The Internship Chronicles – Calum

Calum Phillips (Game Programmer ’19) talks about his internship abroad in Montreal at indie studio, Hyroglyphik Games, which is located in  GamePlay Space. 

At some point during my sophomore year I decided to go and study abroad. I had always wanted to go and visit another place, and doing it for school is the perfect excuse to go. At some point while I was reading over documents about the process of going abroad I decided to take an internship. The process of organizing this proved to be slightly easy while at the same time tedious. It required filling out extra forms, talking with the career services at the school multiple times, creating a passable resume, having a correspondence with the Canadian Government that involved sending them my passport information four separate times, and adding a thin layer of stress to everything I was doing. Now, skip forward about five months and here I am in Montreal in a internship with a small gaming company.

My overall opinion of this experience is best summed up by the fact that I am returning here for another semester. This semester I interned at Hyroglyphik games! A company best known for King of the Hat a competitive hat-stomping fighting platformer. They are currently working out of what is called the Gameplay Space, which is a place where indie game developers can go to create their games. The Gameplay Space offers a place to work but also talks from elsewhere in the Industry about things from taxes, to the Steam storefront, to even good ways to market yourself; the space is widely known throughout most of the game development section on Montreal.

However, Hyroglyphik Games didn’t start there, at first they had humble beginnings with a group of friends working on assignments for school. There are only three of them on the team! They’ve openly had published two other games, a card game and a game for mobile, before they reached, in my own opinion, their crown jewel King of the Hat. This lead them to create a Kickstarter and raise over 13,000 Canadian dollars to fund their game! With a plethora of backers supporting them, and a tightly knit Discord community, they’re setting out to give their child life. However, Rome wasn’t built in a day and certainly not by just three people. Four people, on the other hand, might just be enough; and that’s where I come in. I, their faithful intern, am standing right behind them throughout their creative endeavours.

Most of what I do at Hyroglyphik games was whatever I was asked to do. I am aware that it sounds like a cop-out answer, but that is a pretty accurate description of what I was doing. Any one of the three other people there might ask me if I could make something that does “X” and I would say either “yes” or “yes, but it might take a while” then make it; when I was done I would then send it back to them and they would do one last look over of it, before implementing it into the game. This back and forth of requests and refactoring allowed me to quickly develop features that were easily added in. In fact, the first three or four features that I created were almost immediately added into the game in that same work day. This brings me to what a work day typically is. Typically, I would arrive at the Gameplay Space, sit down, chat with the other teammates who were there, set up my computer, grab a cup of water or tea, talk with them about what they wanted me to add, and then get started on that task. On a good day, I can sit down and work the entire time on that task until completion. If that happens, then I can start doing another task ahead of schedule. On other days, I might sit there for a few minutes staring at the screen and muck around trying minor changes until the task eventually gets done. I think working at Hyroglyphik was a unique experience because everyone on the team, including myself, prefered a mix of the two types of days. We all like and wanted to get work done, while at the same time, we all enjoyed the social aspect of people getting together and making a game..

The thing that I learned most from this internship was that it taught me a lot of what being in an indie studio is like. A great deal of it is asking people for money, whether it be from Kickstarter, the government, or one’s own parents. Money is the biggest issue. For example, up until the Kickstart completed no one at Hyroglyphik was being paid. The other three people there all either had second jobs, or were looking for one. It was an interesting experience being there hearing them talk about money, now they didn’t do it often, and I don’t think it will to much of an issue from this point onward. One of the biggest difficulties that I initially faced was the fact that I didn’t sign an NDA; so I couldn’t look at or work on any of the code. Now we had a verbal agreement about my own code that I would supply for the project, but nothing about the core project code. This made it so all of my work had to be done in a form of a black box environment, where I was assured that this was how it would work in the actual build of the game. At first I was very hesitant to do this, and it felt really weird to program in this manner. However, after I did a bit of work for them I’ve gotten used to programming in this way and feel that at the time, it was the better way to go. In the end, I don’t really have anything else left to say. I loved coming to Montreal and having an internship; and I love that I get to come back for one more semester to do it one more time.