Faces of Play MPE: Darren to Dream
We sat down with Darren Martz, Director of Software Development and carmaker extraordinaire Darren Martz. Car maker? Yes, car maker. “I built a car once from scratch – did all the welding, everything else like that ‘cause, meh, seemed like a cool thing to do.” Spoken like a true developer. Similar to the ones you see on the Baja, racing across the sand with the big tires and big whip antenna. I’ve had it about 5-10 feet off the ground flying in the air.” (Darren’s bride and copilot was a trooper about the puddle shrapnel).
But we digress. Prior to his adventures in self-styled motorsports, Darren began an upstanding career in development, having naturally grown up as a gamer. (Though he wisely knew to shift focus in time, as a kid.) “As soon as I got to Junior High I thought I better be a little bit more social.” Mind you, Darren had written his first software program in 3rd or 4th grade…” It was a business app too, so really boring.”
Those gaming years, though, paved the way for grown up Darren. As Darren explains his career trajectory, “Destiny was looking for someone to head up development and the new technical direction and bring in some processes, what have you. So for my background, I started out in the beginning of the 90s in software development as a developer. Worked at being an architect for some bigger projects. Some of the projects run hospitals all over North America. I think it’s number 2 in the industry now. And continued on my career from software architecture into managing people. For that, I switched over to video games. I worked for Electronic Arts for a little while.” (Yes, that Electronic Arts).
I asked about the culture and environment working on games. “You work on a game – it’s hard. If you work on a brand new game… that’s reaaally hard. I worked on 6 games. FIFA was my first game, which was one of the top sellers for all of EA. Then after that I only worked on only brand new titles. For managing the teams, what it meant at times was for 6 months straight, you work 14 hour days, 6 days a week. Sometimes longer.”
We discussed the “show must go on” mentality required. “Very similar to making a movie. In fact, all your revenue is similar to a movie where you get a spike at the beginning, out of the gate; if you do not get a big spike of buyers, your game is done because from there it just tapers off. All of your media dates and shelf dates have been set months in advance, so you cannot miss.”
We also discussed the nature of managing personalities and teams, be they gaming introverts or larger than life. “I also saw on games, the executive producers like the Steven Spielberg of video games – they’re very out there, very showy, very charismatic, but behind the scenes, there’s a whole pile of people working really damn hard to make sure it’s a winner.”
Sounds much like Destiny. “With Destiny working with these products – that you’re working with a group of people to bring out their best abilities to get the highest level of quality and push the business as far as you can as fast as you can. So that’s kind of fun because then the people who are the frontrunners, the face of the company, you try your best to support them, make sure they can stand up there and do well by the customers.”
Darren sounds built for the role. It’s perhaps in part due to the foundation of growing up around a family-owned business. “You just watch everyone working towards the common goal of making the business succeed. It was my grandfather who started the business; my dad took it over and he had people who had worked for the company come up to him later on like ‘Wow! Thank you so much for that job.’ It wasn’t the most interesting job but it was very community based and very passionate about the people who were involved. And when you have that great things happen.” (We spoke of my dad’s philosophy as a small business owner – ”Kiss ‘em in, kiss ‘em out.”) Managing colleagues vs. customers, it can bring its own challenges. “It changes – it definitely changes. You realize on some days you’re lucky if you can be friends on that side but you’re there to try and keep everyone moving and find their best angle and keep them moving and it’s your job to push them and make sure they enjoy it.”
As for what’s ahead? “We have been laying some groundwork, doing a lot more things to move quicker. We’ve got a few products in beta that we’re playing with. My favorite parts are pretty technical and nerdy. It’s getting down into the architecture, the structure, the building blocks of how the whole system operates and try find ways to make it leaner, faster. Giving us better outcomes for less energy.”
When not working near 80 hour weeks towards those goals, Darren likes to take advantage of the many perks of Vancouver with his family. “We head out biking and do some watersports. Paddle boarding is one of the big ones now for the kids. In the summertime you can go snow skiing and in the same day drive somewhere and go water skiing. Maybe mountain biking in between. It’s that kind of a city. There’s not too many places you can do that, but this is definitely one of them.”