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We started a series a while back that looks behind the scenes at some of the people that work on Project Spark. It took a while to get back to it, but we're proud to present our next interview with another person that works on Project Spark. You may recognize Keith if you've watched our streams. What you probably don't know is his road to get into the gaming industry. It's a personal story, but one that he's happy to share. Let's get into it with him.

What is your name and what do you do on Project Spark?

My name is Keith Rosier and I’m a game designer for Team Dakota. I’ve been working on Project Spark since 2012.

Over the years, I’ve worked on some of our in game tutorials, a good portion of our tile descriptions and some of our showcase levels and videos. Now, I build the scenes for all of our content pack videos and assign default properties to all of the props in the content packs I’m assigned.

How did you get into the gaming industry? How did you start working on Project Spark?

So this is a long story. It started at the University of Florida (UF). I was 10 credits away from graduating and about to go off to law school. I had this realization that if I finish now and go off to law school, I’ll never have the motivation to get into the game industry. I’d like to add that I am in no way endorsing this or think it’s a fantastic idea. I’ve known of plenty of people in design who have law degrees or marine biology or what-have-you. It’s possible, I just wasn’t making the best decisions at the time.

I decided to leave UF and started a game design program at the University of Central Florida. But, as it so happened, funding ran out at UCF and the game design program became a web design program. So I stopped going there and started working at Best Buy. I had a good time there, but I didn’t want to work there the rest of my life. After that, I found a new game programming degree at Full Sail and entered there. It was an intensive 2 year program.

Then, 1 month before graduation I was diagnosed with cancer. There was melanoma on my back and it was deep, so my future was uncertain. Through all of this, I had to finish up a 6 month project of a final game. Two days before graduation I had my surgery and I still was able to walk across the stage, just a bit loopy from pain medication.

After graduation, I spent the next year not quite knowing if I’d make it or not. I’ll be honest, it was a depressing time. I got really into World of Warcraft (again) during that time. And I kept myself busy as the doctors figured out if I was in remission. It turned out that the surgery was a cure. When I knew I was all good, I decided there was nothing left for me in Florida, packed up my car and moved across the country to the West Coast.

For the next few years I bounced between jobs, looking to get into the gaming industry. I moved from Portland to Seattle. There was a month of me living in my car. There was a lot of moving between places in Washington. I started working at another Best Buy in Seattle as I was trying to get connections in the industry.

Then one day I was helping a guy buy a tablet for his daughter. We were talking about game design and he told me about a small gaming studio he ran. He said I could stop by. The next day I had an unpaid internship with this small gaming studio, giving feedback on games and making small levels.

The studio owner’s wife worked on Project Spark at the time. He sent my resume along to her, who passed it along to the rest of the team. And after a few rounds of interviews, they decided to give me a shot.

How were your first few months on Project Spark?

When I first started on Project Spark, my levels were terrible. I learned that while school will prepare you, work will put you through the real trial by fire. Everyone was so good at what they did and I felt like an imposter that first year. It was a real learning experience. I can’t believe they let me stay.

I started to spend a lot of time with the artists and spent more time at home building my stuff. Then one day, I finally had an epiphany. Stuff started fitting together and it started making sense. I got better and better at art. Now I use that to make the art for all of our videos.

What would you recommend to newer creators in Project Spark?

Don’t just take a prop for what it is. The first thing that opened my mind was looking at the square wooden platform and wanting to turn it into a barn. That looked cool when it was put together. That made me start to look at the shape of the prop, not the name of it. I now think about what I want and bring out the shapes to see what fits best together.

Look at something in the real world and deconstruct it. The real world is full of really cool and really creepy things that you can draw inspiration from. Why does it look like what it looks like? Look at the placement of the plant. Why are they in that spot? Look at the vaulted ceiling. Why is it vaulted? That makes it look cool and also looks like it serves a function. If you just build stuff that looks cool, it starts to look like noise. If it has function too, it’s more identifiable.

My last recommendation is about ideas. Ideas are fantastic. Everyone has great ideas. Your idea is only as good as your ability to execute on it. Getting those ideas out of your head is so important. You need to make your idea. You won’t be able to think about other solutions to the problem if it’s still in your head.

Any last comments?

World of Warcraft is awesome. I’m big into raiding.


Original article published on Monday, June 29, 2015.

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