Q. What about your own historical stats? How did you end up at Bungie and what were you doing before you worked here?
Broken In returns this week, scoring some time with another one of Bungie's illustrious Leads, Grizzled Ancient Roger Wolfson. You may be familiar with the name, we've mentioned "The Wolf" on The Bungie Podcast before, invoking his name while discussing the highly-anticipated, as-yet-undated, Render-to-Video feature. But that's a topic of discussion destined for the future. For now, Roger is ready to recount his road to Bungie, some of his most memorable moments inside the studio, and finish the fight with a little bit of valuable insight, advice, and pleading aimed at those looking to follow in his footsteps.
Q. Who are you and what do you do for Bungie?
A. I'm Roger Wolfson, the Server Software Development Lead. My team creates the services that aim to make each game match part of a bigger community experience by, for example, tracking historical results, enabling sharing of user-created content such as Saved Films, and of course developing the Bungie.net website.
A. I found my way to Bungie right out of college, about eight years ago, via Microsoft, where I had interned the previous two summers. For the three summers before that, I interned at insurance broker Marsh, Inc., where we received daily shipments of insurance claim data on ancient 15" magnetic tape reels that I'd have to load into a machine for processing. I never found out how much data fit onto each tape, but it's probably about as much as Bungie's servers stored during the time it took me to type the comma in the middle of this sentence. One interesting day there was when I had to manually type in, off a printout, a list of every known way a person can be injured. Bungie just doesn't deal with "enucleation" all that often. Yet.
Q. Besides the absence of death caused by removal of the eyeball, what makes working for Bungie different?
A. Bungie is fundamentally a creative place, and that applies to every job in the company. It probably seems more obvious for art and design positions, but even for engineering each person's job is much more about thinking of ideas - about what interesting new things to do and how to do them - than you find in most other industries. Even at a lot of (non-game) software companies, the role of an individual engineer is often focused around implementing other people's designs as "correctly" as possible; here, there's a lot of individual responsibility for everyone to drive the product and feature designs.
Q. During your time with Bungie, what is the one moment you feel defines the experience for you? What's changed over the years?
A. I'll go with an early one. Just after I started at Bungie, a few months before Halo 1 shipped, the office was not much different than the college dorm I had just left: seemingly more people up and about the place in the middle of the night than the middle of the day. As things started to get finalized, we began spending pretty much all day every day (and well into the night) playing the game, looking for those last few problems.
Obviously, I had played plenty of games before that point, but always casually, a few hours a week; never near 100-plus-hour weeks like we suddenly were putting in. I started to get a little dazed. Dreaming in assembly language (real code that I jotted down and ended up using!) and having graphical glitches from the unfinished game seeming to appear in the real world, too.
At the peak of this, I was playing co-op with a coworker one night and he paused the game to get a drink from the kitchen. When he wasn't back after a few minutes, I stood up and turned around in my little Microsoft office, checking the walls for the little green triangle that would show me where he went.
This complete immersion in our work was exciting and enjoyable nonetheless, with everyone so devoted to making sure that their area was the very best it could be.
What's changed since then when work was driving me to the edge of lunacy? I no longer have an office.
Q. If you could issue one ominous warning to upstarts looking to encroach into your already dwindling office space, what would it be?
A. Please do! I'm hiring! You can have my job! Please? Is that ominous enough?
Q. Quite. How do you maintain the same level of enthusiasm for work you did when you first signed on for this gig?
A. Every couple years, I focus on a different type of project, while keeping in touch with the old ones, too. The change of pace is always refreshing. After that first year with Halo 1 and internal tools programming, I spent a year as Test Lead for Halo PC; that required a lot of travel to Texas. After that, I started on server programming for Halo 2 which oddly enough required a bunch of travel to the L.A. suburbs. Similar changes since then. Most recently, I've dived into video encoding for a project which we'll be discussing more of on this site very soon! As a teaser, I'll offer the following symbols in no particular order: 0 p 2 7
Q. 270p? We're confused. Subject change! Experience, Work Ethic, or Talent? If you had to pick one and only one, which quality would you go with and why?
A. I'll go with Talent. To tackle any complicated engineering problem well, you have to know where you're going and roughly how you'll get there before you start. I think you have to be able to hold the problem in your head and look at it from different directions to see the right solution. Your mind is a better simulator than you're likely to be able to construct artificially, so if you can get to the point where the "real" program is the one in your imagination, and the thing on the screen just a computerized transcription of that, the end product will be cleaner and more functional than if you give the computer a bunch of instructions that you really don't understand yourself and ask it to sort things out for you (psst...it's not that smart).
Turns out our computer's digital readout indicates that we're out of time. While Roger might be able to put up a valiant fight against the various technological apparatuses that surround him, our own minds have difficulty abandoning such constructs.
Thanks are due to The Wolf for burning a few valuable cycles with us - the memories and mentor's advice are much appreciated. And of course, if you've read through Roger's Broken In interview and think you'd like to sit across the interviewer's table and try to solve the maddening puzzles he'll undoubtedly construct to give your brain a functional fit, be our guest. As the man said, we're hiring. Check out the current crop of offerings on our Jobs page