Interviewed by Marco van Haren
Ritesh claims to be the undefeated champion of the lunch break Quake 3 matches and that Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time turned him into an engine programmer. Sounds unreal, right?
The Wheel of Time?
Yeah, that’s where it all started for me. I was still in high school and I started playing Wheel of Time, an amazing game from Legend Entertainment. I played it intensely for a long time, and I started to get ideas about how I thought the game could be improved. I designed and implemented my ideas on my private server and I invited people from the game’s community, hoping they would enjoy my changes. Not so much as it turned out!
So the world wasn’t ready yet?
Absolutely! Though, honestly, they were just bad designs, haha. For example, my concept of a weapon that killed everybody on sight sounded like the best weapon ever to my younger self, but it of course made multi-player a complete unplayable mess.
You gave up on designing and started programming?
No, that would have been the easy route, since I also thought I was a bit of an artist. If design wasn’t my thing, I was sure I would be able to make some cool maps to play on. As it turned out, my modeling skills resulted in blocky boxed off levels lacking any form of flow.
Maybe making games just wasn’t for you?
Well, through the whole trial and error process as an aspiring designer and artist, I did discover that the coding work needed to get my designs and art up and running went rather well. Not much later, I met a group of more experienced guys on the internet that were making small mods together. Their undertaking was on a much higher level than what I had done so far, so I was able to really develop my coding skills.
So you stuck to your guns and went for the fast moving world of programming?
Yeah, after high school I started my Computer Science study. Looking back on it, it was the perfect fit for me seeing that pretty much the entire male side of my family works in IT. And then Unreal Tournament got released!
A bad thing?
No, not at all! I spent most of my free time during my study working with some friends on a total conversion mod for UT2004. It took us a bit over two years, but we were quite happy with the result. The community received it very well, and thousands of people played it. The best outcome however, was the fact that it opened the door for an intern position at a big international studio. The timing was perfect, because I was nearing the end of my study.
Sounds like a cool experience!
It absolutely was. Before long, I was digging my way into the Unreal Engine technology, teaching myself C++ along the way. I started to make changes to the engine and I realized that working on the engine was a more enjoyable experience for me than the more iterative process of working with a designer or artist to program specific features or gameplay.
How did you end up at Vanguard Games?
After I finished my study, I was approached by a friend who already worked at Vanguard about a job opening. Vanguard was just starting development on its own engine, and that team was expanding. I ended up working on the engine and toolset that the art and design teams use to create our games. So far it has been a great ride! Building your own engine and toolset allow you to tailor it completely to the product you want to develop, so the designer and artist in the back of my head stay very happy too.
Are you really the lunch break Quake champion?
I think it depends on who you ask, but I think it is a tie between my lead and me, so I have to be a bit careful here, haha. It has become a daily ritual, actually and it is a great help to clear your mind in the middle of the day, so over the last few years we have almost never skipped a match.