In the follow-up to the first part of our recent Inside Crytek Interview, QA Editor Chris Speak answers your questions about his day-to-day work.
Cool interview. I have a question: what caused you to become interested in the field you chose? What started your interest in games?
I’m one of those people at just the right age that when I was a kid, computers and video games were really only just becoming mainstream. I’m 29, and I remember playing games like Joust on the Atari and being totally blown away by it. As I got older and more games were being released that these days are considered classics, I started becoming interested in how they were made. I started figuring out what went into the actual development of a game and I realised this was what I wanted to do with my life. That, and be Spider-Man. Haven’t quite achieved the second bit yet...
What principle do you know yourself (e.g. programming, modelling, texturing, animating, etc.) and how did you learn about that?
At University I primarily focused as Animator and 3D Modeller, but as I’ve gotten into the industry and seen other aspects of development that I hadn’t considered before, I realised it was actually more the overall cinematography that I really enjoyed. I’m fortunate enough that as Editor QA, I get to “play” with the CryENGINE on a daily basis during my usual rounds of testing, one of which is regularly the Track View function of the editor, which is the tool that we use at Crytek to make all those awesome cut scenes and movies.
I’m currently working in QA as it’s an entry level role with hopes of getting into Cinematic Design at some point, but I take my work very seriously as QA is a very important aspect of developing a game that should never be overlooked or undervalued.
Is it difficult to adjust to living abroad? What do you do to cope with that and what were the best and worst parts about moving away for a job?
I won’t lie; I struggled a bit at first. I knew almost no German at all, I’d never lived abroad, I’d never even lived alone.
Between living with my family and in an 8 person flat share at University, I’d be surprised if I was ever alone for an actual day in my life until the point I moved to Frankfurt. I lived alone here for three months in company accommodation and the first few weeks were very difficult for me. I knew very few people and any plans I made seemed to disintegrate leaving me alone in my flat with no internet connection and nothing to do. It wasn’t until later I found out I was able to actually come into the office on evenings and weekends to use the PCs and Internet here.
Making friends with co-workers made things a lot easier, and I joined at a time when everyone was “piling in” at the same time. I think the month I joined we had 40 or more new hires, which meant a lot of us were in the same boat and we all sort of just banded together. Outside of that I ended up making friends with a bunch of really fun people who keep my attention on a regular basis outside of work, and after maybe a month or two of living in Frankfurt it felt like home. I miss my friends and family back home, but I’ve had such an amazing time here so far that I doubt I’d ever move back permanently.
I live in Malaysia and my country’s game industry (also IT) is very, very small. They do offer studies for gaming creation, but seeing how small the industry is, I decided to study design engineering. Is there any chance for someone like me to get into the industry?
If I understand the term “Design Engineer” correctly, I’d imagine an advisory role would be more than possible. Game companies across the globe are going for hyper-realism/accuracy these days and people from disciplines as far-removed from the games industry as bio-engineering and quantum physics are being used regularly for their expertise in their fields. With “design engineering” being such a vast array of disciplines though it’s hard to say for sure what area of game development you would fit in. My advice would be to take a look at what you know and love. Analyse how you think you can apply that to the design of a videogame and then maybe branch out on your own with self-studying of a discipline related to that. A lot of people at Crytek are self-taught in their disciplines and made it into the industry by working on Mods with teams of like-minded people. You may find that if you do something along those lines, you’ll find a discipline you truly love and then you can use your studied expertise as a design engineer as an advantage.
What does a typical day at Crytek look like for you?
I wake up at 4am, put on my overalls, grab my pickaxe and… Oh wait, that was my last job…
There isn’t really anything at Crytek that we can really call a “typical” day because everything changes so much and so quickly that it’s hard to tell what is normal and what is abnormal. In most of the areas of Crytek Development, Devs are allowed to show up on a sort of flexi-time system. For those of us in QA, we’re on a more rigid and stricter 9am-6pm routine. I get in before 9, fire up my PC, allow the company network to figure out who I am and assign the correct drives and such to me, and then I usually set the latest Dev_C3 Editor build copying to my machine. Tasks by this point are usually assigned and a spreadsheet created that allows the “Sandbox and Tools” QA team to coordinate and begin thorough testing of the current build.
We split the whole editor up between the group and we usually get through the majority of it, barring any major issues like broken builds, in the first half of the day. After that, we move on to one of the other branches of the CryENGINE such as the Ryse build or one of the other pieces of software we produce here.
Occasionally we get a deadline for a release of a piece of software, such as the FreeSDK, that requires a thorough final test before release. This keeps things interesting for us as different requirements each day means our job is different from one day to the next, for the most part. We also often get assigned custom binary tests by individual members of the development team for us to test specific functions such as shadow generation or Track View to make sure that no new issues have been introduced before the changes are merged into the regular daily builds. All of these things keep Editor QA pretty busy as you can imagine!