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Posted by patrickklepek (6019 posts) -

Editor's Note: The following is a lightly edited transcript of a story Iron Galaxy CEO Dave Lang told at a recent recording of The Nerdologue's Your Stories show. The episode was partially curated by yours truly. In Your Stories, folks are asked to share anecdotes from their personal lives based on a theme.

This time, the theme was "fingers crossed." The show was split into two parts, which you can listen to on The Nerdologue's website. At the very end of part two, you can hear me explain what the terrible movie Evil Bong III: The Wrath of Bong has to do with proposing to my wife. Anyone in Chicago can attend future Your Stories shows, and I hope to be curating another one in the near future! And with that, let's head to the Lang Zone...

In my extensive preparations for tonight's talk, which began this morning at 10:00 a.m., I was thinking a lot about hoping for the best, and it rarely, rarely coming through. I thought about much that hurt me throughout my life, and what I've done to combat that.

When it was Dave's turn, he announced he was going to stand up for his story. Of course.

Very recently, there's a good example of this. I tend to give a lot of talks as part of my job. I've developed something that helps me instantly determine how the talk is going to go. I usually start every talk like this. And, by the way, they're not all fun venues like this. They're normally "oh, I'm demo'ing for press" or I'm at some snooty conference giving an academic lecture or whatever. But I always start off every talk just like this:

"Hi, my name is Dave Lang. I'm the CEO of Iron Galaxy, and my favorite pony is Porkchop Applesauce."

[crowd laughter]

And I do that for a very good reason. It's not because I'm really into MLP or even know what MLP means. I do it because if people graciously giggle or laugh like you guys did, then I know the talk's going to go pretty well. Tonally, all my talks are the same. I don't take myself super seriously. I rarely take the material I'm presenting super seriously. I just want to get up here and have fun and vibe with the audience and just do my thing. If the audience doesn't laugh--and that happens shockingly frequently--if they're like "ooooh, I don't wanna listen to a brony," then I know I need to exit stage left and give them the abridged version.

That's me not wanting to worry about "oh, god, I hope this talk goes well." Because I don't care if you've done this one time or a thousand times, you're always a little nervous. You're always hoping it goes great. That's me trying to short circuit that process. I'm just finding out instantly if this is going to be great or shitty, and get on with it.

As I mentioned, I work at a video game developer. I've been making games my whole life, been making games for about 30 years--professionally, since '96. I'm going to share two stories about two games that will merge together like a true artist.

One was the first game that I ever released commercially--well, me and a team ever released commercially--and, more recently, a game we made at Iron Galaxy. The first one was '96, the second one was 2012.

So the first one was Space Jam for the Sega Saturn.

[crowd cheers]

Where were you fuckers 16 years ago? I swear to god. You make me so fucking mad.

But anywho. I've been making games my whole life, but there are things I wouldn't show people. I keep them to myself. Not because I was modest or scared or whatever. It just never occurred to me to show my friends. This was the first game I ever worked on. And my contribution to this, just to be clear, was tiny, tiny, tiny. I did the menus and some mini-games and some stuff like that. It was my first professional gig. I wanted it to be amazing, I wanted it to be something it could never be. This is a movie licensed game. It was never going to be up for game of the year awards, right? It was always destined to be this three-out-of-five, here's-what-it-is game. But I worked my ass off for that. I poured everything I had into it. And it's not because I had some boss breathing down my neck, it's because I wanted the game to be more than it could be.

Going through that, it didn't. It was released, and Next-Generation magazine, who was the most avant garde critical voice in the games journalism space at the time, they gave it a one star out of five.

[crowd boos]

Thank you, yeah!

They called it a "shitty NBA Jam clone." That's summating all the prose I read. It hit me really hard. It didn't just affect me. It, in turn, affected everyone around me. I was a dick to, at the time, my girlfriend, now wife. I was a total asshole to my co-workers. In short, I was pretty unpleasant to be around for a long time. I became aware of this over the course of the next couple of years.

Fast forward to 2012, and we're working on a game called Wreckateer for the Xbox 360.

[one crowd members cheers]

Yes, thank you. One person. That's about accurate.

Iron Galaxy is largely a tech house, which means it works on other people's games, instead of building its own.

The studio I work at, we're primarily a tech house. What that means is that we don't do a lot of original game development. What we do is take Scribblenauts, and we take it from the DS and put it on iPad or whatever. We do stuff like that. Getting the chance to make an original game is a really big deal for a tech house. It's a chance for you to break out, and become an actual developer. This was a really, really big deal for the studio. I was leading the project myself. Obviously, since it's my company, if the game does well, I was going to do really well, too. Everyone in the studio was going to do really well. So compared to Scribblenauts, I had much more to do with it. With Wreckateer, it was really my show. I had more riding on its success.

I still remember the day it came out. We had a launch party in the studio, and we had brought in a lot of beer and pizza and food. Along the wall was previous builds of the game. We had the first prototype, we had the first build we sent to Microsoft, every milestone we ever did. In the back, there was the released version of the game, so people could see it and play it. It was just this neat little thing. I don't know why I thought of this, but I said "hey, we could go back there and look at the leaderboards and see how it's doing!"

That was a mistake.

When we got done with the party at 2:00 a.m., about 2,500 people were on the leaderboards, which is the theoretical worst a game like this could do. It was really pushed by Microsoft, they really believed in it. And it was a good game! I stand by it. I still think it's fun. But there's a lot of reasons it failed, which we don't need to get into now, and certainly has nothing to do with me being a subpar developer or project lead!

I go to bed that last night, and was really bumming. Woke up the next day, and was mostly fine. How did that happen? When you look at Space Jam, I did so little, and I was devastated for years.

Somewhere along the line, and I'm not exactly sure where this happened, but a defense mechanism kicked in. It's not what about the game ends up being. It's about the journey and the people you made it it. We've made games that people liked, like Divekick. Or Blitz: The League. We've made some good games. I don't remember those reviews at all. I know that people have come up and thanked me for working on stuff like that. They might have told me about a time when a game I helped create gave them joy and they needed it. But that's not really what I remember.

What I remember is the first time we got online in Third Strike working. It was 8 at night, and you could play it for the first time. It didn't matter that one screen had Ken and Ryu and the other had Chun-Li and Urien in it. It didn't matter. You were hitting buttons, and things were happening. I remember that. I remember staying up three days straight with my friends on Blitz: The League, trying to get a build ready for E3. Just trying to chase down one little bug that no one would have noticed. But we all gave a shit, which is why we did it. Those are the things I remember.

It's not about what the game ends up being or what people think of it. For me, it's about the journey. The thing I've figured out through all this, if you can say "fuck the destination, I'm about the journey," then nothing else matters. Thank you.

#1 Posted by thedude1 (47 posts) -

very cool

#2 Posted by Cozmicaztaway (221 posts) -

Dave Lang is awesome

#3 Posted by Blitzer (394 posts) -

Obviously you have to tell yourself that to keep going. But if games are shitty and even the devs don't care, the industry has a problem. Just look at Steam lately...

#4 Posted by captain_max707 (499 posts) -

Entering the Langzone.

#5 Posted by thaquoth (54 posts) -

Man, as much as I love the crazy shenanigans Dave often pulls, "real talk" Dave Lang is always amazing and inspiring. Cheers to him.

#6 Posted by porjos (166 posts) -

"fuck the destination, I'm about the journey"

Bravo, and this principle can be applied to so many things...from living life in general to dealing with the ending of Mass Effect 3. A philosophy to live by.

#7 Edited by Hassun (1643 posts) -

Realtalk straight outta the Lang Zone. Gdlk as expected.

Having a defence mechanism like that but still being able to feel is a great asset.

#8 Posted by Fear_the_Booboo (580 posts) -

As someone who started to learn to code lately, that kind of mentality is useful to keep you going. I hoped to have a small game that I could have distribute for free after a year. It's been 10 months and I'm far from being done with that project and I had lots of problems with some people I was working with but, thinking about it, my coding skills are far better than what they were 10 months ago. Even if I never finish that particular projet, I have already learned from it.

#10 Edited by thaquoth (54 posts) -
@blitzer said:

Obviously you have to tell yourself that to keep going. But if games are shitty and even the devs don't care, the industry has a problem. Just look at Steam lately...

Dave's talking about something totally different though. He talks about games you put your everything into, even if they end up not exactly changing the world. Not about shitting out something half-assed and putting it on a storefront.

#11 Posted by csl316 (9273 posts) -

Really looking forward to reading this at lunch.

Dave's a heck of a storyteller.

#12 Posted by EthanielRain (913 posts) -

Thanks for sharing, was a good read :)

#13 Posted by BBQBram (2282 posts) -

Fun talk, but it gets way better when you imagine Lang calling up Ed Boon or Johnny V at 3 in the morning and ranting the whole thing off.

#14 Posted by BiggNife (31 posts) -

@patrickklepek psst, it's Urien, not Yuri.

I enjoyed this little speech. Dave Lang is a cool dude.

#15 Edited by Blitzer (394 posts) -

@thaquoth said:
@blitzer said:

Obviously you have to tell yourself that to keep going. But if games are shitty and even the devs don't care, the industry has a problem. Just look at Steam lately...

Dave's talking about something totally different though. He talks about games you put your everything into, even if they end up not exactly changing the world. Not about shitting out something half-assed and putting it on a storefront.

Agreed. You want to make sure you're happy with what you put out and enjoy the process of making it. Who would throw all that away even if the game bombs?

#16 Posted by patrickklepek (6019 posts) -
#17 Posted by Milkman (17204 posts) -

so free

#18 Posted by UnbornApple (3 posts) -

That was a good read. I'm all for more stuff like this on GB.

#19 Posted by Ett (212 posts) -

Good something to read while is took a dump :P

#20 Posted by Brake (1118 posts) -

Dave Lang is my spirit animal.

#21 Edited by petrolhead (12 posts) -

Fuck the destination, especially if you're with Dave Lang. Some people reach nirvana, Lang has reached entertainment itself.

#22 Posted by PTibz (1 posts) -

You rule, Dave.

#23 Posted by Fobwashed (2169 posts) -

Go get it Dave Lang. You're the fucking best!

#24 Posted by PollySMPS (233 posts) -

I love Dave Lang. This dude "gets it." A really inspiring figure and story in the industry that a lot of aspiring game devs can learn from, I think.

#25 Posted by Fuwano (152 posts) -

I know I'm an old fuddy-duddy but seeing curate to mean "organize" bugs me. Great read, though!

#26 Posted by Nime (123 posts) -

Real talk Dave Lang is always solid.

#27 Posted by aquacadet (235 posts) -

Dave Lang is a person hero of mine.

#28 Posted by MackGyver (584 posts) -

We need more Dave Lang on the site.

#29 Posted by AthleticShark (1198 posts) -

This makes me clad Phish left. Dave Lang is just ONE example of the type of people we need/the morale that will keep the industry an amazing place to work. If you really give a damn, bear down and work through it.

#30 Posted by development (2578 posts) -

Reading that in Lang's voice made it so much better.

#31 Posted by mattoncybertron (74 posts) -

GET LANG'd BOI

#32 Posted by Elwoodan (868 posts) -

It is my goal in life to be even 1/10 as inspiring and amazing as Dave Lang.

#33 Edited by Majkiboy (994 posts) -

Fantastic!

But I can't find where to lsiten to the thing on the website :( What am I missing?

Found it! :D

#34 Posted by ShadowSwordmaster (224 posts) -

This is a great speech that Lang did.

#35 Posted by TournamentOfHate (551 posts) -

This makes me clad Phish left. Dave Lang is just ONE example of the type of people we need/the morale that will keep the industry an amazing place to work. If you really give a damn, bear down and work through it.

He did work through it, that's why we have Fez. Then death threats started happening, I don't think anybody should have to work through that.

#36 Posted by Brodehouse (10107 posts) -

Dave Lang dropping life philosophy bombs, mad styling on all you suckas!

#37 Edited by Novis (138 posts) -

Wow, that was great. Great work, Lang!

#38 Edited by CoruptAI125 (77 posts) -

It's true, he really does make that introduction. I was at EVO a couple months ago and at the start of the KI panel he gave that exact greeting. Then I spent like 10 minutes wondering if he like MLP, then I spent another 10 minutes debating whether Porkchop Applesauce could actually be a pony name.

#39 Posted by BigSocrates (419 posts) -

@blitzer said:

Obviously you have to tell yourself that to keep going. But if games are shitty and even the devs don't care, the industry has a problem. Just look at Steam lately...

If you focus on the journey and give your all (Like staying up 3 nights to kill a bug) then the game will be as good as it is going to be. That's not "not caring" it's not focusing on the things outside your control. Dave Lang couldn't control how Wreckateer was received, just the process of how it was made.

In any creative endeavor all you can really control are the inputs. The output and especially reception are beyond your control.

#40 Posted by GERALTITUDE (3511 posts) -

Awesome, thanks for doing this duder.

#41 Posted by KDR_11k (155 posts) -

And Borderlands 2 Vita is about the journey towards a working game?

#42 Posted by DEFE (266 posts) -

Dave Lang is easily one of the coolest dudes in the industry. Awesome article.

#43 Posted by thefriend (158 posts) -

We've all been transported to the lang zone.

#44 Edited by oldskooldeano (132 posts) -

I approve. But y'know?

Fuck Dave Lang.

Hey what? Gimme a break! Someone had to say it!

#45 Posted by Fattony12000 (7597 posts) -

WELCOME TO THE LANG ZONE!

#46 Posted by PXAbstraction (349 posts) -

I'd really love to be able to work for Dave Lang.

#47 Posted by grillzz88 (35 posts) -

My understanding of Dave Lang has increased!

Something inside of me is changing.

#48 Posted by broletariat (22 posts) -

Dave Lang is abovegod

#49 Posted by fatalflame (104 posts) -

Great read and good to see Dave just be as real as he comes across. Would love more such talks and bylines with Developers, keep up the great work Patrick!

#50 Edited by AthleticShark (1198 posts) -

@tournamentofhate said:

@hellbound said:

This makes me clad Phish left. Dave Lang is just ONE example of the type of people we need/the morale that will keep the industry an amazing place to work. If you really give a damn, bear down and work through it.

He did work through it, that's why we have Fez. Then death threats started happening, I don't think anybody should have to work through that.

It is not about him deciding to stay or leave, but more by telling people to not even try and get out of the industry. I don't want to start a whole argument on him, etc. But having your final tag line be "RUN AWAY. Just don't do it. Give up your dreams. They are actually nightmares. Nothing is worth this. To every aspiring game developer out there: Don't. give up. It's not worth it. This is your audience. This is videogames." Well yea I have a problem with that. I don't blame him for leaving (yea right, he will be back he likes attention too much), but a lot of things that happened to him and a select few others were brought upon by certain events (not saying anyone deserved anything or that they caused it at all. Just shit happened). I hate everything that happened and no one should have to go through it, but there he goes again. Saying something controversial and overblown and really shitty for all the other people that are not known and are giving up everything to just follow their passion: Video Games.