Inside the Vault: Christopher Krietz

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This edition of Inside the Vault features Christopher Krietz. Chris was one of our best testers on Oblivion, and is currently our QA Lead for Oblivion Game of the Year. After GOTY ships, Chris will be focusing his ninja testing powers onto Fallout 3.

Chris once won a pie for winning a three way race against Todd Howard and Jeff Browne to finish Oblivion’s main quest (during beta testing). His winning time as of the end of the final cutscene and movie: 02:12:29 (difficulty slider allowed, no console cheats).


What’s your job at Bethesda?
I’m a Quality Assurance Team Lead.

What projects have you worked on?
Since starting at Bethesda, I’ve been on the QA team for several of our titles… Call of Cthulhu, IHRA, Breeders Cup, and many flavors of Oblivion. You gain a fine appreciation for a lot of games out there, after testing a Horse Racing Sim.

As the Oblivion Game of the Year test lead, what is it like testing a game that you’ve already played for hundreds of hours already?
I won’t lie and say each moment is as good as the first few with it, but I can still sit down and enjoy playing. I’ll still find things I hadn’t seen before (I only found out about the giant mudcrab fairly recently, for example), or get into situations that are new and exciting even now. There’s a bit of tedium with it, sometimes… but in the end there is a comforting feeling, being in Cyrodiil, it’s almost like being home.

What do you like best about working as a tester? What is the worst part?
For me, the best part about being a tester is being involved in the production and completion of games — it’s awesome to see the evolution of a title from the initial design up to a fully polished game and knowing that in some tiny way, you’ve had a hand in it. As for the worst part… I would have to say that the worst part of being a tester is dealing with the outside world’s perception of your position. People have some glamorous preconceptions about testing and gaming industry jobs in general, and while it certainly is fun and a great thing to be a part of you only get out of it what you put into it… just like any other job. Which leads me into the next question…

How did you get into the industry? Do you have an tips for breaking in?
I applied out of the blue on a whim when a friend had mentioned that they were looking for testers, while browsing Bethsoft’s site. I have to admit that I was slightly surprised when I got a call, and before I knew it, here I was. As for anyone looking to get into making games… I would think a passion for games first and foremost is important. Be friendly and know how to have fun and be prepared to work hard in whatever field you happen to call home. Be confident and make yourself known but don’t be too persistent, patience is a virtue. Good luck!

What is it like working at Bethesda?
I’d say we’re a pretty friendly group of people, the different teams usually don’t have any problems getting together to discuss ideas and go over problems. Things are generally pretty intimate in that regard, around here… everyone gets involved in some way. Occasionally when they unchain us from the QA Cave and take us on our daily walk, we’ll get to offer our input — in the end, the games are for the fans, which all of us here are.

What is your favorite type of game to play?
I like all kinds of games! Right now, I’m playing World of Warcraft, replaying Starcraft (excited about 2), Crackdown, Oblivion (ironic that I can’t escape it), Guitar Hero 2, GTA:San Andreas (can’t wait for 4), and Civilization 2 (still my favorite). I’ve recently had a hankering for a few other games… X-Com, Syndicate, and some other older titles… I’ll have to break out DOSBox some time.

Have you played any of the Fallout games?
My introduction to the series started with Wasteland on the C64 — at the time I was fairly young and didn’t think much about it as I was playing a lot of the other great RPGs at the time too (Ultima 4-5, Bards Tale, Might and Magic 2, the SSI Gold Box D&D games), but I’ve since revisited it and have greatly enjoyed it. Admittedly, I’ve not spent as much time playing Fallout 1 and 2… I played quite a bit of 1 but never completed it, and never got ahold of 2. I think the whole world of the franchise is great. I find the setting fascinating.

What games are you looking forward to on the horizon?
Tough question, I like trying every game at least once… but I’d have to say the ones I’m looking forward to most are probably Bioshock, GTA4, Blue Dragon, PGR4, Rock Band, Lost Odyssey, and Fallout 3 of course.

What would you say is the best game you’ve played in the last year?
Would you hate me if I said Oblivion? Probably… so aside from that I’d have to go with Gears of War (late 2006 counts right?). It’s one of the few games I’ve played lately that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. My World of Warcraft addiction is still going strong, and Guitar Hero 2 on the 360 was tons of fun, as was Crackdown… but I’m gonna have to give this one to Gears for now.

Other than videogames, what are your interests?
I’m an all-around nerd I think, as for board games, I’m currently playing a lot of Go. I also enjoy pen & paper RPGs (started with AD&D 1st edition, have also played a bit of Rolemaster, MERPS, World of Darkness stuff, and others)… As for reading, I’m currently rereading the Harry Potter series in anticipation of the final book coming out soon, other than that I’ve lately been a huge Neal Stephenson fan… fairly typical musical tastes for my demographic I think, rock, metal, alternative, etc. Just picked up the ‘reunion’ album from the Smashing Pumpkins yesterday, not sure what I think of it yet. I also like to draw, bit of an anime-nerd, I’ve done a little programming… I could go on and on.

Bonus Round:

Pitch me your dream game in a sentence or less. Go.
GTA meets Crackdown meets City of Heroes — I want to be a free-form superhero in a living, breathing, over-the-top comic-book world.

Finally, time for a rant. Go.
What is it with the vilification of gaming in the media and the political sphere these days? A Class E Felony in New York to sell an M-rated game to a minor? You’re telling me that someone who sells a copy of Oblivion to a high school student deserves the same punishment as someone who assaults a police officer with a firearm, or burns a church, trafficks methamphetamines, or physically abuses a child? Perhaps some folks should reconsider their priorities.

Reader Comments

  1. The last book already came out….when was thing thing written?

    I agree completely with your rant, but you do have to realize the M rating can range from games like Oblivion to the gory carnage in Gears of War. I agree that it still doesn’t compare to other crimes, but perhaps the M rating is a little too vague…

    Can you give some specifics about how long one has to be in QA before getting a real position? I always hear game devs saying, “Well, almost everyone starts in QA; it’s a way to get your foot in the door.” Well, I’ve attended some talks by game devs, and one was in QA for almost a year, barely getting by in life before getting his desired position. Do you really have to put up with the “QA life” for that long, before you start making a decent living for yourself?

  2. Kreitz’s rant is incorrect. The offenses he mentions are not given “the same punishment” as a class E felony under New York law, which carries a sentence of 1-4 years in prison.

    Aggravated assault on a police officer is a class B felony (NY Penal Code § 120.11). Third-degree arson is a class C felony (§ 150.10). Third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance is a class B felony (§ 220.39). Second-degree assault, including assault on a child by an adult, is a class D felony (§ 120.05).

    Punishments for these crimes, ranging from 2-7 years in prison for a violent class D felony to 10-30 years for assaulting a police officer, can be found in article 70 of the penal code.

    I agree that making the sale of an M-rated game to a minor a felony would be unjust (class A misdemeanor sounds about right to me), but it’s ridiculous to claim that the pending bill lumps game sales in with those much more serious offenses.

    (IANAL)

  3. Sargeras,
    I can’t speak for Chris or the other QA guys. However, from my perspective, we always consider internal QA candidates first for any openings we have before external. Its important that if you are in QA, looking to move into development, that you continually develop whatever discipline it is you want to get into. If you want to be a designer or level designer, you should be making mods. Artists need to build portfolios, etc…

    Ironically, the better the tester you are, the more difficult it is for the company to move you away from that position b/c good testers are hard to find. However, being a poor tester will get you absolutely nowhere. You basically need to leverage your exposure to the development team (and industry employment) as a tester to help improve whatever skill sets you are developing – and be in the right place at the right time. Not too different really for any job – timing and who you know is a major part of it.

  4. To add to what Ashley said, there’s no timeline or schedule when you take a job in QA. If you’re interested in being, say, a level designer, and we aren’t hiring any for the team then it may be a lot longer than a year. It may be never if nobody leaves and we’re not looking to expand that area. You just never know.

    Getting a foot in the door is just that, a foot in the door…a chance. It’s not a guarantee, nor is it always a stepping stone to the next job, nor is it the only way to get there. Depends on who you are, what you do, how good are you at what you do, etc.

  5. “Can you give some specifics about how long one has to be in QA before getting a real position? ”

    Hey now, QA *is* a real position. ;) A lot of the talented folks we have working with us started in QA and have stayed in QA. While it can be used as a stepping stone to other positions, it can also be a career in and of itself. :)

  6. But….isn’t it a little….unfair, if you will, that say, someone straight out of college will have to keep a “stepping stone” job for over a year, instead of going into the career he has been training for?

    @ghostgirl: I’m not trying to undervalue QA jobs, but from what I’ve heard, it isn’t exactly an easy life, and it’s a little depressing to stay there for so long when you already got your degree and want to make use of it.

  7. Then don’t start in QA if that is not where you want to be. If you have the right qualifications right out of college, you won’t have to take a QA position to start with. But I certainly wouldn’t recommend taking a QA job if you are not actually interested in working as a game tester.

  8. Re: examples for Class E Felonies

    You are partially correct. My interpretation of assault was incorrect, however these are all Class E (as found here [http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/menugetf.cgi?COMMONQUERY=LAWS])

    § 120.01 Reckless assault of a child by a child day care provider.
    § 150.05 Arson in the fourth degree.
    § 220.72 Criminal possession of precursors of methamphetamine.
    § 220.71 Criminal possession of methamphetamine manufacturing material in the first degree.

    So I suppose it really depends on the circumstances and interpretation. I’m not a law professional (obviously) so anything I say on the matter is my opinion and interpretation only… but I think the point remains that (at least, I think) that the punishment far outweighs the nature of the crime, given similar felonies.

    As for the Harry Potter comment — yes, by the time this was published the book had come out I had long since devoured it (was done by 11pm that Saturday), quite enjoyed it. :)

    QA is very important to the production of a game — if you’re planning on using it as a foot in the door though, that’s fine. The amount of time it will take to move on though is completely up to you and what the company needs at the time. Like others have said… the company may not need an artist or designer at the time. But the time spent getting to know people in the company and learning how things work will be valuable in the end.

  9. Yeah, stop hating on QA people. I’ve been a QA Lead in the software industry for several years and it’s definitely a “real job”. It requires a specific skillset, that’s for sure; primarily, a good QA person can look at an entire “system” and expose its weaknesses. Developers are more heads-down-in-code types that are content to deal with their corner of the product. Granted in the games industry the position is looked down upon as a stepping-stone, but as the industry matures I think that will change. QA is underappreciated in the software industry period, but in the games industry even moreso because QA people are a dime a dozen. Everybody wants to get their foot in the door, QA is the best way to do it, so game companies can pay QA people a pittance.

    However, you typically get what you pay for. Like Ashley Cheng said, good testers are hard to find. By “good” I don’t mean test monkeys (anyone can turn a console on and off 100 times in a row); I’m talking people that have hardware smarts, can maybe code a little and automate stuff, but most importantly have the intelligence and foresight to tell development when their design is faulty. These kinds of QA people are rare, believe me.

    QA is a great foot in the door, but don’t think you’ll get handed a development position once the clock strikes midnight on the 365th day after you’re hired. No job works that way. The cream rises to the top of a department, and once you get a reputation as a top performer you’ll get plucked by some other department that needs a good person. It’s the way of the world – the best people usually move on.