The Long Road to BioWare: A Designer’s Origin Story, p2

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Part 2 of 4, by David Feltham

In the last Article Dave recounted working in Toronto’s Television industry as a Broadcast Designer and how after 3 years he decided he needed to work in the Games Industry.

I immediately applied to BioWare as a 3D Artist and, because it was early in BioWare’s days, I actually had an e-mail and phone interview with Greg (he remembers none of this) who said that I needed to have a little more experience. Deflated I considered my options. In Toronto, they were next to none.

This is where more Networking and Determination came into play.

A friend of mine who worked at Autodesk (then Discreet) knew of a small game company working out of Toronto. He gave me the information and I dropped off my demo reel. I had a call 5 months later while working on an Alphabits commercial to come down for an interview. I got a tour of their small (14 people) office and found out that they were making a cartoon-based game for a big, big company I won’t name, and that big, big company I won’t name was doing something absolutely nuts: competing with the all-time champs of Sony, Sega and Nintendo.

Pseudo Interactive hired me as a 3D Artist and Animator a week later and we started working together in May 2000 on what was then Cartoon Mayhem. Cartoon Mayhem eventually became Cel Damage and was eventually picked up and published by EA on both Gamecube and Xbox, as a launch-title: I’m still proud of what we did on this game and still play it with my kids to this day (I also have the toys above my desk at work. How cool that the first game I work on got toys too!). We developed Cel Damage: Overdrive, a port but significantly improved game, to the PS2 in Europe only. Amongst several internal prototypes, I worked as a level and character artist, as well as an animator, on a Sega game that did not make it to publication, and the XNA Crash Demo of GDC 2004. I was promoted to Lead Artist for Full Auto for the Xbox 360 launch and Full Auto 2: Battlelines for the Playstation 3 launch.

In 2006 Pseudo, without a publisher for their upcoming prototypes, decided to do a significant reduction in money overhead and workforce and a fair amount of the senior staff were lost. Me included.
I always knew that Pseudo would be the stepping stone for something else, but to go out through a lay-off was devastating. I had 2 children and a wife on maternity leave to consider. But Toronto’s Entertainment industry was gasping for air and its game industry, which never fully took off, was hurting. My options were limited, unless I opened the doors to other places on the Continent.

And this is where Luck, Networking and Determination culminated.

A day after the lay-off I got a call from my old friend and former boss Kevin, who was then the Director of Design at BioWare. He wanted to know if I wanted to work for them: Edmonton had a lot of great things for families and no doubt my wife’s expertise would be a hot commodity. The thing was that the position wasn’t in Art, it was in Design: they were looking for experienced, game design-wise level artists to help them bridge the gap between level-art and level design.

And after flying out to Edmonton, having an interview, being offered a position and deciding that we thought that Edmonton was a decent place to bring up our kids, we moved up here where I eventually moved onto Mass Effect 2 to became a Sr. Designer.

What does that entail? Stay tuned for Part III.

Dave Feltham, who hails from Toronto, is a Senior Designer on Mass Effect 2. He doesn’t like to think about the number of days multiplied by the 9 years he has in the game industry, never mind the 3 before that in the TV industry. He has done broadcast design work for many major TV networks and has released games for the launch of every new-generation console since Microsoft’s Xbox. He giddily walked through BioWare’s doors 2 years ago and still can’t believe he works here. He likes coffee. A lot. He’s drinking one right now.