Inside the Vault: Michael Lattanzia

mike.jpg

Meet Michael Lattanzia, one of our best QA testers. Nobody makes games as big as ours and our testers are vital to our success. After we shipped Oblivion, many of our testers could troubleshoot and debug quest issues better than the designers could.

What’s your job at Bethesda?
I am a Quality Assurance tester here at Bethesda. I have the dream job of sitting around playing games all day.

What other games have you worked on?
I started out working on Oblivion for the Playstation 3, and I also got to work some with Shivering Isles. Since then I’ve mostly been working on Fallout 3, with the exception of a couple weeks that I helped out on AMF Bowling: Pinbusters for the Wii.

What is the best part about working as a tester? The worst part?
The worst part of being a tester is how repetitive it can get. Most people rarely spend more than 100 hours or so on a game, but as a tester we have to spend literally thousands of hours on the same game before it’s released. That quest that was really fun the first time through seems a lot less interesting when you’re playing it again for the 20th time.

The best part is everything else. I love getting to see the changes a game goes through over the course of the development. It’s also very entertaining seeing some of the crazy bugs that pop up along the way.

How did you get into the industry? Do you have any tips for breaking in?
I used to spend a lot of time checking and re-checking all of the local game studios for job openings. After a few years of not seeing much in the way of game jobs, I happened to notice listings for QA interns with a couple of the local companies. I immediately put together both a resume and a cover letter and sent them out for several different jobs. I was lucky enough to get asked in for an interview. I think my experience with beta testing and my programming background helped me get the position.

I got pretty lucky, so the only tip I can offer for breaking in to the industry is to not give up and keep searching and applying for any jobs. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t get in right away, be persistent.

What would you say is your personal favorite game of all time?
It’s way too hard to narrow it down to a single game, but there are several that pop out. Lunar: The Silver Star for Sega CD is one that holds a special place in my heart, I just loved the story and the cut scenes. The Civilization series is one of my favorites, and has brought many sleepless nights. I absolutely love the Monster Hunter series and keep going back to it again and again. I loved Diablo 2, but I was so addicted to it that I refuse to let myself install it again, no matter how much my friends bug me to play with them again.

What games are you looking forward to?
Well, I’ve been following Spore for a couple years now so I’m pretty excited about that. I’m a big fan of Will Wright, and I love games with lots of customization. I am an MMO junkie, so I’m really looking forward to Age of Conan. I am excited about the PvP aspects, especially the city building and sieges. I am excited for both Grand Theft Auto IV and Fable 2 mainly for the multiplayer aspects of both. I can’t wait for the next game in the Monster Hunter series as well, and I’m really hoping that they’ll bring the Monster Hunter MMO over to the US at some point.

What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
Usually my alarm clock going off for the fourth or fifth time, I’m not much of a morning person. Seriously though, just knowing that I get to go to work and play video games is enough.

Worst job you’ve ever had?
It’s a close call, but I have to go with doing tech support for cable modems over the phone. That was just not a pleasant experience.

Any other hobbies and interests? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
If I’m not playing video games in my free time then chances are I’m watching a movie. I love everything from the big blockbusters to weird independent films. Some of my favorites are The Crow, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Across the Universe, and Wedding Singer. I’ve been collecting DVDs for a couple years and my collection is up to about 600 or so.

I enjoy doing anything with computers, whether it be hardware or software. I used to spend a lot of time building machines, then tweaking and overclocking to try and top the 3DMark charts. I’m also going to school for programming, so I spend a lot of time working on various programming projects. I’ve spent a lot of time playing around with the Torque engine, and recently I’ve started looking into developing a simple 2D engine in XNA.

Reader Comments

  1. Seriously? Lunar for Sega CD? Ah kids these days. In my day, the Alex Kidd ruled the Master System.

    Keep rocking out the testing.

  2. Mikie, I love you but you’re a dork… and yea… why is there no mention of WOW?!?! With all the times you and Chris canceled on me or delayed the night b/c of it, I think it should’ve been mentioned… :P

  3. “how about some Oblivion DLC for the PS3?”

    Dear God.

    Anyway, nice little interview there. Good to see someone sorta like me, video game, computer, and movie buff (though throw soccer in and it’s gold!). Thanks for taking one for the team and testing the games over and over. And over.

  4. I actually did play Soccer for years, all the way up through High School. I’ve been trying to get back into that and Hockey at some point, but I’m just so busy now with everything else that it’s hard to make time.

  5. no i refuse to give up. i need that content. the game will never feel complete without it. i don’t see any reason for them not to release i unless they just hate the PS3 because they released shivering isles which was probably more work to port the it would be for every other DLC

  6. posting messages in the blog aint helping, its just annoying everyone. hm, hate you say? how about compatibility, cost, time, and other possible issues? wait for them to release them for PS3 (if they are going to) or go buy a PC.

    good interview btw, just to be on-topic :)

  7. “After we shipped Oblivion, many of our testers could troubleshoot and debug quest issues better than the designers could.”

    So does that mean that the QA people are able to make changes to the quests as well (with permission) by themselves? So theoretically the QA people know how to design quests as well?

  8. I should imagine that QA testers would have to have similar qualities and skill sets to other developers – which is why it’s seen as such a springboard role.

    Svenn’s a former modder, of course, so that helps.

  9. “I actually did play Soccer for years, all the way up through High School. I’ve been trying to get back into that and Hockey at some point, but I’m just so busy now with everything else that it’s hard to make time.”

    Spooky… exact same for me…

  10. We don’t make the changes ourselves Lingwei, we just point out issues that need more attention and leave the actual changes for the appropriate devs to handle. That said, many of us have gone on to be designers, artists, programmers etc, as Princess Stomper kindly pointed out.

  11. Pretty sick job you have; and your lifestyle is pretty much the same as mine.

    Tell me, what are your opinions on the current state of the Diablo 2 economy however? With the influx of the “legit items market”, rushing, powerleveling, and such on Battle.net?

    Did you play back in the days before the expansion?

    Would like to hear more :)

  12. Very similar life style. :)

    By the way, any kind of school required (considered a plus) for QA jobs? Like programming and such things? In one year I am going to university, so any info is greatly welcomed.

  13. you have my dream job buddy….. i am trying to aply as a intern at epic games, or red storm, but i do not think i will get in.