Staff Profile - Sam Cartwright

Staff Profile - Sam Cartwright

Staff Profile - Sam Cartwright


Sam Cartwright has recently joined the AIE team as a Programming Teacher. Sam brings a wealth of experience to the teaching cohort acquired by working at Gameloft’s studio in Tokyo and as an Independent Developer.


Welcome to AIE Sam, you have been with us for just over 6 months teaching the intensive programming class last year and now teaching first year programming, so I think it is about time we got to know you a little better. 

What was Sam Cartwright doing before he took up the gig with AIE? 

Before moving to Sydney and joining AIE I was living in Japan working at Gameloft's Tokyo studio. Gameloft is one of the largest publishers of mobile games, and my role as Developer Coordinator in Tokyo was to coordinate the programming teams and to lead development on Gameloft's original titles for Japan. I also spent a lot of time there porting mobile games to different platforms and acting as programming lead on various titles. Since returning to Australia I've worked with an independent studio in Brisbane called FreshTone Games, and I've been busy releasing my own game on the iPhone.


How long did Doubloons take to make and what kind of feedback has it received so far?  

 I spent quite a lot of time on Doubloons - probably longer than I needed to. When people hear the term 'mobile game programmer' they assume iPhone or Android, but at Gameloft we were making mobile games years before the original iPhone was released. So in order to learn about iPhone programming and the iTorque2D engine I wanted to make my own game. I worked on this game on and off while I was at Gameloft, and all together it took me about two years to complete. That sounds like a long time, but I think that says more about how little free time you have when you work at a studio.

The game hasn't been very successful. But I think this also comes back to my motivation. As a tool for me to learn more about the iPhone platform, game production, and releasing games independently, it’s been a great success, but the game itself is quite simple and derivative and there is really nothing there to make it stand out in a crowded marketplace.


Can you tell us more about the "Games for Growing a Broken Heart" initiative? How did it come about? 

A friend of mine was recently pregnant and found out that her unborn child had Pulmonary Atresia with VSD (a closed vessel and a hole in the heart). She lived in a remote part of Queensland and was struggling with the costs associated with travelling to Brisbane for treatment. The family organised a fundraising event with the backing of several local businesses, and I wanted to show my support by asking local independent developers to support the family through the sales of their games. This spawned the "Games for Growing a Broken Heart" initiative. 

Unfortunately my friend's child didn't survive birth, but funds raised through sales of these games (including Doubloons) will go to Heart Kids Australia, which is a charity that helps children and families under similar circumstances.


You are obviously passionate about games, when did that passion start and where did it come from?

I loved playing adventure games as a child. As a child, my family lived quite a bit out of town, so in the summer holidays it was difficult for me to see my friends. I spend quite a few summers in front of my computer playing games like Kings Quest, Loom, Monkey Island, and Leisure Suit Larry. I was always amazed by these games and I wanted to know how people made them. I wanted to know everything I could about programming, and I decided that was what I wanted to do when I grew up. 


What is one piece of advice you would give to your students? 

Read other peoples code. When I first started at Gameloft, I was a porting programmer. My job was to take the games other people had written and get them working on other mobile platforms. I learnt a lot about what makes a good game, what techniques are useful, and how to structure a program.

It isn't until you try to read someone else's code that you realize how important it is to make your code readable, to structure it logically, to comment it well and to produce good documentation. This is something students are always bad at, and you don't realize how important these things are until, for example, you've wasted time trying to figure out what a poorly named variable does.


You have the programmers of tomorrow in your hands, what direction do you think the games industry is heading and where can you see the job opportunities for programmers? 

Mobile gaming has made it possible for a lot of independent developers to get their games out there simply because it’s so easy to develop for these platforms. But the main problem today is developing your game so that it works on as many devices as possible. Even apps on the AppStore have to support about a dozen different screen sizes. There's even more variation when you include Android, Blackberry, Nokia, and all of the other phone makers. 

Because getting your game working on as many platforms as possible is a significant challenge for small studios, I see a big push towards web games. HTML5 games can run on any platform that has a modern web browser - mobile, PC, Mac, and Linux. And it’s easy to integrate social aspects like Facebook support. Web games aren't necessarily the first thing students think of when they thing about computer games, but there is already an enormous and fast growing industry here, with a lot of opportunities for new graduates.