Testing code is a cornerstone of the development culture at Bungie. The experiences we design ship when the Testers give us the green light. They support every aspect of the process that goes into creating the games you play. They show us the where the weaknesses lie, and point out the cracks. By the time you get your hands on one of our games, it’s been given a thorough beating by guys like this…
Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?
My name is Chris Owens and I am currently working on the Bungie.next project as a Software Test Engineer. It will completely change the way you play games, but that’s all I’m allowed to say. Well, except for <CENSORED>. Crazy, right?
That censorship joke never gets old. When you aren’t making me look like the news desk of a totalitarian regime, what pranks are you pulling in real life?
I’m a huge TV and Movie buff, and obviously I’m a lifelong gamer. I’ve always been fan of outdoor adventures. I love exploring new places and meeting new people. I also enjoy a little poker now then.
You’re in luck, then. We roll out the green felt tables about once a month at Bungie. Before we became your dealer, where else did you gamble?
Before coming to Bungie, I jumped around the industry A LOT. I began my career as an entry-level Tester at Activision in Santa Monica. From there, I worked at THQ, Vivendi Universal, Electronic Arts, and Screenlife Games. I value those experiences because no two companies approach software Quality Assurance in the same way, which really gave me a sense of what works and what doesn’t.
You certainly do get around. It sounds like you need to find a nice studio and settle down for a while. Since your vocabulary for games is so vast, what would you say is the most exciting thing that you worked on?
Quake 3 BY FAR. It was pretty early on in my career, but not only did I get to “test” this great game for 10 hours a day I actually got to fly down to id Software headquarters and work side-by-side with the likes of John Carmack and Graeme Devine.
Meeting one’s heroes is certainly a perk of working in this business, but we should also be wary of the villains. What is the most ethically challenging thing you worked on?
Any game that gets shipped without being signed off on by QA. There’s no excuse for that.
It’s good to know that, as a games developer, you’re a man of principal. Do those values come from your childhood? What did you want to be when you grew up?
A stand-up comic. That didn’t really work out because of the whole stage fright thing. I wanted to be a Doctor as well, but I also have school fright.
Did you overcome that fear to get an education that helped you plot course into the video game industry? Or did you find your own way?
I hopped around a lot of community colleges after high school. I was never sure exactly what I wanted to do, I just knew it had to involve gaming. I remember reading an article in some gaming mag about breaking into the industry through Quality Assurance as an entry level Tester. At the time, you had to live in either Seattle or Los Angeles to really have a shot of getting a job in the industry. I chose Los Angeles and spent a good 12 years there before moving up to Seattle.
How did you leverage those 12 years of experience to score an invitation to one of our interrogation rooms as a job applicant?
Well, besides the outright begging/pleading/bribing, I expressed my love for everything Bungie and tried to highlight my experience and dedication to quality. As a gamer, I have certain expectations when it comes to a games quality and Bungie has always been a shining example of those standards. You ship when the product is of a certain quality, and not a minute before.
We apply the same standards to our new hires. You should know, since you survived your interview loop. Can you remember the hardest part about your own test run?
The hardest part had to be the final day-long interview process. First off, I was very intimidated. This made me exceptionally nervous and towards the end of the process I was mentally exhausted. I’m still shocked they hired me, as I’m sure I was just rambling incoherently towards the end of the day. I remember going home thinking about how badly I blew the interview…
Not at all. It’s a part of the trial. If you don’t end up babbling like a fool, we just assume that you don’t care. Passion is a crucial ingredient for a member of our team. Now that you are on the roster, how does that passion manifest?
Knowing that the projects I work on will be appreciated by the rabid fan base. Being a fan myself, I like to think I know what is expected out of us as a company I strive to hit that mark….oh and the FREE BEER.
Don’t go misleading our readers to think that we get FREE BEER every day. We save that for special occasions. What is a typical day like? Is it a stand up and fight mission, or a bug hunt?
I usually get in around 8:30 and get jacked up on caffeine. Then, I scour the bug database to get up to speed on any new issues. After that, I check my email, write test cases, test the latest build, and regress and write up bugs.
So, it’s a bug hunt. What’s your favorite reward for seeking out those critters and making sure that we kill them dead?
Did I mention the FREE BEER?!
Yeah, you mentioned that. I’m trying real hard to diffuse the image of you stumbling around here like the town drunk every day. There has to be something else that motivates you.
Sorry, that was the first thing that came to mind. I also enjoy the bi-monthly poker game.
Spoken like a true saloon rat. Aside from raking in the chips from your coworkers, is there an accomplishment that fills you with more pride than any other?
I am proud of the fact at how quickly I’ve come up to speed on the project I’m now working on. That was not easy. I knew I belonged here that first week when I got to know my co-workers. It was like that feeling you get when you put on a comfortable pair of shoes.
While I would never deprive you of a pair of comfy shoes, we do need to extend beyond our comfort zones at Bungie. Can you learn the new skills that you need to become a more effective tester working here?
I am a SPONGE. I try to soak up as much knowledge as I can, whether that means reading the latest books on web security or picking a co-workers brain. I are hungry for knowledge. NOM!
Imagine a reader who is thinking right now that they want to be just like you. Do us both a favor, and provide them with some advice that has nothing to do with FREE BEER.
Work. Hard. It’s a competitive business, and you really have to shine to make it. Learn as much as you can and try to take advantage of all that experience. Use it and absorb as much information as possible. See what works and what doesn’t and apply that knowledge. Oh, and check your ego at the door. We are all on the same team here.
Your humility does you credit. Let’s explore some other virtues crucial to being a Tester in our last question: Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? Rank them in order of importance to your role.
Work Ethic, Experience and Talent. You have to be dedicated, because the hours are loooong and the work can be tedious. Experience really helps to determine the process of what needs to be done and when to implement it. Talent is last because talent without work ethic or experience is a difficult beast to tame.
Thanks for sharing, Chris. Those bugs won’t crush themselves, so please do get back to what you do so well.
As Chris learned for himself, being a Tester is a great way to enter the video game industry. It’s not the only entrance, though. If you see yourself following a different plan of attack, all of the doorways are clearly marked in our Breaking In