Headhunter To Designer, Layoffs, Self Publishing, and Scapegoating Games with John (JJ) Williams of NetherRealm Studios


Manage episode 241135020 series 2477672
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+15-year industry veteran John (JJ) Williams of NetherRealm Studios talks about his current role as Advanced Designer at NetherRealm Studios and the challenges we had working on a Disney IP. Learn how he decided to get out of a career as a headhunter with a business degree and into game development. Hear about going back to school for an art degree and getting his first job as a freelance animator on WrestleMania 21.

Learn about his first role at Studio Gigante, then Stainless Steel Studios, and missing a job email from Harmonix because of a spam filter. How he got a job at Midway in the QA dept and all the Mortal Kombat games he tested plus working on NBA Ballers 2. How he worked in Unreal Engine building levels showed him his true passion and calling in the industry.

Hear how he got his first design role on Midway’s John Woo’s Stranglehold, then went to Vogster Entertainment, saw that close, and went to Disney Interactive’s Wideload Games. Hear about the projects he worked on at Disney including Kingdom Hearts Mobile, and another (well-handled) studio closure.

Learn about him branching out to create his own game, Pirate Blitz, with some money from a motorcycle accident, then joined the mobile team at NetherRealm Studios 5 year ago. Hear what he wished he’d known when he started and advice he shares. About the importance of getting that first job and the value of getting into QA, plus stories of working together shipping games. Hear about him branching into narrative design enjoying it. Learn ideas around game design, where to get inspiration from, and the hidden value of GDC.

Hear about his favorite projects, which include making his own indie game and the work he’s doing now at NetherRealm. Discussion about games being scapegoated for gun violence since an easy target for politicians. Learn about how the ESRB started and what it looked like from the inside. Hear funny stories about a game industry closures and them getting into an argument that broke out into laughter. Hear thoughts on VR games, the industry, and what’s lacking with AR right now. Learn what future game he’s excited about, plus the ones he’s playing now, along with how to follow him.


*J.J. Williams Twitter

*J.J. Williams website

*Mortal Kombat: Armageddon Wikipedia

*John Woo’s Stranglehold Wikipedia

*Pirate Blitz Polygon

*Call of Cthulhu Wikipedia

*Pirate Blitz YouTube

*Cyberpunk 2077 website

*Oxygen Not Included Steam

*Level Ex website - we’re hiring

*Game Dev Advice Twitter

*Game Dev Advice email

*Game Dev Advice website

*Game Dev Advice Hotline (224) 484-7733 - give a call

*And thanks to Charles Dike Production podcast editing

*Don't forget to subscribe and go to www.gamedevadvice.com for full show notes with links

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