Joining the Babylon team: Darragh Burke

Hi all! 👋

My name is Darragh Burke, and I’m a Software Engineer on the Babylon Native team. I am a recent college graduate and I’m returning from an internship with Babylon last summer. I’d like to tell you a bit about my journey to the Babylon team, why I came back from full time, and why I’m excited about the future of the project.

Me at Lake Tahoe in Northern California

The first time I ever wrote code was in an application called GameMaker 7. I was 8 years old and didn’t know the first thing about writing code, but the application allowed anyone to drag and drop visual logic blocks together to create gameplay. I can still remember the exhilaration I felt from getting a little 🤡 sprite to bounce around the walls of a room.

The “Catch the Clown” tutorial in GameMaker 7

This early experience with creation showed me the democratizing power of computers: even a kid with no programming knowledge could build a real game or application that people could use.

In middle school I moved on to making browser-based games with PHP and MySQL. The gameplay was always pretty crude, but I was able to share them easily with my friends; in a few weeks, I had 200 users playing an RPG-like game, all competing to reach the highest level. This was pretty mind blowing to me. Games running in the browser were accessible to a far greater audience. Indeed, websites like Newgrounds and Kongregate attracted tens of millions of players, playing 100% free games together.

“Arcoria.net” — tragically a cheating scandal (caused by a bug in my code) resulted in the demise of this little browser based RPG

Unfortunately, that was the peak of the browser-based game era; with the rise of mobile devices, platforms like Flash quickly fell out of favor. But for a few years in my childhood, something really magical happened at the intersection of games and the internet. You can ask just about anyone in my generation, and they will have a list of their favorite online games from the 2000s. (seriously, hit me up, I could talk about Flash games all day!)

In college, I attended UC Santa Barbara and studied Computer Science, chasing that magical feeling of making things happen with code. Although we had some interesting assignments (writing our own operating systems was a particular favorite), nothing that I worked on was quite as rewarding as creating games.

In the summer of 2019, two years into my college degree, I set out to find a project that would bring back the joy of development. Somehow, I ended up on the phone with David Catuhe, who told me that the Babylon.js team would accept interns for the next summer. My imagination was instantly ignited. I knew just what I wanted to do.

Babylon.js was, in many ways, my dream project: I loved 3D graphics, creative tools, and web technologies. Babylon happens to lie at the intersection of all three. Its mission is “to create one of the most powerful, beautiful, and simple Web rendering engines in the world”: working on such a tool would mean helping to bring back the interactivity and fun of the web from my childhood.

The next summer, I got the chance to do just that.

In June of 2020, I was lucky enough to be able to join the Babylon team as an intern. This was a special experience from start to finish. I went from knowing nothing about the framework to submitting PRs in under a month. I worked with exceptionally talented folks like Patrick Ryan and Justin Murray to create a brand-new tool, the Texture Inspector, in 12 weeks. Much of the work that we did is documented in an earlier post on this blog.

There’s also something really unique about the culture of the Babylon team. From the beginning I had a high degree of independence. I was able to shape the project every step of the way, from the initial planning meetings to the nitty-gritty implementation details. This was my first time owning a product, and I came away from the internship feeling like I had really made something of my own.

Painting in the Babylon.js texture inspector. It took 30 minutes to prototype this feature but weeks to get it just right.

After my internship, I went “back to school” for my last year, which in the midst of a pandemic mostly meant switching from Teams meetings to Zoom lectures. One major difference: I no longer got to wake up to @PirateJC’s dad jokes every day. Mornings just weren’t the same without them.

With graduation fast approaching, I had a big decision to make: where did I want to work full time?

For me, it came down to three factors:

  1. The challenge. Babylon Native is an exceptionally challenging project. Native involves the use of a wide-range of technologies, including cross-platform development, 3D graphics, JS engines, and many others. I knew that working on Native would involve a huge learning curve, but I also knew that there was no better way to grow as an engineer.
  2. The project. The Babylon team is on the forefront of the 3D ecosystem. Babylon is pushing the boundaries of what is possible to achieve with 3D, not only on the web but also across desktop and mobile platforms. It’s used in applications from ecommerce to VR to gaming, and I can’t wait to see what our community comes up with in the coming years.
  3. The community. From my first day as an intern, the Babylon team was incredibly supportive and welcoming. I received countless hours of support and guidance, helping me to accomplish much more than I could have alone. This is a culture that extends to the community at large: users on the forum are always ready to jump in and help with any issue, no matter how obscure or complex. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend joining.

Ultimately, returning to the team was an easy choice. I’m excited to keep empowering creators to build more powerful and accessible 3D experiences. And I’m hoping that new technologies like WebGPU (which will be officially supported in Babylon.js 5.0) will enable the next generation of developers to release games in the browser.

Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions!

Interested in joining the Babylon team? We currently have a couple of full time job postings available, both for Babylon.js and Native, in the LATAM region. We’d love to have you!

Darragh Burke — Babylon Native Team

(1) Darragh Burke (@DarraghBurke13) / Twitter

Babylon.js: Powerful, Beautiful, Simple, Open — Web-Based 3D At Its Best. https://www.babylonjs.com/