By raiden2000 2 Comments
I was just finishing testing on Project IGI when the call from above came. My next lead would be to testing a series of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) games that Eidos would be coming with out in a deal with Nokia. Now forget your iphone feature laden games of this day and age, these games were designed to playable on the Nokia handsets of 2001. Remember that phone Neo uses in the first Matrix movie? One of those. This meant a 95 by 64 resolution screen at best. These games were not going to have win any graphical awards.
But they were at the cutting edge of mobile technology at the time and the development teams went through a great deal of effect to make sure the atmosphere of the titles matched their PC counterparts. My job was (as always) to basically make sure they worked properly on a mobile phone and I did that using a Nokia emulator on my PC because I guess the budget didn’t stretch to real handset to use.
The first publically announced WAP game was Gangsters, it was certainly ambitious with a large scale multiplayer aspect involving players attacking each other to take control of a city. Towards the end of testing I had to arrange a large scale beta test involving most of the company, which certainly lead to an interesting afternoon. The other game I worked on was a version of Thief which looked like a text based dungeon crawler with the commands entered one at a time. Sadly, for whatever reason these games never saw the light of day. The much rumoured Tomb Raider WAP game never even made it to test and the whole thing seemed to disappear in a hurry a few months after we testing the games.
It was about this time the tomb raider movie was announced. This was a big budget blockbuster affair which had a lot of marketing weight behind it from . Eidos of course took full advantage of one of its biggest franchises going mainstream by doing… nothing. To this day I cannot believe that such a decision was taken. A tie in game would have sold extremely well and would have eased the financial problems Eidos were having at the time. Even it had been a rushed job consisting of stuff they had lying around it would still have been better than nothing.
During my time testing on the WAP front various members of the test department were being sent off to Spain for some off shore testing, sending people out to test at a external location is fairly rare due to the costs involved but it sometimes a necessity. Keen to spend some time in the sun, I started angling to get in on this action very soon after I was finished on the WAP stuff. My enquiries were rewarded when I was asked to go out there for the month of August. I was overjoyed at this news as spending a month in a hot country was considerably better than the rain.
Pyro Studios were a Spanish developer who at the time had only worked on one franchise. Commandos, an RTS lite game set in World War 2. It had proved to be such a surprise hit that a sequel was inevitable. It was for this sequel that people were being flown out to test. The reality of what was in store for me out in became apparent almost as soon as I paid off the cab from the airport. I, along with another tester had gone to the developer directly to get the keys to the flat we would be staying in. Once we were there we did indeed get the keys but were asked to stick around for a spot of testing. We finally arrived at the flat thirty six hours later after putting in a bit of overtime. It turns out that there was a deadline that needed to be met so everyone had to stick around. To their credit we did get a couple of days off afterwards as a reward but this wasn’t the best reintroduction into developer testing I could have had. We spent those days off doing the tourist things around .
The testing itself was very similar to the kind of stuff I was used to at Eidos. The only real difference was the fact that the programmers themselves were only five meters away. Not that I could ask them much, hardly any of them spoke English. The only one that could, a designer was assigned to be our liaison for the duration and his dismay at this turn of events was obvious.
It didn’t take long for us to get settled in. Testing so close to the developers reminded me of my days back at Bullfrog. was a pretty cool city to living in; the bars were open much later than their counterparts and the sun shone brightly every day we were there. We managed to find a kick ass Irish bar near the Santiago Bernabéu stadium (home place of ’s biggest football team, Real Madrid). The barmaids working there were mainly Irish students working there for summer and I think it is fair to say that my fellow testers and I got very friendly with them.
The flat we had was pretty spacious with a well equipped kitchen. One of the previous testers had brought along an old Playstation which we used to kill time in between working and having nights on the town. We were given a stipend to cover expenses but it wasn’t enough to be able to eat out everyday. We handled this chore by taking it in turns to head down to the local supermarket once a week.
One day we were asked to work on a Saturday, not being ones to turn down overtime we turned up. The payoff was the single most awesome thing I have ever had for lunch. They had ordered paella in for the crew and I thought it would be one of those plastic tub deals; instead it came in a large metal wok. There were scorch marks along the bottom making it clear that they had cooked the food in the wok, packaged it up and sent it out. I am a big fan of paella under normal circumstances but this was the best.
Whilst I was out there I had the opportunity to apply for a promotion. Just before we have left my manager had privately informed me that my two assistant managers had just quit to join Electronic Arts later that month. That gave him the perfect excuse to do a bit of reorganising which of course meant having to fill the several vacant positions that had opened up. I barely had time to get my CV ready so that I could apply for the assistant manager position as I had to catch a flight less than an hour later. I went for that particular job because I knew full well who would get the other jobs that were available, making an application for those roles pointless.
About a week into the Spanish assignment I got a phone call saying they considered me too inexperienced for the position but they wanted to consider me for one of the others. My heart sank at the news. Also going for that role was one of the manager’s old friends he himself had headhunted to join Eidos a few months earlier. I knew my chances were slim.
Having to do a job interview over the phone is pretty annoying to say the least. Having to do one over the phone while in another country is terrible. Despite this, it seemed to go well however and I was optimistic about my chances. The phone call came in a few days later saying that although I had interviewed extremely well (their words) the job was going to someone else. The job had gone to the old friend of the QA manager just as I had mysteriously predicted before the thing had even started. It was this pretty blatant display of nepotism (among others) that made me realise that I had no chance of moving up at Eidos due to the fact that wasn’t a member of the manager’s clique. As it turned out, almost all of the promotions handed out in the restructure went to his old buddies.
So it was in a bar in the centre of that I made the decision to leave Eidos.