macdonald. I've discovered all the awesome characters in movies are called Mac too – Predator, The Thing, Doom ... erm Chicken Run.