I met Stephen in Málaga in 2012 when I worked there as a localization tester. Since then we kept running into each other, and even ended up living in the same street in Berlin—twice. We have become good friends over the years. Stephen is an awesome guy and knows the video game industry quite well. I am happy he agreed to be thoroughly questioned as the first guest in the People in Games interview series.
Name: Stephen Espion
Bio: Videogame Cinematics Manager and Aspiring Indie Developer Extraordinaire
Company name: The Pixel Issue
Currently playing: Arma 3 Wasteland
How did you end up in the video game industry, and what’s keeping you here?
I first started as a game tester in Scotland, and after my first project—a cricket game on the Wii—I applied for a job within the company doing business development and sales for game QA and localization. After a couple of years in that position, I was offered a job at another company doing the same thing, but in Spain, so I thought I'd improve my work-life balance and took that position. After another 2 years I decided that it was time for a change, so I got involved in animation, motion capture and cinematics production, and from there, went freelance and started working on my own game in 2013.
What are you doing now and how does your typical workday look like?
A typical day is usually a combination of networking with people throughout the industry looking for cinematics projects to assist with, as well as development work-for-hire projects, and managing the indie team that are working on the game that we hope will pique the interests of publishers and investors. This is a combination of brainstorming how to implement our ideas, joining the dots between the programmers, artists and external companies.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Since I work freelance, I have the freedom to travel as much as I want, so I usually take my laptop with me and visit friends and family all over the world. But apart from that, I'm learning new things every day related to game design, through the core team.
Which was the coolest project you have ever worked on and why?
Well, although I've had the opportunity to cooperate with big studios such as Techland, Warner Bros, Gearbox Software, Sega and others, the coolest project I have worked on is the indie project that I'm working on with a small team of developers. It's a constant learning experience, and it's a real inspiration to develop ideas and come up with crazier ideas based on what we've created. You are only limited by your imagination!
Which was the most difficult challenge you have ever faced in your job and how did you overcome it?
The most difficult challenge is working in a sales role, looking for clients and projects, in a market that is very competitive. How I overcome it is a daily struggle—but working with talented artists definitely helps, and the projects that we have completed is a good selling point for potential clients.
Which skills should someone have to be a successful business development manager?
You should have excellent organizational skills, confidence, eagerness to network and a passion for game development!
Which advice would you like to give to someone who wants to make it as a game designer?
Get practicing with game engines such as Unity, Unreal or CryEngine. Learn to code. C# or C++ would be ideal. Get to understand how shaders work, learn about 3d modeling, texturing, rigging, animation. You don't have to be an expert at everything but it definitely helps to understand how each thing works and how they come together, and you'll find your niche and can focus on what you enjoy or are best at.
If you were a video game character, who would you be?
It would have to be Sam Fisher or Agent 47.
Do you have any side projects?
Yeah the Hide & Shriek Mansion game that I'm working on is my side project. It's a Spy vs Spy style game with a point and click adventure game interface. I also believe that the game mechanics that we are developing can be used for other games—I have a sci fi adventure game reminiscent of Another World and Flashback using our scripts and prefabs, in concept phase.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights, Stephen!
Are you interested in sharing your game industry knowledge?