Archive for July, 2010
Some time ago I interviewed at Sony based on the recommendations of a friend who had joined their R&D department and was really loving his new job. Their R&D department at the time only need a hard core graphics specialist but they had some other positions that they wanted to interview me for. So I took a day and went to see what things were all about at Sony. Most of their jobs were doing some sort of lead tech support for other developers so I expected I would get grilled on:
- Tech & coding skills
- Customer support
- Time management skills
After an entire day of interviews I had not had any questions on anything that was not tech & coding. In fact many of the questions were so esoteric that I do not believe they were really looking for a programmer but a PS3 manual with a better personality.
eg. Interviewer: How many instructions would this take on the cell processor
float temp = (bool) 0;
Me: Not sure, why would you ever cast a bool to a float?
Interviewer: You wouldn’t, but if you did how many instructions would it be?
Me: Not sure, on the PS2 they had an Zero register so it would have been 1 instruction but since your asking I am sure that is no longer the case.
Interviewer: See he does not know.
This in my mind clears up a lot of stuff, if they do not value customer support, documentation or coding samples to even ask about it in a interview then it is no wonder they are so badly know for the poorest developer support in the industry.
Contrast that to the interviews at Microsoft I recently went through for similar positions. The first half of the day was all about tech and coding but they asked relevant questions about algorithms, error checking, comments and architecture. Second part of the day was all about dealing with customers, creating white papers, writing good sample code and other tasks. Last part of the interview was about what makes great games and user experiences, tech trends and how it will shape the games of the future and last how to communicate and let people know how to take advantage of it.
Perfectly clear why in one generation Microsoft has taken over the console market, they understand what is real dev support is and know that supporting the dev teams has to be the one of the core’s pillars in getting the best games.
So your hired on at a new company to start their second project and they tell you that they will be splitting the current programming team.
This is typically good for both you and the company:
- you get to start your team with a group of people that have already proven they can work together.
- it reduces the pressure to rapidly hire and you can take your time to find the right new people.
- you have people on the team that can train you up on the company specific tech.
- it helps keeps the company culture as new people get exposed to it instead of working in silo’s.
But then it can also have some drawbacks:
- they have a preconceived notion of how they like to work together and you have to figure it out quickly.
- they can have already become a “click” and will make integrating yourself or new hires hard.
- they have a lot of indirect lines of power and trust that you do not have yet.
This last one is the real killer for the new lead and you have to deal with it really quickly to avoid complete fail. Often every time you do something that someone on the team does not agree with they go and talk to their old lead.
This can go three ways:
- Sometimes you get lucky and old leads come talk to you, find out what your doing and why and it ends there. The old lead learns something, they go back and explain it from a position of trust and everyone is happy. If this starts happening your problem eventually goes away as the programmers start trusting you directly.
- Sometimes the old lead does not come talk to you but just lets it build up. Then one day the wrath of a 100 disagreements just comes out of nowhere and you have a battle on your hands. This one kind of gets ugly because even if everything gets sorted out the bad feelings from the build up linger for to long and the slight distrust never really goes away.
- Often the worst case case is the old lead is in a position of power over you and just overrides your decisions. Nothing will paralyze you and a team like not know if should even try to plan anything because it could be overturned whenever the old lead changes their mind.
You have to stop any of this from starting in the first place and often the best way to do it is have a open communication channel with the old lead from day one. In the beginning run all your decision by them so they know what your doing and why. That way if they are not the type that will come talk to you it will not have a chance to build up. If they are in a position of power above you then you have to meet with them every day in the beginning to ensure they become the biggest believers in you and will never be temped to overturn your decisions without at least talking to you first. Set aside 3% of your day to be your own PR manager with your new boss and make sure it happens.
I have in the past accepted excuses of why people above me did not have 15 min to meet with me daily and get a running understanding of what was going on. They are busy shipping another game, being CEO of the company or something else and could only meet once a week at the most. Do not accept any excuses because if they perceive something is going wrong they will suddenly have more than enough time to get in your business. Might as well pay the time as you go instead of it all happening at once usually at the worst possible time. Also do not accept the “Just send me it in an email” excuse either, very few people will ask all the questions in an email that they would in person.
Good luck leads…
Someone recently asked me how I would make Red Dead Redemption a better game and take advantage of more online elements. True the game could do more with some online elements that would make it a better, ie allow you to own farms, build a ranching empire and start land wars with your neighbors online ( complete with hangings ).
The more I thought about it though it becomes clear the best thing they could do is port it to the Wii. Although the designers did an amazing job of mapping the complex controls needed to pull off all the different gameplay systems to the controller. The result is still kind of clunky and often times frustrating.
Just think of it:
- how much faster and better dueling would have been with the Wii remote were you really have to pull it up and aim when they say draw.
- roping a horse would have been a lot more fun and less frustrating.
- they would not needed such a over whelming auto targeting system and shooting would be fun instead of just tapping the targeting trigger over and over again.
- they had to put in a slow mode system for shoot outs that would not have been needed if you could just aim. Their systems works but looses some of its intensity since it is all happening in slow mode.
- hog tie up things could be an interactive event instead of just a cinematic.
- knife fights could be skill based instead of just button mashing.
- wiping your horse to run faster would be interactive instead of just button pressing against a meter.
- most of the mini games including tossing flaming bottles, horse shoes could be motion based.
- skinning animals could be way more detailed and a mini game
One could go on and on…
New things they could add with a Wii Remote:
- knife throwing
- hand to hand combat while riding horses to knock them off
- axe combat
Again one could go on and on…
It would be hard to reduce its graphics enough to get it running on the Wii but I think the gameplay would be even better if someone did.