Train2Game Interview: DayZ creator Dean “Rocket” Hall on getting into the industry

DayZ is the hugely popular zombie survival mod for Arma II. Produced by Arma II game designer Dean “Rocket” Hall in his spare time around full-time work at Bohemia Interactive, DayZ has demonstrated the huge potential of modding.

The Train2Game Blog sat down with the DayZ creator at Rezzed to discuss the advantages of modding, his unconventional path into the games industry and advice for those looking to get into game development. 

Tell us how you get started in the games industry. You haven’t taken a conventional route through it.

Yeah, it’s sort of a bit bizarre really. I left the New Zealand air force and did some odd project jobs, and then I decided that, as I was doing a lot of modding, that I wanted to get into the industry and I landed a job as an associate producer, working on console development for movie licensed games. Did that for a couple of years, didn’t really like the industry that much, particularly the console development style, and particularly for movie license stuff, so I quit and joined the army. After awhile, I decided I’d go back and have a look at Arma III.

Landing that first games job as associate producer, modding was a big part of it, they saw the community website I’d been running and the mods I’d been doing, and it was obviously a way to prove I was passionate and that I have a basic understanding of the technology. So I think that was a real benefit, approaching the industry from that angle.

So modding is a great way for aspiring game designers to show off their skills to potential employers?

Yeah, absolutely, definitely, and I think you can show your passion, that you can understand someone else’s code and stuff like that and get good familiarity.

Which toolsets do you use when modding?

3D Max. I guess when I was working as a producer I had the advantage of the project going well and having a lot of downtime. So I used that downtime to learn how to do art and how to do programming and all those kinds of aspects from my team leads, so that meant I ended up with a really good overview, I think if you want to be a good game designer, if you want to work in design, that’s the best way to approach it. Just learn as much as you can about all disciplines.

What other advice would you give to anyone looking to break into the games industry?

You need to be passionate and persistent, and I guess you need to have an idea of what you want to do, what are the areas of game development you really want to focus on? I think the best thing, particularly if you want to get into design, is understand how games are made. That means production, that means how much it costs to make games, that means the different aspects of it; how do you make 3D models? How are those rendered in games? What do programmers need to consider?

And I think the most important thing, even more than raw skills is social skills, you need to have social skills, you can’t just be good. If you’re very good it probably doesn’t matter, but if you’ve got social skills than you can be a real asset to the team.

Thanks for your time, Dean. 

Keep reading The Train2Game Blog for more on coverage from Rezzed, modding and advice from the pros on getting into the industry. 

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