Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Laure De Mey, Programmer at ustwo games. Read more about Laure in this interview:
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Ewa Kurek, Quality Assurance Lead at Wargaming. Read more about Ewa in this interview:
Hi Ewa! You are the Quality Assurance Lead at Wargaming. How does a typical workday at the studio look like for you?
How a typical day at wargaming looks like really depends on the stage of development we are currently at. In the early stages, I take part in planning, design sessions, tech estimations and any other meetings, where issues or risk areas can be identified early. In the later stages, just before a milestone ends, QA tends to go into full battle mode 😉 it’s all about verifying a feature’s functionality and giving fast feedback, as well as making sure that everything works as intended.
You have been working in the area of QA for almost seven years now. What is it that inspired you to work in QA in the first place?
I grew up with video games and I always loved trying to find a way to cheat the system or pushing the game rules with unexpected actions. I was very curious if there was a way to break the game, so looking for holes in systems was always like a personal challenge to me. I know that sounds awful, however, it is fun at the same time – it is like solving a puzzle in my mind.
What would you say are some helpful skills a person should have when they want to start a career in QA themselves?
Patience: Your patience will be tested thoroughly. Let’s say that you don’t have any debug tools and you have to check if a bug got fixed – in the final boss fight, insane mode, spending a decent amount of time on it – just to learn that actually, the responsible programmer forgot to push the fix to the correct development branch… Oops, I guess you have to try again. 😉
Empathy: Finding issues in somebody’s else’s work plus delivering the news that a task needs to be revisited can be slightly disturbing to your colleagues. Doing it in a positive manner and with the main intention to help make the product better, should be your main motivation.
Assertiveness: There is always some kind of time pressure, hence what tends to be postponed and cropped is the polishing/bug fixing phase. Quite often, development overflows the sacred feature freeze phase, and you might not have enough time to ensure that the quality of the game is good enough. QA should have enough confidence to say no to such situations and ensure we have enough time to test and get all the outstanding issues to be fixed.
Thank you for your time Ewa!
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Alice Rendell, Senior Narrative Designer at Massive Entertainment. Read more about Alice in this interview:
Hi Alice! You are a Senior Narrative Designer at Massive Entertainment. Having worked both as a Narrative Designer as well as a Game Designer in the past, what is it that drives your passion for storytelling in video games?
I really believe that games are able to tell unique stories because we can use gameplay and systems to elevate the narrative experience, which is something that just isn’t possible in more traditional storytelling forms like film and TV. I personally love exploring how gameplay can evoke emotions, the way a character moves through the world can be loaded with just as much narrative as a cutscene (sometimes more so). The different ways we can use gameplay to tell stories is something that truly excites me. I don’t believe games have reached their full potential yet on how to do this, and that is something I definitely want to be a part of.
For a blogpost on Massive’s website you have talked about your experience working on indie as well as AAA productions, going into some of the “AAA myths” some people might have. Could you share the most common statements and your personal experience with them?
The main comment I hear when talking about AAA games is the idea that as a developer, you have to compromise your creativity, either due to large team sizes or because of a more corporate structure. My experience has been the opposite. For the indie games I worked on, we very often didn’t have time, tools or resources to create what we wanted to, and compromises on design and narrative were constantly being made. That of course still happens with AAA games, but as there are far more resources available I find that I am able to push the vision of what we can do because we have the team and the tools to support it. I personally find this allows me to be more creative, as I really get to do a deep-dive into the best way to tell stories in the game as opposed to spending the majority of my energy thinking of workarounds.
You are also vocal about mental health issues such as burnout, something you have dealt with in the past as well. Speaking from your own experience, what has helped you recover and how could other members of the industry lower the risk of experiencing a burnout themselves?
The problem with burnout is that the stress levels in your system are so high that you end up running on adrenaline for months at a time, which actually makes you feel like you are on top of everything. I didn’t realize anything was wrong until I started getting chest pains, and at that point it was too late and I was already burnt-out. There is a burnout evaluation test online which is good to take every couple of months, regardless of how stressed you think you are, because sometimes burnout can creep up on you with realizing it.
The biggest help for me coming back to work after burnout was being able to set strict boundaries for myself. My perfectionist nature mixed with my passion means I have a tendency to take on too much, and say yes to everything regardless of how busy I am. It was important for my recovery that I listened to my gut and say no when I felt like something would overload me. Also reminding myself that my work doesn’t need to be perfect 100% of the time; pretty damn good is also entirely acceptable!
Thank you for your time Alice!
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Enya Tack, Project Manager at Wargaming. Read more about Enya in this interview:
Hi Enya! You are the Project Manager at Wargaming’s Berlin office. What is it that inspired you to take your first step into the games industry?
Being an avid gamer, I did not have to think twice when I got the chance to work in the games industry. I was in college when the community team of a game I played a lot at the time reached out to me and asked if I was willing to work for them and move to Berlin. I followed my gut feeling and accepted pretty much right away.
I want to give players the best possible gaming experience, which is exactly what I expect when I play games myself. The thought that people will play the game I work on and get enjoyment out of it is very fulfilling for me.
Last year you gave a talk during the Quo Vadis conference, where you spoke about the process of managing a game project spread across two separate Wargaming offices – one in Berlin and the other in Shanghai. As a Project Manager, how do you approach such a challenging task?
I am very grateful to have gotten the opportunity to talk at Quo Vadis. I appreciated sharing my experience and learnings, and hope other teams can learn from it!
It may sound cheesy, but communication really is key. Being so far away from each other can make it hard to be on the same page and share the same vision, so you need to make sure to keep yourself up-to-date on everything.
The challenge is to find the right channels to communicate and to make sure communication is efficient and balanced. You don’t want to spend all day writing emails or in skype calls, because then you will get no work done. But the teams should also not be afraid to reach out and ask questions, or to have a quick call when something is unclear. We use mails for heavier topics, group chat channels for quick questions, and also have regular play sessions to get a clear view of features that are being worked on.
I also think it’s very important that as a Project Manager, you avoid creating unnecessary bottlenecks by taking on all the communication. Show your team how to properly reach out to the other studio and give them the resources to do so, making them more independent and empowered in their work. We make sure the relevant team members are always added to CC and to use group chat channels as much as possible, so everyone can follow along and does not need to rely on me to get all information.
In the end it’s all about keeping the conversation open and creating an environment of trust.
In the past you’ve also appeared on the official World of Warships Blitz Youtube Channel, where you have held livestreams and announced new ingame content. Generally speaking, how important is it as a Project Manager to have a good amount of self esteem, any tips on becoming more confident in yourself?
As a Project Manager you need to put yourself in the middle all the time, question everything and take the lead when necessary (and let go when necessary). This does require a good bit of self esteem, but also a great deal of empathy and self awareness. You will get to work with a diverse group of people and not all personalities will match yours or the rest of your team, so you will often need to get over your own ego. In my opinion that is only possible if you are comfortable and confident with yourself and your skills.
That isn’t to say you should not question yourself! It is healthy to think critically about your own actions. Is the process you put in place 6 months ago still up to date? Do you have your priorities straight, or do you need to re-adjust? Are there new bottlenecks created that need fixing? Don’t be afraid to ask yourself and your team questions to keep on evaluating yourself and your work.
There are a few things that helped me improve my self esteem:
- Know yourself, be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and make the best out of them. I know exactly what I am good at and know how to use my strengths, which in return makes me feel more confident at what I do.
- Get to know your team and the people you work with, for example by going to lunch together or playing games as a team. Talking to someone, giving feedback or asking questions, is just so much easier when you know the person and will make you feel more comfortable as a whole.
- Set clear values and realistic goals: what do you want to achieve? Splitting up your bigger goals into smaller steps is a great way to get started. Being able to move a task to the “done”-pile is so very satisfying!
- Own up to your mistakes, fix them and learn from them. It is never fun to make mistakes but acknowledging them and coming up with a solution is a good learning experience and will only help you grow.
- Help others! Nothing will boost your confidence more than knowing your work and your actions helped someone else.
- Get yourself a mentor, if possible. Someone who you can sit down with on a regular basis to go over your performance, possible issues and doubts, someone who can give you unbiased advice and feedback, but can also point out the things you are doing well so you can build on that.
Thank you for your time Enya!
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke
Womenize! Wednesday Weekly is our weekly series featuring inspirational women from games and tech. For this edition we talked to Jess Hider, Technical Designer at Rare. Read more about Jess in this interview:
Hi Jess! You are a Technical Designer at Rare, where you currently work on Everwild. Can you tell us a bit about your role in the team, what is it that a Technical Designer does?
As a technical designer, I come up with features and mechanics that support the vision for our game, but instead of exploring them purely on paper, I’m happy to jump into the game engine myself and start prototyping them out.
For me, this is an incredibly powerful tool to have as a designer. The sooner you can get the concepts out of your head and into someone else’s hands, the better. You learn so much more when you are playing what you are thinking. It also means you can show others what you are thinking, getting them to experience for themselves where your head’s at, which can make it far easier to explain new concepts. You avoid the whole, ‘It’s kind of like this and this, but without that bit and with this extra-ish bit on top’ and can simply be, ‘This is what I mean’.
Your resume shows you’ve already been involved in very different areas of the games industry such as art, animation and community management. What is it that led you to become a Technical Designer at Rare?
Ah yes, my journey definitely jumps about a bit! But now looking back on it, I’d say it was all of my experiences leading me towards Technical Design – I just didn’t know what Technical Design was.
I’ve always been interested in telling stories. I think at the age of twelve, after a stop-motion animation project at high school, I decided I wanted to be an 2D animator for Disney. Fast forward a few years and I’m at Abertay University studying hand-drawn animation amongst other things, and it’s all going well until Disney announced they were closing down their hand-drawn department, and a couple of years later, Studio Ghibli did the same. By that time though, I was being pulled into the world of games rather than films, because it had an intriguing challenge to me – how do you tell stories when a player could go anywhere and do anything?
And that’s something I’m still exploring. One of our core pillars at Rare is ‘Players Telling Stories Together’. How do we enable players to tell their own stories? How do we build spaces where players can be true to themselves and play the way they want to? Finding ways to answer these questions has me skipping into work each day. (Sometimes literally, there are witnesses!)
As I transitioned more into games at uni, I started diving into all sorts of areas – art, animation, vfx, scripting – so by the end of my degree I could build out my own little games in Unreal, taking something from concept through to playing it on my phone. Kudos to Abertay for making the course flexible enough to support this scope of learning, and then to 4J Studios for giving me a taste of how it all applies in a studio environment, because having that broad knowledge of the games pipeline is so useful in my work today.
Being able to work with other disciplines is crucial as a designer. You may have a vision of where you want to go, but if you can’t bring others with you on that journey towards it, then the vision is basically useless. A good start for being able to work with others effectively is understanding their position and their needs, so if you’re able to literally put yourselves in their shoes and try your hand at their processes and pipelines, you start understanding where their requests or frustrations are coming from.
Another part in being able to successfully share your vision is good communication skills. You need to be able to put your ideas across in a way that’s digestible to others, and as I’ve learnt, that often means changing up your communication style to suit your audience – everyone is unique and prefers information in a different format.
For that, I’m grateful for the time I spent as a Community Manager at Epic. I was working with such an array of people (colleagues, devs, corporations, media) and in so many formats (presentations, social, conferences, emails, blogs) I had to step up how I communicated with others. I’m very grateful to Dayna Cowley and Mike Gamble for being wonderful mentors and pushing me forward in this area, because I use these soft skills every single day as a designer.
Without these communication and networking skills, I wouldn’t have ended up at Rare. My Rare journey actually began five or so years ago, when I met the illustrious Louise O’Connor at a Ukie Student Event at EGX. She was sharing her journey of being an animator in the industry and, being a nervous student, I finally worked up the courage to go and talk to her. Over the next few years we reconnected at many different industry events and ultimately it was these encounters, plus some prodding from other Rarians, that led to me joining her team.
Even though my career looks a bit all over the place, everything I’ve done has helped me get to where I am, and the skills I’ve learnt along the way are all things I use in my role now. If you’re reading this, and aren’t quite where you want to be or aren’t even sure where that is, I want to say; whatever you are doing now, don’t discount it. Everything you are doing will help you get to where you want to be – but the path may only be clear when you look back on it.
What would you recommend as a starting point for artists who want to dive deeper into the more technical areas of art, but are afraid to do so?
I’d recommend taking a look at shaders or materials – they’re a very visual representation of maths as art. I enjoyed maths at school, but when it came to things like vectors, I could calculate them but I never truly understood them. But what I loved about materials (especially in Unreal) was I had a way to visualise vectors, and other types of maths, and suddenly things started to make a lot more sense.
There’s loads of great tutorials online to get you started; if you’re using Unreal you have their Introduction to Materials Playlist, I find Klemen Lozar’s twitter particularly inspirational, and I also have a tutorial website with some simple tutorials to get you started.
Thank you for your time Jess!
WWW Feature by Anne Zarnecke
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