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About Woland

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  1. Another article of the "jobs in gamedev" series. Enjoy. For more articles from this series, click here   ************************************   Having finished my first game and being heavily involved in the story production for it, I now have a general idea what the job of writing for games requires. What's more, I've been neglecting the "Jobs in gamedev" series, so all the more reasons to bring you guys this article.   So you write stories... Good for you! Unfortunately, it doesn't necessarily mean you will be able to write for games. There are hundreds of professional screenplay or novel writers that have failed miserably while trying to deliver a narrative for a game. And many of them weren't mediocre either. I'm talking awarded writers recognized for their achievements in movies or books. If they were so great, why did they fail in games? To explain that, I have to give you a brief tour, how the writing process for a game can turn into a nightmare, but first let's talk a bit how the narrative designer differs from a game writer.     Not every writer is a designer... and that's fine. There is a huge difference between a writer and a narrative designer. Basically, a writer is the guy who deals with words. There are lots of game elements that require only that and the writer doesn't have to get concerned about how these words affect the game mechanics. These elements are the static pages in the menu, like bestiaries or equipment descriptions, stuff like that. Sure, the writer has to be careful to make sure they fit the general theme of the game, but these flavor texts won't really break the game or heavily interact with the gameplay. Dialogues and quest descriptions are a bit more complicated, as you have to know what's going on at a certain point of the game. What dialogue options need to be included and what information the dialogue or description needs to give to the player. That's still quite easily manageable if you are a writer, not a designer. As a writer, you have to be great with words. Your sentences have to be brilliant and snappy, your dialogues need great pacing.   The narrative designer kind of needs a higher awareness level than the writer. He has to take into account all these elements the writer doesn't worry about. He needs to make sure all the tools are being used, especially the gameplay, to tell a compelling story. The narrative designer needs to help guard the concept of the game, make sure all quests are in line with the story, all dialogues serve their purpose, all characters have their place. Paradoxically, the narrative designer doesn't necessarily have to be a brilliant writer when it comes to the use of words, although it is very often expected of him/her. Especially in smaller studios, the role of narrative designer is either held by the writer or by creative director or lead game designer. Also in bigger studios, there are many cases where the writer never designs a story, he/she just puts it into words. Let's get back to our story of a potential story development nightmare.   Image stolen from theiddm.wordpress.com   Step 1: World creation and preproduction. This is the step where the general idea shapes up. Art style is chosen. The development team decides or learns whether they will be doing a game about pirates or ponies. Based on this, further decisions are rapidly being made - all the guys on the team have to start with their work. Concept artists are drawing characters and enemies, 3D artists are starting on the blocking of the locations, game designers are inventing game mechanics. And very often, they are doing it completely independently, exploring on their own based on their individual understanding of the theme. They do coordinate, but mostly on the most "gamey" things. For example, game design coordinates with level design on the metrics used in the game, but they do not talk about how the game mechanics work with the mood of the locations to deliver a story to the player. Of course, the "right way" to do it would be to have a creative director who would make sure every person does his/her work according to the same core esthetic and sometimes this "right way" actually occurs. Still, majority of creative directors focus more on the gameplay than on the story and we see results of that even in big titles.   At this stage, there's usually some kind of problem with a writer. In some cases there's no writer at all and all these assets are just being produced because the team knows the theme and knows there's supposed to be some enemies and some NPCs. In other cases, there is a designated writer, but he/she doesn't really deliver or delivers a first draft of the story that the dev team just keeps filed "for later" while doing their thing. In yet other cases, there are some guys on the dev team that have some story ideas put together in a more or less chaotic document. You as a writer, more often than not, are not present at this stage.    Step 2: "But our story sucks!" also known as production. This is the moment when the prototype has been done and accepted. The gameplay is shaping up, the locations are being produced, there's a few characters implemented, maybe some dummy dialogues or even a prosthesis of a tutorial. It's the moment when the general player's path is being decided on and suddenly, the dev team wakes up. They either pull out the story document someone created and realize it has an army of holes and irrationalities in it, that the current gameplay ideas have evolved way beyond the script, that one of the locations has been cut. That a key NPC won't be produced. That there's been a side quest system implemented or that there will be no more side quests. If there was a writer that was hired from outside of the game industry, this is usually the moment he quits, because "the dev team is unable to execute his vision".   The prototype is approved, the deadline for alpha is not far away, and in most cases, the team has no writer and only some general premise of the story. This is the moment when the writer is hired. It might be a full-time position. It might be an oversea freelance. It might be some person within the team stepping up with hopes of doing a decent job.   Whatever your origins are, the writing task before you is not trivial. There's already a lot of things that have been decided without consulting them with you. If you got in early, it's just going to be about getting into the theme and getting around some things, like having a fixed moment when the peak happens or having to meet some character sooner or later. The longer the team waits with bringing you in however, the more things like that get included. Suddenly you have a character that's in a specified place, having to go the specified route and very soon, what could have been a straight walk in the park with going around some trees once in a while, becomes a crawl through a tropical jungle with a rusty machete. Instead of creating a story, you end up creating justifications for what's happening on the screen. And then, whenever you fix the problems of NPCs appearing out of nowhere and doing things that are completely out of of their character, the dev team just comes up with another idea for something that doesn't fit the story no matter how you slice it.   With a bit of persistence and luck, you end up with a satisfactory story that makes sense.     Step 3: Story implementation. If you were hired as a freelance writer, this is very likely the step you won't be involved in. If you worked closer with the dev team, you are likely to stick around and be able to prevent a shitload of things that can go wrong at this point. Dialogues that you've written might not exhaust all the gameplay options and game designers will try to fill the holes with so-called "designer art". Some tired designers will implement the dialogue trees all wrong and suddenly they will make no sense at all. There will be another change in the game scope and a key character will be cut out, making the current story pointless. Casting for the VO (voice acting) will be done by a deaf person and every character in the game will sound the same or lines of an old man will be played by a young girl. The VO script will be poorly prepared and the actors will read their lines completely out of context. The cutscene that was supposed to deliver the backstory will never be produced. Someone will add equipment descriptions that do not match your story or your world. The letter that was supposed to give clarity after the story twist will be accessible way before it, spoiling everything. The character animations will break and in the middle of a serious, heartbreaking dialogue, one arm of an NPC will start a pop & lock dance. And these are just some of the possibilities.   If you are still with the project at this point, this is the moment where the real video game writing skills get tested. This is where you see how your story holds up its limbs get cut off. How well the rest of the team understands it and how much they feel and agree with your vision of the story. This is where you find out whether you are able to solve the problems that pop out on the fly without generating too much additional cost and workload. This is where you really see the difference between writing for games and for any other medium.   "But I will do it right" Of course you will. What I described was an extreme case where everything gets out of control, but don't fool yourself - it's not a domain of small and inexperienced studios. If you take a closer look at the stories of big titles with 80+ metascore you will easily find story holes, ridiculous moments, terrible execution and many, many more. It ranges from high-level absurds like going hunting to enlarge your wallet instead of rushing to free your friends in Far Cry 3 to choices between "No", "Not now" and "Not really" in Mass Effect. Most of the games have their narrative sins and most of them aren't necessarily the writer's fault. No matter how good or bad the writer is, it's not the writer that makes all the decisions. A game can be still pretty decent with a crappy writer and it can be a disaster with even the greatest writer in the world.       "So what do I do?" First of all, the poetic lone wolf writer approach will get you nowhere. You have to be a team player and accept the fact that the dev team is not there to execute your vision. You are to support the vision of the team with your excellent storytelling skills. You have to get invested in the project. You have to be as close to the development team as possible and support them as much as you can. There's no other way to see your script really come to life than to help implement it. Your job will never really be done until the game ships. You can't just assume what you have written is enough and leave it in the hands of others. You have to remember, that the game narrative is way more than words. Gameplay tells a lot of the story too. You can't just write the words completely independently from the rest of the team and then just hope the game mechanics will tell the same story as your words.   Be prepared for changes. Lots of them. Game production is iterative. That means your script will have iterations as well. It will have to be adjusted many, many times. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, but you will have to accept it. In the end, the gap between the early draft of the script and what gets shown in the game will be extreme. Way, way bigger than in any other medium. You have to know that from the very beginning.   Oh, and one more fun bonus: you will never be the author of the game, like you would be an author of the book. Your name won't be on the cover. It won't even be the first name in the long list of credits. You won't be able to say "this is my game". Or "this is a game I've written". Or even "I wrote the story for this game". A lot of people will chip in to the extent of making your story not yours. All you will be able to say is "I have worked on the story of this game". If that is not enough for you as a writer, I can't blame you. This is one of the reasons so many traditional writers don't write for games. This is also the reason why good game writers are so rare and so highly valued. If you are able to harness all the chaos that comes with making games to tell your story, the impact your game will have will leave millions of people on their knees. Even, if they don't even realize it was thanks to the writer.   Image stolen from writerscabal.wordpress.com "So how do I get the job?" This is actually a very hard question, because writing for games is one of the most blurry areas of the industry. A lot of teams still live by the outdated story = words definition. In other teams, having someone hired as a writer seems like a waste of office space. Games that require vast amounts of words are actually in a minority and the narrative designers often derive from the team of game designers. So here's the first problem. Writer or narrative designer is not a position like a coder or a concept artist: not every studio needs one.   Another thing I have mentioned before is that just being a good writer doesn't necessarily mean you will be a good games writer. There are some personal traits that might help you in succeeding. Like being a team player, being open to feedback and being able to scratch or tweak your ideas according to the requirements of the project. All the time you have to remember you are the writer or designer for the game, not its author.   As for how to break into the industry as a writer, keep a portfolio of your writings. Preferably short, brilliant stories that show off a lot of your skill in a short period of time. Get published in some literature magazines, win a contest or five. If you have already published a novel, that's all the better. In general - have some relatively objective proof that you're far from illiterate. When you have all that, start spamming the companies with your portfolio, but do it wisely. Studios like Telltale or Bethesda are way more likely to need writers than Riot Games.   There's of course a lot of different ways to get your hands dirty with game writing. I'm working as a producer, but still had my chance to work on the story a lot more than the producer's job description requires. Game or quest designers with a knack for storytelling can move to the narrative section of their team quite easily too. And as always, there's QA, from where you can jump to anywhere in the game industry, if you are good and persistent enough.    
  2. @ambershee if you took time to read the whole thing you could find out that "fairly up to date" isn't that relevant and just googling for vacancies is most probably the least effective way of searching for the job.   @zee_ola05 yup, gamedevmap is a very nice tool and certainly a much better approach than just googling. I actually placed the link to it in the article.
  3. An article I just wrote. A quite general one and focuses only on "where to find good offers" rather than "what does it take to get an interview", but hey - that's an important step too Only posting a teaser here, as it gets better formatting and is easier to read on my blog.    How to search for a job in gamedev   One could think writing an article telling people how to search for stuff in the age of Google is ridiculous. Sure, if you are an advanced researcher, you probably will be able to search for gamedev vacancies using the most popular search engines, but I would argue it still won't be the most effective way to do it.    First, a bit of a disclaimer. In this article I won't be covering skills required for any position in gamedev. Also, the article will only be informative for people who haven't worked in gamedev yet. Once you get your foot in the door, what follows is either obvious or intuitive, but most importantly - not necessary, because once you are in, you gain way more powerful tools than the "outsiders" have.   Well then... How do people search for jobs? They visit the most popular sites, like Monster or Careerbuilder. Yes, click on those links. Spend some time there, search for game designer or a producer or a concept artist or whoever you wanna be and get these few results actually matching your query. You have just looked for a job in gamedev in the worst possible way.   Read more on gamesmakingnoob.com...
  4. Woland

    Jobs in gamedev: Game Designer

      I don't know really, I've been pasting articles like this here in forums that relate to the subject. Job of a concept artist in visual forum for example:   http://www.gamedev.net/topic/638984-the-job-of-a-concept-artist/   If you know of a better way to pin these articles, maybe you could point me there. Seems you've been around here much longer :)
  5. Hmm... Don't you have a producer to take care of that for you? :)   I mean really, that's one of producer's tasks to be the translator between you and the business guys. And if the company is indeed as JGM described   "First of all, based on your post it looks like you are working for a very small company having not more than 3 to 4 developers. And it appears that you are the smartest of the lot (probably central figure)  i.e. you know the most of the existing products and are solely leading the development efforts on other products"   then a hat of the guy who is in charge of communication is clearly not for you. If you are indeed the central figure, one of the other guys should make sure they will be able to understand you. It's going to be a mutual endeavour, not only a task on your side.    It is very cool that you want to improve your communication skills though - it's always useful!
  6. Hello :) A few years ago my mindset was quite similar to yours, Robin, and well, I am really glad it changed. Here, maybe this will help:   http://www.gamesmakingnoob.com/2012/12/i-have-brilliant-game-idea.html   General advice would be: - if you believe that you have an idea for a whole game, you are wrong. Nobody ever has one and even seasoned professionals, when they have an initial idea, don't know what the whole game will turn out like, even on paper. - you simply can't always assess how good your ideas are. Having the idea of claiming you can pretty much proves you can't. - don't give up - try to get into the industry. Search for vacancies, send resumes. If you are half as good as you think you are, sooner or later someone will invite you for an interview, where you will rock their socks off. - don't get your hopes up too much - 99% of the people in the industry never get a chance to work on their own dream game idea.    Cheers!
  7. Hey guys - thought I'll maybe share an article I wrote a while ago. Maybe someone will find it helpful in some way:   http://www.gamesmakingnoob.com/2013/11/jobs-in-gamedev-game-designer.html     Jobs in gamedev: Game Designer     The problem with not writing for so long is that when you return, you should get back with something that will justify the long lag between posts. This way you can say "hey, I know I was away for a while, but here, I've been doing research for this baby!". Sad truth is I've been so occupied with work lately that I barely managed to finish one game in the last month. Still, I wanna deliver something nice to all the people that waited. Here goes another one of the "Jobs in gamedev" series and definitely the sexiest one - Game Designer. And speaking of sex...   What does Game Design have in common with prostitution? There's at least two things that these two jobs have in common: they are the oldest jobs in the world and they both can start at surprisingly young age. Remember when you played hide and seek when you were kids and then, when everyone started to run too far, someone came up with a rule limiting the hiding area? Remember when there were only two of you to play soccer so each of you stood at the different side of the field as a goalkeeper, kicking the ball from one side to another? And then, when it was too hard to score, one of you said "ok, but we can't use our hands from now on". That was applying new rules to the game. That was, in a way, designing a new game.     People always needed some kind of games. Something fun to do. Ancient Greeks had their olympics - someone had to come up with the rules. When our apelike ancestors were hunting and the prey was too easy to catch, I am pretty sure they were coming up with ways to make the hunt more entertaining for them. Like competing which hunter will catch most of umm... I dunno, mammoth snails or something.    Yup, a little mindfuck for people who only read the bold text and stare at pictures :D Game design is everywhere nowadays. Teachers design new ways to teach their students. Sure the game isn't too engaging to any of the participants, but there are clear rules, goals and quite a lot of competition. Politicians are designing our surroundings, applying new rules, shaping the reality around us. Too bad they are rarely similarly skilled or logical as game designers and, unlike the latter, they get paid in spite of the outcome.    I think you get the idea. Game design was present in our world millenias before Super Mario Bros and will continue to be a discipline that will never limit itself to electronic entertainment. And that's what I find extremely cool.   Everybody wants to be a game designer As soon as I thought of getting into gamedev, I decided that being a designer is the ideal job for me. You can utilize your creativity, make up your own games and man - I had so many cool ideas for games! A vast majority of people who want to get into game development has this one job in mind. Programming sounds boring, to create assets you need some artistic skill, but here you just need a head full of ideas! Of course, this perception of the role of a game designer is distorted by a terrifying lack of knowledge, which is quite common among the wannabe designers. It still doesn't mean the job itself isn't cool. Scott Rogers in his book Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design says that "designers have more fun [than people doing any other job in gamedev]" and he has some pretty damn good arguments for that, but I won't quote them here. If you wanna know - buy his book. It's a really good read and will let you get some nice knowledge on the game design topic.     If you can figure out what this picture is doing here, well... congrats. The common desire to be the designer comes from the basic oversimplification that a game designer designs games. Sounds logical, doesn't it? A car salesman sells cars. A portrait painter paints portraits. It is only fair that the game designer designs games! Well, in AAA industry, that logic leads to a bitter disappointment.   What is it that the game designer actually does in gamedev? A game designer creates a set of rules for a game. In the "good old days" it pretty much meant that he's creating a game. Games didn't have much story, they were made by small teams... Setting the rules of Tetris equals creating Tetris. Nowadays however, in biggest productions, roles are extremely divided and designers get their own pieces of the pie. Take a look at the credits of a few big games and you might find out that apart from the "game design" section there can be things like "combat system design", "quest design" and many others. Sometimes, the "game design" section can even be completely gone, replaced by all the smaller design teams. That's because making and designing a game is a team effort and - in the AAA industry - hardly anyone can say "I've designed this game" without either oversimplifying or being a swaggerer.   There's a common misconception that a game designer more than anything needs to be an extremely creative and innovative person. These elements are of course very important, but from what I have seen so far, the best designers didn't really come up with many ideas. They group the ideas, they review them, they design systems based on them. And if you think about it - it is getting harder and harder to come up with an original idea that will work. There's millions of ready ideas out there to mix and match. At the end of the day, a designer that can cleverly combine the existing ideas is way more valuable than a guy who just comes up with ideas, reinventing the wheel for the nineteenth time.   Systems over ideas What are these systems I am babbling about? They are the very core of game designer's work. The ideas alone are neat, but they can't work without a proper system built around them. Let me explain on a simple example - jump.   Let's say we are designing an action game where a big pile of goo fights with oversized fruits. At some point (probably very early on) there comes an idea: "it would be cool if the goo could jump!". That was an idea. An idea that could have come from anywhere, not necessarily from the game design. To implement this idea, we need a jumping system that will have an answer to every question we can come up with: - how high will the goo jump? - will it bounce off a ceiling if it touches it or will it stick to it? Is the type of ceiling a factor? - what will happen to the goo when it lands? - how far will the goo jump? - if the goo doesn't make it to the other side of a cliff, will it bounce off the wall it or stick to it? Is the type of the wall a factor? - will the goo be able to crawl up the cliff if it sticks to it after jumping? - what will happen if the goo jumps onto an enemy fruit? Is the size of the fruit a factor?     Suddenly, you start coming up with a system that derived from a simple "let's jump" and has all these cool possibilities and all these problems that you have to solve. Thanks to this jumping ability, you are building ceilings with spikes, hard floors to splash your goo on and creating mechanics of swallowing strawberries with the goo, but bouncing off the watermelons. Then you realize that this jumping system closely connects to the battle system, movement system, special skills system, scoring system - most probably every system that makes it into the game.   Yes, it all starts with an idea, but the idea itself is worthless without a careful analysis, problem solving and lots of crash testing. If you are a game designer, the coming up with the idea part might happen without you. What won't happen without you is turning this idea into a logical and complete system that the player will have a very hard time breaking and that will work well with all other systems in the game.   One more idea-related myth to bust while we're at it: A game designer rarely comes up with the game idea. In many cases the game idea is thrown at the design team from above. Be it from the company's CEO, the publisher who simply ordered the game at your company, the marketing team that decided that the next title should be a platform shooter with experience system "just like Skyrim" or a movie company that wants a game based on the movie they are releasing next year. In lion's share of cases, none of the designers that work on a game has actually come up with an idea for it. If you have a game idea and think that by becoming a game designer in a big company will let you bring it to life, stop thinking that.   A game designer does not need to code I am giving this one a separate section as it is a very, very common question. The idea that a designer = coder comes from the times when small teams of people were producing games. The coder had to be a designer, a producer and ideally, a marketing genius. Nowadays it is quite unique for a designer to actually code. They do need to think logically. They do need to know what an algorithm is and even be able to think in algorithms, but they don't really need to get their hands dirty in low level programming. Sooner or later, a designer will have to learn how to script the things in the engine, but scripting is about as complicated as using MS DOS, so no real coder would call scripting programming. Therefore, programming experience is never a requirement for a game design position. If it is, you are looking at a job offer for a designer/programmer in a relatively small gamedev company.     If the designer had to code, there would have been only Two Amigos on this picture :) Awesome image stolen from http://blog.teamtreehouse.com   What is it that you need to get a job as a Game Designer? There are generally two ways that lead to becoming a game designer in an AAA industry. First would be to start at a different position like QA or a producer and then join the design team as soon as you prove yourself worthy and there's an opening. Second would be to get the internship or an entry-level job straight away. In both cases there's a number of things you will need to prove.   Simply having ideas is not good enough, as I think I have emphasised a few paragraphs back. You need to show that you can make your ideas work. This is what a portfolio is for. There's a lot of software nowadays that lets you easily create your own games. They come with some generic assets that you can use. There's really a lot of them: - UDK (Unreal Development Kit) - Unity 3D - Construct 2 - RPG Maker - Engine 001 You can easily google for many, many more. Both free and paid. Both basic and user-friendly and very advanced. Countless small game studios use these kits to create their games. Just choose one that looks best and create! Start with something simple and see how far you can get on your own. The further you will get, the better it will show off what you could accomplish if there was some actual game designer that could guide you. Don't worry that you're using generic assets. What counts is how you connect them. If using all this software baffles or limits you, try the good old pen and paper. Design your own universe, rpg system, board or card game! Anything that will scream out "this guy knows what it is to design a system around his ideas!". So yeah - portfolio. Get it.     If I had to choose a second most important advice it would be "experience as much of various media as you can". Swallow everything - books, movies, TV shows, music, blogs, games. Whatever the modern pop culture spits out, you lick it off the ground happily. Good or bad. I don't mean you shouldn't be critical - be as critical as you wish. The more the better actually. If you know what the second image of this article is doing in it, you are probably on a good track. As a designer, you need thousands of examples of how certain things worked in different media, how they appealed to the audience and how much fun they delivered. This will help you decide things like what topics are worthy of touching and whether it's better to go with an 8-player hot-seat or an online multiplayer. When you are interviewed for the position and a book, movie or game comes up you will get silver points for knowing it, golden points for having something interesting to say about it. And believe me - there will be titles coming up.   Read at least a few books about game design. I cannot stress the importance of this point enough. If I followed this advice two years ago, my early interviews would have gone much, much better. Following this point will let you set your head straight and actually more or less know what the game design is instead of imagining what it is. Some books worth checking out: - Jesse Schell: The Art of Game Design: A book of lenses - Scott Rogers: Level Up!: The Guide to Great Video Game Design - Ernest Adams: Fundamentals of Game Design It also won't hurt to watch the popular Extra Credits series. Their episodes are short, fun, insightful and informative.     Know what's going on in technology. Gamedev is an incredibly dynamic industry. New inventions revolutionise the whole business within few short years. When things like 3D technology, motion control, touch screens or Oculus Rift happen, game designers need to already be able to use these to their advantage instead of hoping people will keep playing their games in the old way, without new possibilities.   These would be the most important things you need in order to get a job in game design. Whether you are "just" migrating from a different role within the same company or you are coming from the outside. Already being in the company obviously lets you show off your talents much more easily. And don't get concerned when all these websites that tell you that a game designer needs drawing, 3D, programming, software, storytelling, communication, presentation, marketing and whatever other skills and knowledge you can come up with. Yes, those can be very helpful, but are not always crucial and since it's an entry position job you are most probably after, they can always be learnt along the way. You have all the time in the world to try to learn everything.    
  8. Woland

    The job of a game tester

    If it isn't complicated, it means I did a great job in the article, explaining it :)   Jokes aside, a lot of people confuse a lot of things about the job of tester - even in gamedev environment. At least that's what my research has shown. Yes, it is less complicated than building a mobile phone using only wood and nails. It still is more complicated than nailing two boards together. So to answer your question: who said it was complicated? I did.
  9. An article I wrote on QA - I think it might help people that are thinking of breaking into the industry as a tester.   ***   When I told my boss I wanted to write about testers, he just said "oh, boy...". When Extra Credits did an episode on game schools, James Portnow wrote "Ask the school what their hire ratio is in the industry (not including jobs in QA)". When an executive of our befriended studio visited our new office, he asked me "How many people are working here? And how many of them are QA?". As you can see, there seems to be something weird going on here. Why is QA (Quality Assurance, a more "official" name for testers) often treated like a spare wheel? Why is it such a complicated topic?    Let's start with some undeniable facts. Compared to the other jobs in gamedev, it is relatively easy to become a tester. A vast majority of testers are in their 20's, most of them start their jobs in the first few years after finishing high schools, no university degree is needed. Creativity, art / sound / programming proficiency or even a high level gaming skills are not required on the entry levels. It's really no wonder that the job in QA is statistically the lowest paying job in gamedev. Another reason, why testers are low paid is that QA is often outsourced to low-cost countries. These outsourcing companies often give feedback of relatively low quality and importance for the developers. Apart from the average cash the developers are willing to pay, it also affects the general reputation of testers. There is also an ongoing debate in many studios, whether QA is even a part of development. There is one quite solid argument against - testers don't produce anything. On the other hand, QA is usually engaged in the development process from the early stages, it takes a significant part in it.   All these factors explain pretty well, why the QA is often treated as a completely separate department. It seems to justify why getting a job in QA isn't a measure of the game school quality. It explains a question how many QA people are working in the office, as it is easier and cheaper to hire more testers, so the number of testers can quite easily boost the number of employees, creating an illusion of a bigger studio.     Now as much as all these statements are true, they are also highly unfair for all the testers out there. Getting hired as a tester might be a bit easier than being hired as a programmer or an artist, but it doesn't mean that you can just walk in to the studio and get this job.   What are the requirements for a tester? - you need to love games and to play a wide variety of them; - knowing foreign languages is a real asset - the more exotic the better. You will often work with different language versions of the game - being able to find spelling errors increases your value as a tester; - you need some proof of logical, analytical thinking - to understand how the game mechanics work in order to break it down. You have to be able to find a way to reproduce it so the developers can fix it; - you should be really resistant to stress and routine - you will be given repetitive assignments, be ready to play the same game over and over and over again; - you should be quite flexible - overtime is very common; - the better you know your gaming platform, the better - only being able to run the game isn't enough. You should know about the hardware and software your platform is running. The more platforms you know (PC, PS, Xbox, Android, MacOS, iOS...) the better; - having an eye for the detail is a must - you are supposed to catch all kinds of bugs: gameplay, visual (including lighting, physics, etc.) and sound. - interests like art, music, game design, history, science fiction, fantasy, game theory, math, coding, creative writing, travelling, literature - all these can really come in handy. - showing that you took part in some open (or even better - closed) beta tests can certainly be a big plus.     As you can see, it's way more demanding than it seems at the first glance. Yes, all these requirements are for the lowest paying job in gamedev. Yes, this is the job that gets so underestimated and looked over. Sadly, QA very rarely gets used the way it should. Imagine having a room full of dedicated, demanding players that aren't heavily invested in the project, since they weren't directly developing it. Sure, they might have less experience that than the game designers or artists, but still they are one of the best focus groups you could possibly dream of. Incredibly often feedback from this group is looked over or belittled. Incredibly often QA is pushed down to be just mechanical bug seekers. And that's a shame, really. In most gamedev studios QA is dependant on all other departments, never the other way round.   A great thing about guys in QA is that they are always ready to help. It's usually the youngest team in the studio and a lot of testers treat their current position as their first step towards their dream job in game development. That's why they love being included in all kinds of activities outside testing. For example, when we were preparing a trailer for our game, we weren't sure about one of the elements, we made a focus group out of our testers. Not only they were really happy to help and share their opinions, but also they gave us some very valuable points and insights we would never gather all by ourselves.   How does work as a tester look? There is actualy a movie (heavily sponsored by Konami, Microsoft and Mattel), where the protagonist is a video game tester. The movie's name is "Grandma's Boy". It is quite fun and worth watching at least to see how hot Linda Cardellini looks in a business suit or how Jonah Hill sucks onto a pair of plastic tits for a few hour straight. However, if you want to base your opinion of gamedev industry on it... Well, don't. It's like learning woodcutting from Monty Python's lumberjack song.     The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to being a tester is thinking it's about playing games. It is about testing one game. Over and over. For a long period of time. And you don't even get to enjoy a game that's finished. You get a half-product, that is more or less playable, often with placeholder textures, basic lighting, generic music and dialogues written by whoever took a pen and paper to their bathroom break. If you are a player that gets easily annoyed when a game just randomly crashes and you need to go through the same gameplay elements again without being able to turn off the long cutscene... It's not a job for you.   What's more, while playing the game, you are obliged to find all the issues you are able to and describe them in some bug-tracking system, for the other departments to review. It requires not only patience and resistance to routine tasks, but also lots of precision. You also never know when a new task will arrive and you may rest assured that most of them will be "for yesterday". This means that no matter which part of the studio is crunching, the QA is always crunching with it.     There is of course the plus side. You get an access to the new technologies long before they hit the market. You get to work in an amazing, young team, as testers are usually the best integrated parts of a gamedev studio, who work hard, but play even harder. Being a tester also means you have access to a lot of knowledge that would be otherwise very hard to get anywhere else. Since QA works with all departments, it also learns from all of them.   Ok, let's start with QA... What next? For many young developers, being a tester is a starting point in their career. It certainly is one of the easiest ways to get your foot in the door. QA is probably always the team with the biggest rotation. Many people quit because of the stress, amount of work and because the reality of being a tester isn't how they imagined it to be. On the other hand, people do manage to get into other teams if they want to, and there is no real rule where they might end up. If a person shows some talent and manages to catch the eye of the lead game designer, art director, head writer or whoever is in charge of the target team, there is a much bigger chance they could become a junior quest designer (or a junior writer, junior concept artist, junior level designer, etc.), than if they applied from the outside.     But let's not treat testing like an unpleasant mid-point for thei aspiring designers. There are also people who live and breathe QA and whose personal development takes place entirely in the testing area. These people specialize. What are the higher positions in there? - Senior Tester - he is the more experienced tester who is often responsible for teaching the basics to Junior Testers. Think of a Senior Tester like a special task commando who becomes a sergeant if less experienced people need some advice or training. - Localization Tester - a tester who is fluent in foreign language(s) and is responsible for verification of localizations - Compliance Specialist - something you won't learn elsewhere. Tester responsible for preparing the game to meet all the certification requirements for a release for a specific console. - QA Team Leader - responsible for planning the tests, distributing the tasks among testers, management of the bug-tracking database, solving problems, communication between departments and preparing reports of the current project status.   The QA department is like a goalkeeper - they are rarely praised, often blamed for any fuckup. And not only by the development. When "more aware" players find a bug in a game, they think "oh, someone in QA didn't do their job". In reality, testers find much more bugs than the other departments are able to fix to deliver the game on time. Some problems just take too much time to solve compared to how critical they are.   If reading all this didn't scare you off, then you just might have it in you to become a tester. After all, it's one of the easiest ways to get into a gamedev, and I can assure you, it is an exciting industry. Being in QA is probably one of the biggest learning opportunities and one of the toughest gamedev life tests. If you dream of making big AAA titles and are in the beginning of your professional career, take a game you really, seriously hate and spend 2-3 hours with it every day for a few months. If that didn't kill you, you should apply for a job of a tester!   Quality of this article is assured by my awesome QA Team Leader - great thanks!  
  10. Woland

    Taking almost ALL the credit?

    Yes, discussing it with your team is obviously a first step. You are right that a whole litany will look quite ridiculous, but you can always settle on 2-3 titles that most fit and don't overlap too much. For example Creative Director and Game Designer - even though they aren't exactly the same, they overlap here and there. Also, in a small team, "Creative Director" seems a bit like an overkill, but it might be just to my ear. Project manager or Producer however, is a quite different story - it is almost strictly a different role and I think you can include it in credits too.   I wouldn't care that much about the supporting roles, like additional modelling, but if I, as a player, wanted to view the credits and see who did the music - I'd like to know who it was. Even if it was the same person that did 5 other things.   It's all a matter of choosing the right titles and rather being informative than boasting.
  11. Woland

    The job of a Producer

    2. I guess what I was trying to say is that the Producer is not above the ball, but below it. He is making it, rolling downhill and everything, but if you ever made a ball big enough, you know that sooner or later it will be much too fast for you to catch up with it. A producer cannot lag behind, cannot even be nudging from the sides. He must be always a few steps ahead and in critical moments clone himself to be all around the ball. What you are presenting is an ideal state, where everything goes as planned and market doesn't change throughout the production of the game. This might be true for small projects, but for anything that takes over a year...   I took a liberty of commenting the snowball metaphor a bit more here: Concept Phase - deciding to make a snowball and roll it (and hit a shed down at the bottom) - 100% agreed Pre-production - making a snowball and pushing it until it rolls on its own - it may never be able to roll on its own, even if the pre-production was done by the book Production - running to keep up, nudging the ball to control its direction (but not its speed). - speed is an important factor. The producer needs not only to control the speed, but also be able to deliver additional snow if there isn't enough on the way. Post-production - impossible to exert control over the snowball at this point (producer's legs are tired - s/he is winded - ball is heavy, fast, practically beyond his/her control) - if the producer's legs are tired, he should have chosen another job. This isn't for sprinters, it's for guys who can run the marathon, then remember they left the oven on and run back. After-market phase - the snowball has stopped; people come out of the shed (angry) - why angry? Maybe they wanted a snow delivery ^^
  12. Woland

    The job of a Producer

    Tom, I just read the article you are pointing to and you might want to update it a bit. For example: - showing salaries from 10 years ago doesn't look good. Even though it's not the main element of the article, it is still the first date that a reader comes across and it kinda screams "update me" - statements like "Overtime - No. You'll get a flat salary. No extra pay for overtime. Testers get overtime because they're hourly. But producers are salaried." are simply not true. It all depends on the company and a definite "no" is just plain untrue. Same goes for company car for instance.   I also disagree with the snowball analogy. I mean, sure - it is a snowball, but you are not pushing it. You are trying to catch it and manage the way it takes, making it avoid all the trees and skiing kids. The longer it rolls, the heavier and harder it gets. Preproduction is extremely important, true, but saying that it's the hardest part is just living in an imaginary ideal world. After the preproduction phase, which was already quite challenging, my Executive Producer told me "Wait for it, you haven't seen shit yet."
  13. Woland

    The job of a Producer

    From what I've seen it is mostly the other way round - game projects are finding good, reliable producers :)
  14. Woland

    The job of a Producer

    In theory, yes. In practice... I've been a project manager in a telecommunication company before I got into gamedev and apart from the general idea, everything is completely different - the communication style and means, nature of tasks, even different perception of time or budget :)   So I'd say yes, a Producer is the same as Project Manager, but a Project Managers jobs can vary greatly depending on the company and / or industry.
  15. Another article I wrote and that might be of some help for aspiring game developers:       Just lately this noob has been promoted to an Associate Producer (yay!). After nine months on the job, doing my best to coordinate the production tasks I think I can fairly certainly say... Damn, I still don't really know what being a producer really is all about. Therefore, I am putting "part 1" in the title, but part 2 won't follow straight after it. I will probably write part 2 in a year or two, just to revise and maybe contradict the statements I will make today.   So many producers... If you look at all the "kinds" of producers, you can find out such names as Producer, Executive Producer, Junior Producer, Associate Producer, Senior Producer, or even such weird thingies as Art Producer, Design Producer or Technical Producer. What is the difference between them? In many cases, it strongly depends on the company, but generally speaking, the main difference is the level of competencies and responsibilities. The core concept of the job stays the same whether you are a Junior Producer or Executive Producer. The only real difference is the number of decissions you will be expected to make and broadness of topics you will have to cover.   A producer in gamedev is kinda like a manager In this case it means that he's as much everyone's boss as he is everyone's bitch. From all the info I've gathered so far, his role varies greatly throughout the life of the project. Producer needs to know what everyone in the project is doing and why. He manages the priorities of the tasks and is responsible for achieving the milestones within planned deadlines and budget. This part is almost like any other project management in any given company. On the other hand, however, producer can often be the guy that does things others don't have time to do. It can be anything from covering for a sick animator at a motion capture session, through attending meetings that just popped out, running the team's Twitter, helping with the game's slogan or logotype, to all the things people in the trenches don't have time to do while crunching: ordering lunch, helping QA check out the latest build or the most basic and tedious jobs, like renaming files, creating backups or watching the progress bar of the compiling build as the programmer gets his 15 minutes of rest. It is also quite safe to say that if there is a task where nobody knows whose responsibility it is, it is most probably producer's.   Continue reading on Games Making Noob Blog...
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