“I should have taken this job years ago” laughs Rovio Puzzle Studio LeadServer Developer, Deepak Natarajan. “I have always been interested in games, but the opportunity to work in games just never presented itself until now.” Today we’re talking to Deepak, who joined the Puzzle Studio in April 2021, about his lifelong love of games and programming, and how he is getting along in game development after years of experience as a server developer in other sectors.
“For me growing up, games were an escape from the heat and the noise and all the other troubles outside your door. You can kind of get lost in the world of games. I first got into games in the late 80s playing games like Karateka and Prince of Persia. You know, games that you loaded on your computer from floppy discs, if you remember that. Back then, you could buy books of source code for games. You would type the code into your computer line by line and then you could play the game. They were not complex games, but the fact that those lines of code produced those images and the action in the game was really fascinating to me. That’s probably what got me into programming.”
Although a career in games wouldn’t come until later, Deepak’s passion for programming was persistent. He gained experience programming backends for telecoms, financial services, and government organizations. Now as a part of Rovio’s Puzzle Studio, Deepak can apply his knowledge from these sectors to games. “From billing systems for telecom companies, to backend systems for various kinds of digital services in banks, these are systems that have to be up and running all the time. They need to be really responsive, and there can’t be any failures when dealing with financial transactions. In games, we’re working at a similar scale, handling large amounts of data and users. There are a lot of places where things can go wrong, and the systems still must run smoothly.”
To make sure things run smoothly, Deepak stays organized, starting his day by looking at the current state of his games (the globally released murder mystery puzzle game, Small Town Murders, and Supernatural City, currently available in select regions).
“The first thing I do every day is quickly check our production dashboards on Grafana for the two games I’m involved with. There you can see at a glance if something looks odd or needs my attention. I also look at the production logs for our game servers just to make sure that there’s nothing strange appearing there.
I’m lucky in that 80% of my time is spent programming, which is what I really love to do.Deepak Natarajan
“If everything looks normal, I can check the Trello board for the Puzzle studio and the games I’m working on just to get a context of what my day looks like. I may have ongoing work, or I can see what’s in the backlog, what’s coming up, and what’s being tested. So with all of these tools, I’m able to size up my day. Then I just get in the code right away. I’m lucky in that 80% of my time is spent programming, which is what I really love to do.
“The other 20% of the day is spent in daily meetings with the game teams, going over what’s in the works and planning for future updates. I’m still fairly new to the team so I haven’t worked on many new features from the beginning, but we have a new single player event coming soon to one of our games. It’s the first event in that particular game so I started that project from scratch with the game developers. That update involves a new user experience and new in-game content that also requires changes on the server side.
“Every time we have a discussion with a game team, whether it’s planning for sprints, or we have a production weekly, or discussions with the QA team, it touches all aspects of the game. So you’re talking to the UX designers, level designers, artists, the QA team. We have different people from different crafts coming together to resolve these issues, or to begin discussing the next evolution of that feature. Not all of these areas affect my work, but it’s good to pay attention in case some of them do end up having an impact on the server side. Plus, it provides a bigger picture of what is going into the game and the amount of work and people that are contributing.
“As a game player, when I finish a game, I often sit through the credits. And you see a long list of names scroll by. It’s like watching the end credits for Lord of the Rings, which is like an hour in itself listing the people involved. It’s something similar. It’s a smaller scale for a mobile game, but there are still many people involved from many different craft areas. It feels great to be one of the people contributing there.”
Interested in working with Deepak as a Server Developer in Rovio’s Puzzle Studio? Take a look at the job listing here!
See Deepak and the Puzzle Studio’s work in action – download Small Town Murders, and Supernatural City* from the App Store and Google Play.
*Available now in the United States, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Canada, Philippines, Denmark, Spain, and Lithuania.