Over the weekend I did some brainstorming and decided to do a personal assessment of my skills. Last week I opened myself up for freelance work. This is something I haven’t done in a couple of years. There are some new front-end methods and frameworks that have become popular that I have started to dive more into. My initial thought was I need to compete. Then my inner competitive nature told me that I should strive to be among the best.
I was going along in life perfectly content at my current job. Back in July I became a Certified Magento Plus Developer. It was a personal accomplishment along with a goal for the year. At the time, it was the last of my yearly goals that I had to fill.
As the year went on, new goals were added to keep things going, and something for my boss to give me to grow. One of them was a challenge for me, since it was something I looked at as something outside of my inner makeup. As I sat down to do my yearly review, something else came up.
Every now and then you’re presented with something that you just can’t say no too. wUnderCarParts was looking for a Lead Developer, and oh yah, it was only 10 minutes from my house. They’re wanted someone to come in and take over development, and help rebuild everything.
How can anyone say no to that? I couldn’t.
So here I am, 2 weeks in, and it has already been a crazy ride. I’ve about completed an integration to a new marketplace, and have been working side by side with the boss to learn the business, and side by side with our contract developer to shore up things already in the works, and make a plan to do more quicker.
This is quite a step forward for me. I was perfectly happy just being a Senior Software Engineer. I’m glad I was able to break out of that comfort zone and push myself to the next level. In time, I’ll have to post more technical posts based on some new code findings of mine.
I can’t say this enough to people. If you truly love doing something, go do it. Don’t just settle for something else because it was easier, or available. You won’t be happy, and you won’t do a good job no matter how hard you try. Ultimately you will feel like you’re rolling a rock up hill, and no matter how hard you keep pushing, eventually you’re going to run out of energy and you won’t be able to move forward any further.
I was talking with my brother in law on Friday night after my softball game. He is a currently-laid-off-Jr Architect working at his Alma Mater teaching and helping with co-op positions. We were talking about what if he never became a licensed architect, but had a healthy, happy career doing something related with his skills. Would he be a failure? Would he be unhappy?
I was 16 years old when I went to summer camp in NY with my Church Youth Group. We were assigned a counsellor, who I remember being a great guy, but I can’t for the life of me remember his name. One of the things that I can vividly remember is him going around cabin asking everyone what they wanted to do when they get older.
It was a time in my life when I had a clear vision of what I wanted my future to be. I wanted to own a video game company that developed games. I wanted people to walk into an arcade and not be disappointed. I wanted their “nintendo” experience to be unique. I wanted to create PC games and pretend I was Ken Williams, head of the now gone Sierra On-line, Inc., creator of some of the greatest games of my childhood.
Don’t get wrong, its not that I dislike what I do for a living. In fact, I like what I do. Sometimes it can be a little dull, but then there are times when I’m engineering code, or architecting a new section of a site or system that I remember how much I enjoy the creative part of my job. That part is what keeps me doing what I do. Without it, I have a hard time moving the rock up the hill.
Getting back to the questions presented by my brother in law. I don’t think it really matters if he becomes a licensed architect or not. If he received a phone call tomorrow from a small city asking him to take on the job as the city planner, he’d most likely take the position. At that point, fast forward 30 years, and you see him retired, happy, and looking back at his life with extreme satisfaction. He original set out to get a degree, and a license, but ultimate he found the path that made him a living, and more importantly, happy.
I’ve been heavily analyzing my life lately imaging what I would think if I looked back on 10 years of working where I am now. I’ve found myself feeling a deep sense of unrest, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’m going to miss so much more. But does that really mean I find a new job and hope the next one pans out? In my case, I don’t think so.
I’ve always had an interest in video games. Going back to the late 70s when I received my Atari 2600 on Christmas. Soon after I received my first computer, a TI 99/4a. Since then, I’ve had an interest in not only playing the games, but also creating games of my own. I’ve had the pleasure of making basic games for a poetry community. I also had the pleasure of working on a BBS door game back in the early 90s. Still, it hasn’t been enough to satisfy my creative side. It has fueled it even more.
This is where I am at in the crossroads that life has presented me. I have a job that pays my bills, but leaves me little sense of satisfaction, even if I get the occasional sense of accomplishment. I’ve also always looked at accomplishment as a temporary peace in life that won’t last past the next day.
I’ve decided to venture into the game development arena. Ben and I have been working on concepts games, mostly his ideas so far. He’s also a creative thinker, and he’s tapped a stream of ideas. Ideas that we’re going to slowly turn into tangible games.
The journey has been a little up and down so far. First there was much containment, then we decided to take a trip thru all the eras, and now we’re at a full tilt. I’ve been working on concepts for a flash game with my friend Ben of PixelVolume.com for the last month or so. We’ve often wanted to build a game together. He’s even joined a local game design group out in Chicago trying to find a project to latch on to that will give him his first published game. So far nothing has worked out.
We’ve been pretty focused on basic concept items so far. We’ve made plans, and divided up the tasks. Mine is is multipart. First, I need learn more Flash and ActionScript 3. After that, I need to learn how to work better with classes. Finally, it is my task to implement the physics aspects of the game.
Thanks to a nifty framework, I think I’m finally on the right track. It has all the elements that I need built in, and will help me learn, and help our project advance in a timely manner. I decided since this is my first project in Flash where I’m under some time constraints, and its been a little while since I had to use my fancy math portion of my brain, I could use a little help.
My immediate goal isn’t necessarily to release a game that will bring retirement to my doorstep, and have me traveling around the world. Its the satisfaction of completing something that people on a mass scale will enjoy. In the interim, its also the satisfaction of being able to use my creative part of my mind, build something fun, and get back to what brought true joy to my work.
My ultimate goals are a bit more ambitious though. I wrote in a previous post that Ben and me had started to develop an RPG several years ago. We took on an enormous project with no hopes of finishing it. It was just too big, too over our heads, and we didn’t have a story in place.
That piece of the project ultimately doomed us more than the programming aspect of the game. Sure, I could have spent another two years learning Direct3D and Ben could have taken a physics class while he was still in college. I’m sure at that point we could have written several PC games that did about nothing.
A well developed story is the essential key to a good RPG. Games like Oblivion, Final Fantasy 13, Lost Odyssey, and White Knight Chronicles haven’t seen huge sales volumes because they looked pretty. They had fully developed worlds, characters, plots, and stories. One could even be bold enough to say they would be best selling fantasy novels.
So what does that have to do with our RPG adventure? I’ve spent the better part of five years developing a world, characters, and six ages/generations of history. I haven’t even told my wife, Michele, about it. I’ve been carefully jotting down notes, and writing bits and pieces as I go.
I’m currently in the process of writing a story based around this world, and six key characters. The main character, Johnny, is an archeologist and hunter. He lost his parents in an attack from something called the Duroogai, and he thinks he has enough information to get them back. Still, the problem remains, no one believes him.
Half way through 2012 I’m planning on a taking a trip to E3. I’m going to have a detailed map of the world, and a book laying out all the characters, their history, history of the world, a briefing of each age/generation, and the story itself. By then I will have a detailed list of items, a battle system, drawings, cities, and everything else you’d expect from your favorite RPG.
Every time I talk to Ben about an aspect of the Flash game, or physics, or anything game related, it makes me feel alive again. Its the part of me that I lost, and I’ve finally found it again.
If you’ve found yourself in an unsatisfied state, or just feel that you’re at that point up the mountain where you want to push on, but you simply can’t, take a step back. You need to analyze yourself, your past, and find out what that missing piece is. Whether it be something that you’ve added to your job that is interfering with your happiness, or something you’ve eliminated all together, you need to take action.
Be careful in your next move. Don’t change jobs for the sake of finding change. Don’t make a lateral move to something else that you’re unsure of. Don’t take on extra work just to see if it can fill the unknown void. You must identity your path, where you went off, and where you can get back on.
If you don’t love what you’re doing, change it. If you can’t change it, look at it, analyze it, and find out what’s missing. Until you do that, you’ll be burning energy, and ultimate the rock you’re pushing will fall back down the hill, and run you over.
Dan Joseph is a Software Engineer/Architect. You can follow him on twitter @iamdanjoseph. If you wish to contact him, please click the contact page, and fill out the form.
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