End of an era

See also Why did you leave EA?

Today I tendered my resignation with EA after 15 years and 4 months.    Spending this amount of time with a single employer is incredibly rare these days, especially in the technology industry.     I’ve spent so long here, though, because there has always been something new happening, some new project starting, new hardware platform launching, new organizational change, new sharing initiative or something.    The eco-system within a corporation the size of EA is as rich and complex as whole sectors within other industries.

When I turned up at the EAUK studio in Guildford in January 1999 I was a young (25) and ambitious junior programmer, having moved down to Guildford after Sony cancelled the project I had been working on at the Psygnosis Leeds studio.    After working for two and a half years I still had no published titles to my name, and I was angry about that.     I’ll show you guys – I’m off to join the big league 🙂

I had attended GDC on behalf of Psygnosis in 1997, and had been wowed by San Francisco and California.    I wanted to work in the USA and was frustrated at the fact that I was unable to secure a job in the US at that stage because of my lack of published titles. Several years later on, when the EAUK studio had moved to swanky custom facilities in Chertsey, and I was working on Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, I got another opportunity to move to North America when I was asked if I would like to join the FIFA team in Burnaby.    At first I said no, thinking that working on a project as huge as FIFA would mean having no influence and would be a death-march.    When EA offered to fly me and my girlfriend out to Vancouver for a week, I thought “free paid vacation?   I can do that”.    The rest is history.   We got married, moved over, and are now Canadian citizens, and love our life in this beautiful city.

UPDATE: In my later Speaking truth to power blog posting I told the FULL story of how I came to work on FIFA.

EA has been a fantastic employer.    I have enjoyed great opportunities to work on interesting technical problems, and to collaborate with hundreds (or thousands?) of extremely talented and nice people around the world.     I’ve worked in game teams and in central technology teams at the studio, business unit and worldwide levels.    I’ve been on all sides of every fence when it comes to technical roles, and worked in most of the different development groups which have existed at the campus in Burnaby during my time here.

So why the move?    Well, my last day at EA is 29th May, and I will be starting work at Roadhouse Interactive on 16th June.    Roadhouse are a small-medium sized mobile developer and publisher here in Vancouver.    They love games, and it shows.   They are using Unity3D, which is an excellent choice for iteration and collaboration.    They are spending their resources on building the game content itself, rather than struggling with the hard issues of legacy code, scale and complexity which you in the multi-million line C++ codebases which I have spent my career on.

The iteration loop within Unity is just astounding.    Working in such an environment will be heavenly after so many years of heavy C++ compile-link cycles.     I am really looking forward to small team, collaborative, fast, iterative development – and especially the transition from “box-product”, big-bang development to games as living, breathing live services.

I was lucky enough to attend the Xamarin Evolve 2013 conference in Austin last year, where I saw first hand how fluid and friction-free mobile development had become.    On my return I also spent time with Unity for the first time.    The core of Unity’s iteration loop is the embedded Mono instance.   That is an old fork of the same Mono runtime which is the core of Xamarin‘s business.    Xamarin have since formed a strategic partnership with Microsoft, and the .NET Open Source community is utterly vibrant.

Working in that world full time is a hugely enticing option for me, so it’s time for me to move on to a new challenge.   Xamarin are a fantastic company, driving this change, along with a “new Microsoft”.   Microsoft have gone from The Evil Empire to a huge ally to Open Source in a short number of years.   Linux VMs within Azure, Office on iPad, the partnership with Xamarin, the .NET Foundation, open sourcing of Roslyn and many other recent initiatives are real proof of a very different Microsoft.    It no longer seeks or wants to Embrace, Extend and Extinguish.    Instead it can simply collaborate.   Selling the services and infrastructure is enough in itself, and can be neutral of Windows as an OS.   See Scott Hanselman‘s Microsoft Killed My Pappy blog posting.

I have worked with such a huge number of individuals at EA over the years, so I won’t even attempt to thank individuals.  Suffice to see that I have had a blast, and I’m sure our paths will cross again.   The games industry is not huge.    I’ll still be in Vancouver.   I’ll be online.   I’m not going anywhere.

I will still be in the office for the next two weeks, with my last day being Friday 29th May.    If you want to talk to me about anything, pick my brain, say goodbye, whatever then go for it.     Drop me a work e-mail, send me an Outlook appointment.    Drop by my desk.   Whatever works.

And to my future Roadhouse colleagues – watch out!    I’m coming your way soon.   I can’t wait.

Look after yourselves, everyone!

Best wishes, Bob.

15 thoughts on “End of an era

  1. Thanks so much Bob for including me among your many friends and for keeping me informed about your very interesting work experience and plans for the future.

    Best Wishes,

    Ian Robertson

  2. It was a pleasure working with you Bob though the stint was short. Wishing you good Luck! Stay in touch.

    -Sathyan

    1. Well thank you, Sathyan, the feeling was mutual. Best wishes! Your broader industry experience is a huge resource for EA.

  3. It was great working with you at EA, and congrats on the new job!

    BTW, I love The Chamber of Secrets! I got that game for christmas when I was still a kid. I have fond memories of playing it.

    1. Thanks, Nicolas. I really enjoyed our language and technology chats too. Keep exploring! Maybe our paths will cross again? Best wishes!

  4. I’ve been working at the same company for 16 years. Not as exciting as game development but full of interesting, personal, political, and technical challenges. Things have changed in the last year after an acquisition by a large US venture capital company. Your post has made me think that maybe it’s time for a change.

    Best of luck with your move, and thanks for your post.

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