This week, I published Freya Holmér's #DevJourney story on my eponym Podcast: Software developer's Journey. Among many other things, here are my main personal takeaways:
- Freya's dev story started with a passion for video games and the concept of modding games. And the first game she created levels for was Trackmania, but it's really with TeamFortress2 that she got hooked during high-school.
- When modding TeamFortress2, Freya really loved the feedback cycle. Instantly seeing 32 characters playing on the level you just designed is the best feeling & feedback-loop there can be. Her goal was clear. One day, she would become a level-designer at Valve (or not 😁).
- After high-school, Freya enrolled in "Future Games", a vocational curriculum for the game industry. She was really focused on level design, but at this school, she experienced other facets of the gaming industry, like game design, art and discovered programming with Unity3D. After an internship where she was "cornered" into level-scripting only at a big game studio, she parted away from this idea to do level design only.
- After a few years, Freya went back to Future Games as a teacher. Freya realized that her students were having a hard time creating shaders for Unity3D. Having worked with the UnrealEngine, she knew that an important tool was missing. So she decided to create it: ShaderForge. This created enough income to fund her next operation Neat Corp and propelled her into the public scene.
- Her first idea was to work on FlowStorm. But a few weeks into it, Freya and her partner met Valve employees at the GDC Conference, who introduced them to the Virtual-Reality Space. When she started experimenting with VR, her goal was to find game mechanics which would be boring to use without a VR-Headset. Throwing objects and playing hide-and-seek in VR were the key mechanics which felt entirely different in VR. Those became the core of their game: Budget Cuts.
- The demo of Budget Cut was very well received. But that set a whole new level of expectations. It took the studio 2 years to complete the game. At the time of the release, the game mechanics were not novel anymore. The release was successful, but the expectations were way too high. The final development months were a death march. Freya described it as the "only time when she burned out", so she has many negative memories from this time.
- "The only solution that is known to burnout is to remove yourself from burnout", there is no bullet-proof way to solve it. After a few months of sick leave, her brain reset, and the creative spark slowly returned, and she returned to FlowStorm, streaming and freelancing.
- Freya started streaming with a few game-jams (sessions where she created small games) and slowly created a community of "regulars." Then, she took back FlowStorm and has been streaming the whole development since. She post-rationalized her getting into Streaming to remain motivated and a way to educate and give back to the community at the same time.
- "If you have pretty-high self-esteem, you are probably fit for streaming, but if you have low-self esteem, you should definitely not stream". Streaming, you get people back-seat-questioning what you do. It's like reading the youtube comments in real-time.
- "Find your passion and what you want to do, explore different things, and as soon as you know, go all in, do a deep dive!"
- "Communication is a huge aspect of any project; you have to learn to set expectations and change your own expectations and talk to people"
- "I don't want to have a job where I am miserable for 8h/day"
- "A sign for a good VR game is that it ('s game mechanic) has to only work in VR"
- "If you have a pretty high self-esteem, you are probably fit for streaming, but if you have a low-self esteem, you should definitely not stream"
- "What do get to me though is when people back-seat my art"
- "I cannot stream more than 3-4 hours at a time [...], but if you want to min-max your Twitch stats, you have to stream as much as possible. There is a direct relationship there"
Thanks, Freya, for sharing your story with us!
You can find the full episode and the show notes on devjourney.info.
Did you listen to her story?
- What did you learn?
- What are your personal takeaways?
- What did you find particularly interesting?