Interview: Adri Haik – Producer, PlayStation Home, SCEA

GamingAngels: What type of education did you need to have a job in the games industry?

Adri Haik: I studied Computer Science for about two years at college, but most of my education comes from on-the-job training and playing a lot of games. I came to the game industry by way of virtual worlds and serious/training games, and I got into that because I saw a need and knew I could do the work. I started a company with a great group of partners and did that for several years before making the transition to the game industry proper. Many of my colleagues have degrees in computer science, art, and liberal arts.

In your bio it says that you have two aunts who were coders, what kinds of projects did they work on?

One of my aunts was an engineer for oil companies before making training software for big companies. The other taught herself assembly programming and went to work for a telecom programming microcontrollers. Having two female programmers in the family meant that I always had positive role models, as well as people who could help me when I ran into problems coding when I was a kid. They definitely fostered my interest in programming and computer science, which is a great field with very few women in it.

Did they teach you, or inspire your career choice?

One of the prevailing theories about why there are fewer women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields is that there are fewer visible examples. I never had that problem because of my aunts (I also have an aunt who was in a business leadership role who is also an inspiration, as well as my mother who’s a community leader). I remember once, especially, having a problem with random number generation when I was about ten years old. My parents weren’t at all technical, and we didn’t know anyone who programmed, either. I probably would have been stuck and maybe would’ve given up if one of my aunts hadn’t visited and helped me solve the problem. So, in those ways, I’d say they have definitely been strong influences.

You began as a coder, is that difficult to learn?

Programming is definitely a skill that takes a lot of time and practice to master. Learning syntax and languages is relatively easy. Learning programming concepts, knowing how computers work under the hood, and using algorithmic thinking to solve problems—those are difficult. The great thing about programming, though, is that it’s very accessible; anyone can pick up Python or php and make simple applications. If you find you like it, you learn more. If you don’t, at least you know the basics. I’d say I know the basics, but I haven’t programmed either professionally or recreationally in about five years.

How did you become interested in creating virtual worlds?

I grew up in the rural South and was pretty isolated from other kids who had similar interests to me. I dialed in to local BBSes and, later, the internet, to play games and talk to people. That led me to MUDs and other text-based virtual worlds, and the rest fell into place. They were a creative and social outlet that nurtured me as a young person, and providing similar outlets for other people is something of a life goal.

What was it like working on Home during the network outage this year?

Boring and stressful! We couldn’t do serious development while the network was offline, so we did a lot of planning and strategy. The result of that is we came up with some cool ideas, but it was definitely a hard time for us.

Is there anything new coming up for Home?

Lots! We just announced our new core experience, which is focused heavily on games and gameplay. I’ve been the producer on that project for about 18 months, and I’m excited that we’re going to get to share it with everyone soon. We also have a new client release coming from our platform group in London this Fall that’s feature-heavy for developers, which will help us make even better games in Home.

How do you plan to overcome the ongoing underpopulation of the PlayStation Network?

PlayStation Network has a very strong user base with more than 80 million registered accounts, so I would hardly say that we’re underpopulated. We are focused on continuing to make great content and to help people find it. PSN has a ton to offer, and Home is just one part of that.

Home is a really pretty space, but in the past it seemed like there wasn’t much to do there, is that going to change?

Absolutely! It already has. We’ve spent the last couple of years filling Home with content and games, and with the launch of the new core experience this Fall, games will be the focal point of it all. Right now, there are more than 230 games in Home, and most of them are free-to-play. We will also introduce a Quest system and Activity Board, which will essentially turn Home into a game itself. In addition, the Home community can create user-generated events, so there are endless amounts to do. We also have new video content every week and some unreal and crazy number of virtual items (up to 10,000 so far!). The project I’ve been working on is not only bringing new games and spaces to Home, but we’ll make it easier for new and returning users to find games and other things that are interesting to them.

If you haven’t been in Home lately, I really encourage you to check it out– we have everything from arcade games to first party tie in games to full-scale games you play right inside Home.  In addition, we periodically host Total Game Integrations, where users can complete a series of mini-games in Home to unlock rewards for use in full-scale AAA Blu-Ray games like Killzone 3 and Dead Island.  We also have a great and active community both in-game and on the forums, clubs in Home, a fashion magazine, and fan sites. There’s a lot going on, and there’s only going to be more in the future.