CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

 

SUMMARY

I am a software engineer who has been developing software for 20 years. Making video games is my passion; it is what makes me want to get up every morning and go to work. In addition to this, I also have an extensive background in visual art and design (traditional and digital media) and am a percussionist. I am also attempting to learn Japanese and am working every day to improve my skills in that area.

CAREER OVERVIEW

Currently I work as a Senior Software Engineer and am responsible for the design and development of both server- and client-side products. To date this has included the development of an HTML5 game engine using TypeScript as well as a server back-end developed in C#, which is responsible for millions of transactions on a daily basis.

Previously I have worked in web development in both freelance and profesisonal capacities since 2005. I am proficient in both server- and client-side development in addition to database development. Most of my background revolves around languages and frameworks such as C, C++, C#, VB.NET, ASP.NET, the .NET framework, PHP, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, TypeScript, MSSQL (SQL Server), mySQL as well as many others. I have also done some Android development and currently have an app out on Google Play. It is available here.

Most of my game development work has been on independent projects over the years. I have experience using game engines such as Torque, Unreal 2004/3/4, and previously developed a product on the XNA platform. I am proficient at low-poly modeling, unwrapping, texturing, scripting and programming for games. I also have some experience writing plugins for applications such as 3D Studio max.

I have a firm understanding of the Windows operating system and hardware as well as knowledge in Mac OS and Linux, although admittedly somewhat limited.

 

Who is Travis Vroman?

Born in Virginia but raised in Florida, I have been around for 3 decades. From a young age I have had artistic talent and a knack for the usage and understanding of computers. I began writing programs in Microsoft QBasic at the age of 7 on a 486 with a monochrome monitor (good ol' green and black!) and an installation of MS-DOS 6.22. I spent much of my time as a youngster writing programs and loved every minute of it.

I was very fortunate to have a supportive father and supportive grandparents with whom I lived with on an off over the years. My grandmother in particular always pushed me to do my best and to keep raising that bar. Having someone in your life to guide and push you to improve and support you can be the most powerful influence in your life.  

I then went to an art school for middle and part of high school, where I made the descision that art was not the career I wanted to persue (at least not in the traditional sense).

I later decided that I wanted to persue game art as a profession which led to my enrollment in the Game Art and Design program at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. College was a tough time for me. My grandmother developed Alzheimer's disease (or so we believe, there's not really any way to prove it 100%) and it was a real eye-opener for me. At first I struggled with this and with school as a result, but eventually it pushed me to finish college while I still had time with her. I graduated in 2009 and could see that I made her proud. She passed away in 2015, and I still miss her so much to this day. I owe much of my success to the foundation she provided. Here's a picture of me about 2 weeks before graduation:

Here's one of the oldest photos I still have of myself, writing code circa 2008:

Yes, I had long hair! In fact, this wasn't the longest it got. It was down to my waist at one point. I grew it out and cut it off twice, donating it both times to cancer patients.

It was in these years that I worked as a computer technician at CompUSA. My knowledge of the underlying tech in computers greatly expanded during my time there, and the experience gained there was invaluable.

Most importantly, though, it was also the place I met the woman who would later become my wife! Sherlyn is the best friend and partner I could ever have asked for, and has been a key part of our success as the awesome team that we are. At the time of writing we have been happily married for 5 years.

Anyway, during college I doscovered that while I loved the visual aspects of game development, I loved writing code for games more. I began my path in 2008 by taking initiative to solve a problem present in the Torque 3D game engine (then called TGEA), which was the fact that object materials had to be configured and coded by hand. There was no interface to configure them, which meant that adjustments in code had to be made, then launch the engine, load a level, test the changes, then repeat. As one might imagine, this was a very time consuming process. Thus, I began development of, and posted about, a material editor:

I also posted a blog about it on the GarageGames website here. To my amazement, GarageGames actually contacted me and brought me on board to help write a solution they were coming up with behind the scenes! This material editor is still in the engine today. In fact, my name is still in some of the code files at the time of writing (2018), here. This is where I feel that I put my name on the map professionally. 

After my contract with GarageGames ended (i.e. the material editor was finished), I worked briefly with a studio based in Colorado called Gaslight Studios as a developer. I had collaborated with the owner, Dave, on the material editor project for GarageGames. Gaslight Studios disbanded for reasons I won't discuss here, but it also meant I no longer had work in that regard. Dave now runs a different, very successful company, called Cerulean Games. To this day I still look up to him as he is living the indie developer dream.

At this point, somewhat-fresh out of college, I had no job, and not a terribly long list of experience in the field. I spent the next 6 months applying for game development jobs, then eventually web development jobs, and eventually computer repair jobs with absolutely no luck. I eventually landed an interview at a small web development company about 30 minutes drive from my house at the time. I drove to the interview in a car which had no aircon in 90+ degree (Farenheit) weather with 2 dollars in my pocket. Already running close due to unexpected traffic, my car ran out of petrol about 2 blocks from the interview. This was the first interview I had gotten and I was not going to let these issues get in my way. With 5 minutes to go before being late, I pushed the car off the road into some bushes (literally) and left it there, running the rest of the way to the interview so as to not be late. I arrived at the interview on time, albeit hot and sweating. During the interview I became somewhat discouraged when being asked about technologies I had never used before, and when being asked about my experience. At that point I was thinking it was a long shot to get the job, so I decided to be 100% honest and not sugar-coat anything and be straightforward about what I didn't know.

As it turns out, that honesty is exactly what got me an offer, which I immediately accepted. From that point on I have made it my policy to be 100% honest and not try to sugar-coat what I don't know. Honesty is always the best policy in life, but especially in a professional environment. If somewhere ever holds that against you in an interview, it is probably a sign that the position isn't meant to be.

Incidentally, that company later became part of eBay, which helped immensely in a resume. I gained a massive amount of experience while there, and my skills as a software engineer skyrocketed over what they were previously. To put this in perspective, however. I think that I am a good software engineer. I do not see myself as a great engineer though. Very few people in this world have the right to lay claim to that, and I do not yet place myself in that camp. It is a goal of mine to be a great software engineer, but it is always important to keep oneself grounded and not put oneself on a pedestal in your field. Others do not typically like those who view themselves as better than everyone else. A sense of humility should always be maintained. If someone is truly great at something they do not need to tell others how great they are; it simply shows in the work that they do. 

As great as it was working at eBay, I began to feel in 2015 that my opportunities to expand and develop my skills further were beginning to dry up. The business unit I was apart of was also undergoing major restructuring and I became nervous about the longevity of my position there. I made many connections with great people, some of whom I still chat to regularly. However, I felt I'd reached the limits of my potential there and began to look elsewhere for work. In early 2016 I recieved a message from a recruiter about an amazing opportunity at a game development company as a developer - the exact role I'd wanted since graduating college. 

The interview for this position was nerver-wracking as well, but I maintained my policy of absolute honesty. I was humbled once again when asked questions about design patterns. Being a self-taught developer, I did not have formal training on several Computer Science concepts - and one of the main areas was design patterns and algorithms. I admitted to this, though later supplemented that explanation that I'd been doing what the interviewer had mentioned all along but just wasn't aware of its official name. 

I was asked to complete a performance assessment which loosely required that I develop two simple game clients using javascript in a week. In a stroke of luck similar to that of my interview at eBay, I came down with the flu that week and was too ill to work on it at all the first three days. The last four days of that week, however, were spent making the best version of it that I could. The original requirements stated that the games must be represented graphically and that all code must be my own, but did not mention *how* they should be rendered. Sometimes in life one gets the feeling that they have to deliver above and beyond expectations and think outside the box. This was one such occasion, and I got this feeling. Long story short, I wound up writing both games in one client, but in a three-dimensional environment with the ability to pan the camera back and forth between the two. I implemented it in raw JavaScript using raw WebGL. All the code, including for shaders and items such as matrices was developed from scratch in those 4 days. In addition, I also hand-painted assets for the project. It turns out I had made the right call and they were impressed. I recieved an offer a few days later. To date, I remain the only applicant to have submitted a game in 3D.

What do I do Now?

Currently I work for this amazing company in Florida developing games. While unfortunately I cannot disclose specifics about what I have worked on due to Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), I am able to discuss some of my experiences since I started. It is a fast-paced workplace, and the experience I have gained there in the last two years outweighs the experience from the entire rest of my career combined.

Part of a project I worked on resulted on my traveling to an office in South Africa, which was an eye-opening experience. It's a beautiful country with many wonderful people, as well as exotic wildlife and dreamlike scenery. It is not without its problems, some of which demonstrated to me exactly how lucky those of us fortunate enough to live in the US are.

[I am working on a separate post about this, to be released sometime in the future.]

Japan

As you may notice by the content of this site, I have a deep love for Japanese language, culture and Japan itself. In middle school I was introduced to anime by a friend of mine, Jessica. She had a love for it and drew it, and I fell in love with the style immediately. I simply could not get enough of it.

When I got older and had access to the internet, I began to research the culture. Every aspect of it fascinated me as it varies so far from Western culture in so many ways. I found Japanese music, art, history and television simply captivating.

I decided at the age of about 16 or so that I wanted to travel to Japan. It took over a decade to make that happen, but I finally did get to go!

 

Here's a video from my YouTube channel which discusses some of my reasons for my fascination with Japan (apologies for the shakiness of the video, it is a bit old at this point):

[I am also working on a separate article about this, to be released sometime in the future.]