We’ve sat down with Tech Lead, Hannes Lidbeck from Cortopia Studios, to get a deeper insight and understanding of what it’s like working in the VR/AR industry! Enjoy this monthly Spotlight which will feature different roles, perspectives, tips & tricks and more!
Hey Hannes! How’s it going?
Oh, hi Marc! To quote the 2014 motion picture ‘The Lego Movie’, everything is awesome.
I think we’d all be very interested to hear how you initially ended up at Cortopia and what you do?
I was hired as a software engineer at a company called Univrses, tasked with building a magic dueling game demo to show off their inside out positional tracking software. After a couple of months it became apparent that me and Petter (lead tech artist) was way ahead with the demo schedule wise, so a decision was made to turn the demo into a full game. Wands was then released under a newly formed company called NUX Studios, that later became Cortopia Studios and here I am. Oh, and I’m currently tech lead.
What drove you to become a programmer?
I’m still not comfortable calling myself a programmer since I basically only do scripting work, but my amazing coworkers at least allow me to proudly say I’m part of a programming team. Education wise I went to Futuregames in Stockholm which is a vocational school for Game Design and 3d Graphics. There were two basic directions for the design class, scripting or level design. I found the latter to be too damn hard, while scripting was super fun. So kind of coincidental I guess, but I have no regrets about my decision.
So tell us, how does a regular day in the life of a tech lead look like? Please start from the very first thing you do in the morning to the last in the evening!
Check email, scroll through discord, re-prioritize work if something critical has shown up at Jira, make sure everyone in the team has a task, review eventual pull requests on git, daily stand-up and then hopefully some hands on work. As tech lead I also attend a bunch of meetings and help remove impediments for my co-workers. Being situated in Sweden means when my work day ends, most of our partners are just arriving to work, so I usually end my day the same way I start it, by checking my email.
Diving a bit deeper into coding, can you tell us about some of the software you use and why?
We use Unity due to its accessibility and flexibility. Both me and Petter had experience working with it before so it was a natural decision. Ever since Unity added the option to download Visual Studio together with the engine, I’ve been using it as code editor.
What are some of the challenges you face on a day to day basis?
We have a lot of ambition which is great, but it also means we have to twist and turn time sometimes to make our schedule work. Unforeseen events such as disease or other types of absence of team members is always a bummer, since it might lead to a feature being delayed. Support is definitely a huge challenge as well, especially when we receive bug reports that we can’t reproduce. Luckily we get really good support from our Q&A team and our community.
What are you most and also least proud of having put into this world?
If we keep it to game development I think my least proud moment would have to be my first game project at Futuregames. My group made a game where you would take turns shooting endangered animals and watch out for cannibals, not sure how we ended up with that. I am of course most proud of Wands.
Speaking of Wands, how has the whole experience been, bringing a game from ground zero to now being one of the biggest competitive games on VR?
It has been a great experience overall but it hasn’t been problem free. The balance between supporting, porting and developing new content has been rough, especially when I was alone on the programming side. Looking back at my personal journey and what I have achieved though, it has definitely been worth it.
You mention porting Wands to different platforms, what has it been like working with this many partners?
Every partner we’ve worked with so far have been very supportive, which made our work a whole lot easier. The fact that they continue to support us even after the game has launched says a lot about their commitment as well.
Sounds great. What kind of projects or features are you working on right now, anything you can share?
Personally I’m doing the least sexy type of work right now which is maintenance, i.e. fixing bugs, balance work and doing general improvements to systems already in place. Basically filling in the cracks of our foundation to help my co-workers build new awesome features. I’m happy to say we’re finally at a point where we can develop Wands further and not just support it, so prepare yourself for a wondrous spring.
Thanks a lot, Hannes! Do you have any last advice to give for newcomers trying to break into this field?
Be humble, fail fast and learn from it, Google is your best friend.