Computing Grad Improving Videogame Development Platforms for Creators

Posted on Thursday, July 21st, 2022

Javier Abud at work with his arms crossed while standing in front of a screen.

Javier Abud Chavez, a University of Guelph Computing and Information Science (CIS) grad (B.Sc., ’06) has always been passionate about videogames and is striving to improve user experience in his career. We spoke to Javier about his unique, globe-trotting career in tech: While from Mexico, he has lived around the world in places like the Netherlands, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada and has settled in Copenhagen with his family.

Tell us about your work with Unity Technologies

Unity Technologies is a user-focused videogame software development company that provides a platform for creators’ content. What I particularly like about working at Unity as a Senior Software Engineer is that I can have a direct impact on the productivity of our users. I have been focusing on optimizing the startup times for the Unity Editor, where game developers can bring the pieces of their game together. Being able to have a positive impact on thousands of developers via the Unity Editor has really helped me define my purpose, which is, I don’t want our users to have to wait for tasks to be ready.

Being able to have a positive effect on the productivity of our users is great because the games they create can be that much better. When I’ve gone to conferences and get a chance to see games made with Unity being demoed at booths I am always impressed by what relatively small teams are able to achieve!

Lately, we’ve been focusing on allowing users to diagnose problems more accurately and one example of this is the Import Activity Window, which aims to help users figure out why the Unity Editor is busy re-importing Assets in their project. Having the Editor stall is a big productivity time sink for users. Before the Import Activity Window, we engaged with users in our forums and manually helped them debug why Assets were reimporting, but that simply does not scale. We finally figured out a way to present this information in a visual and automated way, and that has helped our users understand why Assets are reimporting and this gives them the liberty to fix some common Editor stalls. I also enjoy public speaking and before COVID I was able to talk more in-depth about the AssetDatabase at our conference called Unite in 2019.

Why videogame programming? What led you to this area of work?

Videogames have always been a big part of my life. Spending too many hours playing MarioKart 64 and Smash Brothers (to name a few) with my friends definitely fuelled my interest for knowing how video games are made. Now, I did not have a plan of how I would go from a Computer Science degree to working at a videogame company, but a series of coincidences led me into the games industry.

My roommate in first year at Guelph, Drew Grainge, was also enrolled in the CIS degree. Drew had already made a game using Visual Basic and we bonded over it pretty quickly. Coincidentally we both ended up in the games industry after graduating, just in different countries! Then, during my second and third summer breaks while enrolled at Guelph, I managed to intern at a videogame development company, GameBrains, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (where I had also gone to highschool!) and started learning the ropes of game development. Finally, after graduating, I had a job offer from GameBrains which I took, and that was how my game development career began.

I see you’ve held a range of roles from Malaysia to Singapore to northern Europe. Tell us about that journey

Being an international student at Guelph, and having gone to international schools from elementary school to high school, the idea to work internationally came to me almost as a second nature. My first job in Malaysia was an easy pick because I had done my high school studies there and was acquainted with the country and its culture, but most importantly there was an opportunity to intern at a Game Development company, which I chased and managed to land.

After working in Kuala Lumpur for five years, I moved to Singapore to work on a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG), which, as many game developers have found out, is a really hard project to drive successfully and complete. When the company in Singapore shut down, I was looking for work and a post on LinkedIn for a job in Copenhagen popped up. I matched the role, so I applied, did the tests, and within two months I was in what would become my new home!

I soon realized that personal development, besides becoming technically proficient, is just as important in Denmark, so my manager enrolled me in courses to become a better Lead and ultimately allowed me to achieve the role of Principal Engineer at our company (MovieStarPlanet), where I would then help train and grow close to 30 engineers. I then decided that I wanted to focus more on tech and applied to Unity so that I could solve another range of difficult problems, but at the same time help orders of magnitude more game developers while doing so!

How did the University of Guelph prepare you for your career after graduation? Were there any specific courses or materials that stood out to you?

I definitely remember my Data Structures & Algorithms course. The specifics of the algorithms were not the most important part, but mentally visualizing them is what helped me the most. For example, being able to visualize a graph traversal algorithm in my mind has helped in many situations at work.

What advice do you have for students who will graduate soon and are interested in a similar career?

I think that it's always important to challenge yourself. It might sound like an inspirational quote, but I think that’s the best way to summarize that you shouldn’t just settle for knowing what you’ve learned.

Is there anything else you’d like to include about yourself that we missed?

I am actively learning Danish, which brings my total language count to 4: Spanish, English, French and Danish!

News Archive