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Kids Turn Hobbies/Education

Meet Mick West, Video Game Developer

Name: Mick West
Title: Lead Programmer on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 & 2, Co-founder of company
Company: Neversoft
Goal: Creating successful games which people enjoy playing, and of which we can be proud.

Chat Transcript

Chat transcript of guest Mick West - Kids' Exchange Chat Room - Sunday, August 20, 2000.

Page I Interview with Mick

kidexchangeADM Welcome to our special Chat with Mick West, lead programmer of Tony Hawks' Pro Skater 2 and co-Founder of Neversoft.
MickWEST Thank you for having me :)
Pokeboy What do you think about the online Dreamcast capability and the track/skater creator in THPS 2? Do you think people will trade tracks and stuff?
kidexchangeADM First a reminder if you have a question please type ? and you will be put in queue to ask :)
kidexchangeADM Mick first, before we get to questions....
kidexchangeADM can you tell us a bit about what you do Mick?
MickWEST We want people to trade tracks, and we are going to have a section on our web site just for that.
bobbo cool
Pokeboy Cool thanks
fuzzy cool
MickWEST I'm the lead programmer on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
kidexchangeADM and what does a lead programmer do Mick?
MickWEST Most of what I do is programming the way the skater moves around
Pokeboy cool
kidexchangeADM how do you do that Mick? do you write code or use programs?
MickWEST I link the presses on the controller to tricks
fuzzy coool
MickWEST I write code, lots and lots of code
kidexchangeADM do you use special software to do this Mick?
kidexchangeADM can any kid learn how and if so....what is the best thing to do to learn how to do this?
Pokeboy 010101110101010 like that?
MickWEST We use C++, this is a fairly popular programming language
Pokeboy Oh C++
MickWEST It takes quite a while to learn a lot
MickWEST but you can do some pretty cool stuff with just a little effort
Pokeboy Are there any web site that would teach it or some of it at least?
kidexchangeADM can you learn on your own - or do you think an education is important?
MickWEST any kid can do it!
MickWEST A good place to start is Game Sutra
kidexchangeADM Mick how old were you when you first started doing code if you don't mind answering
MickWEST it has links to lots of places, including some for beginners
MickWEST Education is very important, but it does not need to be computer education
MickWEST With education, Math is very important
MickWEST I stated coding when I was 15
Pokeboy cool
fuzzy coool
kidexchangeADM ok and Mick....let's say a kid has a great idea and some code....what does he do next?
MickWEST It's difficult to sell a game directly to a game company
MickWEST best to try to work from within
kidexchangeADM work within how?
MickWEST try to get a job at a game company, perhaps as a tester
MickWEST and then you can see how things work
kidexchangeADM oh I see Mick...great advice
MickWEST and you get to meet the people, and you can discuss your ideas with them
kidexchangeADM ok let's start a few questions.....
SkatersMom hmm.. my son asked something..what was it..he wanted to know if you know any of the special tricks upcoming, I think..
MickWEST We have a whole bunch of Manual tricks, where you do a trick on the ground, like a one-foot nose manual, or a a handstand manual.
MickWEST And a lot more lip tricks, like rock-and-rolls, gymnast plants....
SkatersMom he said, OH tight! (who knows?? I'm just the Mom here typing.)
kidexchangeADM lol
SkatersMom I am with you....lip tricks?
SkatersMom Now he's very excited, going to get his older brother to tell him all this..LOL
MickWEST Yeah, we have a LOT more tricks......
Pokeboy Okay, can you tell us how many levels are on THPS 2 or is it secret?
SkatersMom Oh ??
MickWEST There's 8 levels.
Pokeboy cool
kidexchangeADM how many were in THPS1?
Pokeboy 8
MickWEST Lot's of secret areas though, you won't find everything the first time through.
Jazzy86 Mick, this is completely unrelated to video games, but did you play an instrument in school? If you didn't, what would you have played?
MickWEST I didn't play anything. I think I would have liked the piano though.
LizardKing How long does it take to program a whole game?
MickWEST About a year, although it might take longer on the PS2
MickWEST THPS1 and THPS2 both just took a year each.
GayleHOST how did you get your first break in game designing and how old were you?
MickWEST I was 21, and I'd just left university. I got a job as a games programmer. Back then the wages were very low.
MickWEST I'd been programming since I was 15 though, just for fun.
GayleHOST cool... thanks
bobbo What kind of computer would u recommend for some just getting interested in writing games and why?
MickWEST Pretty much any PC you can buy now would work.
kidexchangeADM what about Macs Mick?
MickWEST My first computer had 1K of memory...
MickWEST If you ahve a Mac, then that will work fine. But it's better to use a PC, as that's waht the games industry uses.
kidexchangeADM ok thanks Mick....
SkatersMom 3 questions this time: 1. Mikey, my youngest, WANTS a roller blading game, any chance? 2. Who do you like best, skaters on Tony Hawk game. 3. Can Tony Hawk do the 900? (No idea what that means?)
Pokeboy 3- yes he can
MickWEST 1. Maybe, but Neversoft is busy with THPS
MickWEST 2. Rodney Mullen
SkatersMom can't ya just stick Tony Hawk on roller blades? LOL..kidding.. thanks!
kidexchangeADM on that note...I have a 19 year old skater...but he loves THPS because of the quality of the game...would kill for a skater game - any odds at all?
MickWEST 3. Yes, but it's a bit different to the first game.
SkatersMom silly question, and just kidding, will Neversoft reimburse parents for broken teeth from kids skateboarding? :-)
MickWEST Neversoft wont be doing a blader game. But I'm sure someone will
fuzzy how many years have you been doing this mick
MickWEST 18 Years programming, 12 years programming games... And I still love doing it.
fuzzy thanks
kidexchangeADM that is amazing Mick...what is the best part of it? besides autographed skateboards?
MickWEST The best part is just doing what I really enjoy
MickWEST I've always like programming, and I love that people pay me to do it
fuzzy coool
Pokeboy Do you use notepad (lol) to program the game or what do you use?
MickWEST Everyone should try to get a job doing something they enjoy. The money will follow.
MickWEST I use a programmers editor called "Visual SlickEdit", it's pretty cool.
kidexchangeADM is that a public accessible program Mick?
Pokeboy can you download it?
MickWEST It's really only for people who are already set up to program in C++
LizardKing Could you give me an example of C++ mick?
MickWEST for (i=0;i<10;i++) printf ("The number is %d",i);
MickWEST C++ can look pretty messy ............................
LizardKing Wow thanks
kidexchangeADM eventually Mick does it all make sense to someone who understands it?
MickWEST It does make sense. It takes a long time though
MickWEST If you start to program, don't worry if nothing seems to make sense
bobbo are there plans for a THPS3?
MickWEST There are plans, but I can't discuss them, as we are still working out exactly what we will do, and
MickWEST we don't want to give people the wrong impression.
Pokeboy woah
SkatersMom My kids are really, really excited to "meet" you Mick!! Anyway, they wonder if you have done any other games we might have heard of? (My kids play LOTS of computer and Nintendo games) Geek kids, really.
MickWEST The last two games I worked on were "Apocalypse", and "MDK"
MickWEST Neither of them were as good as THPS though.... so don't rush out and buy them.....
Pokeboy Apocalypse boxes are in the new york mall level
MickWEST Yes, those were all the leftover copies :)
Pokeboy hehe
SkatersMom oh wow, really? We've played those, I think..hmm..let me ask my hubby..
kidexchangeADM did you have anything to do with Spider-Man Mick...or was that other members of the Neversoft Team?
SkatersMom oh, like Murder Death, something? MDK?
MickWEST We split Neversoft in two, one team did Spider-Man, and the others did THPS, I was about 98% on THPS
kidexchangeADM oh ok I see Mick...two huge projects at one time...understandable
MickWEST My Dog Kurt :)
SkatersMom oh, LOL..ok, thinking of another game
GayleHOST if you could design any game you choose to, what would be your *dream* game?
MickWEST I think THPS pretty much turned out to be my dream game. I like games that are fun to just mess around in.
GayleHOST cool.. it's great to experience your dream
MickWEST I'd like to do a game based on sheep herding though.
GayleHOST hehehe
kidexchangeADM sheep herding??? lol why that?
RonHOST were you a sheep dog in your former life mick?
RonHOST Can another programmer read the code you have written? I mean as to edit what you have done to double check what you did if you are having problems with something?
MickWEST Other programmers have to be able to read what I code. It's very important, as there are a team of programmers all working on the same thing.
kidexchangeADM <---still wondering why Mick wants to do a sheep herding game hehehe
GayleHOST have u ever tried to herd a sheep? might be a challenge
kidexchangeADM lol Gayle ok you have a point
Holly Sheep herding = the next big thing
MickWEST I think herding is a fun thing to do, it's something we ahve a natural instinct for, so it's exciting.
MickWEST Unfortunately, I think there is already a herding game coming out on the PC. Someone beat me to it...
GayleHOST sheep herding on skateboards... hmmmm
kidexchangeADM there ya go Gayle!
bobbo Any cheat codes u can share with us today?
MickWEST No cheat codes here....... but there will be quite a few coming out, not until the game is released though
GayleHOST uh--- he's just a little sheepish ;-p
bobbo lol
Pokeboy Where do cheats ..... come from?
kidexchangeADM off top of head Mick is the demo available to public and where?
MickWEST There is a PC demo. You can get it at Activision
MickWEST the PSX demo was on an OPM cover-disk a while back.
kidexchangeADM OPM?
MickWEST Cheats come from my brain.
MickWEST OPM = Official Playstation Magazine
kidexchangeADM lol Mick so cheats are planned and you let them out bit by bit? are other cheats found you didn't even know existed?
MickWEST The cheats are all planned. Sometimes there are bugs in the game that look like cheats, and sometimes we leave little things in there by mistake.
LizardKing Do you program the sound in too?
MickWEST There is a sounds engineer who creates the sounds. But it's up to me and the other programmers (Gary and Ryan) to put them in the game
kidexchangeADM similar situation with the graphics Mick? or do you also do the graphics?
SkatersMom (I need to run, thanks SO much've made my kids very happy!!)
kidexchangeADM thanks for popping in SkatersMom
MickWEST I don't do any graphics. It's the same kind of thing, an Artist creates the graphics, then a programmer, or a level designer, will put them in the game.
MickWEST It's all very much a team effort. There are 12 people working together on one game.
kidexchangeADM are graphics done by stills or with a CAD type program
MickWEST We use a 3D program called "3D Studio Max"
MickWEST we also use Photoshop, to do the 2D stuff
kidexchangeADM the whole process seems very complicated and intense and very much team work
MickWEST it is!
MickWEST But still, it's easy to do on a small scale
kidexchangeADM how long does it take to plan things before you even start to hit a computer?
MickWEST We usually spend about a month planning things
MickWEST but then we kind of start from all directions at once
kidexchangeADM Mick anything to add? any tips, advice?
MickWEST The best advice I can give is to do what you enjoy doing.
Jazzy86 I have a question, and I hope you will laugh!
Jazzy86 Could I have your autograph? :-)
MickWEST If you like programming, program. If you like art, be an artist!
LizardKing I like both
MickWEST To Jazzy86, Best Wishes, Mick West.
kidexchangeADM Visit the THPS2 site for more info and on what's going on with THPS2
kidexchangeADM Mick any update on expected release date of THPS2?
MickWEST Sometime in the second half of September
MickWEST we are trying to get it out as soon as possible though.
Jazzy86 printed the screen. Just for fun.
kidexchangeADM can assume you want it to hit the street right and bug free
kidexchangeADM too many things are rushed to the market these days
MickWEST Yes, we spend a LOT of time making sure it's just right
kidexchangeADM do you have testers Mick?
MickWEST We have testers at Activision. They handle it all for us.
RonHOST can I have a job testing games?
kidexchangeADM lol Ron
GayleHOST <--- me too
RonHOST I would love that job
MickWEST You'd have to ask Activision.
MickWEST You'd need to find a company near where you live.
RonHOST well that won't happen here LOL
MickWEST It's a very good place to start in the industry.
MickWEST But don't leave school to do it!
kidexchangeADM good advice Mick ;-)
bobbo Mick do u still play any OLD games?
RonHOST very good advice
bobbo which ones?
MickWEST I've been playing Zelda on the gameboy.
bobbo cool
kidexchangeADM what was the first computer system you owned Mick?
MickWEST It was a ZX81, it has 1K of memory, and a 3Mhz 8-bit CPU
MickWEST But I could still program games for it
kidexchangeADM games like the old pong and original frogger ones?
MickWEST I first started programming games on the Commodore Amiga
GayleHOST <---- vic20 LOL
MickWEST I like playing games like that on the Gameboy, when I'm on a plane.
MickWEST The first few games I did were pretty bad. I've got better with practice :)
kidexchangeADM well if THPS2 is an example of practise Mick you did good!! It's an amazing game
kidexchangeADM I don't exactly play games but that is one my boys have and the animation, graphics, sounds are amazing
MickWEST Well, I was just part of the team.
kidexchangeADM it's after 9 so we best let Mick get back to work!! Thanks so much Mick for coming tonight I think we learned a lot!
GayleHOST thanks Mick!
bobbo thanx Mick
RonHOST thanks Mick I really enjoyed having you here and learning about what you do :)
fuzzy bye mick and hugs thanks
MickWEST Okay. Bye everyone, it's been fun!
Jazzy86 bye Mick! Had fun listening to you talk, even though I've never played a video game :-)

For more information on Neversoft games be sure to visit their site. Read the interview with Mick West here.

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