Train2Game News: Frogster producer Rüdiger Moersch on getting into the industry

Getting involved with a gaming community and studying games related courses are great ways to attempt to break into the industry.  That’s according to Frogster producer Rüdiger Moersch who was speaking to The Train2Game Blog at Rezzed.

Frogster are publishers of upcoming monster-hunting MMO RaiderZ, which is currently accepting sign-ups of an upcoming beta.  The German company are also publishers of recently released MMO Tera.

“It really depends on what section of the games industry you want. If you want to go for CS, or something like that, or even some community management, you must have some experience in the community.” Moersch responded when we asked him for advice about getting into the games industry.

“The best way to get into community management for example, in my opinion, is to open up your own guild, manage it on a small scale, get the experience there, being involved in the games and love the games of course. If you want to get into programming or art or something like that, study.” he added.

The Frogster producer also revealed how he got started in the games industry.

“You know, I started something like 25 years ago! I was looking for a job at the time, living in Germany, and I stumbled over an advert in a newspaper looking for a computer gaming company for a CS guy, so I went for it, applied and ended up at Soft Gold.” he said.

“I don’t know if you know the name of it anymore, but it was a German publisher, and we had some really cool games like the early LucasArts games, and I worked my way up, basically.” Moersch added.

There’s more advice from games professionals about getting into the industry here on The Train2Game Blog.

As usual, leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game Interview: Gearbox Software co-founder Brian Martel on starting in the industry and learning from failure

Gearbox Software co-founder and Executive Vice President Brian Martel has worked in the games industry for over twenty years, making him the most experienced member of the Texas studio. The Train2Game Blog recently start down with Martel at a Borderlands 2 preview event where he discussed how he got started in the industry, the importance of learning from mistakes and advice on getting into game development.

How did you get started in the games industry?

I’ve been in the industry now for about twenty years. I got my first start at Microprose, the first game that I worked on was Civilization and I’m the last name that appears in the credits, so I’m extremely proud of my time at Microprose and I learned a lot of valuable lessons from Sid Meier, how he starts and his approach to gaming and that’s really awesome.

I then went to 3D Realms, leaving to be a texture artist. There I met Randy Pitchford; we were paired up, he was a level designer and I was an artist and we really just hit it off. That’s kind of how it worked back in those days; you would just keep pushing each other. Then after that we decided to start Rebel Boat Rocker, which was one of the best miserable failures of our career, we learned a lot about what not to do in making games.

Then we started Gearbox Software and I think we’re going on thirteen years now and that’s been a fabulous experience. We’ve been working on things that we really love like the Half-Life series, working on some Halo, Tony Hawk, even the James Bond franchise; all of these things have been interesting and now we’ve got Aliens: Colonial Marines which is fantastic, a dream come true. And then owning our own intellectual properties, like working on the Brothers In Arms series and Borderlands.

So, it’s been a pretty cool ride, really love making games, we’re entertainers at heart and this is what we do.

You mentioned learning from mistakes there, how important is it then for young game designers to actually make mistakes and learn from them?

Yeah, you have to fail, you have to learn what works and what doesn’t work, and the only way to really do that is to not be afraid of those failures and kind of push forward and try and do and make new things and do stuff, that’s really what you need to do. I mean everything doesn’t have to be perfect.

Probably the best lesson in all of this, and it’ll sound kind of silly and base if you will, is you have to learn when things are good enough, and that’s sort of the trick. The customer doesn’t know the difference between you’re vision – which is far exceeding your capabilities – and what they get in the box, or on an app, or whatever. So just do it, make it, make something, make something they can feel and experience.

It’s like writers, right? You should just have to write, and that’s the same kind of thing, just make games. If you like programming, do what you love; if you like programming, you like art, just do what you love, do it. Just do it over and over and over again, find people you can work well with – they’re going to feed your passion and drive, that kind of thing.

So, would that be your advice to anymore aspiring to break into the games industry? Do programming, produce art, mod for example.

Yeah, exactly. Mods are a great way to start; because that way you can build a community, figure out what it’s like to work with other people. Its one thing when you’re on your own in your bedroom, garage, whatever, and you’re doing your own thing. But once you start working with people, collaborating and understanding how to make those compromises you have to make, sometimes some of the best things come out of those compromises, they come out of the discussion, because two different people have disparate ideas and you can’t get that on your own.

I think that’s where small teams are really great to do that, and even in large teams, having really great experienced leaders can help that, and the only way to get there is by doing it and getting through it and learning what to do.

Thanks for your time.

There’s more from Gearbox Software here on The Train2Game Blog, while there’s also plenty more advice from industry experts.

As usual, leave your comments on The Train2Game Blog, or here on The Train2Game forum.  

Train2Game News: Gearbox co-founder Brian Martel on getting into the industry – “Mods are a great way to start”

Gearbox Software co-founder and company CCO Brian Martel believes modding is a great way for aspiring game developers to gain the skills needed to break into the industry.

“Mods are a great way to start; because that way you can build a community, figure out what it’s like to work with other people.” he told The Train2Game Blog at a recent Borderlands 2 preview event.

“It’s one thing when you’re on your own in your bedroom, garage, whatever, and you’re doing your own thing. But once you start working with people, collaborating and understanding how to make those compromises you have to make, sometimes some of the best things come out of those compromises, they come out of the discussion, because two different people have disparate ideas and you can’t get that on your own.”  Martel continued.

“I think that’s where small teams are really great to do that, and even in large teams, having really great experienced leaders can help that, and the only way to get there is by doing it and getting through it and learning what to do.” he added.

Our full interview with Gearbox Software co-founder Brian Martel will be published shortly, with more from the studio here.

DayZ creator Dean “Rocket” Hall also recently spoke to The Train2Game Blog about the benefits of modding.

Modding is a great way for Train2Game students to practice and show off their skills, and there’s a lot more about it here on The Train2Game Blog, including what ValveUbisoft and  id Software told us about it.

What are your thoughts on Brian Martel’s advice?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game Interview: Cheat Mode author and QA veteren Dan Jacobs – all three parts in one place

Cheat Mode by Dan Jacobs is a recently released book about getting into and surviving the games industry. Written by an industry veteran, this book contains interviews with industry professionals who make games every day. From programmers to designers, journalists to community Managers, it offers advice from staff working at companies including BioWare, Codemasters, Rockstar and more.

The Train2Game Blog recently caught up with Cheat Mode author and experienced QA Tester Dan Jacobs to discuss his book, getting into the industry, what makes a good QA Tester and more in a huge interview which is spread out over three parts.

For the sake of convince, all three parts of our interview with Dan Jacobs can now see accessed in one place thanks to this blog post.  Be sure to read the whole thing for an excellent insight into the games industry.

Interview Part 1 – Inspiration for writing Cheat Mode, his involvement on the Train2Game forum, and how he broke into the games industry.

Interview Part 2 – Researching Cheat Mode, the importance of QA and its place in development.

Interview Part 3 - mistakes when QA testing, advice on becoming a tester, and the importance of networking.

Cheat Mode The definitive guide to getting into and surviving the games industry is out now and costs £10.99.

As usual, leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game Interview: DayZ creator Dean “Rocket” Hall on getting into the industry

DayZ is the hugely popular zombie survival mod for Arma II. Produced by Arma II game designer Dean “Rocket” Hall in his spare time around full-time work at Bohemia Interactive, DayZ has demonstrated the huge potential of modding.

The Train2Game Blog sat down with the DayZ creator at Rezzed to discuss the advantages of modding, his unconventional path into the games industry and advice for those looking to get into game development. 

Tell us how you get started in the games industry. You haven’t taken a conventional route through it.

Yeah, it’s sort of a bit bizarre really. I left the New Zealand air force and did some odd project jobs, and then I decided that, as I was doing a lot of modding, that I wanted to get into the industry and I landed a job as an associate producer, working on console development for movie licensed games. Did that for a couple of years, didn’t really like the industry that much, particularly the console development style, and particularly for movie license stuff, so I quit and joined the army. After awhile, I decided I’d go back and have a look at Arma III.

Landing that first games job as associate producer, modding was a big part of it, they saw the community website I’d been running and the mods I’d been doing, and it was obviously a way to prove I was passionate and that I have a basic understanding of the technology. So I think that was a real benefit, approaching the industry from that angle.

So modding is a great way for aspiring game designers to show off their skills to potential employers?

Yeah, absolutely, definitely, and I think you can show your passion, that you can understand someone else’s code and stuff like that and get good familiarity.

Which toolsets do you use when modding?

3D Max. I guess when I was working as a producer I had the advantage of the project going well and having a lot of downtime. So I used that downtime to learn how to do art and how to do programming and all those kinds of aspects from my team leads, so that meant I ended up with a really good overview, I think if you want to be a good game designer, if you want to work in design, that’s the best way to approach it. Just learn as much as you can about all disciplines.

What other advice would you give to anyone looking to break into the games industry?

You need to be passionate and persistent, and I guess you need to have an idea of what you want to do, what are the areas of game development you really want to focus on? I think the best thing, particularly if you want to get into design, is understand how games are made. That means production, that means how much it costs to make games, that means the different aspects of it; how do you make 3D models? How are those rendered in games? What do programmers need to consider?

And I think the most important thing, even more than raw skills is social skills, you need to have social skills, you can’t just be good. If you’re very good it probably doesn’t matter, but if you’ve got social skills than you can be a real asset to the team.

Thanks for your time, Dean. 

Keep reading The Train2Game Blog for more on coverage from Rezzed, modding and advice from the pros on getting into the industry. 

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.

Train2Game News: “The most important thing, even more than raw skills, is social skills” – Day Z creator

Good social skills are a real bonus for those aspiring to work in the games industry and are perhaps more important than being good at a particular discipline.  That’s according to creator of incredibly popular Arma II mod Day Z, Dean “Rocket” Hall

“I think the most important thing, even more than raw skills is social skills, you need to have social skills, you can’t just be good. If you’re very good it probably doesn’t matter, but if you’ve got social skills than you can be a real asset to the team.” Hall told The Train2Game Blog at PC and indie gaming show Rezzed.

The full interview, exploring the unconventional way the Day Z creator broke into the industry and his other pieces of advice for aspiring game developers will be published soon.  During the interview, Hall reassert’s his view that modding is a great way to explore new ideas and gain experience.

There’s more advice from games industry professionals on getting your foot in the door here on The Train2Game Blog. Meanwhile, be sure to keep reading for further interviews and updates from our time at Rezzed.

What are your thoughts on Hall’s advice?

Leave your comments on The Train2Game Blog, or here on The Train2Game forum.

Train2Game Interview: Veteren QA Tester and Cheat Mode author Dan Jacobs – Part 3

Cheat Mode by Dan Jacobs is a recently released book about getting into and surviving the games industry. Written by an industry veteran, this book contains interviews with industry professionals who make games every day. From programmers to designers, journalists to community Managers, it offers advice from staff working at companies including BioWare, Codemasters, Rockstar and more.

The Train2Game Blog recently caught up with Cheat Mode author and experienced QA Tester Dan Jacobs to discuss his book, getting into the industry, what makes a good QA Tester and more.

In the final instalment of our huge three part interview, Jacobs discusses mistakes when QA testing, advice on becoming a tester, and the importance of networking.  The previous instalment of our interview is here.

Cheat Mode The definitive guide to getting into and surviving the games industry is out now and costs £10.99.

 What are the biggest mistakes that can be made in QA Testing?

Biggest mistake number one is saying “I play games for a living.” No, you’re here for a job, you either work or you leave.  I assure you that very quickly in every new batch of testers, there are some who will go because they believed it was a joke, a mess around, a laugh. They weren’t prepared to do 12 hour days or endlessly test the same thing day out. It’s a job, if you want to keep that job, you have to do that.

Going back to Cheat Mode, your book, what’s the greatest piece of advice you can give to someone looking to break into the industry?

There is a prevailing factor in the book, almost everyone I spoke to, at some point, got a bit of luck. Luck is not something you can aim for, but it’s certainly something you can increase the chances of. If you’re applying to the companies near your house, well, good luck with that. But personally, I’ve moved for almost every job I’ve had, just to be able to take on that job and do it, expand my CV, get more experience then move on.

Once you have that break, a lot of people take you a lot more seriously because you’ve already worked. But getting that first break is very hard, and ultimately you have to be prepared to do whatever it takes. But you have an applicant in this industry need to be prepared to meet those challenges.

Would you recommend going to industry events such as Rezzed, Develop Conference and Eurogamer to help get your face out there?

Networking certainly features highly in Cheat Mode. In fact, I’m beginning to see my Facebook page for the book as a good source of networking.  There are a lot of games industry veterans who’ve liked that page because they know me or they’ve been interviewed by me for the book. But networking is an absolutely great place to start. You may not get a job from networking in any way shape, or form, but you will meet those people again in the industry.

Basically, you’ve got to work really hard to get into this industry.

Yeah, definitely. In a way, it’s a bit of a thankless industry, but the reward of your name in the credits is phenomenal.

So, you’re book, Cheat Mode, where can people buy it from?

Well, I’m sure everyone has seen my Train2Game forum post and the Facebook page. You can pick the book up from completelynovel.com. It’s an interesting book, I was chatting to one of the interviewees, Pete, an artist I worked with in Scotland, and he told me “I would’ve killed for this book when I was younger” and so would I! And the shocking thing is there’s no one book on this subject at all, that I could find anyway.

There are books on how to design games, how to animate games, how to do specific disciplines, but there’s nothing says ‘Here’s a guy, he codes, let’s talk to him about his day-to-day life. Here’s a game designer, let’s talk about what he actually does, as opposed to the image of sitting in a chair inventing storylines which is such fiction.

So, what I’m hoping for is for Cheat Mode to do a couple of things; it’ll give people a more realistic idea of what they’re getting themselves in for,  hopefully give them some tips on creating a good CV, and getting out ahead of the crowd. And hopefully there’s some resources in there that they may not have heard of, and perhaps they can use the FAQ when they start at a company.

Thanks for your time

As usual, leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum. Part 1 and 2 of our interview are here.  

Cheat Mode The definitive guide to getting into and surviving the games industry is out now and costs £10.99.

Train2Game Interview: Veteren QA Tester and Cheat Mode author Dan Jacobs – Part 2

Cheat Mode by Dan Jacobs is a recently released book about getting into and surviving the games industry. Written by an industry veteran, this book contains interviews with industry professionals who make games every day. From programmers to designers, journalists to community Managers, it offers advice from staff working at companies including BioWare, Codemasters, Rockstar and more.

The Train2Game Blog recently caught up with Cheat Mode author and experienced QA Tester Dan Jacobs to discuss his book, getting into the industry, what makes a good QA Tester and more.

In part two of our huge three part interview, Jacobs discusses who he’s spoken to for Cheat Mode, the importance of QA and its place in development.  Read part one of our interview here.

Cheat Mode The definitive guide to getting into and surviving the games industry is out now and costs £10.99.

All of the studios you’ve worked for then, are they all places you’ve been able to contact for advice on getting into the industry for putting into Cheat Mode?

I didn’t really contact companies, too much legal red tape and hoops to jump through, so I just spoke to contacts I have in each discipline from the various years. So, if you look at the interviews, 90% of them are with people I’ve worked with at one company or another and the other 10% are friends of those people.

So, tell us a bit about some of the individuals you’ve spoken to in the writing of Cheat Mode.

Well, the people themselves are absolutely every person you will never have heard of in your life. These are the great unsung, these are the people that I’ve lived, breathed and died a project with, these are the people I’ve watched the sun rise over the office with, shared many a crap takeaway with and made games with.  So, there is absolutely no one anyone would have heard of, but these guys are the real industry.

It’s great hearing from the Sid Meier’s of the world and the known people, but it’s very much a case of these guys are the real guys doing the real jobs every day, and if anyone can give you a realistic idea of what their job is actually like, it’s going to be these guys. Some of them have a phenomenal amount of experience. I’ve done video games for twelve years, and I’m considered a veteran, but some of these guys have a phenomenal amount of knowledge and experience about making video games.

So, what you’re saying is games QA testers are massively important to the industry, it wouldn’t function without these people.

Testing is interesting, there are very few companies that see QA as anything other than a hurdle to get past.  It’s the companies, the Valve’s of the world who actually listen to their QA team, who actually pop in and ask ‘is this fun?’ These are the companies that make the real, successful games because they utilise and appreciate the experience and the gaming knowledge that I tester has, rather than see it as the people they need to get past to have their game completed, they use it as a tool to improve their games.

What do you think actually makes a good QA Tester?

A good QA Tester has to communicate clearly, concisely and well all the time, and has to keep that level consistent. They have to have an explorative nature, because I can hire anyone to play a game, but hiring someone to break a game is a subtle but key difference. If all they do is just play the game, they’re not going to find the problems. When you release a piece of software, you end up with millions and millions of possibilities from every position that character is in, and we need to test those possibilities.

In recent years, since games can now be patched through online updates, games seem to be being released without thorough testing. Fallout: New Vegas comes to mind.

It’s been an interesting shift internally, because it used to be a case of that we as a department would come up with a list of ‘we have to fix these key issues, then we can release.’ Now, we watch those issues get shifted from the ‘we’re going to fix this list’ to the ‘day one patch list,’ and it’s become almost a reliance of the industry to be able to patch on day one.  So you will go through submissions, submissions will find the bugs that they can’t release with, you assure the console company that you’ll fix it in a day one patch and the game goes out.

In a way it’s painful as a QA tester band because you want the best quality product,  and ultimately there still are people who don’t have internet connections, who don’t , who don’t get those day one patches and the quality of their game suffers from that.

With the internet being so vocal when they’re frustrated about something with a game, do you think that’s going to change?

Well, gaming’s an interesting pastime, it has one of the most vocal, angry possible fan bases you can have. At the end of the day, it’s great that people have opinions and care about this property so much, but I was watching that whole BioWare debacle take place. It’s interesting working in video games and having such a vocal audience.

Part 1 of our interview with Veteren QA Tester Dan Jacobs is here, while Part 3 will be published shortly. 

Train2Game Interview: Veteren QA Tester and Cheat Mode author Dan Jacobs – Part 1

Cheat Mode by Dan Jacobs is a recently released book about getting into and surviving the games industry. Written by an industry veteran, this book contains interviews with industry professionals who make games every day.From programmers to designers, journalists to community Managers, it offers advice from staff working at companies including BioWare, Codemasters, Rockstar and more.

The Train2Game Blog recently caught up with Cheat Mode author and experienced QA Tester Dan Jacobs to discuss his book, getting into the industry, what makes a good QA Tester and more.

In part one of our huge three part interview, Jacobs discusses his inspiration for writing the book, his involvement on the Train2Game forum, and how he broke into the games industry.

Cheat Mode The definitive guide to getting into and surviving the games industry is out now and costs £10.99.

First of all, can you tell us about your book, Cheat Mode, and your inspiration for writing it?

I did a Eurogamer podcast a couple of years ago, and I was chatting to a friend who used to test for me and we were discussing and dispelling the myths like ‘how could QA miss this bug’ and in the podcast I mentioned that we probably didn’t miss the bug but the developers didn’t have the time or money to fix it being the key difference on that little myth.

He said ‘you should write a book,’ so I thought about the idea for awhile and what possible format it could take and it kind of just grew from there. It’s part my knowledge of from ten years in video games, and part interviews with friends I’ve made over the years about what they do and how they feel about the industry, as well as interviews with Blitz Games and some of the lovely folk down there and just a bit of advice and resources that I know of that perhaps those wanting to get into the industry don’t know.

Tell us a bit about yourself, who you are, your username on the Train2Game forum, and you’re involvement with posting there?

I’m Darklights on the forum, which is also my gamer tag and is awesome! I initially joined because I thought it’d be a good way of getting into the student mindset. These are the target audience, these are the people who would be reading the book, let’s find out the stuff they don’t know or what they want to know about working the industry.

So, at the same time as doing that, I can’t help myself if there’s a question about QA, I feel the need to answer, or if there’s a question about game development, I feel the need to answer that.  In the same way, there are also a lot of students there who just want help improving their show reel and want a leg-up over the competition.

You mentioned you have ten years experience in the industry, how did you start, and how did you get to where you are now?

I didn’t really get on well with education, I didn’t really have much of an education and I ended up in the classic experience of ‘no work experience, you’re not getting a job,’ so the only place that would take me on was telephone sales.

So, I spent many years doing double glazing on the phone; bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms, I probably did it. I had a friend, we went to college together, and we’d met working at one of these companies. I’d helped get her work in the past, and she gave me a calling saying ‘hey, I’m temping at a video game company, they need some testers for Christmas, and I thought you’d be interested’

Of course, being a hardcore gamer I was like “Yes! Where do I sign up?” But obviously I was worried that I had no experience in video games and surely everyone who likes gaming is applying. She said “I spoke to a guy who tests there currently, and he just applied with a list of all the games he’s completed.” So, I did the same and in the interview I just tore their ears apart saying how much I liked games and how much I wanted to do the job, and I landed it.

I remember my first “crunch” evening; we had to stay on so we stayed on until about 5a.m. and the build never arrived, so I went home on the proviso that I’d sleep during the day and come back to test the build at night. I woke up three days later with absolutely no idea what was going on! Really concerned that I’d lost my job, but my boss was really cool about it and that was really my first experience of crunch. Thankfully, I got a lot better at handling it after that!

So, I tested there for a couple of months, helping with their Christmas releases, but then I had to leave because the contract was over. They told me they’d really like me to come back some time, which was brilliant, and I went off and got another sales job, actually, this was a videos on demand service.

They were paying me 20k a year, then I was there for a couple of weeks before Empire called me up and asked  ‘how would you like to work for us, for two weeks, on minimum wage?’ and I said no, because I was more interested in having a secure job at the time.  So, I worked at this company for one and a half to two years before thinking ‘hang on a second, why am I not doing something I enjoy and love?’

So I started working on getting back into the games industry, and I applied to a strange advert that was very mysterious in that it said we need games testers, but we can’t tell you why or for what.  So, I thought I’ll have some of that and applied, and landed a job testing for the new Microsoft console, the Xbox!

I started there as a functional tester, then was moved up to evaluation after a couple of weeks, which was the best job I’ve ever had. Literally, play the game for two weeks, say if I like it and why and then you’re supervisor would write a report because you’re only a tester and couldn’t possibly write a report! So literally, my job was to play games, not even to find bugs. Then I did a bit of standards work before Microsoft moved the office, so I had to leave.

Since then I’ve moved around a bit, I’ve worked at EA, I’ve worked for well, Microsoft, SEGA I did a stint at. I’ve worked for Kuju, Climax, DC Studios, Argonauts, and I did a bit of Sky TV games for awhile too.

As usual, leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum. Part 2 of our interview with Veteren QA Tester Dan Jacobs is here.

Cheat Mode The definitive guide to getting into and surviving the games industry is out now and costs £10.99.

Train2Game News: Blitz artists hosting ‘meet the experts’ web chat tonight

Leamington Spa studio Blitz will allow you to get an insight into the life of a games industry artist & animator when two of their team host a live webchat at 6:30pm this evening.

It’s the latest Blitz Games Studios’ ‘meet the experts’ sessions, which last month saw two programmers offering advice to aspiring game developers.  It provides a great opportunity for Train2Game students to get advice from industry professionals.

“Two of Blitz’s experienced artists from the company’s R&D and game development teams will be sharing their knowledge on a variety of topics aimed at aspiring newcomers to the industry as well as experienced artists looking to further their career in a new field or specialism.” reads the announcement from Blitz.

If you want to submit a question to the Blitz artists before the session begins at 6:30pm today, get in touch with them via email, Twitter or Facebook.

To take part in the web chat, visit the Blitz meet the experts website from 6pm this evening.

There’s more advice from industry professionals about getting into the games industry here on The Train2Game Blog.

Will you get involved in the web chat? What will you ask the Blitz artists?

Leave your comments here on The Train2Game Blog, or on the Train2Game forum.