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Exclusive WAR Launch Blog with Justin Webb - The CE Launch

Updated Mon, Sep 15, 2008 by Cody Bye

By Justin Webb, Senior Designer for WAR

It’s Saturday. We start letting CE players in tomorrow. It’s simultaneously very nerve-wracking and exciting. With the game essentially launching tomorrow, loads of people are here today making sure that everything goes smoothly.

Justin Webb, WAR Blogger on the Prowl

Mostly, today is the time for the server engineers to shine (we’ll check in with them in a bit). But everyone in the building is piling onto beta and just playing, double-checking that everything is working and that all the bugs we’ve been working on have been squished.

I was able to find some time to talk to Jason Abbott [Lead Server Engineer] and Colin Shannon [Technical Director] about their experiences during this week, and they were gracious (foolish) enough to let me film them.

This is Shannon's current threat level.


It’s time to check in with QA again and see how they are holding up. Today, I talked to Crystal Ferguson: QA Analyst.

JW: I know that QA is split up into a certain number of teams. What’s your current role as a QA analyst?

CF: I’m kind of the QA advocate for players, reading all their feedback on the boards  and presenting it to teams, or to other QA departments. Its lots of  “this is what players want to see. This is what they don’t.” And, as a result, a lot of changes are made sometimes.

JW: Is that a position you can come into straight away, or do analysts normally come up through the ranks?

CF: I came up through QA first. The thing about the analyst team is it’s not common in most game companies. It was something that we devised over time in QA. And the position just kind of came up and went from there.

The illustrious board of quotes.

JW: What would you say the focus of your analysis reports were, say, two months ago, compared to what they are this week?

CF: Two months ago we were focusing more on the features that people wanted to see implemented in the game that weren’t in yet. And also, doing things like going through and getting a feel for what people liked in a particular chapter. Now it’s a lot more really big game-design issues that people are concerned about, whether its endgame, or progress or leveling, or things like that, because we are so close to launch that these are the big things that stick out to people. That’s the biggest difference.

JW: Two months ago, how many hours a week do you think you were working?

CF: Normal days, so 8 or 9 hours.

JW: This week?

CF: This week, err, this last week has probably been an average of 12 to 14 hours a day.

JW: What time were you here til last night?

CF: Last night I actually got to leave early [beams].

JW: What’s the vibe like in QA this week?

CF: Kind of a lot of just making sure that the servers are OK, and just really “Oh my Gosh! What’s about to explode right now? What’s going on? What are players reporting? Oh we need to get this bugged up as soon as possible! Someone needs to figure out how to do this!”

JW: Do you think the launch process has galvanized QA into a big gang/team?

CF: We were always kinda that way. We really work well together. So I do think that now we’re all really trying to just band together and do what we can to make sure that things are found and that things are bugged up. We’ve been trying to do things as a team. We’ve been going to Karaoke on Tuesday nights. We’ve been trying to get out and have fun together.

JW: What’s your fight song?

CF: Oh my gosh! Wow! Oh yeah, I’d have to say a little bit of House of Pain, yeah.

JW: Why that song? Is it because it IS a “House of Pain”, or because it’s a really upbeat song?

CF: I actually think it started because somebody made a comment about not liking that song, and then it was broadcasted across the floor to irritate her, and then it become our little motto and every now and again we’ll start playing it and everyone will go “Yaaaaaaaaay!”

JW: So what is the preferred caffeine-delivery system? I’ve seen Finnigan is loaded up on Red Bull.

CF: There’s quite a few of them in QA who like the Red Bull. And they’ll frequently have to run out on their lunch hour just to get more, and keep cases of it under their desks.

JW: Has anybody brought any coffee machines in this week?

CF: Yes, I actually have one at my cube now.

JW: So, Nicknames?

CF: We have a lot in QA. The longer you are in QA, whether its your first day or been here for as long as I have, you eventually develop a nickname at some point, normally due to something you’ve said or done or types in on our chat channel.

JW: What’s your nickname then?

CF: My nickname is “not Charlie” or “Charlie” … as they like to call me.

JW: So why Charlie, because obviously that’s not your name?

CF: That one actually started because I moderate a lot of our bug forums, so I post there frequently, and on the boards I’m CFerguson. And someone sent me a private message asking if I was someone called Charlie Ferguson because they used to know one. And I told them No. But apparently he must have referenced me as Charlie on the boards because then I started getting little references in feedback like “Hey Charlie, I just wanna say that I like this” and everything, and now I’m thinking “they really think my name is Charlie”.

JW: So Right now you have an opportunity to set the record straight.

CF: I am NOT Charlie

JW: Any final comments?

CF: We work an unbelievable amount. We’re all really hard workers, just like everyone in the company, but we do our best to make sure that we’re not making players angry. Keeping them as happy as possible is really that side of our job that is outside the realm of just putting in bugs. And that’s a big thing for us, being that advocate for players.
 

A shot of Crystal Ferguson.

As launch approaches, tempers begin to fray. As a social experiment, I want to see whether small insignificant requests can push someone who is stressed over the edge. This small regular column is something I like to call “Can I borrow a dollar please”. Today, I try to” borrow a dollar please” from Jon Farinelli [Insider Note: Jon is a really important QA guy. You should note that his nickname is “grumpy”]. It’s Saturday at about 2PM and Jon is up on the eighth floor looking for some coders to chastise. Let’s see what happens:

JW: Hello Jon

JF: What?

JW: Could I borrow a dollar please?

JF: …

JW: Please?

JF: No, get the …. I don’t even ******* know you! Ask your ******* wife.

JW: It’s for the soda machine. ‘Be your best friend?

JF: [Glares] … It’s not my job to be your friend! It’s my job to tell you your ****’s broken. So fix it.

JW: Or do you have change for a 10?

No, I don’t have change for a ****** ten! I got quarters. That’s it! Soda machines TAKE quarters! So I bring quarters. I come prepared.

JW: Um … Can I borrow a quarter then please?

JF: No! ****! MY office is on the SECOND floor. This is the EIGHTH floor!  Ask someone who has an office on 8! [Stomps off]

He was testy wasn’t he? I actually felt a bit scared then. Join me later when I try to borrow a dollar off [checks the poll] … well, let’s see.

(Editor's Note: If you'd like to read all of Justin's exclusive WAR launch blogs, simply click here!)

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