This is one of them strange posts that I’m writing, not even entirely sure who it’s aimed at, or how many people will really care. One of the things I learnt from working with the “big boys” – and I’m mainly talking about Microsoft and Disney – is to get to the point first, then deal with the explanations after.

I’m leaving Dlala Studios. In fact, slightly more than that, I’m leaving the games industry altogether.

There’s loads of reasons, and I’ll get in to a bunch of them here, but there’s something that’s worth pointing out from the get go – I love Dlala. I can’t see that ever changing, which is actually what made this decision so difficult.

And it’s certainly not the stuff we’ve been working on – There’s some genuinely really good stuff going on at Dlala at the moment, and it’s definitely time to get excited. I know, normally I’d have to say that – but I’m leaving, so I can pretty much say what I want.

It’s hard to describe why, but I guess I can sum it up in a way most people that makes games can understand – I’m tired, burnt out, disenchanted with the industry. It’s hard not to put absolutely everything in to this; it’s why we do it – mostly – out of love. Because of that, we tend to throw ourselves in to it. Long days, short nights, a constant fight against impending deadlines.

I know that’s a feeling that most people can understand – a lot of people have experienced it. A lot of people will experience it. There’s probably more I could’ve done to avoid that feeling creeping in, but looking back on it, I think it comes down to a few things:

We’ve all heard the question before – What’s it like working at such and such? What was the best thing there? It comes up a lot. And it’s no real coincidence that most of the time, the answer is usually “Oh, the people there, without a doubt”. Even if that’s combined with “Well, the work sucked, but…”.

I’m really lucky that I’ve worked with some really, really cool people. I’m not just talking about Dlala – Jagex, Bossa, Microsoft, Team 17, Disney (and some other slightly more secret places) – There have been some really good, nice, friendly, funny people. Way more than I could list here. If we worked together, and shared any laughs or good times, I’m talking about you.

A lot of them I’ve lost contact with, and I miss them, a lot. But my point is – it’s the friendships you make along the way that’ll get you through any of the tough times. As much as I hate (and I really do hate) crunch, there’s always going to be long days. And these are the people you’re going to be surrounded with when it goes down.

I wish I’d made more time for my non-industry friends, too. That’s definitely something I pushed aside, certainly early on – and I feel bad about that. I don’t really believe in regrets, but that’s something that I would have done differently. My DOS Town boys have been there for me, when I’ve needed to vent to people that might not know the difference between a class and a method (and granted, I’ve worked with a few programmers like that too…).

They’re one of the constants. They were there before any job I had, and they’ve been there after them all. What I’m getting at is – don’t push any friends you’ve got away. They’re so important, and I wish I’d realised that a bit sooner.

I’ve had friends and family to lean on. I couldn’t have done any of this without Vi (and, later on, Buddy (the dog)). She’s been an absolute rock to me – I don’t think I would’ve survived even a couple of years doing this without her. I could honestly fill out 20 pages listing out reasons for why she’s helped, but I won’t. She’s a hero in her own right.

You’ll notice the running theme there is people. I can’t think of anything more important. This is an industry where you have to work so closely with people all the time, I don’t see how anything could be more important.

Keep close with your friends, your family. Make time for people.

Be nice. Drop the egos. I just wish there were more of the nice people around. Like I said, I’m lucky that I got to work with mostly good people. I tried to do everything I could to make sure I never landed on the “dickhead” pile.

I’ve worked on some cool projects (and some shit ones, but… the people, right?). I’ve been a decision maker for a lot of my career. There’s a few things I’ve tried to live by:

  • A good idea can come from anywhere.
  • A good idea can come from anyone, not matter the role – Designer, coder, janitor – treat the ideas on their merit.
  • Don’t act like a dickhead.

I’ve been involved in a lot of heated discussions, right from the start. I know, I’m the constant in this. Some people get angry or shouty, and it comes from a place of loving the game they’re working on. That, I actually don’t mind. It comes from the right place. But some people get angry or shouty or argumentative purely because it’s more important to them that they’re right, that they get to win that argument. That’s wrong. It doesn’t help anybody, and it doesn’t help the game.

 

I’m not going to do the Dlala story. Anyone that knows it is already bored of it (Thanks Aj). For those that don’t know it, elevator pitch – Imagine two guys with no money. Then, they got money. They’re still dickheads.

I love Dlala, from the bottom of my heart. It’s a great company. I know I’m biased – Dlala is (and still will be) my baby. I was there from the start. I’ll still be there at the end – hopefully in decades time – just in a different way. I’ll be cheering from the sidelines instead.

Me and Aj started this just over half a decade ago. We’ve been through everything together – highs, lows, good times and bad. We’ve shared hotel rooms all over the world, and shared beds smaller than the desk I’m writing this on (I was little spoon). Even before we started Dlala.

We’ve lost people along the way as they’ve moved careers and companies, and I hope you’re all doing well. Some people have stuck by us. My proudest moment came from a dark time – We’d ended our contract with Microsoft, and had to tell our guys – We had no money. We didn’t know where our money was going to come from. We were broke. We couldn’t pay anyone, and would do whatever we could to help them find jobs elsewhere.

Every single person in that room told us they wanted to stay anyway. They trusted us to get a contract sorted, and they were willing to take that risk. I honestly can’t explain the feeling of having that much trust and faith put in you.

It’s still a family to me (and in one case, literally). I love you all, I really do, and I know you’re all going to go on to do amazing things.

I purposely haven’t named anybody that I’ve worked with in this little goodbye letter, for what I guess is obvious reasons… With the exception of Aj. Me and him started this together, but we worked together before then. In fact – we’ve always worked together. There isn’t a company that either of us have worked at without the other. It does make me wonder if there’s some correlation between that and my burn out, though…

Like I said – we’ve had good times and bad times. We’ve been compared to a married couple more times than I could count, and I’m pretty sure that most of the time, people weren’t joking. We’ve argued, disagreed on a lot of things and had fallings out. There have been tears and bad words. The stress on our relationship has definitely been intense at times, but we’ve (mostly) gotten through it, somehow.

So, Aj – Thanks for all the good times. This has been a journey we’ve definitely taken together, and I don’t have any regrets at all. Who knows what’ll happen in the future, but you know I have 100% faith that you’ll steer this in the right direction, and make a total success out of it for everyone involved.

Dlala – I love you all. I’ve watched a group of horrible reprobates grow in a to a team of seriously talented people (that happen to still be horrible reprobates), and you’ve got no idea how proud of you all I am.

No matter what you might think, know or imagine – I have put you guys at the front of every single decision I’ve ever made. I’ve fought in your corner every single time, and I still will. If you need me for anything, you know where to find me.

Oh, and I’ll be at Develop this year for anyone that’s going to be there, and wants to hear me get drunk and talk about all the stories I couldn’t legally put in here.

[Aj’s Thoughts are Here]