Kixeye/Inside Network panel: Unity vs. Unreal for the next generation of browser-based games

In case you missed last night’s jobs event hosted by Kixeye and Inside Network, here’s a quick recap of the panel “The Next Generation of Browser-Based Games: Unity, UDK and Beyond.”

As it happens, each of the panelists involved with the topic are 1) hiring and 2) currently working on games that straddle not only the web browser platform (open web, games network, Facebook Canvas games, etc.) but also mobile and tablet. Toward the beginning of the discussion, Kixeye panelists Dan Rubenfield and Scott Howard revealed that their respective projects — mid-core strategy or combat games, both — were actually being built with different engines despite likely targeting the same platform. Howard, who’s been at Kixeye longer and whose project began development almost a year ago, is working on a Unity 3D game. Rubenfield, whom Howard brought on about 10 months ago, settled on Unreal as the engine for his project.

When asked by an attendee why the two games were being built differently, Howard and Rubenfield explained that the engines and tools selected to craft a social mobile game depend almost entirely on timing. Yes, most of Kixeye’s current games are built in Flash — and they’re very successful on Facebook Canvas. But Kixeye wants to stay ahead of the game in developing social and mobile titles and so its producers consider many different engines and frameworks instead of sticking only with what they know. As Howard explained, when his project started, Unity 3D was simply farther along and had more tools available to developers. When Rubenfield’s project started, Unreal had matured somewhat and had what his team needed to build their game. In six months, who knows — there could be three completely new engines or frameworks that developers could be leveraging to make the next generation of social and mobile game.

The second part of the panel discussion shifted toward actual job experience and interview techniques. Not surprisingly, all three companies represented on the panel (Kixeye, Kongregate and nWay) were actively interviewing for engineers, programers, designers and artists for their current and future projects. Kongregate in particular is looking for producers that can work with developers to increase performance on the game network’s system, which requires a skill set that calls for both technical and design backgrounds. Based on feedback from each of the four panelists, the following advice was provided to job-seekers:

  • Make games — This is the single most important piece of advice the panelists could offer. If a job seeker wants to convince a developer that they can make games, they should actually make them in their spare time. This can be on any platform: pen-and-paper, Flash, ASCII, in a class full of kindergarteners. Just as long as the game works as a finished project that can be demonstrated to the developer. Also, common sense, never plagiarize code from someone else’s project and submit it with an application — the person that wrote the original code might actually be the interviewer.
  • Be acquisitive in knowledge — Many applicants have college or graduate degrees in computer science or even in game design and likely could score high on tests. But this is not enough to convince developers that a candidate is smart enough to learn new ways of coding or scripting and keep up with the fast-paced work environment where an engine might be obsolete in less than a year. Howard tests for this capacity by asking candidates what are the last three things they’ve read and why; Rubenfield asks questions designed to make candidates think through a problem out loud; Jordan Patz of nWay looks for the underlying personality of the interviewee to get a sense of how smart they are; and Anthony Pecorella from Kongregate presents a test where candidates have to adjust the design of a game and explain their changes.
  • Don’t be a dick — This is the second-most mentioned pointer from the panelists. It seems like an obvious point, but in the creative industry, there are many strong personalities with passion for their work. If a candidate is not mindful of how to behave in a tight-knit social situation or cannot present a professional demeanor in a work environment, they’re unlikely to get the job no matter how brilliant a programmer/designer/artist they are. Yes, candidates are likely to be nervous in any interview; but mind your manners, answer questions in complete sentences and don’t trash-talk previous coworkers — the games industry is small and the trash-talked person might actually be working at that company already.

To those of you unable to join us yesterday, we hope to see you at future events. To job seekers in particular, we urge you to look at each of these companies job openings (here, here and here) as well as the Inside Network Job Board.

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