Meet Joris

Hey, Joris. Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Hallo! I'm a Dutch gamer and developer who has had the honor of being with Bohemia Interactive for close to two decades already. When I think back to all of those years of experiences, I sometimes cannot even imagine how or why I got where I am today, but I'm very grateful for it. Recently I had the opportunity to dig through old boxes stored at my mother's house, which triggered many cool memories of my early days with BI. There were VHS tapes of the Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis (now Arma: Cold War Assault) press kit when it was first previewed. There were physical photos of my time with BI Australia in its very first start-up days. My Computer Science Bachelor thesis on the Multiplayer Armory for Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead was there in printed copies. And there’s a lot more cool memorabilia that I'm still sorting through. As any adventure, there were ups and downs, but it's been a heck of a ride!

More personally, I've been interested in games and development for as long as I can remember. It started with creating tracks for Stunts, levels in Duke Nukem 3D, maps for Command & Conquer, and at some point OFP and the Arma series dominated everything. I'd say I'm an eclectic gamer who tries to play good games from a variety of genres, even if they don't initially pique my interest. My gaming life started as heavily PC-focused, but in recent years my personal gaming is mostly on all consoles, from the couch, and on the biggest screen possible. Although I must admit to missing certain PC genres, such as deep strategy and tycoon games.

Other hobbies include swimming, SCUBA diving when I get the chance, streaming shows, watching movies, and raving at big Electronic Dance Music events when it's possible again. Another great source of joy in my life these past years is to spend time with my nephews and niece.

Can you tell us a random fact about yourself?

I flew in a helicopter underneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

What’s the first positive interaction with video games you can remember?

I'm sure there are earlier interactions, but one thing that popped into my mind was installing early flight sims on primary school computers (F29 Retaliator and the like). These were the times when there were only a handful of PCs for the whole school. I believe I had convinced our teachers that I could optimize their work with some productivity programs, but it was basically a ruse to mess around and play those games. The cool side effect was that it blew some teachers’ minds who had not been really aware of games at all before, and some of them continued to let me play between classes.

And your most memorable video game moment?

One of the more special moments was running and completing Destiny 1's first raid, the Vault of Glass, with friends and colleagues. It took us several long sessions to nail, but the excitement when we finally did was off the charts. Being quite late at night, I remember my adrenaline levels being so high that I couldn't sleep afterwards, still buzzing and seeing flashes of it in my mind. We all enjoyed the intense teamwork, figuring out puzzles together, and the pure action. Many profanities were lovingly exchanged.

What's your all-time favorite video game? And what sort of game do you generally like to play?

This may surprise some people, but currently my answer would be Rocket League. Even after some 6 years, I'm having great fun with it. That game is the purest example of 'simple to pick up, hard to master' for me. Compared to younger opponents, I probably peaked a long time ago skill-wise, and yet I feel like I'm getting better at my aerials (Platinum 1-2). We play RL with a group of friends in the evenings, and besides the gaming entertainment, it's also just a great way for us to catch up and virtually socialize after work.

Next to that I usually have one other game I'm playing through at any time. I try to mix up the genres. Some gems I recently came across and would not have started if it wasn't for strong recommendations: NieR: Automata (ABCDE) and Hades. Both were amazing in their own special ways.

Who's your all-time favorite video game character and why?

I really like Trico from The Last Guardian. There's something very lifelike about their animal behavior and even their stubbornness, plus there are several rather emotional moments on your journey together. More recently, I was chuckling at the sarcastic commentary by Grimoire Weiss in NieR: Replicant.

Which game has had the biggest influence on your life?

There's no way around it, it's going to have to be Operation Flashpoint: CWC. It launched my career and set up the last 20 years of my life. There may be other games that had a profound impact, but OFP showed me a new level of freedom and scale that blew my mind. It also took user-generated content and modding to another level, so I really felt there was always something new to discover.

What's your favorite movie, TV show, and/or book?

Jurassic Park, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and The Three-Body Problem.

And your go-to music playlist is?

Mostly I listen to EDM sub-genres, ranging from deep house to hardstyle and hardcore, depending on my mood! But other strong contenders are the many epic movie and game soundtracks out there, such as the recent ones for Subnautica and NieR.

Cats or dogs?

Dogs for sure, although cats may tip the scales when they reach apex predator size.

What do you do as a Project Lead? What does a typical day look like?

You are ultimately responsible for developing and maintaining a game. That's only possible by building and leading a team of creative experts. For me, it translates into trying to be aware of all parts of development as much as possible. That allows you to make informed decisions where needed, which can be quite hard since you cannot be an expert on all things. Every day you speak with department leads and other developers, you spar with the Creative Director, you monitor internal and external channels, you guard the schedule, you track the budget, you set priorities...and quite importantly: you play the game!

Since I don't view myself as a pure manager, I will always try to allocate some time to hands-on development. For Arma 3, that has meant creating the Time Trials and Firing Drills, designing some Showcases, doing welcome screens, configuring DLC content licensing, but also more crazy things when the team allows me. For the recent 2.00 update, I was happy to unleash some creative energy into CoF: Gray with lots of little secrets. It does mean I try to pick things that are less critical and would not block other people in case I have to suddenly switch my attention to something else. Doing this type of dev work is fun and keeps me sane.

What do you think are the most important skills / traits for someone in your position to have?

Circumstances are always different project to project, so even a successful leader may struggle on another team. Multiple leadership styles may work well. There are probably some commonly useful traits though. One is to be calm yet honest, even during crises. You also need to make some hard decisions, even when you're uncomfortable with them, or you may risk stalling development. As a Project Lead, it's also important to keep thinking of the bigger picture and product. It can be tempting to get swallowed up by details or topics that arouse your personal interest, or to ignore what you dislike (oh hello, naming ... anything!). And, of course, you must learn to trust your team of experts and delegate work to them. The team creates the game.

What do you enjoy about your job and game development in general?

You cannot beat the feeling of creating something from scratch and seeing it come to life for the first time. Game development is filled with such moments, big and small. I also really enjoy the creative freedom I've experienced with Bohemia Interactive, whether that means suggesting and implementing a feature or even pitching a full project.

For general game development, I think my favorite thing is that it allowed me to do research and learn about many real-world subjects I would otherwise not have. Take On Helicopters taught me heaps about rotary-wing aircraft and even ignited a need to fly real ‘copters as often as possible. Arma 3 Laws of War DLC let me dive deeper into International Humanitarian Law and meet people in humanitarian fields. And for Arma 3 Contact I dove deep into how humanity might engage with extraterrestrial intelligence, which translated mostly into topics like CBRN Defense, navy ship-to-ship protocols, and all things Xenology. It's very cool to then try to convert this information into (abstracted) gameplay.

What has been your most memorable moment at Bohemia Interactive so far?

Let's roll with a happy moment: one day during the production of Take On Helicopters, an actual R44 helicopter landed next to the pond at our studio. Several of our core developers got the opportunity to try co-piloting the aircraft in order to make the game as authentic as possible. At the end of the day, the pilot said he needed to fly back to Prague and asked whether he might transport any of us. So three of us had the absolutely surreal and epic experience of commuting home by helicopter.

Some people might know this (including me) but still going to pop the question for people who don’t know: How did @YorisYan start in the mod scene for @bohemiainteract and eventually end up working for @bohemiainteract? @A3_Melle

As a contributor to a community website called Operation Flashpoint Network, I was given a press preview copy of OFP some 6 months prior to its release. Thinking back on that now, it's kind of crazy and cool! That build already had the simple 2D editor, so I was trying to make scenarios well ahead of OFP coming out. It also means I felt a bit bad for those playing the demo and having to (impressively) Hex-edit the demo scenario to create new ones.

But you probably mean my meeting with Marek Španěl at the European launch party at a war museum in Brussels. That's where I gave Marek a floppy disk containing a scripted scenario that would let the player request vehicles from any location. Then it would spawn an M1 tank on a beach and drive it to you. You could also build static machine guns anywhere you wanted. That may not sound like much at all now, but back then the scripting language basically only existed for simple camera cutscenes. createVehicle did not yet exist, but I accidentally found that camCreate unintentionally allowed spawning other entities too. After the official formalities were over, Marek invited me to showcase the scenario on a computer there. That was an awesome experience for 18-year-old, starstruck Joris. If you're interested in a few more stories from the past, check out this older interview.

What's been your greatest personal accomplishment at Bohemia Interactive?

So far, it would have to be the Arma 3 Laws of War DLC. So many things clicked together for that relatively small project. It was received very well, and it may have even benefited the real world a little bit. It was also the first project we coordinated from Amsterdam with our new team, so it's one I'm very proud of.

How did you adjust to working remotely from Amsterdam, and how challenging is it when the majority of devs are in the Czech Republic?

It for sure has its challenges, but I think we're making it work thus far. There's a great risk with any digital communication that things get misinterpreted or that subtleties get lost in translation. So we sometimes have to manage that with extra clear documentation, video calls, and even in-person visits between countries. We try to present and showcase our work internally more frequently than might be intuitive to keep a strong connection to the rest of the Bohemia family. For obvious reasons that has been extra tough this past year, but we hope to be able to fly over again soon!

We are also supported very well by the Czech back office departments, who help us with HR topics, accounting, legal advice, IT, general operations, and much more. It does help too that several of us have been with the company for a long time and have also worked at the Czech studios. That means we already have a good working relationship with our colleagues back at HQ.

What do you think has been the most important change/shift in the industry since you first started?

Everything going digital has been a big shift, mostly for the better. I still remember us burning an actual gold master to DVD and some of our studio leaders having to drive it to some Swiss factory for manufacturing. Now being able to update games whenever it's needed, and doing cool things like daily experimental development builds, are big leaps forward. It does also come with some risks, such as being more sloppy sometimes just because things can be hotfixed later. That's never the intention, to be clear! But back when patches were shared on magazine CD-ROMs, you simply could not afford any errors.

Do you see a future for large-scale VR combat simulations for the consumer market? Micha van B.

Speaking for myself, I do really enjoy good VR games. I hope it survives its current R&D phase and becomes a mass adopted form of gaming. For that it needs to fully solve cumbersome obstacles (wireless and inside-out tracking, for example) and have strong dedicated game content. Some examples of games that I think already show more innovation than many traditional 'flat' games: Astro Bot Rescue Mission, Beat Saber, and Half-Life: Alyx. Shooters like Farpoint and Firewall: Zero Hour also show how immersive combat can be in VR. The tactical awareness afforded is a big step forward. But at the same time the barrier to entry is huge, including a dedicated input device and much quicker fatigue for the gamer, at least for me.

For serious gaming and simulations, VR has already shown even more potential. You can see its increasingly broader adoption in military training and industrial applications. So I do see a future both in games and sims, but also some tough challenges for the pioneers involved.

Can we expect more C(reator )DLC to come? David K.

We should be very close to releasing CSLA Iron Curtain, so that Creator DLC will join Global Mobilization - Cold War Germany and S.O.G. Prairie Fire in the lineup. There are more CDLC in various phases of the program, from pitch phase to being in production. However, we deliberately don't share specifics until we and the third-party developer feel relatively certain a project is nearer to release.

Will there be a new DLC made by Bohemia Interactive? @calos_diaz_mayordomo91

Bohemia Interactive is not developing any more Arma 3 DLC itself, but there is still the Creator DLC that we're publishing.

If you could add anything from Arma 2 to Arma 3, what would it be and why is it the warfare module? ;) @bludclouds

Warfare was certainly a special multiplayer mode. But I would probably want to focus more on the elements that made the world and battlefield more alive. Arma 2 had several (admittedly crude) systems and modules, which helped to populate the terrains with civilians, vehicles, 'ambient' combat, side-objectives, etc. I was personally involved in systems for conversing with civilians and how different languages interacted. The ambitions were huge and not fully realized, so doing it better in the future would be interesting.

When will we see any change in the fight system? @bondarenko2257

Assuming you mean the combat systems in Arma 3, unfortunately we're not planning any significant changes to core gameplay mechanics for that game. We are still trying to support the platform with limited mod support, new script commands, and such. Of course, we will take whatever we learned from Arma 3 and apply it to our development of any new games.

What advice would you give to people looking to work in video game development?

Make something small but finish it completely! Being able to show a playable bit of content is far more useful than having the best and biggest game idea in a design document. It doesn't matter whether it's a small game made in a popular engine, or a polished mod for your favorite game. Conceptualize it, create it, finish it, and ship it. That includes also doing some basic promotion, documentation, and support. If you can show that at a job interview, you effectively show that you’ve gone through an entire project.

How are you doing? @kkebabbb

I'm doing good all things considered, thanks for asking! Hope you're doing well also. (smile)

Very relevant question: Curry or ketchup in your speciaalsaus? (big grin) Tom V.

The only correct snack sauce is pinda satésaus, but for a frikadel speciaal I will always go for curry and onions!

Favourite soccer team? @ctuarma3

I don't actually follow club teams in football all that much, so I'll just say: Hup Holland Hup!

Is there anything else you're currently working on in your spare time?

Recently I plunged into the aquarium hobby, does that count? A 400-liter freshwater planted community tank now stands prominently in my living room. It surprised me how deep and technical you can get with it, but I really enjoy learning about all bio-chemical aspects. It's also a great way to relax, just sitting and watching fish and shrimp for hours.

Let’s finish with one of your top tips.

Try to lead by example. If you want to effect change, start it yourself. If you want to stimulate others to do something a certain way, demonstrate why it works by doing it yourself first. This is not always easy or even possible, but I believe it has the most impact.

Our next featured Bohemian is right around the corner, so keep an eye on our social media pages for the latest updates. Until then, feel free to learn more about working at Bohemia Interactive by checking out our Careers Page. We may just have the perfect job for you. Until next time...

Published on by Bohemia Interactive