A Conversation with… Charles Robert Simmons II

This time A Conversation with… tracked down Charles Robert Simmons II, from our 8th graduating class, at Big Fish Games.

  • Tell me about what you are doing now in the Games Industry

I’m a Game Tester at Big Fish Games. I currently work on the Release QA team. Our main job is to do compliance testing on 3rd party US titles and 1st and 3rd party international titles. From time to time we’ll be pulled off our main jobs and help out other teams clear out their back logs. We’ve done ESRB testing, helped out with various Free 2 Play initiatives and being some of the first to see games in development and giving feedback on them.

  • How has this changed since you graduated?

Quite a bit actually. When I started I was working on a project that were porting our Java games to Flash. It was a fun small team environment where I could talk directly to the devs when we found bugs and we all worked really hard push out high quality games. Then we shifted gears to social games on Facebook so I was primarily a UX/UI tester on a project called Treasure Quest while supplying support for other initiatives that we had at the time. After that project ended I bounced around the PC/Mac side of things before landing in my current role in Release QA.

 

  • Can you describe a typical day in your office?

When I come in I’m either finishing another project from the previous day or starting on a new one. Release QA as evolved into a jack of all trades group that helps out with other teams in the office as well as our core job since I first started. Most days I’m given a game that’s in English, German, French or Japanese and we do a combination of compliance and ad-hoc testing on these titles. This means I have to check them against various test cases on multiple systems while doing ad-hoc to see if anything was missed or botched in translation. At the end of the day I’m usually tasked with making sure any of the remainder of games going out that day pass their final check list.

 

  • What’s the most fun thing you get to do? What’s the most stressful/challenging?

I get to see a variety of our games in different formats. Due to our teams size I’ve been able to give feedback on games in beta stages, see how the ESRB process works, and being exposed to different languages on a daily basis. What can be challenging is when we have to play games with very ambiguous directions and not terribly polished game play and decern if the game is working correctly or if its just a bug.

 

  • What games are you playing right now, and what elements have impressed you?I’ve been playing Pokemon Alpha Sapphire, specifically the VGC meta game. What impresses me about the game is Pokemon have the tools at their disposal to defend and defeat even the crazies of strategies with the right amount of time and preparation. Its a game where knowing the nuances of how the game works better than your opponent can be the leg up one needs to get a leg up and be victorious.
  • What are some trends you see in upcoming games?I see using interactivity to expand the way we tell stories. Seeing games like Life is Strange and The Walking Dead series for Telltale; I suspect we’re going to find deeper ways to interact with the medium. I can’t wait to see what developers do with the Microsoft Hololens once its released.
  • What do you feel was the most valuable skill that you learned in the Game Design program at VFS?I learned to look at games more holistically because of the program. It has allowed me to take time and try to consider all the parts of the game that might be affected by small changes and making sure that these changes actually make sense in the grand scheme of the project and not just my personal feelings.

 

  • If you could give a current student in Game Design some advice, what would it be?

When it comes to your final project, think about scope, scope and more scope. It’s supposed to show that you have mastery of the concepts you’ve learned though your time there. Make sure it does that and is succinct.

 

Thanks for the update Charles, best of luck with Big Fish Games!