Seeing as there are only two of us and we're making our own games, we tend to only work on one project at a time. That said, we do have a backlog of about 10 game ideas that we want to make and it’s always growing.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
N: I am a freelance digital designer and I live and work out of Adelaide, South Australia. I have worked overseas in both Toronto and London but came back to Adelaide to form Piñata Games, release Magnetix and properly start developing mobile games in 2012.
J: Having worked in agencies for a number of years I jumped on the freelance bandwagon 3 years ago and haven’t looked back. As a freelance interactive developer I’ve worked with clients all around the globe on everything from flash games, to flex applications, and more recently mobile applications. Nowadays my time is split between freelancing and Piñata Games.
What do you do for inspiration?
N: Just being outdoors on a beautiful sunny day gets me inspired. It doesn't directly give me the ideas but it puts me in the right mindset to look at things from a different perspective.
J: I can draw a lot of inspiration from listening to music. Anything that gets me away from the screen helps as well. Travelling to new places has a lot to offer, and just as much comes from returning to the places you call home.
How do you relax or unwind?
N: There's nothing quite like cranking out some chunky metal riffs on my electric guitar.
J: Good food, good wine, good music, and good company. I definitely turn to the old guitar a lot to relax as well. Some Muay Thai. Some Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
N: All roads lead to being a fireman.
J: Rock star. Why not?
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
N: I love seeing people enjoying something that I've made. The hardest part for me though is dealing with the fact that design is subjective. If the client doesn't like what you like despite your professional opinion then you really have to deal with it carefully. It's hard not to lose passion for something that drifts so far away from the original concept and design. I usually get stuck when I've been looking at something for too long, so the best idea is to just take a break and do something else completely different. That way when I come back I can look at it from a new angle.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
J: 36 hours.
N: A measly 18 hours.
What software could you not live without?
N: Some form of web browser and, of course, Photoshop.
J: I honestly couldn’t live without FDT. And iTunes.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
J: Seeing as there are only two of us and we're making our own games, we tend to only work on one project at a time. That said, we do have a backlog of about 10 game ideas that we want to make and it’s always growing.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
J: In a word, rubbish. There were a lot of animated gifs but hey, it was the 90s.
N: It was a uni project that was teaching us how to write HTML. I didn't learn much and it looked awful. Tiling red background, bad typography with big blue links. Thank god it's no longer online!
Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?
N: Muay thai training. Pushing myself to my mental and physical limit on a regular basis helps to clear my mind, and it invigorates me because I sit at a desk all day. Plus kicking thai pads with every ounce of force you can muster is a completely underrated way to take out frustrations from your work day.
J: I’m with Nathan on this one. Training Muay Thai or BJJ can prepare me mentally for a hard day’s work, or it can help me unwind and get out of my “work” mindset at the end of the day. If I do an early session before work, by the time I sit down at my desk I’m fresh, ready to go, and I can stay focused for much longer periods. I also think looking at our contemporary’s achievments helps to keep us in the right mindset.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
J: Sure, it's here to stay. It will adapt, evolve, and change over time, but it is here to stay. When you back at how Flash has evolved over the past 10 - 15 years, it becomes less about the platform itself, and more about what people are doing with it. It's come a long way from being a simple animation tool, to being able to compile web, mobile and desktop applications alike. And it's safe to say that Flash owes a lot of its evolution to the users and developers who continue to push the boundaries of the player, and in turn push the engineers to give them more access, performance, power, or what have you. As long as we as can keep pushing those boundaries, it will keep evolving and will stick around.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
N: I didn't study design at uni as a major, it was always a single class here or there so I totally believe that people can get into the industry without educational experience. I've learnt bits and pieces of design stuff along the way that made me wish I'd gone to design school but I think that on the job experience is almost more important than formal training. Things like how to work in a team and with clients and how not to be precious about your designs are just as important as actually knowing how to design things.
J: A lot of this comes down to the individual. Some people excel in a school environment, whilst others thrive "learning on the job". We've seen a lot designers who haven't had any formal training produce amazing work. Particularly in the digital world, software, techniques, and tools change so rapidly that a lot of education institutions don't have the staff, budget, or means to be able to keep their curriculums up to date and thus, students a left to learn a lot of things on their own. It would be fantastic if there were some sort of "apprenticeship" program that taught designers (and developers) not only the fundamentals, but also the tools of the trade whilst on the job. I can see this being beneficial for both students and employers alike.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
J: As cliche as it sounds, never give up. Soak up as much inspiration as you can, follow through on your ideas, back yourself, and do it for the love of it.
N: If you think that your best project, the one you love with all your heart, is good enough to win an FWA, then just submit it. Because you have to be in it to win it.
How do you keep up with the latest capabilities of Flash or do you rely on other members of you team to do this?
J: You have to make time. Following the relevant Twitter accounts, and subscribing to the right rss feeds helps, but at the end of the day you need to put the time aside to download the nightly builds, or to play around with the latest APIs. To be honest, if you're in the industry you do this stuff outside of work for fun anyway!
N: That's Jassa's job
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
N: There's no substitute for experience. On the job training is something that gives you a wide variety of design problems to find solutions for. However, things can get repetitive if you're not challenged. But regardless of whether I'm challenged in my job or not, I find that keeping personal projects going is a great way to learn and progress. Set aside time to make that set of icons you always wanted to make. Or design that typographic pun you thought was hilarious. Because in the end, your personal projects are the ones that will probably give you the most satisfaction and freedom. And you'll definitely learn new ways to do things that will help you at your regular job.
J: Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The internet is a wonderful thing, and you can learn a lot by simply asking your fellow Flash developers questions. The Flash community is made up of an amazing bunch of people and more often than not they are happy to help out where they can. And remember, as a developer you’re always going to be learning, no matter how good you think you are, so get used to it!
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
J&N: A pirate ship.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
J: Our next game title - can’t give too much away just yet!
N: Apart from our next game, maybe designing the heads up displays for first person shooter games. I just love all those semi-transparent bits and pieces that flash up with things flickering and pulsing.
What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?
J: I’m excited about learning more about the mobile markets - with Magnetix being our first title, it’s been a steep learning curve already, and I’m sure there is still a lot to learn. In terms of a long term challenge, constantly improving the way I go about my work and quality of code is definitely up there.
N: I really want to work on my illustration skills. I feel that game development is great for that because there are usually so many assets to create that it forces you to keep creating and refining your style.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
J: Booked a couple of flights in the last few days.
N: A rice cooker. Big spender, I know.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
J: It’s usually a hoody for me. Though if it’s warm then boardies are a pretty regular occurrence. Footwear is definitely optional in our office.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
We have been working together on and off since 2004 and have dreamed of winning an FWA since before then, so we are over-the-moon stoked to finally win. And on our own independent project, no less!
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
No, no, thank you!