Train2Game News: Danny looks back at his favourite interviews in his final day as Blog Editor

After over two years in the role of Train2Game Blog Editor, I’m leaving for pastures new after accepting a job at a major publisher based in London.

This role has allowed me to attend industry events including Develop Conference, Eurogamer and Gamescom as well as enabling me to interview some of the biggest names in game development.

With this being my final day with Train2Game, it’s a great time to revisit some of my personal favourite interviews from my time in the role of Blog Editor.

 26th August 2011 – RAGE Creative Director Tim Willits

Speaking to me at Gamescom, the i D Software boss talked about creating RAGE, his role as creative director and the huge benefits of modding to those looking to break into the games industry.

2nd September 2011 – Far Cry 3 Narrative Director Jason Vandenberghe

An interview recorded at Gamescom, in which Jason talks about game design in Far Cry 3, using motion capture technology and actors, improvements for Far Cry 3 and more.

27th September 2011 – Valve writer Chet Faliszek

Speaking to us Eurogamer Expo, Chet discusses development of CS: GO, beta testing and modding.

31st October 2011 – Deus Ex: Human Revolution writer James Swallow

In a huge interview, James Swallow talks writing Deus Ex: Human Revolution, game design, what makes a good games writer and more.

14th November 2011 – Brink Lead Writer Ed Stern

Splash Damage’s Ed Stern spoke to us in-depth about the design and art of Brink, narrative in games, what makes a good designer and breaking into the games industry.

24th November 2011 – Bioware co-founders Dr. Ray Muzyka & Dr. Greg Zeschuk

Recorded before the BioWare Lecture at BAFTA, Muzyka and Zeschuk talked about games as art, the history of BioWare and how they transitioned from working in medicine to working in game development.

22nd February 2012 Remedy Head of Franchise Development Oskari Häkkinen

Oskari Häkkinen talks game design and development of Alan Wake, life at Remedy and digital distribution, among other things.

27th March 2012 – SoulCalibur V game director Daishi Odashima

Speaking to The Train2Game Blog at a SoulCalibur V tournament, Odashima discusses development of SoulCalibur V , the importance of community feedback and what makes a good game designer.

July 11th 2012 – QA Veteran and Cheat Mode Author Dan Jacobs

In what must be the longest Train2Game Blog interview, Dan Jacobs talks about his book, Cheat Mode, QA Testing, life in the industry and much more.

20th July 2012 – Ian Livingstone OBE

In my final piece for The Train2Game Blog, Ian Livingstone discusses Make Something Unreal Live, Fighting Fantasy, what makes a good game developer and more.

Thank you to everyone who has read The Train2Game Blog over the last two years, commented on here, or on the Train2Game forum. Be sure to keep reading The Train2Game Blog for more great insight into the industry once my successor takes over in the role of Editor.

Danny Palmer – Train2Game Blog Editor April 2010-July 2012

As usual, 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: 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: Cheat Mode author Dan Jacobs on what makes a good QA Tester

Good QA Testers needs communication skills and an explorative nature. That’s according to industry veteran Dan Jacobs, author of Cheat Mode: The definitive guide for getting into and surviving the industry, who was speaking to The Train2Game Blog as part of a soon to be published interview.

“A good QA Tester has to communicate clearly, concisely and well all the time, and has to keep that level consistent.” said Jacobs.

“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.” the Cheat Mode author added.

Our full interview with Dan Jacobs about Cheat Mode, the industry and QA Testing will be published soon. Meanwhile, keep reading The Train2Game Blog for the latest QA Testing news.

What do you think makes a good QA Tester?

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