Meet Liam – Maker of PS4 Games

3rd September 2017
Liam

Liam

Well, it’s nearly National Coding week, and since programming is something that I believe most anyone can pick up with a little practice, I’m going to ramble a bit about why I love it, how it’s helped me figure out my direction in life, and how I got started with it.

Background

So: I’m Liam, currently 25 years old, and I first tried my hand at programming back in secondary school, where I decided to attempt to make some basic games in Flash. By following a simple online tutorial I was able to get a low-quality character moving around the screen in response to key presses. This, to me, was tantamount to magic. Having written just a few dozen words, I had made a computer do something it couldn’t do before I started. Sorcery! I made a few more small games in Flash (mostly through trial and error) before moving onto college, where I chose to study Computing in order to properly learn the basics. I followed that up by studying Computer Science at university, because by that point I was determined to be writing code as much as I could.

I don’t think it hit me until university just how broad the applications of programming are. The same set of skills enable you to tackle thousands of problems. Games, websites, and mobile apps are obvious candidates of course, but less obvious are things like medical software — writing programs that help cure and care for people. Or scientific research; how about writing code that monitor marine life in the unseen depths of the ocean? Or putting things in space; rockets don’t get up there without some very good programmers telling them how to go about it. Augmented reality, automated cars, drone-based package delivery services — you name it. Every futuristic technology requires, at its core, some clever software and the people to write it, and you could be one of those people.

Games Games Games

Personally, I chose to make games. I’d got my start making games, it’s what I did throughout university at every opportunity, and it’s what I found more fun than anything else. So in the lead up to graduation I started applying to games studios for a chance to make games every day of the week, and was lucky enough to receive a job offer from Media Molecule! In hindsight, it seems incredible that all it took to get started down this path was reading a beginner’s Flash tutorial in my spare time.

Making Games for PS4 – My Dream Job

Dreams Logo

Now I’m working on Dreams, an upcoming PS4 game, and while the programming problems are harder to solve than the ones I tackled back in school, the rewards are much greater! I’m no longer just making something I can show to my friends, I’m helping to create something to show to the world. Something that people can play on a games console, sitting on their sofa at home with their friends or family, like the ones that I’d spent my whole life playing. This was *the dream*!

“I’m helping to create something to show to the world.”

It’s worth noting that the learning didn’t stop once I graduated from university. If anything, I’ve learned more since starting at Media Molecule than I did in the years before. Small group projects for coursework don’t quite prepare you for the reality of working in a large team, writing code that will be run by lots and lots of people. At its core, the skills required are still mostly the same: logic and reasoning, attention to detail, deductive skill, programming knowledge, and a bunch of creative thinking. But when it comes to programming, there’s more to be tried, experimented with, and learned than a person can do in one lifetime, and that’s really what makes it so exciting. Programming gives you room to explore more areas and interests than can be counted, which makes it hard to get truly bored.

Media Molecule Logo

There are a whole bunch of ways to get into programming. You can sign up for a course — and there’s a lot of value in that — but if you just want to get started, the Internet contains a near-limitless supply of tutorials, guides, and tips. The gap between non-programmer and programmer can quite literally be as little as a single Google search.

“At its core, the skills required are still mostly the same: logic and reasoning, attention to detail, deductive skill, programming knowledge, and a bunch of creative thinking.”

My AdviceĀ 

Whether you decide to teach yourself or have somebody teach you, the best advice I can give is to start out by trying to make something you’re interested in. Most tutorials and courses will begin with writing programs to display text in a console (“Hello, world!”), and while that can be a great way to wrap your head around the very basics, it won’t sustain your interest for very long. If you want to make games, I’d recommend downloading Unity and starting with one of the many beginner tutorials that teaches you to move a box around a level.

Fish image

Feed the Fish App

If you want to make websites then make your first project a site about one of your hobbies. If you want to make apps for your phone then make one that helps you with your homework, or that reminds you to feed your fish. There is real magic in seeing your messages displayed on a screen, but there’s a whole lot more magic in getting your friends to play a game you made (even if it’s super simple!).

If you run into problems (which you should, since programming is all about solving problems) then reach out and ask someone who might know the answer! Programmers have a tendency to love puzzles, and many will be happy to help you out — all that’s needed is a friendly email, post, or tweet.

Have Fun!

 

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National Coding Week 2017