MEETING FERTBERT - SERVER PROGRAMMER

Team Comment - Comments from Fertbert - July 24, 2002
Who is Fertbert and what does he do at Origin?

I'm the new server programmer. I work in C++ on various flavors of UNIX constructing the basic building blocks of the UO code base. Most of what the server programmers do isn't directly seen by the players -- a recent exception being the Publish 16 housing changes. Much of what we work on are new features that the designers need in order to be able to script new gameplay, and that the client programmers need in order to improve the user interface. We also do a lot of behind the scenes work to make the existing code more robust, so that we can continue to reduce server downtime. There's always a server programmer on-call, ready to investigate any shard crashes that the Operations group can't immediately identify as a networking or hardware failure.

Currently, I'm working with the designers on improving an existing in-game system. The improvements that we're making are very exciting; I'm looking forward to the time when we can tell you more.


Why “Fertbert”?

I have a petting zoo at home: dogs, a hedgehog, and ferrets. "Fert" is a common abbreviation for ferret, and "bert" lends the name a Dilbert-esque geekiness. The whole, Fertbert, has a nice alliterative ring to it. Besides, a quick Google search shows Fertbert to be a rather unique name, while my normal gaming name has a little over one-hundred thousand hits.

Are you from Austin? If not – where are you from? Do you like living in Austin?

No, I'm not from Austin, but I got here as fast as I could. :) I lived in the western states for most of my life, with much of that time spent in San Diego, Bakersfield, San Francisco, and Seattle. I really enjoy living in Austin; the slower pace of life, the friendly people, relatively light traffic, and the more affordable housing are all big pluses. I do miss the mountains and the Pacific Ocean from time to time.

How long have you been in the gaming industry? How long have you been working at Origin?

This is my first job in the gaming industry. The closest I've been to this industry in the past was working for a multimedia CD / record label startup. We had a similar mixture of folks working on the products: artists, designers, producers, programmers, QA, and tech support. The similarities have helped make the environment here at Origin feel very comfortable to me.

I've been at Origin for two and a half months, though it seems like it has been a lot longer already.


What did you do before you came to Origin and how did you get your current position?

I've been programming professionally in C++ for over nine years now. My experience spans multiple operating systems, programming languages, and database products. I've worked for two major software companies, a large consultancy, and many startups in a variety of industries. Most recently, I worked for a small local GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software company that creates software that utility companies use to efficiently plan the expansion of their electrical and gas distribution networks.

Here's how I got my current position: My favorite recruiter saw that Origin was hiring, and offered to submit me for a server programming position. Three phone interviews, several code samples, and two sets of in-person interviews later, I received and accepted an offer of employment.


What kinds of games have you played in the past? Which ones have you enjoyed the most?

Mostly PC games... I tend to gravitate to role playing, adventure, flight, and driving games. My favorites include the Ultima series, the Bard's Tale series, various Infocom adventures, Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders, Legacy of the Ancients, Wasteland, Gunship!, LHX, Falcon 3, Jetfighter 2, Elite, Racing Destruction Set, Stunts, Test Drive III, Gran Turismo 3. I am currently hooked on Counter-Strike, and Neverwinter Nights.

Do you play UO?

Yes, though now that I work at Origin, I spend a lot more time watching how YOU play the game, so that I can help make the game better for YOU. I'm planning on starting a couple new characters once Publish 16 is live around the globe. Our account age tool shows my account as having been opened October 5, 1997, but my first UO experiences were as part of the beta program.

How do you spend your free time?

I spend time with my wife. We'll often work on home improvements together, or go for a drive in the hills and around the lakes of Austin.

And I play with the inhabitants of my petting zoo; they're a fun bunch. My hedgehog mostly likes to be left alone when I'm not bringing her salmon or turkey. The ferrets and dogs, however, love all the attention that they can get. I also spend time gaming on-line and talking to friends. When I have a bit more time, I sometimes do a little hardware (PIC microcontrollers are a current favorite toy) or software development.


Of the projects you’ve already worked on, which ones would the players recognize?

Much of what I've done so far has been completely transparent to the players. I did some work on the Publish 16 housing changes, primarily adding some commands to facilitate testing and status monitoring.

Do you have any advice for the aspiring game programmer?

Sure. Establish good engineering habits, pay attention when you study vector math, and be in the right place at the right time. :)

PvP or PvM?

PwP - Player with Player. I like both PvP and PvM as long as there is a cooperative (aka team) aspect to the gameplay. I prefer PvM to PvP in UO, but most of that bias is likely due to my not having spent much time participating in faction wars.

Fertbert
Server Programmer
Ultima Online