Roll Call Interview Series - Ev Amitay (Senior Programmer)
Role: Senior Programmer
Years at Roll7: 1
Favourite classic game: Monkey Island III, Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, Diablo I
Pets: Three plants. Two of them are plastic, but Ev reports that they’re all looking green and healthy, so he must be doing something right.
Hi Ev! Would you like to tell me a bit about what you do at Roll7?
Hello! I’m a Senior Programmer.
And what exactly does a Senior Programmer do?
It’s a range of things, really. So, the first thing is programming, obviously – I write code for the games we make. Specifically, my role at the moment involves quite a lot of prototyping, which is essentially just talking to John (our Creative Director) and implementing his crazy ideas…
It’s definitely very cool to get to see those ideas come to life. You also work pretty closely with the design team, right?
Yes – I think a big part of the Senior Programmer role, specifically, is being able to see things from a design perspective, and to work closely with the design team to make their vision a reality.
So it’s actually quite a creative role, is that fair to say?
Yes, definitely. You have to be able to understand things from a technical perspective, sure, but it’s really about using technical skills to bring the design elements that the team have worked on to life. I guess I would call it design oriented coding. I spend quite a lot of time creating tools that allow the design team to build their ideas themselves, so it’s important that I have a clear understanding of what their thought process is and what sort of functionality they’ll need to bring their ideas to life.
Right – yes, that makes a lot of sense. I had never realised what a creative and collaborative role programming really is, that’s really interesting to hear. What was it that made you initially decide to get into programming as a career?
I had – I think this is pretty much what everyone says, right – I had always been interested in games as a kid, and I thought for a long time that it would be a cool career to get into. But I was actually a web developer first, and it was only when I moved to the UK that the games industry really opened up to me as a career possibility.
Ah, ok – yeah, there’s a pretty healthy games scene here, I guess.
Exactly. So, after I moved here, five or so years ago, I started working in UI - which is pretty similar to what I had been doing as a web developer, in many ways. And then from there I ended up getting more interested in making gameplay elements, so over time I shifted into doing that.
Nice! OK, so, another question: you’re pretty well known among the team for being super efficient at work – what’s your secret? Do you have any tips for how to improve efficiency?
(He laughs). Ah, well…
Is it magic? Ev, you can tell me if you’re secretly a wizard.
(He laughs again). No! Honestly, it’s just that I have spent a lot of time building tools and making projects from scratch. I’ve made all sorts of prototypes and games in my spare time - all different genres and styles. Learning to do that from the ground up, rather than using prebuilt tools, gives me a better understanding of exactly how games work. I know it’s sort of a boring answer to say you just have to practice, but it’s true. If you build lots of things from scratch, you’ll begin to get a feel for how to build what you need - and also how to use what other people have made, because you get more of a sense of how they made it.
I can see how that makes sense, even if I wish there was a magic shortcut to success! I guess that one of the joys of working remote is you do have more free time to tinker and work on personal projects, right?
That’s very true. I had done a bit of remote work before coming here, and it was a big part of the appeal when I took the job that Roll7 is almost entirely remote. I’m London based now, but even commuting within the city can be a solid hour or so, and the tube is always crowded and too hot and… I suppose it’s just nicer not to have to do that. And, like you say, it leaves more free time for me to work on my own projects.
It’s really interesting that you were looking specifically for remote work when you found this job – what would you say to people who are maybe hesitant that remote work wouldn’t suit them?
Hmm. I think maybe a lot of people haven’t really tried it out, and I would say it’s worth doing for a couple months at least. Maybe it isn’t for everyone, but I think a lot of people just don’t realise how great it can be. For me, when I was able to do some days remotely at my previous job, it was a real lightbulb moment – I could focus so much better without the distractions of the office, I was saving all this time on the commute… it just made sense. I guess people worry about communication issues, but with the technology we have now I’ve never found that to be a problem.
Yeah - I think having our fortnightly meetups helps with communication, too. We all get to hang out and socialise a bit and I think that’s a really nice balance to have.
And where else would we be able to have office debates about which way round is the correct way to hang loo roll on the holder?
It’s obviously correct to hang it with the end behind the roll, against the wall.
It definitely isn’t! Alright, before we get into this one again – one final question. What’s something about the games industry that you think people might not know?
Hmm. I think people would be surprised how much of the work that goes into games never actually gets seen by the public. Anything from funding being cut so a game ends up not getting released, to levels and concepts changing so that things that have been worked on don’t make the final cut… but it’s all part of the process. Like I said earlier, the more you work making games, the better you get at it. All that work you don’t see as a player goes into improving what does eventually get released, in one way or another.
It’s like with any creative pursuit, I guess. What you see in the final product is really just the tip of the iceberg.
Well, thank you for your time, Ev. It was lovely chatting to you!
The Roll7 Team
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