Career path: NYU CAS BA (class of 2011)—>Blacktorch Games—> Game Producer, Scholastic—> Co-Founder at DreamSail Games
Career path: NYU Tisch BA (class of 2011)—> Intern at Garage Games—> Intern at Insomniac Games—> Environment Artist at Insomniac Games—> Founder at DreamSail Games
How did you approach your time at NYU?
Justin Sanders: I’d come into the Game Center with a mission – to work in AAA games. So I decided to put together a specific portfolio that would target a specific job, which for me was a 3D environment artist at Insomniac. I was laser-targeted on that – I wanted to punch them in the head with a portfolio that really showed that I got their style. I looked at the portfolios of people who were working at the studio – I wanted to put together something that would make them think ‘why isn’t he working here?’ Something that would make me stand out in the sea of people that want the same job.
Kevin Porras: I came at it differently. I had just floundered through a semester of pre-med, and I came into the program with no usable skill set other than loving games. I’d just walk in and say, let me sit next to that guy, he seems to be drawing something awesome. And that’s how I stumbled on being a producer. Every time I had the chance to assemble a team, I assembled a team I knew could make something great. Justin and I worked on a bunch of projects together at NYU – I went through the development cycle 5 or 6 times before we graduated, so it helped me understand what being a producer was all about.
How did you get your foot in the door?
JS: I got started with some internships. I noticed that Garage Games had purchased StarSiege Tribes, which was a game that I loved. I painted an image of their game and posted it in their IRC. I didn’t have to say anything – they responded and said ‘would you be interested in working with us?.’ And then I went to GDC – if you want to make it, it’s the place to go. You’ll meet so many people – meet your heroes. I met five people from Insomniac, which is where I wanted to be. That took me on to an internship at Insomniac, and then an environment artist position. Definitely a lesson there that if it’s a little bit scary, if you feel under pressure, then that’s your time to shine. It’s time to poke-evolve and become a better creature.
KS: After graduation, I worked on a mobile game called Don’t Fry the Frog. I viewed that game as part of my resume. The minute you walk in and hand over something that isn’t a piece of paper, but a *thing,* you just put yourself into a different category. Then I temped for a while – I was checking coats at the Natural History Museum when I saw an ad for a role at Scholastic and thought ‘thank god – no-one’s tipping right now!’ I worked on a bunch of products there, on games designed to be accompanied by books. There were no designers on the team, so I was a producer-designer. It was my first real view of just how much games cost, of just how much time they take to make.
How did DreamSail get started?
JS: I’m in a really fortunate position: I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and my dad’s attitude was ‘you can be an artist for now, but long-term you should start a business’. And so I decided: I’m going to take a chance. I saw the rise of VR – augmented reality was on the horizon. I thought this was an amazing time to start a company.
KP: And then Justin called me up and said ‘I’m starting a studio, do want to join?’ and I said ‘Are you going to pay me’ and he said yes, and I said yes!
What are you working on now?
JS: We were originally working on a game called Wind Rush – a free-to-play game where you compete to build and race ‘airskiff’ craft. We’d taken it to GDC and Pax and gotten great feedback, we were set up as PS4 devs. And then one night at Pax Prime, two programmers on our team, Nick Gomes and Neil Sveri, just decided to make a little prototype: two spinning cubes that could stab each other. We played for hours.
KP: And that gave us a really difficult decision. The new prototype was maybe 3 months away from being fun. The other project needed another year. What we had in the new concept was something that was pick up and play – instant fun, and better suited for an indie team. For a while we tried to do both, but the new game got to a place very fast where we were confident it was something we could sell. And that made us realize that it should be all hands on deck.
Blade Ballet is coming to PS4 and Steam in the summer of 2016. Find out more at www.bladeballet.com