This time A Conversation with… tracked down Jeremy Moncauskas from our 14th graduating class, Jeremy is working at Volition in Champaign Illinois.
Tell me about what you are doing now in the Games Industry
I am currently an Embedded QA Analyst at Volition in Champaign Illinois. My position means I work directly with programmers and designers on any features that are being implemented. I am involved in the design process from the QA standpoint, finding issues with a feature and I help to find a solution to the issues.
How has this changed since you graduated?
My position has changed quite a bit since graduating. I first started as a Temp QA Tester on Saints Row 4. I was on SR4 for a little over a year, then I moved over to Saints Row: Gat out of Hell where I was promoted to a full-time employee. I started working inside of our proprietary engine to educate myself a bit more (knowing UE4/Unity is good, but knowing your studio’s engine is better). Because I have been learning our engine, I was promoted to an Embedded Tester where my current skill set is challenged everyday and everyday I lean even more.
Can you describe a typical day in your office?
In my typical day I come in and say “Hi” to the people in my room, I then sync my data and make a build. While my build is compiling, I head to the kitchen and get some coffee and then head back to my room. I then have a stand up meeting with the people in my room about the progress we made yesterday and what needs to be worked on today or this week. After that, I run through my tasks and occasionally I am given a new task by my team’s programmer (or designer) to test before the feature is submitted to the studio. I will then go to lunch with the team or other QA members. When I return from lunch I will typically continue with my tasks until it is time to clock out. Once I am done with work I tend to stay an extra hour or two and work on personal projects inside of our engine so I can continue to educate myself.
What’s the most fun thing you get to do? What’s the most stressful/challenging?
Honestly, the most fun is continuing to be in a creative environment. For me the hardest part about graduating and being from the States, was not having a creative environment. I didn’t know many people in the industry in my area that I could work with on projects, so not being in that environment I feel really hindered my progress as someone who wants to be a designer. So yeah, I really really enjoy my studio’s environment. We make fun over the top games where just about anything goes, so some of the conversations we have at the studio are pretty ridiculous and sometimes even make it into a game. Also, crunch money is FANTASTIC.
The most challenging part is getting 100% reproduction steps for certain bugs. Don’t get me wrong most bugs are simple, but then you get the occasional one where it takes a few hours to narrow down the steps.
What games are you playing right now, and what elements have impressed you?
I am currently playing Guild Wars 2 and Dragon Ball XenoVerse. I enjoy the Word vs World combat in GW2, it reminds me a lot of Dark Age of Camelot. Dragon Ball has fast combat, RPG elements, and co-op. I really enjoy the fast paced gameplay, big combos and big explosions.
What are some trends you see in upcoming games?
Color. Lots of color. Oh, and open world. E3 just ended yesterday (when I was writing this), many of the games announced are open world and have a lot of color. It looks like we have moved passed the “green film grain” age. Finally. Open world games seem to be a huge trend right now as well, not only for the games that were announced, but even Lego games are being made to be open world.
What do you feel was the most valuable skill that you learned in the Game Design program at VFS?
The most valuable skills I learned at VFS weren’t scripting or level design, although those are helpful. The most valuable skills you can learn are how to communicate in a team, public speaking, and confidence. It doesn’t matter how much you know, if you can’t get your point across to your team. I know Dave and Andrew really grind this into you at school but, you will speak in groups (it doesn’t matter your position), and you will get up and give presentations. Get comfortable with public speaking now.
If you could give a current student in Game Design some advice, what would it be?
As someone who is currently working their way into dev position, I have quite a bit of advice for you guys. First, learn to script or program. There are more positions where scripting/programming come in handy, than positions where they do not. Even in QA, knowing how to read output is a huge benefit. Second, move to where you want to work. Sure some studios will pay for relocation, but the chances that they will pay for a new grad to relocate are slim. SLIM! Every studio would rather hire someone that is already near them than sped $4k relocating them. It will also make it easier to set up interviews and design tests. Next, keep working on stuff, don’t just go through the motions, try to do things that will improve you skills. Try and accomplish things that will make your future employer say “Wow” when they interview you, not just things to fill your portfolio. Next, If you can get a QA position, take it. Don’t not take a QA position because you have your resume out at 50 different companies and “One of them will email you back any day now.” Take the QA job, get your foot in the door and work your way up. The longer you are out of school, the less practice you will have, the less desirable you are as an employee. Get in–get experience.
Thanks Jeremy, and best of luck on your unannounced project by the makers of the Saints Row franchise!