Gamer Highlight – Beki, the Feature Tester
In gamer highlight I’ve been interviewing gamers from differing fields of experience, from the table, to the field, the computer.
This week, I finally got round to talking to someone in the computer games industry! Beki works for Evolution Studios, producers of the World Rally Championship and Motorstorm series. She’s a long-time gamer, and also writes an excellent games design blog, The Universe Illusion.
Q: First things first, could you please introduce yourselves
A: Hi, I’m Beki. I’m 25, I work as an embedded QA Engineer for Evolution Studios, a Sony studio. I have worked in the games industry for 3 years since completing an MEng Computer Game Design masters degree at Staffordshire University.
Q: What was the first computer game you ever played?
A: I’m not 100% sure but I have vivid memories of playing Kings Quest with my cousins when I was little, trying to figure out the puzzles together. My love of adventure games has persisted ever since, and I’m apprehensively excited to hear that there will be a new one on the way in 2015. I also remember making any excuse I could to play the Logical Journey of the Zoombinis on the Apple computers in early primary school, a puzzle game sold as an educational maths game. You could choose the features of the Zoombinis including hair, eyes, nose and feet, and I thought it was the best thing ever.
Q: When did you decide to get into games design, and why?
A: I’ve always been a fan of stories in any form, I love reading, movies, RPGs and video games – however I never really saw it as a viable career path. Towards the end of secondary school I became interested in 3d modelling and game engines, using them to put small prototypes together. After that I wanted to take it further with a proper structured course. Staffordshire University was perfect for me and allowed me to explore lots of different facets of the industry. I’m still working in QA professionally but working in an embedded capacity allows us to work directly with design and make our own mark on the game. This helps to inspire me in my own designs, and I hope to eventually see a released title with my name as a designer!
Q: What do you do at evolution studios?
A: I am an embedded QA Engineer – so basically I work alongside the developers testing the features of the game and reporting issues for them. I’m also responsible for the localisation of the game into 22 different languages – liasing with other departments to arrange translation of text and testing of them in game. We also do design testing and user testing – looking at designs when they are in their infancy and analysing them from a testing point of view, or using varying levels of prototypes to test concepts and ideas with people outside of the project.
Q: Given the opportunity, what game idea would you like to make reality?
A: I would like to make a truly co-operative role playing game with an epic story, where all players have equal impact on the world. There have been really good stories where you can be a side kick to the host player or something similar (see Fable series) but it always feels as though you’re following the ‘real hero’ around. My favourite types of games are usually co-op, so I’d love this kind of thing – maybe something somewhere in between Skyrim and Elder Scrolls Online. (Someone is definitely going to tell me this already exists. (I hope))
Q: What, in your opinion, makes a good game?
A: This is a difficult question to answer but for me I like to be able to properly immerse myself in the character I’m playing. Especially in RPGs, if I can’t choose a female character or at least customise them in some way then there is a barrier there for me. I understand that it isn’t always appropriate, and the best designs will have a good balance of restriction and freedom, but there is a correlation in my library between the games I could customise a character in, and the games I have played hundreds of hours of.
Q: Final question, how has gaming affected your life to date?
A: All of my friends are gamers, my siblings are gamers, and even my parents are gamers in some capacity whether on iPad or browser – so it pretty much surrounds me as it probably does a lot of people nowadays. When friends visit we play board games or split screen multiplayer games, and we go to gaming related events throughout the year. When its time to stop looking at games and go home from work, I go home and play more games! Without gaming I would not have met some of my best friends so I think its safe to conclude that gaming has definitely had a massively positive impact on my life. :)
It may be a job like so many others, with ups and downs, but you can’t help be envious of someone pursuing a dream, least of all a dream of designing your own computer games. So many of us have doodles, or our perfect game in our heads, but perhaps lack time, knowledge or software, and it can be a long climb through the industry to get to where you can make your ideas reality. Anyone who’s already working towards that deserves no small amount of respect.
A big thanks to Beki for today’s interview. She’s a great friend and was also part of the group that introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons, amongst many, many other games.