Interview with Brianna Wu

I'm starting a series of interviews with developers and designers from all over the world. Whether they work for a corporation, freelance, or they make stuff as a hobby, I want to interview them! Originally I was going to release a new interview every Monday, however due how hectic and random my weeks are, I'll release a new interview each week.

Hi there, thank you for taking the time to chat with me :) Could you start by introducing yourself a little?

My name is Brianna Wu, and I'm the head of development for Giant Spacekat. Our first game is coming our for iOS next year using the Unreal engine. It's called Revolution 60, and it's basically Heavy Rain mixed with Mass Effect. We've got a budget of almost 1/3 of a million dollars. We're quite excited.

As for something interesting about myself, I'm a shameless speed junkie. I run 3000 miles a year, and I drive a 2009 CBR 600rr motorcycle. I'm a huge fan of dance music. People sometimes don’t know how to respond to my electric personality.

Brianna Wu

How did you end up in your profession?

I really fell into it serendipitously. When I was 20, I put together a $250,000 animated pilot. After that I worked in DC politics for a while, and even worked as an investigative reporter and a freelance illustrator.

I could see how important the Unreal engine was going to be for mobile game development, and starting assembling the capital to make it happen. I put together a team, and started learning to use the technology.

In retrospect, I see the circuitous path I took to development as tremendously helpful. The monetary challenges and management of a startup are frequently political - so my time in DC was well spent. The tenacity it takes to be an investigative reporter is the exact same quality that makes me a good project lead.

I have to say a word about two of my team members, Amanda Stenquist Warner and Maria Enderton, both of whom got their 3D degrees after a decade in other professions. Amanda worked in retail, which was a complete waste of her phenomenal animation skills. Yet, the qualities that made her a manager at her store are why she's so invaluable to Giant Spacekat as second in command.

It's a similar story with Maria. If you have any interest in development, it’s never too late. In fact, I’d argue that people with interesting life experiences are often superior to people that followed the straight and narrow.

What does your desk look like?

I try to keep it as minimal as possible. I have a 2009 Mac Pro with a 27-inch ACD. My Unreal machine is a $3000 2010 Macbook Pro repurposed for Windows. I removed the super drive, so it has dual SSDs. I actually burnt up the logic board this year, pushing it too hard with 3D work.

There's a KVM switch drilled into my desk, and I swap between the two computers all day long. I'm probably going to buy a second ACD this year, because 3D is incredibly demanding with screen real estate.

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Could you give us a bit of information on any tools/services that you use?

I specialize in Unreal, especially the level design and Matinee systems. I use Maya 2011 constantly, because modeling and texture work are part of my job function. I could write a book about Headus UV Layout. It's the ugliest UI I've ever used, but it's a critical program for my job.

I also rock Final Cut Pro, and have used Photoshop and Illustrator professionally for a decade.

What websites do you visit daily?

I have a love-hate relationship with Daring Fireball and The Verge. I've really come to love Jim Dalrymple's Loop Insight this year. I visit IGN and Giant Bomb constantly.

Guys may not know this, but there's a whole lady internet with celebrity gossip, fashion and feminist politics. I'm completely guilty of wasting endless time there. I’m reticent to even admit which ones.

Do you have anything awesome happening in the future?

Revolution 60 ships in September 2013, which will be the most cinematic game ever delivered on the iOS platform. It's a mature, two-hour story taking many of the same beats as Heavy Rain. A team of female special operatives hijacks a Chinese space shuttle and rendezvous with N313, a malfunctioning weapons platform. Things go very wrong. Every second of it is lovingly animated and professionally voice acted. Legendary anime actress Amanda Winn-Lee plays Crimson 09, our villianess.

Most games with female characters are either softcore porn or lost in estrogen outer space. What I wanted to deliver was a story where the fact that they are women is completely unconnected to the plot. They're soldiers, and all five are very fleshed out, conflicted characters.

I think it will be somewhat controversial, because all five girls are gorgeous, tall and skinny. The only men in Revolution 60 are enemy soldiers. I think people will be unsure how to place it, which is the whole point.

How and where can we find you?

You can most easily find me on ADN at @spacekatgal. Facebook will also do in a pinch, or you can write me at [email protected]. If you live in Boston, you'll doubtlessly run into me at industry events. And because I'm married to a four-time Hugo award winner, the most prestigious award in science fiction, I'm a guest at science-fiction conventions several times a year.

One last word. If you enjoy our game when it ships, don't thank me, thank my team - who are the most talented group of professionals I've ever worked with.

Amanda has animated vast parts of our game while pregnant and while caring for a newborn - I don't know how she does it. Maria may or may not be human, I can't decide. Working with her is like working with a supercomputer, she's the most detail driven person I've ever known.

Thanks Brianna!

Wow! From what I've seen of Revolution 60 I'm pumped for it and can't wait to play! I wish you all the success with the game and your future, thank you for taking the time to be a part of my interview series :)


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