We return for another edition of Inside the Vault: The West Coast — this time with Casey Kwock, QA Tester on Fallout: New Vegas.
What’s your job at Obsidian?
I’m a Quality Assurance Tester on the Fallout: New Vegas development team. My responsibilities include testing functionality, gameplay, and system performance with focus on the critical path areas. If I encounter a problem, I report it to the team and help fix the issue with the person responsible.
I also help Designers with scripting, area layouts and creating content in secondary locations. When you find a cave hidden at the base of a mountain far off the beaten path, it could be mine.
What’s your favorite part of your job? Least favorite part?
I love being able to come to work in any attire. We share a building with law firms and real estate companies whose employees roll in everyday in suits and dresses. I wonder what they think of us on the elevator rides sporting our t-shirts, tattoos, and hoodies?
My least favorite part? Hmm… I guess that would be telling someone who worked until 3 am to fix an issue that’s it’s still broken the next day. You get this look of discouragement right before they go back the drawing board.
How did you get involved in the game industry?
That is a good question! Although I’ve been a gamer since elementary school, my first love was actually Film. I majored in it at College and worked with various production crews after. But unlike most people around me, I did not find myself running home to write a Hollywood script or direct my own short. Instead, I was playing the latest RPG’s, shooting my friends in Halo, and training at Guilty Gear for upcoming tournaments.
Between one of film gigs, I happened across a post online for a three month QA Tester position at THQ. I already had the remainder of the year scheduled but on a whim, decided to submit an application. Over half a year later, after forgetting I even applied, a call comes in asking for an interview. I went in, passed the training course and I was brought on board. Two more publishing studios and half a second Bachelors Degree later, I found myself at Obsidian.
Do you have any tips for breaking in?
Everyone says persistence. It’s true though. In anything you do you have to be persistent to succeed. Look at Disney and Pixar. Walt Disney filed Bankruptcy before creating Disney Studios and Pixar was in obscurity for sixteen years until Toy Story was released. They kept moving forward and look where they are today.
If you’re just starting out, consider internships and making mods. Even if the internship is only a month or the mod falls apart, that’s experience you didn’t have. QA is also good place to start. Most of the time they’re temp positions but many developers have their roots in QA and branched out from there.
Also, pick a focus. An AI programmer, character animator, level designer, creative writer, environment artist, etc. It may not be what you’re applying for at the time, but having a goal makes you more desirable to a company.
There’s often the misconception that working in QA means you’re just playing through the game all day. It’s not all fun and games, right?
This statement was engrained in my mind on my first day in QA. “We don’t play games. We test games.” But here’s how an average day goes and people can judge if they consider that playing a game.
- Arrive in the morning and download the latest build.
- Run a general functionality and stability check. Does the game still load? Do the controls still work?
- Review bug database, email and attend team meeting to see what’s being implemented, what’s broken and what has priority to be fixed.
- Address any specific request first such as collecting requested information, testing a fix before it’s checked in, and troubleshooting major issues that arise.
- If time permits, start a progression to check the critical path. When a bug appears, confirm the issue, document it, then continue progression. If the critical path is blocked, inform the Developer in charge of the area and troubleshoot with them until the issue is resolved.
- If time permits, create and implement any content and fix any issues assigned to me until the sunsets.
- Repeat the next day.
Is there anything from Grandma’s Boy that feels true to working on QA?
I get that question a lot. I can’t say anything about Allen Covert’s portrayal of QA work because there isn’t a lot of him actually working in the movie. As for the recreational activities, I’m going to plead the fifth.
You’ve also done work as a designer — is it hard juggling two different job duties?
Absolutely! Both jobs can consume a lot of time and energy. But I get through them by keeping focus on my priorities. QA is my primary job so those duties come first. Then after, I’m free to address Design tasks. Completing both jobs on schedule does require spending a lot of my own time doing additional research. It can be difficult to stay sane. But if you have fun with what you’re doing, can you really call it a job?
What’s your all-time favorite game?
I like a lot of games for different reasons. But… I’m going to answer that with Final Fantasy VI. It’s the game I’ve played through the most and purchased every re-release since the nineties.
What games are you looking forward to?
Point me to the new Blazblue, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, and StarCraft II. In that order.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
What spare time? Doing QA and Design negates much of that. But when it does come, I still have a love affair with film so I watch as many as I can. I enjoy the theater environment but with current prices, we’re spending a lot of time apart. At my core, I’m an artist and visit the local scene to do sketches and photography. 50% of the time that means “I’m going to Disneyland!”
Anything else you’d like to share?
There is no other industry like the game industry. It’s a lot of hard work but full of people who love what they’re doing. If you want to be a part of it, go for it. And if you decide it’s not for you, don’t be afraid to change.