December 13, 2017

Coding the next big thing

Senior Programmer Jeremy Glazman is part of the team working on “Project Metro”, the MMO experience built on top of Improbable’s SpatialOS platform. We talk with Jeremy about his game industry career, what it’s like working on SpatialOS, and how he ended up in Finland.

What inspired you to get into programming?

Senior Programmer Jeremy Glazman

I grew up in Chicago in the 1980s, which was sort of the capital of arcade and pinball games at the time, so I was always surrounded by video games — the first job I ever had was even at an arcade. I loved tinkering with machines and building computers, and I thought I would become something like an electrical engineer or maybe even a pinball designer, so in high school I got an internship at the legendary Midway Games where I did things like solder wiring harnesses and assemble arcade cabinets.

Around this time the arcade industry was rapidly fading away and being replaced by home game consoles, although I was too young to realize it back then. Fortunately I had some great mentors at Midway who encouraged me to switch tracks and try programming instead. I remember going to one of the programmers and asking questions that seem silly now, like, “How do you show images on a screen?” I really didn’t know where to begin. He introduced me to OpenGL and SDL, and once I had that first sprite moving around I felt this limitless potential, like I could bring whole worlds into existence. I never looked back.

How did you end up as Senior Programmer at PlayRaven?

I have travelled quite a bit on my journey through the games industry, working at studios in Chicago, Hawai’i, Vancouver, and then eventually San Francisco. Through all of these experiences I’ve come to understand that I prefer small startup culture over really large productions, and I especially like joining projects early on when I can have a big impact on the direction of the game. Before joining PlayRaven I had spent years leading the creation of an educational games platform; this was a really exciting technical challenge, but our studio had grown tremendously and I was getting further away from the core of game development that I loved most of all.

When I first read about PlayRaven in the news my wife and son and I happened to be visiting our family in Warsaw, which is just a short flight away from Helsinki. I contacted PlayRaven to learn what sort of projects they were working on and before I knew it I was in the studio talking with Lasse (CEO and Cofounder) and Paul (Team Lead on Project Metro) about our vision for the future of mobile games. Given the opportunity to surround myself with deeply experienced and incredibly imaginative people who all want to create groundbreaking new games, and to live in Helsinki, one of the greatest cities in the world, it was an easy choice to make. #bragforfinland

What does a regular day at the office look like for you?

I work on a small team and we all wear lots of hats, so every day is a bit different. We meet in the morning to talk about what happened the day before and to plan the day ahead. If someone is having some technical issues I’ll look at it right away to make sure nobody is blocked from doing their work. After that I’ll work on new game features until the afternoon, then make a new build of the game for everyone to play and give feedback.

Everyone on our team is always bursting with ideas, so quite often a small spark of inspiration might turn into an impromptu design session, and sometimes a promising idea will gain momentum and get thrown into the backlog or pasted onto the wall so we remember it later. Whenever we finish a sprint the team is always looking at those ideas to see if we can improve our current game design.

We just announced our partnership with Improbable on “Project Metro”, what can you tell us about SpatialOS and the technology powering the project?

SpatialOS is a really promising piece of technology. PlayRaven is an innovator of new types of multiplayer experiences, and one issue our team is trying to solve is how to make a massively multiplayer experience accessible to a contemporary audience. Much of that audience currently engages in a social media landscape which, while obviously compelling in some ways, paradoxically it leaves them feeling more disconnected than ever, and a big reason for that is their lack of agency. What we need is a truly immersive interactive system that seamlessly combines the real world with the virtual, creating a shared space where everyone feels empowered to take action and make permanent changes to the world around them. Our industry is just beginning to touch the surface of how we use technology to allow people to connect and interact with each other, and Improbable is creating a platform in SpatialOS that will offer the next great leap forward in this area.

Do you have any programming hobby projects or do you participate in game jams?

One of the hardest things to do as a game developer is actually release a game, so game jams are really rewarding when you can finish a project in just a few days. You’re forced to focus, to quickly find the fun in an idea, and most importantly to put your game in the hands of other people. It might sound counterintuitive but tight constraints are actually an excellent way to spark creativity.

I also really enjoy learning new programming techniques and understanding new systems, so side projects are a great way to experiment with different technologies.  Recently I was inspired by Assembly (a yearly demoscene and game jam event in Helsinki) to get deeper into graphics programming and even try some music production. I just registered for a board game jam which I’ve never tried before, and 7DRL (Seven Day Roguelike Challenge) is coming up. Inspiration comes from all around and I always want to explore new things.