Oddworld's Inhabitants: John Clayton, Quality Assurance/Tester [Hosted by Oddworld.com] Date: December 2004 Interviewer: Oddworld.com Interviewee: John Clayton
Oddworld’s Inhabitants are as diverse as the world they’ve worked together to create. Here’s where you’ll find interviews and other informative articles spotlighting the many creative folk that work at Oddworld Inhabitants. Be they headline players or behind-the-scenes heroes, the Inhabitants profiled here all share Oddworld’s ceaseless dedication to bringing you the best worlds and games that you’ve ever experienced.
John Clayton, Quality Assurance/Tester
Q: What’s your background?
John Clayton: I was born and raised in Portland Oregon, with a brief stay in Washington State. Some of the earliest memories I have are of my dad taking me to the video game arcade in a clich beach town called Seaside, Oregon. I was hooked from there on out. After earning a degree in computer science I traveled to many places and learned that America is not the only country in the world. Upon returning home and really having no idea what I wanted to do, I entered the “dot bomb” workforce. I learned quickly that this was not what I wanted to do at all. Making web pages and server apps was not for me. So I went back to school to earn a master’s in computer science. Much to parents horror I dropped out with just 2 terms left and got a job as a tester, but I’m ok with that. I just remember that I love philosophy and art; video games have become the happy modern median for me.
Q: So as a game tester you just play games and have scads of fun all day long, right?
John Clayton: It really can be fun, but like all things when you do something over and over for too long, the pleasure fades. Even with a genuinely enjoyable game like ours, when you play the same game for over a year, 10-15 hours a day, sometimes 7 days a week for many weeks,it can get rather old. This repetition is done because the game needs meet a deadline and every bug fixed requires a new version of the game and every version needs a complete test to make sure nothing else has been broken, that’s the theory anyway. This can continue in this cycle for quite sometime until somebody decides that the bugs found are not worth the work required to fix them. But it can be very satisfying to find some strange anomaly and reproduce it readily, then verify the fix, knowing that the game will be much stronger and better because of that single discovery.
Q: Does playing the same game for a long period of time get boring? Do you have to play a certain area repeatedly? What do you do to keep from getting burnt out?
John Clayton: Honestly, yes it does. I have been playing various incarnations of the game for a while and there are times I want to freak out. For me it seems to go in waves, some days I am excited to get to work and see the changes and help make it a better game, but other days …well, lets just say I’m not feelin’ the love.
Q: Seems like a lot of people become game testers to get their foot in the door at a game company. What made you want to be a game tester? Do you have other aspirations?
John Clayton: Get their foot in the door and to get it wet. I just wanted to see what it was really like, not just testing, but also all of the game making process. When person works at a development company you see all aspects of game creation. I wanted to know the business side as well as the creative side. When you are game tester you see everything from demo to final product. I like seeing the big picture. Testing can lead to many places; I know programmers and designers that started as testers, in fact our senior producer started as a game tester. I will admit, testing is a bit humbling and I have had to brush off my pride, but it is worth it. Some people at Oddworld have over 10 years experience in the game industry, and for someone to just jump in and do what they do is darn near impossible; school helps, but nothing makes up for experience, no matter how you get it. So my point is, if you get offered a testing job, take it.
Q: What is the easiest part of your job, and what is the hardest?
John Clayton: The easiest part of my job is sitting on my arse and playing a game all day, this also happens to be the hardest part. There are some days that I am pulled in 100 different directions; you would be surprised how many people rely on a tester to have something done for them.
Q: In your opinion, what is the best part of the game?
John Clayton: I like the final region, Sekto Springs Dam and Ending movie.
Q: What is your favorite ammo combination?
John Clayton: I enjoy the combination of Spark Stunkz, big computer cabinets and bad guys. Let’s just say it’s a shocking union.
Q: Who is your favorite Oddworld character? Why?
John Clayton: Clakkerz, you love to hate’em. Particularly Uncle Turkey Toes, I can’t think of a more annoying game character, ever. But alas he was cut from the final game. Rest in Peace gentle soul. *sniff, sniff*
Q: Do you play in first or third person most of the time in the game, or is it 50/50?
John Clayton: I do all of the above when the time is right; it’s really up to person playing.
Q: What’s the weirdest bug you’ve found, if you are allowed to tell?
John Clayton: All are strange and unique.
Q: If you could change jobs with one of the other Inhabitants who would it be and why?
John Clayton: I don’t know; if I changed jobs I think I would miss the backside of a file cabinet, which makes up one the walls to my “office”. I would really miss seeing Rich scratch his behind. He said it was for some animation he was working on, but I donÕt know…
Q: What is a typical day like for you?
John Clayton: I wake up, go for a jog, and then stumble into work around 10, sometimes earlier if needed. I get a nightly processed version of the game either via downloading it from the version control server or a programmer sprints down to my end of the building with a freshly burned dvd. Then what I do next really depends on the day before; what was fixed and needs to be verified, what new features have been added and need to be stress tested. Regardless I start to play through the game and check on things, if there is another tester we split the work, if not I go though the entire game. Though out the day, various people may ask for screenshots, saved game spots, recorded video of my playing or I just sit down with a team member and reproduce a bug. Sometimes I am asked to give feedback to the designers; does something feel good to play, does it work, is it too hard, things like that. I also battle the bug database. This entails adding bugs, closing out bugs, and printing reports of bugs. I usually get out of work around 7, but if we are crunching, I may not get out until later.
Q: Who (or what) inspires you? Why?
John Clayton: All people I meet inspire me because I can learn something from each of them.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
John Clayton: I do not understand. I am always at work. Ok, sometimes I enjoy seeing the sun, a little bocce ball, croquet, hiking, and biking. If the game production hits a slow period I try to work on my thesis.
Q: What CD are you currently listening too?
John Clayton: At work I listen to the collective works of Oddworld composer, Michael Bross. At home I currently trade between Air, Devendra Banhart, and a bit of Sergio Mendes and Stan Getz.
Q: What’s in your game console or pc right now?
John Clayton: I am slowly getting through Halflife 2.
Q: What advice would you give someone trying to break into games? What type of education does someone need to do your job?
John Clayton: It really varies. Every tester I have met has had different backgrounds, some have just a high school degree, and others have 2 and 4-year degrees. It really helps if you have a basic understanding of computers, real time software and how art is represented on computers. So learn as much as you can about these and remember patience is a necessity. Oh yeah you should probably like and play many video games.
Q: Can you tell us something about the new game? Please!
John Clayton: I have been playing it for over a year and I still enjoy it. I can still find new and interesting things in the world and gameplay. Really, no smoke being blown here.
Q: Can the fans email you directly if they find more bugs after launch? Just kidding : )
John Clayton: There are no bugs. Everything in the game is on purpose and to enhance the playing experience.