Ryan Thorlakson

ryan.thorlakson .. at .. gmail.com




* Six years of professional industry experience with PC and console game programming.

* Helped ship Valve’s popular PC/console game Left 4 Dead 2 and heavily contributed to its major upcoming PC game, Dota 2.

* Consistently receive overwhelmingly positive feedback, raises, and bonuses.

* Created my own Xbox 360 game project from scratch, published on Xbox Live Indie Games.

* Lead a team of four programmers at Snowblind for eight months as Acting Gameplay Programming Lead of a large budget console title.

* Valedictorian of my DigiPen graduating class.

* Excellent mathematical ability. Earned a math minor and aced all math classes. Specialize in 3D math.

* Strong background in A.I. theory and implementation.

* Accepted into American Mensa, a high-IQ society for those scoring in the top 2% on a standardized IQ test.

* Avid obsessive gamer since childhood.



* Expert in C/C++ with advanced knowledge of C#.

* Many years experience with Visual Studio 2005/2008/2010.

* Production experience with Protobuf, SQL, Lua, XNA, HTML/CSS, ASP, VBScript, and MAXScript.

* Several years of production experience with Perforce and various bug-tracking software.



Valve Software, Bellevue, WA                                                                                 July 2009 – April 2012

Dota 2 (November 2009 – April 2012)

* Implemented highly efficient RTS pathfinding from scratch using a custom hierarchical A* search followed by short-range dynamic obstacle avoidance.

* Added the ability to author pathfinding grids to Valve’s Hammer map editing tool.

* Implemented collision detection and response and efficient cached local area queries for units.

* Implemented all of the unit behaviors in the game including computer-controlled and player-controlled units.

Implemented 3 heroes:

- Invoker, the most unique and complex hero in the game with 14 spells that can be used in various combinations.

- Nature’s Prophet, who can uniquely create destructible pathfinding obstructions.

- Night Stalker.

* Worked extensively with many core gameplay systems including player unit order validation and execution, unit abilities and effects, items, fog of war, and displayed errors.

* Worked closely with IceFrog to perfect gameplay systems most important to the most sensitive professional gamers, such as creep blocking, tower/creep/player aggro rules, and experience/gold rewards.

* Wrote the mouseover detection and selection code allowing you to easily select the desired unit(s) among many overlapping units. Coordinated closely with artists and designers to define clickable regions.

* Implemented persistent clans/teams using SQL and Protobuf. Carefully handled job concurrency using locks.

* Monitored gameplay-related checkins and fixed many bugs with checkins that others had overlooked.

* Monitored the community forums to gather, distribute, and respond to community feedback.

* Received two raises totaling 24% and received three bonuses totaling 53% of my salary.

Left 4 Dead 2 (July 2009 – November 2009)

* Started toward the end of the shipping cycle and helped finish and ship the product.

* Fixed a variety of bugs, mainly dealing with pathfinding, locomotion, and AI behaviors.

* Received a generous bonus for my work on Left 4 Dead 2.


Indie Project                                                                                                              Sept 2008 – June 2009

Light’s End

* Created a unique story-driven game for Xbox 360 from scratch using C# and XNA.

* Sole programmer, designer, writer, musician, and marketer.

* Contracted an artist, the only other developer on the project.

* Published through Xbox Live Indie Games.

* The game received a “hot pie” positive rating from the IGN website’s Indie Games feature and averages around 8/10 in user reviews.

* More information at www.lightsendgame.com.


Snowblind Studios, Bothell, WA                                                                                                        April 2006 – Sept 2008

Acting Lead Gameplay Programmer (Dec 2007 – Sept 2008)

Action RPG (Xbox 360, PS3)

* Lead of a gameplay programming team for a big-budget Xbox360/PS3 action RPG that eventually became War in the North.

* Voluntarily stepped up to replace previous lead when he left.

* Managed our team of four programmers and coordinated closely with many other programming, art, and design teams.

* Coordinated and assembled milestone deliverable packages for Vivendi, the publisher.

* Implemented or debugged the most difficult “hot-item” gameplay issues that arose.

* Actively investigated agile development methods such as scrum and frequently discussed workflow issues with managers and team, easing transition from small to mid-sized company.

* Implemented safeguards against programmer distractions, improving productivity.

* Created an automated scheduling tool in Excel, populated from our bug database, FogBugz. This tool considered many variables such as severity, frequency, estimated resolve time, preferred programmer, deadline, and dependencies.

* Received my second raise at Snowblind of 25% during performance reviews with no negative feedback.

A.I./Gameplay Programmer (April 2006 – Dec 2007)

Action RPG (Xbox 360, PS3)

* This big-budget Xbox360/PS3 project lasted for two years before being absorbed into War in the North.

* Overtook responsibilities of those who had programmed the A.I. system for the previous game as sole designer and implementer of our “next-gen” A.I. system.

* Created an A.I. behavior and character control system from the ground up in C++:

- Goal-based A.I. achieves goals via agents analyzing and utilizing available actions.

- Modular, extensible, robust, readable, efficient, and data-driven.

- Empowered designers to produce compelling enemy behaviors on their own.

- Implemented common building block behaviors: Idle, MoveTo, Attack, Flee, Protect, StayBack, Surround, TakeCover, PickUp.

- Team-based logic allows factions of NPCs to fight each other or alongside the player.

- NPCs intelligently pick up and use nearby weapons or other important items.

- Commands allow agents to take direct instruction from designers for cut scenes and scripted sequences.

* Designed a successful nav-mesh pathfinding scheme (implemented by another programmer).

* Designed and implemented intricate and visually appealing character locomotion:

- Implemented path following that respects turning constraints.

- Animation based movement eliminates common foot sliding problems when turning.

- Movement animations and capabilities of each agent are cleanly separated from A.I. logic.

- Implemented seamless flight to ground movement to “burrowed” movement transitions.

* Designed and directed implementation of a group behavior system which we used, for example, to make four grunts work together to load and fire a catapult.

* Implemented limb severing A.I. logic and finishing move character links for dramatic kills.

* My A.I. systems were successful in empowering designers and lived on to help create War in the North.

* Implemented many other various gameplay systems including a multiplayer camera that keeps four players in view within one viewport.

* Received a raise of 24% during performance reviews with no negative feedback.

Justice League Heroes (PS2, Xbox)

* Justice League Heroes is a superhero action RPG for PS2 and Xbox that we shipped.

* Repaired and improved existing A.I. and pathfinding code when I arrived.

* Programmed most of the unique boss encounters in the game.

* Built the builds:

- Made all kinds of builds for external testers, external localization team, and the publisher.

- Built the gold versions of JLH on store shelves: Xbox, PS2 NTSC, and PS2 PAL.

- Directly worked with publisher Warner Bros. to develop an incremental delivery system, eliminating overnight upload times.


Indie Project                                                                                                              June 2003 – June 2007


* Designed, programmed, and maintained an independent web game.

* Persistent world game boasted 60 players.


DigiPen Game Development Distance Learning Programs                                Spring 2005

Curriculum Developer


DigiPen Summer High School Game Programming Workshops                              Summer 2004



DigiPen Institute of Technology, Redmond, WA                                                                2002 – 2006

* B.S. in Real Time Interactive Simulation (Computer Science) with Math Minor.

* GPA: 3.75 – Valedictorian.

* Achieved straight A’s in all math classes.

* Created 5 full-featured game projects on small teams.

* Sci-fi FPS senior game project featured highly efficient A.I. pathfinding, logic, and physics, allowing for thousands of enemies in play at once employing unique scent-trail, flanking, and squad behaviors.



* Valedictorian of DigiPen graduating class.

* Accepted into American Mensa, a high-IQ society for those scoring in the top 2% on a standardized IQ test.

* A winner of ThinkFun’s 36 cube contest. Among the first in the world to solve their challenging puzzle.



* Competitive gaming (especially Starcraft II) and achievement hunting.

* Music theory/composition/performance. I play several instruments, mainly piano and bass.


Visit www.ryanthorlakson.com for project images, demos, and code samples.