I am a senior 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.
I currently work full-time as a Senior Software Engineer developing the next generation of electronic health record (EHR) software. This change was recent (August of 2020). Although I changed back to a web-based development job, I worked as a Lead Developer for just under 5 years at a game studio, and was responsible for the design and development of both server- and client-side products. This included the development of two HTML5 game engines using TypeScript as well as a server back-end developed in C#, which is responsible for millions of transactions on a daily basis.
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. UPDATE: I’m growing it out once more for the same purpose!
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. As of 2019 we have been happily married for 7 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 eventually disbanded for reasons I won’t discuss here, but it also meant I no longer had work in that regard. I had two options at this point: Dave had offered me to come work at his new company, which was just starting, or I could look for a job at a larger studio. I wound up, namely because of student loan debt, chosing the latter. I think I would have been fine either way, but $77k of debt scared the crap out of me. For the record, Dave now runs a different, very successful company, called Cerulean Games. To this day I still look up to him as he is making his business work no matter the challenge, and I respect that.
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.
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.]
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!
Legacy About Page
(This is the version of this page when it was hosted at allnihongo.com, which I no longer maintain. However, there is still some valuable information in here, so I have chosen to keep this page.) Thank you for visiting all nihongo. If you haven’t read the Start page, I’d recommend beginning there first.
So, without further delay, please allow me to begin by introducing myself and provide to you some of my background.
Who’s In Charge Here?
I am トラビス (Torabisu), and this site is about my experiences learning 日本語 ( にほんご / Japanese ). I also am hoping to provide some helpful advice along the way for those looking to learn Japanese on their own.
Initially, I come from a traditional art background (drawing, painting, sculpting, etc.). I’m an avid gamer, software developer/programmer, and overall a big-time “geek”. I normally try not to label things (especially people), but in this case I feel it is accurate. I enjoy looking at code on a screen (weird, right?), then seeing it in action when playing a game I’m developing. I’m fascinated by this, and I’ve no qualms about saying it. I wrote my first program at the age of 7 in MS-DOS QBASIC (I know, I know. Trust me, it was nothing fancy).
When I got older, I went to college in the U.S. for Video Game Art and Design, starting in late 2004. Video game development was on a steady rise then, and the industry was booming with activity and growth. At the time, I wanted nothing more than to develop a game on the PS2.
Boy, was I in for a shock later on.
So around came early 2009, time to graduate (yes, the program was 4.5 years). I built my portfolio (including a playable demo), applied to companies and worked freelance for anyone willing to give me a shot. Problem was; there wasn’t much of anything available to someone with ‘no’ experience, fresh out of school. I had figured that since I’d helped to develop a material editor for a game engine (Torque 3D, specifically) that would get me in the door somewhere. I soon came to realize I was competing against people with 15-20 years of experience where their companies cut them loose to avoid going bankrupt (and for many, even that didn’t help). I put in over 500 applications over a year and a half to various companies, with zero luck. To illustrate the point further, I was by far not the only person in this situation. As I recall I only know of two or three folks whom I went to school with who currently work in the industry. I mean, it’s not like my work sucked (at least in my opinion – I also should note that link is outdated now, as I did that content back in late 2008/early 2009). It was at this time that I determined that my passion may have to remain my hobby. 🙁
So, realizing that perusing video game development as a primary career wasn’t financially feasible, I decided to table it and move on. I’ve been with a web development company now for a few years, and it’s been an interesting ride. I’ve learned a lot not only about web development, but the retail/supply chain industry as well. It’s the kind of experience that can take you in
ten twenty so many different directions all at once. It’s been interesting and fun learning everything, but I wanted more.
I began to feel as if I wasn’t doing anything productive with my spare time. So I decided to pursue something I’ve wanted to do since middle school.
I want to study, learn and become fluent in Japanese.
One thing I’ve always found amazing is people who translate across multiple languages. In addition, I began to realize all the things that open up by learning a new language. It’s like a whole new world for each language you learn. And trust me, I have no plans to stop with Japanese. Japanese is considered by many one of the hardest languages to learn (with English outranking it, of course. More on that later). It’s going to be (and has been so far) difficult, but not impossible. However, difficult as it may be, I’m going to make it fun, too.
One thing I’ve always been terrible at is documenting things as I go, no matter what it is. I’m working on it, and this site is an example of that. I now wish I had more pictures of events I attended as a kid, or even just records of daily life to look back on the good times. I’ve only ever bought one yearbook, and that was a huge mistake (that is, only purchasing the one instead of a few more). This stops now.
I’ve always loved the Japanese culture as a whole. I want to learn more about it, and I don’t just mean all the ‘shiny’ things that so many お宅 (おたく/otaku) fawn over. You’ll see no articles of me going on about かわいい (kawaii/cute) anime characters. I’m talking about the history, the customs, the way the Japanese think, feel, eat and live. This includes the good, the bad, the ugly, the awesome, the sad, the happy… all of it.
I’m also up for a challenge. And Japanese is, in fact, a large challenge. So many aspects of Japanese are different (or in some cases, completely opposite) of English. Take, for example, that Japanese only has 46 distinct sounds. English, however, has over 8,000. Conversely, the English alphabet has 26 characters (52 if you count upper and lowercase letters separately), whereas Japanese has 3 sets of scripts – Kanji, Katakana and Hiragana. There are 2,042 “common-use” Kanji, and about 50 each of the other 2 (not including compound sounds such as きゅ).
It’s not as impossible as so many English-speakers swear it is. The Japanese learn it every day, so why can’t I? Why can’t you?
I wrote a more detailed answer to this question here.
So, this site is just a journal then?
Absolutely not. At least, it’s not just a journal. It contains articles about my progress as I go, but there are also resources posted here (for example, the kana tables). Anytime I find something interesting, inspirational, funny, happy, or even sad, I will share it with you here. I’ll also be keeping links to sites that I find on the links page. I may also post pictures from time to time, especially once I finally do make it to Japan (I plan on having a huge album then).
What else does allnihongo have to offer?
Lots of things! As time goes on, the list will only get bigger. Most importantly, allnihongo offers my method for learning Japanese. I also offer my experiences during the journey of learning Japanese so that others may benefit from my mistakes, as well as avoid them. Included are all of the tools, resources, methods, advice, links, conversations, and progress updates to assist others in learning Japanese. In addition, lots of inspiration will be sprinkled in as well.
Where do we go from here?
The best place to start is probably the page explaining where I started.