Ali Wallick

Game Developer




November 16, 2015

2015: A Whirlwind Year

Woo hoo major life update!

In April 2015 I was contacted by Red 5 Studios about a position as a UI Programmer on the game Firefall. Finally ready to make my pilgrimage across the country like the rest of my college peers, I gladly accepted. Within a month I was packing up my life, my pets, and my now-fiance (fellow game developer Robert Spessard) to move to my new home in Orange County, California.

My first 6 months at Red 5 and on the West Coast have been great. I’m super excited to be a part of a huge overhaul to Firefall that will be released in the near future globally. I’m learning a ton every day, and am grateful to have some new amazing coworkers and friends. I miss Atlanta dearly, but am thrilled about this new adventure I am undertaking. Thank you to all my family and friends who believed in me and helped me get to this point!

February 2, 2015

My 2014, and GGJ 2015

Well, it’s been a busy year! My last post was a year ago to the day. After Global Game Jam 2014, I headed out to the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. It was a great time and super motivating as usual. This time I even stayed an extra few days and got to go camping and visit Yosemite!

I also fulfilled my dream this year of adopting a puppy, whom I have been raising into a dog for 9 months. I took a couple Coursera classes as well! The Hardware/Software Interface course was brilliant and I highly recommend it to anyone that wants to learn some more low-level programming.

At work, I’ve done some exciting projects. With the introduction of a new game mode, the HUD was due for a revamp. I got to head up the process, giving input on the design, and creating a design document for the code architecture for my teammate and I to work on. I saw this project through to release and several additional phases/updates. I worked on several other things throughout the year, but my favorite was a menu animation system for the team. Previously, the menu system was extremely static. Animating a menu or control was a tedious process. Now we have a tweening system that allows a coder to tween location, size, and alpha over time. The system is already in use on several menus created by myself and others!

On to the jam…

A few weeks ago, my usual team got together to discuss the 2015 jam and we decided the best use of our time would be learning a new engine. I have been wanting to jump into Unreal for a while, and with UE4 released and affordable, now seemed like the best time to get ahead. For the week before we devoured tutorial video after tutorial video, but jumping straight into the engine to make a game taught me far more.

Overall I’d consider the weekend a success. We scoped for a game in an engine we knew, but despite that the team managed to come out with a very workable prototype and (more importantly) a thirst to learn more. This is what I enjoy most about game jam – it’s like a shot of motivation every year!

I found Unreal extremely enjoyable to work in. I’m still wrapping my head around the various standards within the engine, and learning how the C++, Blueprints, and other features work together, but I learn more every time I open the project. The Blueprints were really cool to work with, and I found myself reminded of some of my favorite childhood games like Widget Workshop or Incredible Machine.

If you want to know more about the game itself, check out my project page, or the global game jam site!

February 2, 2014

Global Game Jam 2014

I had such a great Global Game Jam this year! It started with several of the people from my previous team, and later added some fresh faces!

The theme for 2014 was: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

After some discussion we settled on our inspiration: Don Quixote. In the story, Don Quixote sees the world through his obsession with chivalry, while his companion Sancho sees things as the “regular” world. In the famous scene Don Quixote sees windmills as giants despite the protests of Sancho.

One of our main goals this year was to explore the challenge of multiplayer. It ended up being quite tough (especially with a very locked-down network at the jam site), but we pulled through with a great little prototype:

In the game, one player plays as Don Quixote and the other as Sancho both riding a horse through a continuously scrolling third-person world. Don Quixote’s main goal is to attack the “giants” (and other monsters) he sees. He has main control over the horse and is able to throw his javelin. Sancho is trying to prevent Don Quixote from hitting windmills and can do so through “nudging” the horse. The nudge’s power is controlled through a meter which fills up over time. Don can also throw rocks to destroy “real” enemies. The game’s mechanic ends up being using careful timing to either hit or dodge enemies or innocuous objects to gain the most points.

Obviously, we had a fantastic art and audio team who really brought the game to life! Already the game has been ported to iPad, and we look forward to adding some more polish as time goes on.

October 25, 2013

My First 2 Panels

I was thrilled to be invited to speak on my very first panel at this exhibit in July alongside several very talented local game developers! We covered subjects ranging from issues we face in starting our careers, to our favorite games. The panel really made me step out of my comfort zone and learn to speak to others about my experiences.

Afterwards I was approached with the offer to speak on another panel at SIEGE (Southern Interactive Entertainment and Game Expo) later that year. I was thrilled to do so because I felt I had a lot to say on the subject – First Days in the Industry.

One panel you’ll see at many conventions is something along the lines of “how to break in”, but rarely had I seen panels about what to do after that. I felt I had a lot to say, because I learned a lot on my journey from extremely nervous new graduate to proficient UI programmer mentoring others. My fellow panelists and I discussed via Google Hangout our topics, and at the panel covered many important lessons: “your first days will be overwhelming – that’s ok”, “don’t be afraid ask for help if you need it, but show you’ve made an attempt beforehand”, etc.

All in all, I’ve really enjoyed my entry into speaking on panels and can’t wait for my next opportunity!

April 4, 2013

GDC 2013

This year I attended my very first Game Developers Conference! I had heard some conflicting opinions on whether to go with an Expo Pass, but decided to bite the bullet and take my first flight out to California for the conference. Boy am I glad I made that choice! GDC was fantastic. California was amazing. I left knowing I will definitely be back every year I can.

So without further ado, some of my experiences:

Tuesday, March 26th

EA PhotoboothTuesday, I arrived in by plane with a whole group of Atlanta game developers. The trip was long, but I was the excitement to arrive kept me happy. After landing Robert and I headed to our friend Julian’s who kindly hosted us. We checked into the conference, and spent some relaxing and exploring a bit of the city. Then it was time for some mingling and fun!

I headed over to meet with a friend Joelle for the EA party, which was fantastic. Cool themed drinks, tasty food, and a photobooth we had to check out. We later found out we even made it in their women in gaming campaign video (at 0:23 and 3:47). From there, Joelle and I walked down to the Eve Players Party where I had some interesting discussions on the game. I have never met such a passionate group of game players! After two more stops – the Blacks in Gaming mixer, and to meet up with some fellow Atlantans at the Cartoon Network party – I was worn out and jetlagged, so we headed in for the night.

Wednesday, March 27th

Georgia Tech MeetupWednesday was my first “real” day of the conference. After a preliminary survey of the Expo floor, I headed to a lunch meetup with some fellow Georgia Tech alumni. We gathered down the street at the Hotel Utah. I was completely floored by how many people showed up. We must have had around 30 people almost all within a year of my graduating class. There were many people I hadn’t seen since graduating, so it was a great opportunity to catch up on what we were all up to. After lunch, a fellow Yellow Jacket John Swisshelm (who helped coordinate the event) took us down the street to check out his office – Double Fine! It was great getting to walk around one of my favorite game studios. I really loved their setup; everyone had their own (highly decorated) individual area but it was also open enough for constant collaboration.

After lunch, we spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the Expo floor. I ran into a friend from High School who is working at Havok on their new game engine, Project Anarchy. The demo looked really neat, and needless to say I will be keeping an eye on it. After a fantastic dinner at Samovar (duck tea soup), it was time for the Women in Gaming International mixer. They held it down the street at the Comic museum. The venue was amazing (so many cool drawings), and the company was better. It was easily the first time I had seen so many women in gaming in one place. They were from all different places – I met two women from Norway and France – and of all different specialties – talked to designers and programmers, and also a game audio student. I heard a bunch of great stories, and generally felt a great sense of community.

After the party I managed to catch some of the Game Developers Choice Awards. I got to see one of my favorite games of all time, Journey, win the prize for Game of the Year!

Thursday, March 28th

Women in Games PanelThursday morning I spent some more time on the Expo floor before it was time for the Women in Games Luncheon. I can easily say that this was my favorite experience of GDC 2013. After meeting some more people, we headed in to the ballroom for lunch. I sat a table with more new people and we got to watch an amazing panel with great women speaking followed by the awards ceremony. The whole thing was very inspirational, and I got to meet and talk to some amazing people!

The rest of the day was spent exploring GDC, having dinner with the Georgia Game Developers Association, and at night we got to go over to Riot’s party. They had a really neat setup – people playing League of Legends on stage with and overhead projector, and the dancefloor below. My group “teamed up” with some people we had met at the EA party and I got to make more friends!

Friday, March 29th – Sunday, March 31st

Sunset along State Route 1The next day was pretty quiet. I checked out a panel that was open to all pass holders. The panel described what to do after getting your first job, and gave useful tips for keeping up after “breaking in”. Afterwards we took one last look around the Expo hall before it closed down and then spent the rest of the afternoon out on the city. I got to go to my first “Sushi Boat” experience. It was delicious! Unfortunately after that I succumbed to the dreaded “con crud” and had to go to sleep early.

Saturday and Sunday were reserved for my first adventure in San Francisco. Saturday I checked out the Golden Gate, wine country and took a drive along State Road 1. Sunday was Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Ghiradelli. After one more trip to the sushi boats (you can’t get fish that good in Atlanta), we headed for the airport home.

Overall, my first experience with GDC and San Francisco was fantastic. Huge shout-outs to my “GDC tour guide” Joelle, who really helped make my first experience as amazing as it was and to Julian for hosting us and showing us around the city. Can’t wait for next year!!

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