So, who are you and what do you do?
Wow, that’s an almost overwhelming question! I’m Timea, and I’m the technical director at Netspeak.
What does a Technical Director do?
Well, I’m a programmer by trade, and I still do that every day, working on features and prototypes and bug fixes. But I also manage the engineering team, looking after their workload and tasks and making sure that they're on track and that they're collaborating well with other teams. We do maintenance, keeping an eye on any bugs that find their way into the game and fixing them. We look at performance and make sure that players can enjoy the game on their devices without crashes and overheating. Beyond that, I provide what you might call technical support for the wider team, so when we’re planning a new feature I check that it’s feasible, and that we build it in a way that works from a technical perspective without creating headaches down the line.
It sounds like you’ve got a big team with a lot of complex responsibilities - how do you manage them in a way that respects people’s time and minimizes stress?
That's a really good question. Game development is highly collaborative and when it comes to collaboration and communicating with people, there's plenty that can go wrong. So I always talk about how important it is to over-communicate and over-explain everything, because you never know when someone might miss a crucial detail. Luckily, we have a wonderful production department, who helped a lot by making sure that we always check what our priorities are and keep us moving in the right direction.
One important thing is to always be honest with ourselves when we estimate how long something will take, and to plan around those estimates and allow time in case things take longer. We’re always asking ourselves, what’s the minimum viable product? What’s the least amount of work that we can do to ship the most amount of value to our players as quickly as possible? The most stressful and frustrating thing in tech is when you go down a rabbit hole and focus on the wrong thing and end up making something nobody needs. It’s basically an ongoing constant conversation between engineering and production and design about where we are, where we're trying to get, and how we can close that gap in a way that doesn't waste people’s time or energy.
Have you made anything recently that you’re particularly proud of?
Okay, so one thing that we've been prototyping recently is how to show players things that were made by other players - or "user generated content" to use the snazzy term. We have lots of ideas and we need to find which path to go down to make sure that, you know, we can start putting things in front of players to find out what resonates with them.
One tiny area where we’ve been doing this recently is the Community Choice map location which we threw together. We got it working really quickly because under the hood it’s reusing a lot of functionality that we already have, but it lets us see if this is the right way to show players content created by someone else. So at the moment that’s live in the game, and once we’ve seen whether players find that interesting, we can either build it properly or try the next idea.
What we often do with prototyping is pick out just the most important parts of a large feature, things that would take a really long time to build “properly”. And we don't necessarily want to invest that time up front, because we’re just experimenting and we have several other ideas we also want to try. So instead we pull out the most important parts and just hack them together however we can and get them in a release. If the players enjoy it and we think it’s working well then we can go back and build it properly, and if it doesn’t work then we can move on to the next idea and we haven’t lost much time over it.
What do you like about working at Netspeak?
Oh gosh, great question. I love Netspeak. I think it's a place that really centers people and creativity. Joining this team, one of my main motivations was to find a workplace that’s aligned with my own values and I definitely feel like Netspeak is that place. People focus on each other and having fun. It's really inclusive, it's really collaborative. There's a huge amount of trust in the team which I really appreciate. It's wonderful to be working with so many talented people.
We all trust one another to step up and do things that maybe we've not done before, and we know we'll just figure it out together. I think there’s quite a lot of psychological safety in this idea that we’re learning together, and sometimes messing up, but that’s fine because we all understand we’re in a learning process where failure is a part of it. And you know what? We also have a lot of fun in the meantime. So yeah. Netspeak is super inclusive, full of really lovely people, and it’s just fun to work together on this game.
What’s your favourite thing about Sunshine Days?
From a player perspective, I love cozy games. I love games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley, games about building communities together. I love that it's about collaboration, and not violence. And from a more technical perspective, it's been a very interesting challenge to build a mobile game with MMO systems, and especially one that’s focusing on all these values that aren’t traditionally part of MMOs - there's no shooting, there's no violence, and that’s refreshing.
And last but not least, what’s your friend code in Sunshine Days?
My code is 9085-0121-6020. Come say hello!