My path to Jagex was not the usual one: All my previous work experience was in sectors far away from game development. I have worked in database management, I have been a scientific officer for the Food Standards Agency, and I have worked on the editorial staff of luxury printing firm Gloria Books. After all that I decided that I wanted to go back to university, and from there Jagex opened their doors to me.
I first played RuneScape a long time ago – long before Tutorial Island went away – and was familiar with Jagex by name if not in great detail. Some years after that, I was towards the end of studying a Computer Science and Business degree at the University of Bath when our recruiting party came raidin' the Careers Fair. I was then, as I am now, an avid player and designer of games, and after a short chat we were both of the opinion that I should pass on a CV and see about an interview.
I work in the RuneScape department as a Content Developer, designing and building the quests, puzzles, stories and mechanics our gamers appreciate so much; I joined just under two years ago. It’s my duty and privilege to see a project through from its inception as a core aim from Mod Mark and his design team to and beyond its release into the game proper, shaping it and tweaking it as it develops.
I’ll spend the majority of my day either designing or building the content for whatever project I’m working on right now, be it a mostly technical project like the Task System or a creative project like the Void Knights series. Writing, designing, prototyping, implementing and testing my ideas, with the constant support I enjoy from the Graphics team, QA and others in my own team, takes up most of my time.
Since I also have a mentee I’m on hand for any questions he may have; I field questions that arise about content I curate (Fishing, Tasks, and so forth, where I’m expected to be a confident authority) and I meet with senior designers, graphics or QA to discuss the work in progress. I was also involved in the last RuneFest (visitors may recall the wandering penguins and trivia hunt) and will be doing so again this time round – this year’s going to be even better than the last.
If I have time I like to get into the live game on my Mod account and troll Mod Mark in his friends chat.
I’m an entertainer at heart, but I’m a designer at brain. I’ve no artistic talent (my drawing skills are particularly vile), and so the fact that I can put my abilities to use giving people the opportunity to have fun is a perfect fit. Not many companies have the hybrid of programmer and designer to the extent that Jagex does, and that difference has worked out particularly well for me.
Much as I’m tempted to say the free fruit (this peach is tasty) it’s the bike repair service that keeps my ailing old machine on the road, so it’s got to be them.
My first project was a quest, and series of followup capers, called Buyers and Cellars. On the day of release it would be fair to say I was nervous: This content was going out with my name on it, and the next several hours would be the first test of what my skills can do for our players.
The feeling when I jumped into the game on my Mod account and saw people playing it, asked people what they thought, watched as puzzles and characters and places that had been just notions in my head became entertainment for tens of thousands of players... that let me know I’d found the right industry to be working in.
It’s hardly rare in the news (at least, the sort of news game developers read) to read of this company or that treating their employees like faceless, replaceable cogs to be used up and discarded.
Jagex, I’m pleased to say, treats its employees like people, from the stream level through team and department to the top. From the very human perks and benefits, to the jollies, to the simple courtesy that is the norm in our interactions with each other on the level and up the management line, I’m never made to feel like a production-line robot.
Play games! Play them critically, analysing their every facet; play them with nothing in mind but the experience. Play them with friends, play them alone, think up your own games, write down ideas that occur to you at two in the morning and look at them in the morning wondering what that scrawl could possibly mean. I won’t say that programming knowledge isn’t important – it is – but it’s easier by far to teach programming skills than to instill that sense of critical thought, that base experience of what makes fun fun, and that exploration of the realm of possibilities that games can represent.
So keep playing games!