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Gilliard Lopes is in the game!

Gilliard Lopes did not achieve the dream of every Brazilian boy. He did not become a soccer player. But it is quite possible that he got the second most-desired career by kids all over Brazil and much of the world: he is the producer of Electronic Arts’ (EA) FIFA 13 videogame.
Lopes, who began working at EA as a software engineer and programmer in 2008, works in the largest game development studio in the world: EA’s complex in Burnaby. Referred to as a campus, it includes a restaurant, indoor and outdoor sports courts, various leisure areas for employees, and hundreds of computers where the passes of some of the world’s best soccer players come alive on the screen. It was from there that Lopes explained how he got this dream job, which he said is also a lot of hard work.
Brazilian Vibe – How did you start working with videogames?
Gilliard Lopes –A I met another student in college, Fabio Policarpo, who worked with computer graphics and had a lot in common with me. We had the same interests and decided to open our computer graphics studio. At the time, ‘98 and ‘99, it was very difficult to work in the gaming industry, especially in Brazil.
We developed what we call graphics engines, or tools for making games, and we licensed these to universities worldwide.
However, when we tried to take the next step in our company and start competing outside Brazil, we bumped into a lack of investment in this area. So, that was the first major disappointment I had in the Brazilian industry.
Then I went to Florianopolis, where there was the largest gaming studio in the country at the time. I worked there for two and a half years until I decided that in order to continue to advance in my career I would have to leave the country.
So, I started sending out resumes in 2008. In August of that year, Electronic Arts contacted me. I had a series of telephone interviews and talked to people in many different positions, until finally they saw something in me and decided to send me a proposal. They sent me a contract to sign and the immigration process began.
In November 2008, I immigrated to Vancouver. I came to work at EA and not necessarily because I wanted to leave Brazil, it was really for the sake of my career. This is where the opportunity was for me. But I have no complaints because this is one of the best cities in the world to live in and EA is the biggest gaming studio in the world.
BV – How much do you think the fact that you are Brazilian influenced your selection for the FIFA 13 game?
Lopes –A I think at the beginning of the interview process it was actually a disadvantage because the videogame industry in Brazil is not well known, and it was even less known at that time. So, in the beginning, many of the questions I got were to test my experience and see if it was relevant.
But, after they knew me better, I think it was an advantage, especially since the position was working with a soccer game. Then, the fact that I am Brazilian, know a lot about soccer, and follow soccer helped a lot.
BV – You’re the producer of FIFA 13. Is it the first time you have worked as a producer?
Lopes –A Here, yes. In Brazil, I was a producer for two and a half years. But when it was time to look for a job, I thought it would be better to look for a position as a software engineer and programmer because it is a bigger field in the gaming industry than production. Depending on the company where you are, the role of the producer varies greatly. So, my fear was that looking for a job in production, I would have more barriers, and a producer also has more responsibility.
My plan was always to become a producer, but the way I found to get there was looking for a job as a programmer first. I am very happy that I’m taking steps in the direction I wanted in my career: the right direction.
BV – Did you recently hear about this promotion?
Lopes –A I learned in October of last year, when we finished FIFA 12 and began plans for FIFA 13. In fact, I had been trying to get this position for a long time. The truth is that the position of producer is where I can combine my technical knowledge of games with my knowledge of soccer itself and FIFA in particular, which I have always played. As a developer, my contribution was limited; I added features that other people designed. Now, as a producer, I’m part of the team that decides what will go or not in the game.
It seems that it’s all great and wonderful, but it is a lot of responsibility. It’s hard work and being a new position, I’m learning a lot. It’s a challenge, but I wanted the challenge for me, so I’m very happy about it.
BV – How many producers work on the game?
Lopes –A In FIFA today we have around 10 producers. The game is pretty big, so it’s divided by functional areas. I take care of the graphics. So, I’m the presentation producer. I’m responsible for everything that has to do with graphics, visuals, and audio. Likewise, there’s the online producer, gameplay (game modes) producer, etc… There are several parts of the game for which we have a different producer.
BV – What is a typical working day like for you?
Lopes –A A producer is a great communicator, so the programmers, artists, sound artists, etc., they all need to know details of the tasks that we have for them on that day. So much of what I do is answer emails with questions and monitor the progress of tasks. It depends a lot on the phase of the project. During pre-production, I’m much more focused on looking for references in the real world of soccer for us to put in the game and write documents with these functionalities. Then, in production, we implement these changes.
Since I have my roots in programming, I always find one or two hours a day to make a change in the code and plan something too. I still enjoy doing that. But now I’m in a position where I can program something extra: the icing on the cake, let’s say, for I have a team of programmers to do the heavy work. So, I would say my work is now 80 per cent documentation, monitoring, and management, and 20 per cent programming. This is particularly the case for me because I came from this field and I always find something in the code that I want to improve. So, when other programmers are busy, I make these changes myself.
BV – What do you do in your spare time?
Lopes –A I think I spend most of the time outside of work playing soccer. I’ve always liked it and it’s my favourite type of exercise. When I can, I play three times a week. At home I’m always playing videogames, but I also like to go out and explore the city with my wife. Now that we have been here for three and a half years, we like to travel to other places in the United States and Canada as well.
Another activity I have is a website and podcastA www.thepodquest.comA . In fact, I do them with two other friends who came from Brazil to work with games in Canada and we publish a weekly podcast where we discuss curiosities, challenges, and innovations that we find in the videogame industry out here. It is a way for us to give back a little to our country’s industry and help those in the Brazilian community who work in this field. Also, it’s a way for us not to lose contact with them.
BV – What advice would you give to Brazilians who want to work in the videogame industry in Canada?
Lopes –A Obviously there’s no magic formula, but you need to make your first game. This is a way to open doors – it’s up to you to have something tangible to show. It’s very important for you to have material to show in your interview. Today it’s much easier to develop independent videogames. It’s a great exercise in independent learning. You have to use Google forums and have good English to look for materials. I know many people in the gaming industry in Brazil who managed to follow this path and are now in North America and Europe, working in studios with major videogames. So the trick is this: to develop a portfolio to have something tangible to show.
Photo by: Lucas Socio

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