Playware Staff Interview Series – This week with Mitch Ellis

This is the first of a series of staff interviews lifting the veil on Playware, so join us weekly and get a chance to peer into the inner sanctum of our studio and get to know the team! Our company is extremely passionate about technology, games and how we can bring all that into the classroom for a more engaged educational experience where students can create their own games and learn at the same time.
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Playware Studios’ Senior Software Developer, Mitch, comes from a family of creatives. His mother is a theatre director in Melbourne, Australia and his father played Lead Guitar back in the 90s for a group called The Stockings. A drummer since he was 5 years old, it’s no wonder this avid gamer ended up taking the creative path and ended up being the lead for the 3DHive.builder, the editor and creation portion of the 3DHive suite of software.

Responsible for many of the Flash and HTML projects that Playware works on for its customers, Mitch took some time out of his schedule to talk to us about games and his inspirations.

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What do you do in Playware?

When I first joined Playware, I came in more as a multimedia designer, and worked on a project that hadn’t started its development yet. I was working on a grid system on Flash, which eventually evolved into what is now known as the 3DHive builder. The 3DHive builder started from a concept of being able to create a level that anyone could use. From then on, we added features and improvements to make it part of the larger 3DHive suite.

My love for UI and UX design allowed for me to chart the course for what the 3DHive builder would eventually become. I’ve always enjoyed being part of the development process and also be able to influence the design aspects of the product. Working on the 3DHive builder allowed me to express my love for creation and software development.

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I’ve had many memorable experiences in Playware. Early on, I started with Maven which was a 3D avatar suite for an LMS system, Bakery Palace – an accounting game for Ngee Ann Polytechnic and the Transpro technology display at SMU. A group of us developed a full software and hardware integration project in under 24 hours. Using a multi-touch screen, a user could drag any number of videos to any or all of the screens, with Kinect integration. Next was creating unique user experiences developed for Playware’s ToPlay product, which is a motorised table top 46” multi touch screen that allows many users to access content. Right now I’m working on an unreleased project that focuses on multi-user, multi-touch split screen learning on ToPlay.

What excites you most about 3DHive?

As a kid, I wish I had the ability to play games like this collaboratively. My first experience in game development was the PS1 my Mum got me when I was young. I was about 14 years old when I got my first PC and it naturally led to the progression of coming up with my own little games.

What excites me the most about 3DHive is running the workshops where I get to see kids laughing and enjoying themselves while learning. Some of my best moments are when students come up to me to ask for feedback on the games they created. It reminds me of myself at that age exploring software development and experimentation. It’s a great feeling to get feedback directly from students who are excited about a product I’ve been so heavily involved with these past 3 years.

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What type of games do you like to play?

My favourite game of all time has to be Half Life 2. It was the moment in my life where I went “this is something I want to do in my life”. The game is a perfect example of narrative slowly exposing itself through hours of play. I went through about 3 months of waiting, reading blogs, forums, reviews, analysing computer specs until the countdown to release was 0 days.

I enjoy being immersed in games. When an unreleased game can put you through all those feelings,  when a game can take you out of your comfort zone, or even better, when a game can put you back into your comfort zone, that’s when the game has done its job for me. I also love games that create a sense of excitement like the incredibly awesome Portal 2 and some super styled Indie games like Limbo. They are games that make you want to find out what’s next but also take time to experience the games atmosphere and virtual world. I also like narrative-driven first person shooters, exceptionally over-styled platformers and last but not least, third person adventure games.

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What did you think of the interview? If you have any questions for Mitch or the team, please feel free to comment!

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