July 11, 2013

GUADEC Keynote Speaker: Ethan Lee

flibitIRL

You might know Ethan Lee, also known as flibitijibibo, from his work porting games as Super Hexagon and Proteus to Linux, or from his big collection of game soundtracks. Ethan is currently working on a new exciting project, which soon will be shipped: FEZ for Linux, a game that people might have seen in Indie Game: The Movie.

Ethan is also one of this year’s GUADEC keynote speakers, and the first we’re going to meet during this series of interviews.

Q: Hi Ethan! Your work in porting games to Linux is really impressive! Which road brought you there?

A: The short answer: Presumably the road that Mr. Bean takes to get to each of his adventures. I started out as a music educator, and 4 years later I am now here. Explain that! :P

The long answer: I started doing music education when I was in high school, since that seemed like a “stable” career, then I decided to take a shot at music production when I went to college. After about 2 years of that I got a bit bored and started working on a game engine, with emphasis on audio tech. I would “ship” a tech demo a year later to crickets and white noise, but I sent that demo to Eden Industries asking if they wanted my audio tech in their game, and they said yes. Of course, instead of doing that, I ended up porting the game, and that caused the eventual portfolio you see today.

As for simply _using_ Linux, I really only started using it around Fall of 2010. I had poked around it with virtual machines when I was younger, but I only ever took it seriously once I was in college and had the time to invest in learning my way around it.

Q: What can we expect from your keynote at GUADEC?

A: I’m still not entirely sure myself. All I can be sure of at the moment is that there won’t be slides. Maybe like, one or two. If I do something with the screen, it’ll probably be a bit more involved than that…

Q: What do you expect from GUADEC?

A: No idea! I’m usually going to stuff like MAGFest, so when I got an invitation to GUADEC I had to look it up and find the schedule from 2012… then I almost went “oh, no!” as my field of interest seemed a bit “dumb” compared to what everyone else has been doing at GUADEC. That might make the keynote interesting for everyone else though. So I suppose I’ll be expecting to learn a lot about things I currently take for granted.

Q: There seems to be a lot of interest in gaming on Linux at the moment. Why do you think that is?

The surge in Linux gaming honestly looks like the second year of a major console, where all the games suddenly start pouring in and there’s finally a reason to buy the darned thing. Except, instead of 2 years, it was more like 20. Hopefully it won’t be another 10 years to get to year 3 when the console starts to live a bit more comfortably, but we’ll see.

There are definitely other factors to consider in there (Windows 8, perpetual closedness of current console platforms, etc.), but none of that would have really mattered if game devs didn’t take that first step of making Linux versions of their games.

Q: What are you looking forward to most about GUADEC??

A: Meeting people who may actually know who I am! Particularly in Europe… I must confess, this will be my first trip to Europe ever, so I’m a bit glad that I’ve got some grand purpose for being there. Considering most of the e-mails I get are from Europe, it only feels right that my first speaking appearance as a Linux game developer happens over there.

It’ll also be interesting to be around the “hardcore” Linux software developers. Games are always put up as such a big deal, but then I look at some of the stuff that goes on at the level below mine and realize that pretty much everyone at GUADEC will likely be smarter than silly old me. Ah, now that’s something to expect from my keynote, I think: more “artsy” stuff over “technical”. I think I’d bore everyone with the latter. We want new, different things, right? Yeah, let’s do that.

Find out more about Ethan at his personal website http://www.flibitijibibo.com and come to GUADEC to meet him in person!