Eidos started out as a humble movie software company in 1990. It started focusing on games a few years later when it merged with the Domark Group, a large games company who had made, among other titles Championship Manager. After several other mergers in the nineties Eidos were primarily a games publishing house, one of the largest in . Over time they developed a portfolio of game franchises to rival just about anybody.
Eidos were in good shape in late 1999 when I arrived for my first day. Tomb raider and Championship Manager 98/99 were riding high in the charts and although they had just released some low selling titles that year they were just a blips in an otherwise incredibly successful time for the company. Unfortunately the seeds of their eventual downfall were evident in hindsight but at the time things were great.
After a brief tour I was lead to my desk in one of the testing rooms. The place was in many ways different to the working environment I was used to at Bullfrog. Natural light streamed in from the many windows. The place was bright and pretty roomy as opposed to the dark, cramped testing arrangements in . The fact I had a desk to call my own instead of a shared pc and a good chair if I was lucky really made me feel at home there.
I was on a six month position at Eidos to begin with. Given my previous experience with these types of contracts it was no surprise that I was worried. These fears were quickly lessened when I learnt that the contract became a rolling monthly one automatically once it finished so it wasn’t like you were out after half a year, this made the job anything but temporary. When I then heard stories of people getting permanent positions once their six months were up I had confidence I was there for the long term.
Once I was settled. I met the QA manager at the time, Tony. He said hi and welcomed me to Edios. He became pretty interested when he learnt I could speak Italian. They were short of Italian testers at that point and he offered me a place in localisation. I politely refused as I didn’t to go down that career route although I do wonder where I would have ended up if I had. We talked about Championship Manager for a bit and he wished me well. Tony left Eidos shortly after I joined to form his own company so I didn’t really get the chance to get to know him very well but he seemed nice enough.
Later on I was introduced to the team I would be working with, Steve was the lead tester on Champ Man and Daryl was the assistant (this was pretty rare, normally the lead tester
works alone). Carl and Chris rounded off the core team, although many more testers would come and go over time. I met one such tester on the first day, Raphael who told me not to expect to see him often and then disappeared. Others were more career minded and had been working there for years, some of the people that I met on that first day are still there now.
Steve came by my desk with a copy of Champ Man and asked me to take a look at it. One of the first things he asked me was if I was able to work overtime that evening. Something I gladly agreed to.
At Bullfrog we had shift work which eliminated the need for overtime but Eidos had a different approach with less testers working more hours. Overtime is something of a necessary evil in the gaming business. With tight deadlines looming over every project, overtime is often needed to ensure that the game is tested properly. I am not sure about the rest of the industry but for testers at least it is also a great way to increase their income. Things might be better now but in 1999 the pay for testers sucked. Sometimes taking on extra hours was the only way to make ends meet. Of course, it is easy for the situation to be exploited which has lead such instances as the “EA Spouse email” where the wife of a developer lifted the lid of the tough working conditions at an EA studio but on the whole it is an accepted part of industry.
At Eidos we had two unwritten rules, no overtime on a Friday and that overtime was strictly voluntary. Surprisingly, these rules were followed no matter what was going on at the time in a refreshing display of common sense. I was very grateful for this fact as it allowed me to leave at five thirty when I had something better to do that evening. They would not have got many takers for overtime on Fridays as it was usually pub night anyway. Towards the end of a project when the pressure was on some testers would even work overnight although this was pretty rare, largely due to the costs involved.
The game itself was a yearly upd
ate of the great Championship Manager 3, some new leagues were added and there were some gameplay improvements but it was pretty much the same game. Testing a game that I had been a huge fan of was extremely satisfying. I loved the original Dungeon Keeper so doing a bit of work on its sequel was great but this was in a different league (no pun intended). Even better it was pretty bug free so I could just play the game, a fact which pleased me no end.
True to form I got my name in the credits once it was done. This was a massive deal to me as I had a ridiculous amount of friends who played this game. To show how far reaching this game was, during my career I was credited in loads of games but this is only the one that has ever been noticed by anybody.Once Championship manager was finished the normal procedure was to wait and be assigned another title to work. Until then you were expected to help out testing of other games which were in test. In my case there wasn’t much overlap as I was assigned to test Final Fantasy 8 on the PC as my next project about a week later.
Next Week: Find out about my (small) contribution to the final fantasy universe.