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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Train2Game News: Day Z creator added to Rezzed developer session line-up

Day Z creator Dean “Rocket” Hall is to present a developer session about his popular Arma II mod at PC and indie games show Rezzed.

The latest in a packed scheduled of developer sessions at the Brighton show will see Dean Hall and Matt Lightfoot discussing development of the zombie mod and what its future holds.

The talk will take place on Saturday 7th July at 2pm, and could provide Train2Game students with some excellent insights into game design and modding. Indeed, Hall has previously described modding as great way as a fantastic way of “exploration”

Day Z will also be available to play on the show floor for the whole two days.

Tickets for Rezzed are available on the official website, and it’s looking to be an interesting event for Train2Game students to attend due to the number of developer sessions taking place.

The Indie Stone,  Introversion SoftwareThe Creative AssemblySplash Damage CEO Paul Wedgwood and Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford are among those giving talks during the two day show. Not only that, but everyone who buys a ticket for Rezzed gets a free DOTA 2 beta key.

We’ll be sure to keep you up to date with the latest news as the show approaches.

What are your thoughts on the latest addition to Rezzed? Do you play Day Z?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game News: Modding is a fantastic way of ‘exploration’ says Day Z creator

Modding is a great way to start the ball rolling with a project, one that allows you to explore ideas that it me not be possible to with full-games.  That’s the view of Bohemia Interactive game designer Dean “Rocket” Hall, who just so happens to have created the incredibly popular Day Z mod for Arma II.

“If you can cross off a few specific problems, then mods are a really fantastic way of dealing with your product.” he told Rock, Paper, Shotgun when asked about modding.

“Like, I’d tried to pitch this concept to other studios before, and people just weren’t interested in it. I’m sure [Bohemia Interactive CEO] Marek Spanel wouldn’t mind me saying that, if I came to him with the concept and without these kind of numbers, he probably would’ve thought I was a bit crazy as well. So modding allows you to do this kind of exploration.”

Hall believes the reason for Day Z’s success is almost entirely down to word of mouth via the internet.

“I think a lot of it comes down to social media. Social media has really come of age. Like, you look at all the protests going on all over the world. I think the same thing’s kind of happening with games.” he said

“It’s certainly why Day Z was successful. There was no promotion. I made one little tiny post in the Bohemia Interactive forums asking people to help me with testing. And then, all of a sudden, people began having these experiences.” he added.

The full Day Z interview with Dean Hall can be read on Rock, Paper, Shotgun.

Modding is a great way for Train2Game students to practice and show off their skills, and there’s a lot more about it here on The Train2Game Blog, including what Valve, Ubisoft and  id Software had to say to us about it.

Do you agree that modding is a good way for game developers to explore ideas that may not be possible with full games?  How important is social media? And are you playing Day Z?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.