Hey, everyone! Brian Ward here, your humble servant and Community Manager. This is the first in a series of Runic Q&A sessions. Today I sat down with our QA Lead Jason Lamb in order to find out a little bit more about him.
Tell us who you are and what you do at Runic Games.
I'm Jason Lamb, the QA Lead, or QA Manager if you consult my business card and I manage a couple of full time testers here. I create test plans and tasks related to testing the game as well as the regular old testing job that I expect of my employees.
Do you guys get to play video games all day long?
How did you start in the video game industry? How did you get to where you are here? Did you go to school for this?
I actually had taken the MCSE and I was planning on finding a job as a network administrator. After about six months of doing that—of looking for a job—I couldn't find anything. I had a friend who worked at an educational software company that would make games and software based on different curriculums from around the country. My friend there was a tester. He spoke to his lead; I interviewed, and got the job. That's how I got started in software quality assurance. It was definitely never my intent to work in the games industry. It never even crossed my mind.
Then, I think my next job was at a larger game company and basically I was an online snitch. It was kind of half-QA, where you would test post-release patches and fixes, but you would mostly hang out in multiplayer lobbies and make sure that everybody was adhering to their user agreement.
Kind of community moderation?
Right. It was community moderation, except you would kind of go in—that job I think more than any job I've ever had was definitely playing games. I mean, you had a job, but if you were playing something like a racing game you would go into a match and actually play it with them. You know, and listen to voice chat and stuff like that and just pop in and out of different games. I think you had three or four games assigned to you on any given day. If it was a new release then it was just one and you were expected to do that one all day.
You'd also look for things, like people who glitched, and you would try to recreate the way that they would glitch. If somebody could scoot themselves inside of the collision of a wall and were able to snipe players that way but not the other way around you had to try to figure that out so they could patch it. It definitely helped that I had QA experience for that job.
I was really into Everquest when I was younger—late 90s, early aughts or whatever—and I noticed that there was a position for QA at Sony Online Entertainment and when I went there. It turns out it was for Everquest II, so I worked there for a little while. It was a cool experience to work on an MMO.
How did you like working in a larger company? How does it differ from working at a small company? Do you prefer one over the other?
I prefer the necessity of structure at a larger company, because when you have hundreds if not thousands of employees—Sony Pictures I think owned them at the time—the only way to keep everybody in line to make sure that it's efficient is to have really, really strict rules that were not open to interpretation. At the same time, it didn't allow you any sort of personal freedoms. You could never be late for work or lunch even by a few minutes or you'd get docked—it came down to having a policy for the color for formatting a specific word in a spreadsheet. If you left one word black when it was supposed to be red, you'd get in trouble for that.
Those were my first two game jobs.
And then you joined Runic when about? Was it right at the beginning? Were you at Flagship?
I actually started at Flagship. I wanna say it was in '08 or something like that. Man that was a long time ago. laughter '08 or '09, I can't even remember now, but it was towards the end of the year and we were working on Mythos. We were the red-headed stepchild of Flagship Studios up here in Seattle—we were kind of like the satellite team. When Flagship folded, I did some work at another large studio as a temp for a while.
After going in and out of various contracts then Runic formed and I got my old job back as a tester. Eventually, the test lead went on to other things after Torchlight, and I stepped up and took on the position for the Xbox 360 port and then Torchlight II.
Are you playing any particular games right now that you enjoy?
I am horribly addicted to Dark Souls II right now for PC.
Do you consider yourself a PC gamer, or a mobile gamer, or a console gamer?
I used to consider myself a PC gamer when I actually did consider myself a gamer, because I took like a huge ten year break from games.
After working in the industry for a while I was like "maybe I should keep up with gaming and see what that's about" and I went out and bought a PlayStation 3 like four or five years ago, which I never would have done had I not been influenced by the industry. I skipped over the entirety of the PlayStation 2/Xbox generation of consoles. I can definitely say I'm of a more hardcore gamer persuasion now.
So back to what your original question was, I would say yeah. I would say I was definitely more of a PC gamer. I always had one and I always had one that was capable of playing games whenever I dabbled. I remember Oblivion being one of the few games I actually played at the time.
So you like Oblivion. I, of course, love Skyrim. Do you have a favorite game? If you could take it to a deserted island with an endless, self-sustaining power supply and play it on a computer, what would it be?
My absolute favorite game is Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for PlayStation 1. I just love the level design, the music, the artwork, the really terrible voice acting. Just the sort of freeform progression: how you could have an easier time getting through an area if you got one item, but you could still get through it even if you didn't have it. Or you could go back and re-explore places now that you had a different item and unlock certain puzzles and it's really cool. I've beaten that game so many different times, but I keep coming back to it every couple of years.
It's probably what I love about Dark Souls II, even though it's way harder.
Obligatory food question. You have a favorite food?
I have a favorite type of food. I love Indian food of almost every variety that I can find, at least in the US as I've never been to India, but at least whatever has been considered palatable for US tastes I love Indian food
What's your drink of choice?
I would say whiskey. Not bottom shelf, but anything above bottom shelf I could probably tolerate. I also feel like there's no such thing as a bad scotch, even if you get like a crappy scotch cheap-o blend.
On a level of sober to wasted, how busy are you right now?
I would say comfortably buzzed.