Corey Nagel

Lead Backend Engineer

What's your name and title?

My name is Corey and I am the Lead Backend Engineer at IllFonic.

How long have you been working at IllFonic?

I have been working for IllFonic for about 7 and a half years.

I have no pictures of Corey so this will have to do

What exactly does a backend engineer do?

At IllFonic, backend engineers write software and design systems for the backend of our games. Basically any server side software that is external to the game itself.

Our backend encompasses player authentication, account progression, leaderboards, matchmaking, anticheat, admin tools, game telemetry, incident reporting, as well as a whole host of other functions. For example, when you complete a stage in Arcadegeddon, your experience and ticket gains are sent in a report to our backend for validation and recording.

We also collect data on matches to gain insights on how players interact with our games so we can find out what works well and what doesn't in order to make the best gaming experiences possible.

What are some difficulties you face as a backend engineer?

The major difficulty that we run into as backend engineers is how to scale our systems effectively, efficiently and quickly enough to meet demand without impacting the player experience negatively. Another is building our systems to be reusable across different titles without limiting the designers creativity when they design metagame.

What is the thing you like most about working as a backend engineer?

My job is both interesting and challenging, but the thing I like most about my job is that I can do it from anywhere. A large portion of my work is done through a Linux terminal which means I can easily work from a laptop if needed. I was one of IllFonic’s first remote employees after my wife and I moved to Wisconsin so she could go to law school. Now IllFonic is pretty much a fully remote team, and even though we are moving back to Colorado soon, I plan to continue to work remotely for the most part.

I heard that IllFonic was looking for Backend Engineers. What are some things you look for when hiring for your department?

Experience with our technology stack, (Go, Reactjs, Python, Postgres, Redis, Docker) is always nice but not a strict requirement. I look for candidates who have a strong desire to learn new technologies and aren’t afraid to dig in and get their hands dirty. 

What are the skills you need to have to succeed as a backend engineer?

To succeed as a backend engineer at Illfonic, you need to have a solid programming foundation, a strong understanding of microservices and distributed systems and the ability to iterate quickly on features. You will need to understand how our work interacts with the software, databases, and services we use and how to optimize for performance at scale.

What made you want to use your skills as a backend engineer for a video game company?

I have always loved video games and have been a gamer ever since I was young, but working for a video game company was not a part of my original career plan. I just kind of lucked out. Not long after college, I was recruited by IllFonic to work as a web developer. I eventually moved over to a backend engineering role a couple years later as IllFonic’s needs changed. It’s been over 7 years now and has been quite a fun ride. IllFonic has grown a lot and so have I as a developer.

What do you do in your free time?

I have 2 small kids now, so I don’t have as much personal free time as I used to, but when I am not going on adventures with my family, I enjoy listening to and playing music. I have been playing both guitar and piano for over 20 years and used to play in a death metal band, though lately classical guitar has been my jam. I am a gamer, so I spend a decent amount of time playing games. I’m a big fan of the Infinity Engine CRPGs and their successors as well as Metroidvania platformers. I really enjoyed Ori and the Blind Forest. It was very pretty and challenging and the sequel was great too.  I also enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and bouldering, and can’t wait until my kids are big enough to take along to the climbing gym.