People often ask me, “What's it like working in the games industry?”
Well, it's kinda crazy some times, kinda silly some times, and kinda frustrating sometimes…
Hmm… Let's start at the top of my day.
I work on the top floor of a big black-glass cube right next to Cherry Creek Reservoir, so our board room has this “you should charge money for this” view of the Rockies.
But my office has no windows, for reasons.
I park in a lot that looks like it should belong at Disney Land, way in the back to be out of the door-dinging mosh-pit. One elevator ride past the 'low-rent' floors, the 'doctor' floors, the 'Verizon' floor, and the 'CBeyond' ISP floor we get to the top floor.
You stroll down this long hall to the receptionist's desk where you get your first indication this isn't a normal office. There are two cameras pointed at you and the main door has this big sign which informs you in no uncertain terms that just about anything on you that runs on a battery will be confiscated before you can pass. At this door I use my ProxCard ID to buzz though and wave at the cameras.
Welcome to the least secure part of the company. Straight ahead to the west is our board room with it's big glass wall and the afore mentioned view and a long hallway the runs north-south. On the ceilings are various sized black camera domes – and they are *everywhere* – I helped install them and can tell you, honestly, that there are exactly two places you can stand where you can't be seen, but to get to those places you'll be recorded 8 times…
To the south is administration, sales and marketing, and business projects. This consists of several offices, a large 'cube-ville' area, several conference rooms, and a half dozen cypher-locked labs for secure business projects.
To the North is where I live, on the other side of a large imposing door that states that behind it is a high secure area and that none shall pass. To the right of the door are an alarm panel, another ProxCard scanner, and a biometric hand scanner.
As I open the place up in the morning I have to run the code to disarm the alarms and keep the Aurora police from tasering me, scan another ProxCard to enable the hand scanner, and put my hand in the device so that the security system can cross-check my hand print with the ProxCard and buzz open the door.
Ok, welcome to 'Interactive Entertainment'. This is where all the magic happens… There are posters from all the games we've worked on hanging on all the walls, a dozen cypher locked labs, four 'bunkers' in the middle area for lower security work, and two offices. One office down the way is for the I.E. managers, and the cypher locked door to the right is my office.
So, punch in the code, listen for the beeps, and open the door… Maxwell Smart had it easy getting to work every day…
Welcome to the I.T. server room and Load and Performance testing office.
It's loud in here, and 66 (+/- 2) degrees. As you walk in to your right are several racks of servers, two wiring racks full of punch downs, switches, routers, and several miles of CAT6. On the far right wall is the PBX system with all of its miles of wire, punch downs, and hardware. Directly ahead is Bryan's desk, then behind that is Scott's desk, and at the very back is a wall of computers on shelves.
My desks sit in the back right corner of the room behind a wall of cabinets and shelves… Here's where I do my daily 'thing' which consists of managing I.T., designing test systems for the various projects scattered around the building, running Load and Performance tests, solving all of the problems, and providing an ear for the other managers to vent to about stuff.
This office is pretty much the hub of the company as everything we do here is of a computer-based nature. I.T. controls the dissemination of testing computers to the business and game testers, handles the networking requirements for all of the labs, handles the flow of data in and out of the company, and manages all of the security.
Unfortunately the things I can't talk about are the things we actually do or how we do them… Everything is NDA, classified, trade secret, or proprietary. Imagine how hard it is to convince a new client that you know what you're doing when you can't tell them about any of your past clients or anything that you've done before.
What I can say is that game testing sounds like a lot of fun, and in some ways it is. But it takes a certain kind of person to be a good game tester – those rare people that don't 'play' a game, they dissect a game. We look for people who instinctively try to find ways out of game levels, exploit game mechanics, min/max combat systems, and are very, very patient… Oh, and who have a good grasp of technical writing.
See, imagine playing the same level of a game you don't like, over and over again, for 8 hours a day, for a week… That's game testing. For example, the first game I worked on when I hired on here was a racing game that I can't mention made by a company I can't mention for a platform I can't mention… You get the idea. Anyways, the matrix I was handed had me go through and test every single possible car modification (thousands) and make sure that the listed price on the mod worked out mathematically on the purchase screen. After a week of that I got to boundary test a level by ensuring I finished that specific race in every possible position (1st through last), then making sure that it was impossible to get the car out of the play area by running into every inch of the collision barrier around then entire track – forwards and backwards.
But, I also got to play the game the entire way through before it ever hit the shelves and the team had a lot of fun racing against the developers… So it's not all drudgery – there's a lot of fun too. But it's not *all* fun, I guess is what I'm trying to get at.
Anyways, I have to do the work thing now so I'm going to have to escort you out of the building. Thanks for stopping by!