Catching up

17 09 2008

For the sake of providing some context for this blog, as well as catching old friends up on where I’m at today, here’s a whirlwind tour of the past 20ish years. It’ll probably still be boring.

Career

After graduating from high school in Logan, UT, in 1990, I attended Utah State University for a year, majoring in Electrical Engineering. Like most of my friends, I then embarked on a two-year LDS mission to South Korea from ’91-’93. Upon coming home, I returned to Utah State for a year, switching my major to pre-med Biology, with the intent of becoming a chiropractor. While attending school, I worked in various crap jobs, before eventually landing a job as a security guard, which if nothing else helped with school, since I had plenty of time sitting around doing nothing.

I married Melissa in March of ’94, and around that time, some friends introduced us to a business opportunity that turned out to Amway. We fully bought into it. I dropped out of school so that I could have time to build my business while working full-time to support my new family.

Three years later, I took a good hard look at my life and realized I wasn’t where I wanted to be. Although we’d been relatively successful with Amway, we’d actually spent more money that we’d made, and the business had grown stagnant. I was still working as a security guard, which was clearly a dead end. In early ’97, Lissa and I made the decision to put the business on hold (and were soon free of the brainwashing and able to break away completely), and I decided to return to school.

We’d moved to Salt Lake right after getting married, so I enrolled at the University of Utah. I briefly considered returning to pre-med, but ultimately felt that, at 25, with 3 kids already, I was too old and had too many family responsibilities to start the 10+ year process of becoming a doctor. Instead, I chose to pursue my life-long dream of becoming a game programmer.

At the same time, I finally quit the security job, and took a much better-paying (relatively speaking) office job at CompHealth, where I worked with insurance companies to verify physicians’ credentials and investigate their malpractice history.

During the summer of ’97, I started frequenting game programming websites and chatrooms. I met quite a few people that would eventually become influential in my life, chief among them Kevin Hawkins. Towards the end of that year, I started a small website, dubbed Myopic Rhino’s Game Programming Savannah. I continued to be actively involved in the online hobbyist game programming community. Eventually, a group of us, including Kevin (who also ran a small game programming site), started kicking around the idea of joining forces and creating a new game programming site. That plan saw fruition when Sweet.Oblivion launched in November of ’98. With frequent updates and an edgy tone, we saw immediate success, quickly forming an active community and becoming one of the top 4 hobbyist sites almost overnight.

A month later, a week before Christmas, I lost my job at CompHell. I’m convinced it was gender discrimination, but couldn’t prove anything. Lissa and I decide that I should just focus on school for a while, and she’ll work full time.

As ’99 progressed, Kevin and I started talking to the owners of 2 of the other 3 “big” hobbyist game programming sites. We decide that there’s a lot of duplication of effort, and that if we joined forces, we could create a better site, serving the whole game development community, and all spend a lot less time working on it (LMAO). We work really hard for several months, and on June 15, GameDev.net is launched. It eventually becomes the largest game development site. I’m still involved today, though not as actively. Fortunately, we found a group of amazingly talented and dedicated people that now operate it.

Rewinding slightly, in May, I landed my first job as a programmer, at ROI Systems. There, I mostly work on Telnet emulation software for several platforms including PocketPC, and get my first experience in the wireless industry. ROI was a nice, small, privately held company, and they were very flexible with my class schedule.

At the beginning of 2000, due to the success of GameDev.net, we got contacted by Prima Tech, who was starting a series of game development books and looking for potential authors. Kevin and I agreed to do an OpenGL book, despite the fact that we both had limited OpenGL experience (hey, I was taking classes!). Needless to say, fitting a book in while attending school and working full-time wasn’t easy, so it took us a while, but by early ’01, OpenGL Game Programming hit the shelves. Despite being pretty mediocre (in retrospect) the book did really well, and had a profound impact on my career. I continued to write books in my spare time for the next several years, co-authoring Beginning OpenGL Game Programming, OpenGL ES Game Development, and More OpenGL Game Programming, as well as contributing to many other books.

By July of ’01, things at ROI had changed. They’d been acquired by Wavelink, who was desperately trying to go public. And in an effort to streamline, they decided to lay a bunch of people off, including me. That same month, I completed my B.S. in Computer Science at the U of U.

With my degree, a couple of years of programming experience, and lots of “extracurricular” experience, I resolved to finally get a job in the game industry. Less than a month after leaving Wavelink, I started at Avalanche Software, a console game developer in Salt Lake (now a part of Buena Vista Games). It was clear that my book played a huge role in landing me the job.

At Avalanche, I mostly worked on tools – not surprising for a neophyte in the game industry. I worked on Max and Maya plugins, as well as standalone tools, that helped create a new asset pipeline that would be used in all of their games, the best-known of which was Tak and the Power of Juju. Unfortunately, Avalanche hit a rough spot in 2002, and in the fall, they let a bunch of people go, including me. The game industry as a whole had been hit hard that year, and in Salt Lake alone several studios had failed. That translated to a lot of game programmers looking for work, most of them more experienced than me, with very few open jobs to fill.

Things were looking bleak, but then, in January of 2003, I got a call from a recruiter at Qualcomm in San Diego. They’d found my resume online, and wanted to know if I was interested in joining a new team developing 3D technology for cellphones. I knew nothing about Qualcomm, but I loved San Diego, so I decided to check it out. A month later, had moved and started working as there as one of only a handful of people in the graphics group. Over the next three years, I was deeply involved in the evolution of handheld 3D gaming and graphics. In addition to development, I also began to become involved in technology evangelism, educating developers about and encouraging the adoption of new technology, especially OpenGL ES.

In February of 2006, I decided to leave Qualcomm to take a position in the handheld group at ATI (working remotely from my home in Temecula), whom we’d been working closely with. I was the first engineer on what eventually grew to an amazing group of people. Our focus was on developing tools, samples, and demos, providing education and support, and otherwise promoting our forthcoming line of OpenGL ES 2.0 hardware, based on the graphics core used in the Xbox 360.

AMD bought ATI at the end of 2006, but my work was largely unaffected. However, AMD struggled financially, and in May of 2008, in an effort to cut costs, they decided to dissolve my team, laying off most of the non-engineers, and assigning the engineers to other teams. Rather than do that, I decided to explore other opportunities, and in June, I opted to return to Qualcomm, to my old team, which is now much bigger and has expanded its role to include multimedia rather than just gaming and graphics. And things are very good.

Personal

Whew, that went on WAAAY longer than I anticipated, so I’ll keep this part brief.

In March ’94, I married Melissa, who had been one of my closest friends for 7+ years, and whom I’d grown very close to through letters over the course of my mission. She is an amazing woman, and calling her my better half is a gross understatement.

We lived in Logan briefly before moving to a tiny apartment in South Salt Lake. Literally at the first opportunity after getting married, we got pregnant, and in January ’95, R (I’m gonna follow Lissa’s lead and stick to initials for the sake of privacy) joined our lives. She’s now 13, and attending Palomar Community College. Yes, she’s a smartey. They all are.

We moved to a bigger apartment in West Valley, and in March of ’96, our oldest son E was born, followed by our second daughter L in April of ’97. We moved back to South Salt Lake, to an even bigger apartment, just in time for our next son, T, to be born in June of ’99. We moved back to West Valley and joined the home ownership club in September of 2000. Then, in June of ’01, we were joined by our youngest son and final child, N.

As mentioned above, we moved to San Diego in 2003, me in February, and the rest of the family in June, after we sold the house and finished the school year. Initially, we rented a house with a pool, but the owner was psycho, so we moved to another house a few months later. Both were in Rachno Penasquitos, in North San Diego County. By 2005, we were feeling pressure to buy, but we couldn’t afford a large enough house where we were (it easily would have set us back over $1 million), and prices kept going up. We ultimately decided to buy in Temecula, which meant a long commute for me, but was much more affordable (if only barely) and moved into our current home in March of 2005.

Alright, I think that’s enough for one post.

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6 responses

17 09 2008
Kevin

Glad you started a blog, Dave. Just keep up with it. 🙂

17 09 2008
Reb

Edit to the End of the post:

And WE SERIOUSLY NEED TO MOVE OUT OF TEMECULA

oh sorry…did i say that out loud?

24 09 2008
Bradley

Great biography, I didn’t know about any of your background outside of the Avalanche job.

You may not remember me, but I met you once at a Gandolfo’s while I was going to the U of U and interested in getting into game programming (I’d connected with you through GameDev). I worked briefly at Saffire down in Pleasant Grove, but ended up more in the web dev biz.. but hey, at least I’m programming.

In any case, good luck with the blog, and I think you made a great choice moving out to California! (I’m in San Francisco these days myself)

26 09 2008
jen

Hey,
You left out the part where your wife met this crazy girl and she tagged along with you guys for almost a year and left you with a deeper appreciation for life and The Cure.

26 09 2008
myopicrhino

Hey Brad! Nice to see you here. I miss Gandolfo’s…

@Jen: I remember that year being kinda crazy, but not you =)

14 11 2008
Joel

(Moe here from GameDev)

Ah, cool. I guess when I last heard what you were up to when I left on my mission, you were still at Avalanche.

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