343 Team Spotlight: Simon Gordon

The following is a reblog from Halo Waypoint: 

By Grim

This week’s spotlight shines bright on the Halowaypoint team and software developer Simon Gordon who has been hard at work bringing the Halo Wars 2 companion experience to life on the web.

Hey Simon, welcome to the Team Spotlight! To kick things off, can you tell us a little about yourself? What’s your current role with 343?
Simon Gordon: I am a software developer on HaloWaypoint.com. My main focus has generally been to work with other internal teams on showing stats and delivering an out-of-game companion experience for the Halo games.

How long have you been with the team? What prompted you to join 343?
SG: I have been on the 343 team for three and a half years. My wife and I moved to Seattle and while I was looking for a job, I heard about a job positing at 343 for a web developer. Having just worked on developing a website, I figured it was a natural fit.

What’s your background prior to joining 343?
SG: I earned a Bachler of Science in Computer Science at Washington State University. I had an internship while at college and several years of job experience before applying for the job at 343.

Did you always aspire to do be a software engineer in the gaming industry? If not, how’d you make the jump?
SG: Actually no. My father was a software engineer in the gaming industry and warned me of getting involved with it as it can lead to very long hours. However, when the 343 job came up it was too good to pass up.

What’s a typical day entail for you?
SG: My typical day changes quite a lot depending on the season. Right now, as we are getting close to shipping the Halo Wars 2 features on HaloWaypoint and the Halo App, it involves a lot of writing, debugging and testing code. A lot of that testing means playing the game and making sure the stats show up correctly on HaloWaypoint.

What are some of the biggest challenges associated with being a web and app developer inside a game development studio?
SG: The majority of the studio’s focus is on the game itself and this can create challenges as we have to prioritize the most compelling features for the web and app while being mindful of available resources and game team dependencies.

For Halo Wars 2 we decided to allow users to create and edit their Blitz decks on the web. However, in doing so we had to ensure that editing your deck on the web would not result in any scenario that would negatively affect the game. Halo Wars 2, just like Halo 5, creates the card images dynamically. They are not simple images as you see on the web. We worked with the development team to figure out how the game dynamically creates these images and then we created a service that mimics that behavior to create each card and then save off an image we can display on web.

Can you describe the process of how you and your team interact with the game development teams to build complimentary experiences for fans outside of the core game?
SG: During the development of Halo 5 we had a meeting with several people on the game design team and they described their design for the Halo 5 Requisitions System. They suggested that a complimentary experience on the web where one could buy and open REQ Packs as well as view their inventory would be very beneficial for our fans. Our team then got to work building that system.

During the development of Halo Wars 2 we met with several people on the game team to discuss the possibility of getting a deck editor on the web and possibly the Halo app.  After several discussions with everyone involved we decided that a deck editor on the Halo app wasn’t particularly compelling since users will most likely have Halo Wars 2 already installed on the same device they’d use to access the app. Since they could use the game itself to edit their decks, building out this feature in the app didn’t really add to the experience in a meaningful way so we decided to focus on developing a more compelling stats package for the Halo app instead.

As we were building the complimentary deck editing experience on Waypoint we decided that to fully support the feature, players should be able to create and edit decks on the site in addition to viewing cards, buying card packs and opening packs. We worked with the services team to integrate with their systems for deck editing as well as the game team to fully understand and support their scenarios. I hope all of our fans will really enjoy the work and effort we put in to create the Blitz Deck editing feature on Waypoint for Halo Wars 2.

When it comes to designing features for the web and app, where do you go for inspiration? How does fan feedback come into play?
SG: We try to determine what fans would want to do and what features would be the most helpful to our fans in doing the things they already do or helping them do it in a better way. Our entire team plays our games as well so we also have a sense of what we, as players, would like to get out of a Halo web or app companion experience. We always look at fan feedback to see what features they want on each platform and prioritize accordingly.

How does development for a game website or app differ from the engineering work done on the game itself?
SG: It actually differs quite significantly. The game focuses most prominently on 3D rendering while 2D interactions, such as the main menu, are the exception. Web and app development is mostly 2D and in the rare occasion 3D. This can cause unique challenges when trying to display something that’s in-game on the web and app.

A good example of this is displaying a player’s Spartan on Halowaypoint. The game team hadn’t planned on us showing the player’s Spartan on the web and with the customization of the Spartan being a big part of Halo games, especially in Halo 5 with the REQ System, we wanted to be able to show the player’s unique Spartan on Halowaypoint. I worked with the lead character artist on figuring out how they made the Spartan models and how the game rendered them. I figured out how to take their process and branch off it to create models that could be rendered on the web and our team figured out how to get them to render on Waypoint to look as close as possible to what they look like in-game.

You’re currently working on building out the Halo Wars 2 experience for fans on Waypoint and the Halo App. Are there any features you’re particularly excited about?
SG: I am excited that we will be able to deliver game history and a PGCR on both Waypoint and the Halo App.  This is a great example of how we can extend and enhance the game.  There are some features coming to PGCR that I am personally really excited for being a competitive RTS player myself.  I hope our fans will love them as much as I do and that they enhance the competitive scene for Halo Wars 2.

Do you have a favorite Halo game and/or mode?
SG: My favorite Halo game is Halo 2 but my favorite game mode has to be Halo: Combat Evolved CTF on Blood Gulch

Fans always ask us how they can get a job in the industry. Any advice for aspiring software engineers? What kind of special training or experience did it take to get where you are today?
SG: I would highly recommend a Computer Science degree from any accredited university for anyone looking to become a software engineer in any field.  If you are looking to become a game developer I would highly recommend making and releasing a mobile game.  The mobile gaming scene is really a microcosm for “triple A” game development and through building and releasing your own mobile game you’ll get to learn about all aspects of developing a game from initial concept to release and even sustaining a released game.

Any final thoughts or parting words for our community?
SG: During my Summers while I was in high school I would lug my 20-inch CRT TV and original Xbox to my neighbor’s house where we would invite over all the kids in the neighborhood to play Halo.  I have played every Halo game and beat all of the numbered Halo games (Halo 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5) on Legendary.

Thanks Simon! While I personally think you should give Halo: Reach a play-through, it’s easy to see that your longstanding history and passion for Halo has inspired great work expanding the game experiences onto new platforms. I’m looking forward to checking out the new Halo Wars 2 Waypoint and Halo App features first-hand when the game launches next week!

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About Sal

I’ve got tons of experience with Halo gaming and collecting. I feel I have something to offer to the greater Halo fan community. Posts along the way will be about tips and tricks in the games as well as collecting and many more Halo related things. I’ll also repost interesting articles from the official site, Halowaypoint.com, or from fellow Halo fan sites. As I continue this blog, I hope to help gamers who want advice on the games, as well as any collectors with regards to where to find collectibles as well as deals, coupons and so on. You can also follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/HaloFanForLife or Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/halofanforlife11. Welcome to my blog and I hope you’ll come back again and again. -Sal