Riding the Wave of Tech Evolution
In an era defined by rapid innovation and evolution, the game development industry continually grapples with the pressure to remain on the cutting edge. The path to success in such an environment is often unclear, with industry veterans having to navigate uncharted waters as they seek to build and evolve their companies.
Dino Patti and Tadej Gregorcic, both co-founders of Coherence, a platform aiming to democratize multiplayer game development. Patti, who also founded Playdead, and previously sold Jumpship to Thunderful, began the conversation by detailing his journey in the tech and gaming industry over the last two decades.
Reflecting on his beginnings, Patti admitted to a lack of experience in business administration when he first embarked on his entrepreneurial journey. “Everything just had to be invented from scratch,” Patti said, acknowledging the steep learning curve he faced as a self-made business leader. Patti went on to describe the evolution of his perspective as he transitioned from a hands-on coder to a leadership role, saying, “I loved hacking, opening machines, and finding out how computers work. And with this, I kind of found out it’s the same with humans, not that you could open up humans legally, but more that you can kind of find out what makes humans tick and manage that.”
Tadej, who brings experience from the European demo scene, co-founded several gaming and backend software companies before joining forces with Patti at Coherence. Like Patti, Tadej emphasized the significance of experience and knowledge accumulation in the development of successful tech and game enterprises.
Both Patti and Tadej stressed the idea of standing on the shoulders of giants, leveraging existing technologies to enhance productivity and efficiency. Reflecting on his journey as a coder, Tadej confessed that he initially found it challenging to relinquish the compulsion to build everything from scratch, a common sentiment among developers. However, he gradually realized the wisdom of utilizing pre-existing engines like Unity and Unreal. “What you really care about is the end product, and it doesn’t matter if you build the foundations,” Tadej shared.
Patti and Tadej’s experiences underscore a universal truth in the rapidly evolving tech landscape: learning to adapt and embracing existing technologies is often the key to staying ahead. While this evolution might be challenging for individuals accustomed to crafting every element from scratch, it ultimately allows developers to focus on creating unique, value-added products and services.
As the conversation progressed, the trio delved into the challenges of finding a balance between creativity and management, a common struggle for game developers and company founders alike. Patti revealed that, from the early stages of his ventures, he chose to prioritize his role as the “glue” of his company, focusing on critical operational aspects like funding, hiring, and vision-setting.
Yet, the decision to relinquish personal involvement in the coding aspect was not without emotional toll. Patti confessed that he missed his former role as a coder, even continuing to code on small projects at home for a time. Nevertheless, he eventually acknowledged that his path had diverged from hands-on coding to the leadership and strategic management required of a CEO.
The shift towards established platforms like Unity and Unreal was similarly driven by a recognition of the need to optimize resources and focus on delivering the final product, as Tadej detailed. His advice to others embarking on a similar journey echoed this sentiment: “Why build it yourself if somebody else can do it better and you can benefit from all that deep experience and knowledge and effort put into it?”
In a tech world filled with innovation and new possibilities, these insights from industry veterans like Patti and Tadej serve as valuable guidance for the next generation of game developers and tech entrepreneurs. Their experiences highlight the critical balance between leveraging personal skills and outsourcing areas outside one’s expertise. This balance, they suggest, enables entrepreneurs to focus more on the end product and less on recreating the wheel.
Above all, Patti and Tadej stories underline the importance of continual learning, adaptation, and embracing change as integral parts of success in the game development industry. As they continue to forge their paths and build successful companies, their wisdom will undoubtedly prove instrumental in guiding up-and-coming developers in their quests to navigate this dynamic industry.
Even as they focus on strategic management and leadership, Patti and Tadej remain committed to their roots as coders and game developers. They stand as potent reminders of the importance of maintaining a connection with one’s craft, even when it is no longer the primary focus of their professional role. Their experiences serve as a beacon for those embarking on the exciting, challenging, and rewarding journey of game development and tech entrepreneurship.
Democratize Multiplayer Development
“We’re building the tech from the ground up. Everything, the whole stack, we built ourselves. And now we’re the guys who are trying to enable this for other people,” the developer said in an interview. Their team’s efforts illuminate the inherent potential of the gaming industry, as well as how the right tools and platforms can be transformative.
Tadej recalled his early days experimenting with Unity 1.11.5, an early iteration of the renowned gaming platform. “It was just this moment where I saw that, all right, let me try this tool out… I thought this technology was pretty cool… And it really helped and I felt that in the following years, what I was able to do far surpassed what I would have been able to do had I been also focusing on the tech itself.”
Coherence, the developer’s latest project, echoes this philosophy. It’s an effort to build a tech stack that empowers other developers, returning to the underlying technology and rebuilding it from the ground up. This creative pivot is also aimed at getting more developers involved in making games, despite the perceived complexity of coding and tech development.
Apart from embracing new technologies and tools, Patti and Tadej learned that success in this industry is about people as much as it is about the tech. “Realizing that surrounding yourself with people that they’re better than you also at very specific things is the way to go if you want to grow anywhere,” they said.
The lessons learned from their early projects were not just about the technology or the creative process, but also about the team they built. One of the key lessons learned was the importance of intrinsic motivation in a team. Especially in a remote setting, like the one they’re working in now with Coherence, having self-motivated team members is crucial. They should be able to delve deep into their tasks, coming up with better solutions than what was asked for, and that’s what truly makes a project successful.
Despite their success, Patti still values the lessons from his failures. “I still learned more of all the many failures, like all of the times where something didn’t work. And I banged my head towards a wall. It’s where I learned the most,” he confessed. He highlighted the importance of understanding why something didn’t work and how they can improve in the future.
On their journey to Coherence, they realized that the future of gaming lies in real-time multiplayer games. They envisioned a platform that can make it extremely easy to create a multiplayer game, thereby lowering the barrier to entry and leading to a revolution within the gaming world.
The Coherence team recognizes the potential for innovation within the process of making multiplayer games. With their new engine and toolset, they aim to offer an accessible yet powerful platform that’s capable of supporting anything from a simple mobile multiplayer game to a big MMO.
The developer’s journey reveals the transformative potential of the right tools and a dedicated team. In a rapidly evolving industry like gaming, embracing new technologies, and leveraging a talented and motivated team can pave the way for an era of limitless creativity.
The Dawn of Small to Medium Game Development Teams
In the game development industry, the talk of the town in recent years has been the advent of large corporations that have the manpower to build their own network stack. But what about the smaller to medium-sized companies?
Discussing the current gaming industry landscape, Patti pointed out that large corporations, such as Ubisoft, dominate the scene. He argued that these behemoths often produce games that are uninteresting, particularly in their multiplayer aspects.
Tadej went on to highlight the historical precedent set by Unity, a cross-platform game engine. About 15 years ago, many people rejected Unity in favor of building their own game engines. Now, most developers prefer to use ready-made engines like Unity and Unreal Engine, and Tadej suggests the same pattern could happen with network tech.
He questioned the logic behind a small to medium-sized company spending three to five years building their own network stack when they can utilize the technologies that have been proven over the last two decades. His company Coherence is working towards packaging these proven technologies and making them accessible through the cloud.
This new accessibility does not only benefit smaller teams, but also larger ones as well. “In larger teams, you get more overlap between what systems certain people are working on, right? Designers, artists, coders, audio, everybody is using the same engine and the tools connected to the engine,” Tadej explained.
Coherence’s mission is to lower the barrier of entry to multiplayer gaming so that more innovative ideas can flourish in the space. Tadej believes that creating a stronger sense of community within games can make single-player experiences much more engaging.
Reflecting on the global pandemic, Patti and Tadej have noted an increase in demand for multiplayer games as more people seek out virtual spaces to connect with others. Despite a slight resurgence of single-player games, multiplayer gaming remains a dominant force in the industry.
Interestingly, Patti and Tadej addressed the trend of blockchain technology and the concept of the metaverse in the gaming industry. They admitted, were never ones to “jump on the hype train.” While they see potential in certain areas, they emphasized that any use of blockchain in gaming should not be just for the sake of using the technology. The priority, according to Patti, should always be creating engaging games that draw players in and keep them invested.
Looking ahead, Patti and Tadej are excited about the future of game development. With the proliferation of advanced tools and technologies, it is becoming easier than ever for small teams to create engaging and innovative games. For them, the goal is to continue to lower the barriers of entry to multiplayer gaming and to inspire a new generation of game developers to dream big
AI in the Creative Process: A Double-Edged Sword in Game Development and Education
In the rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence (AI), some of the most robust conversations revolve around the intersection of AI with programming, game development, and education. The discussion led to debating the potential benefits and drawbacks of AI integration in game development and beyond. The prevailing consensus seems to be that AI, despite its promise, isn’t going to eliminate the need for human ingenuity anytime soon.
“There’s great potential in AI,” said Patti. “It’s here to stay… But we still need to figure out how to use it.” The sentiments echoed a growing understanding within the industry that while AI could replace some facets of game development, there’s still a need for human creativity. “The good games will still be crafted by humans for a while,” they added.
The conversation touched on the potential implications of AI for various creative disciplines. Coding, art, design, sound design—all these areas could see significant acceleration of more mundane tasks through AI’s capabilities. For instance, AI could serve as an initial drafting tool, helping to quickly generate and refine code or creative ideas.
Tadej illustrated the potential of AI in coding using the example of ChatGPT, OpenAI’s language model. “You can ask ChatGPT today to write you a method in a specific programming language to solve a specific thing. And then you can basically copy-paste that into your code,” they explained. However, they also highlighted that while such AI applications could significantly boost productivity, it’s essential not to lose sight of the learning process involved in these tasks.
AI’s transformative impact isn’t just confined to game development and programming. Its ripple effect is increasingly felt in the education sector as well, and everyone was keen to address this. Brandon discussed the concept of AI being integrated into online educational platforms like Khan Academy as an AI tutor. Such a tool could guide students through problems, mimicking a personalized 24/7 tutor and enriching the learning experience.
However, this shift also brings challenges. Brandon noted, “Students [are] just straight up bragging about how they’re getting hundreds for everything, right? The educational system needs to pause, in my opinion, to kind of combat how and justify why it is even necessary to go to college at this point or pay for education.”
Another critical concern is the potential job displacement AI may cause. As AI grows more sophisticated and capable, many repetitive jobs could be eliminated, leading to what some have termed a “benefit crisis.” Everyone agreed that it’s crucial to train people to adapt and focus on enhancing their unique skills that AI can’t replicate, rather than resisting the inevitable wave of AI adoption.
As with any transformative technology, the implications of AI vary widely based on how it’s used. While it can speed up tedious tasks and provide invaluable tools for creative and educational purposes, it also has the potential to widen the gap between those who harness it productively and those who use it to cut corners.
The conversation concluded with advice for aspiring game developers. Patti and Tadej urged them to focus on their unique skills and keep their initial projects simple. Given the sheer potential and creative possibilities AI introduces, it’s an exciting time for those entering the field. And as the discussion shows, understanding AI’s capabilities and potential impact is crucial, whether one is creating the next big video game, enhancing an educational platform, or just trying to navigate a world increasingly shaped by artificial intelligence.