Our UK fans will get a chance to see how we work at Criterion Games in a new CBBC show.
All Over The Workplace aims to inspire young people with an insight into different careers and back in January we had the opportunity to demonstrate how a videogame is made.
We hosted Kiya and Toby along with presenter Alex Riley and, with a bit of help from Criterion’s Max, Edwin, John, Pete and Rosa, they put together their own futuristic racing game in just a couple of days.
If you want to see what they came up with, and have a nose around Criterion’s HQ at the same time, tune in to All Over The Workplace on CBBC at 10:50 AM on Wednesday 16th March. The show will also appear on BBC iPlayer (for UK viewers), and be repeated in April. Watch out for it!
It’s well-documented that, even though many girls in the UK have all the aptitude and subject enthusiasm they need to work in technology fields, ultimately they choose not to. The reason often cited is that girls are discouraged from choosing science or other tech-related subjects while still at school because these are perceived as boys-only topics, and girls that pursue them are somehow… strange.
The upshot is that even though a vast proportion of our audience is female, when it comes to recruiting new development staff, applications from women make up less than 10% of the total. How do we make a game for a large audience when 50% of the population is barely represented on the team?
We like to do our bit to encourage the next generation of game-making talent, and with the above in mind we decided that this year we would make our annual careers open day into a female-focussed event. Out of over 100 eager applicants we selected 30 girls and young women to join us on October 29th to discover what life was like inside a development studio.
After a whistle-stop studio tour, the girls got an introduction to the disciplines of art, design and coding from Criterion’s own experts. They learned something of the part each plays in game development, what
variety of roles exist within those disciplines and what kind of studies, experience or talents they might work on to help find success.
Lunch in the Criterion kitchen gave the girls an opportunity to grab team members and ask them about how they found their way into the games industry.
In the afternoon, we split the group into six teams and challenged them to work together to develop their own game pitch. After being given a random game type, a random image to inspire them and a Criterion mentor to guide things along, the teams had less than two hours to work up a game idea they could present back to a team of judges.
In the short time they had all of the teams came up with detailed presentations for a wide variety of games. The judges were dazzled by the variety of pitches, which ranged from finding lost puppies, to escaping a witch’s cooking pot, to branching adventures in a post-apocalyptic world of light and darkness. All the teams won prizes for their ingenuity, and everyone took home a bag of Criterion swag for their trouble.
We want to thank everyone who applied for our open day, and all the girls and women who came to show us that female game developers are most definitely a growing and talented band! If you want to make games, it doesn’t matter what gender you are. Be who you are and do what you love. If you can make it happen, the world and its HR department will be waiting…
For more information on getting into game development, try these:
BAFTA YGD: http://ygd.bafta.org/competition
Game making learning resources:
Who are you?
My name is 周舒珺 (Zhou ShuJun in Chinese) but here everyone calls me Vivian, which is much easier. I’ve been at Criterion Games for two years, working as a Technical Artist and, more recently, as a Development Manager on our new game.
Did you work in games for long before coming to Criterion?
This year, 2015, is my tenth year in game production. I’ve been at EA for nearly five years, and worked as a Technical Artist on Dead Space 3 and Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare in EA’s Shanghai office.
What does a technical artist do?
Tech art is a big job family and every TA role is different. When I started at Criterion I was fixing up artwork so that it could work on different platforms. Now I support the internal and external art teams during prototyping and production, helping them to produce high-quality artwork that will also work in the game. To be honest, I am kinda scared and excited at the same time!
You have a lot of experience of the art side of game-making. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?
Always think “game first”! Great game art makes the player’s experience more enjoyable but not if it’s so complicated that it slows the game down or takes up too much memory, for example. You have to find the sweet spot between making things look beautiful and making them work – and on lots of different hardware! The same applies to things like game cameras, environment lighting – all kinds of things that will make the game look better, but only if you know how to make the best use of the technology at your disposal.
Are you surprised there aren’t more women working in games?
In many computer science classes, there is only one girl out of ten students. However, I have to say, game development is not that different from other careers that most girls are taking and I think my job is more interesting in many ways. Making games is fun, exciting, always changing, sometimes emotional, and you don’t have to be a geek to fit in as long as you have passion. You don’t have to be superb at playing games to be able to make them!
What games do you play, Vivian?
I’ve always enjoyed the Castlevania and Contra games, but now most of the games I like are not about killing, winning or showing off. I like the opportunity to be the star of a story, exploring a world that’s impossible in reality, so it’s no surprise that I love RPGs. I especially like Asian ones, because I enjoy the stories, and the music and graphics are always impressive. And I love customizing my players; I spent hours creating 30 different characters in World of Warcraft, just to make sure I got all styles, races and genders.
As well as playing games, what else do you do in your spare time?
I love art, so after spending the day with detailed game artwork in high-end 3D software like Maya, I like to do small paintings at home to balance things out. It keeps my brain fresh and I really enjoy it.
Pride and Prejudice (2005) (the one with Colin Firth)
Most touched games:
XianJian (1995) and The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky (2004)
Passion about fashion:
I love rejuvenating classic clothes
I went on holiday to a German national park but I arrived at midnight and the hotel was closed so I had to spend the night in the forest on the lookout for wild boar!
Software Engineer Intern
Who the devil are you?
I’m Adam Pearce and I came to Criterion for a year as a Software Engineer intern.
How did you get to be here?
I was in the middle of doing a BSc in Computer Science at the University of Sussex in the UK. I contacted Criterion to ask about an internship that could form part of my course and I came in for a rigorous two-day interview. I guess you guys liked me because I was invited on board.
Without giving away too many secrets, what have you been working on?
I’ve done a lot of different things, mostly helping with the prototyping team on Criterion’s next game. We’ve been creating new features so I’ve delved into a lot of different areas – helping design game features from scratch, doing 3D animation which was a lot of fun, helping out the audio team and coding core features of course.
How much of that can you take back to your course?
It’s all valuable stuff. Probably the processes are the most interesting. Working with a small team, morning meetings where everyone gives an update, afternoon reviews where we all gather around the software, all working towards making the software better, one day at a time.
Did anything take you by surprise?
People told me that being in development wasn’t going to be all fun and games, but Criterion has a good balance. I’ve found it great fun to work here! I know with some studios it’s all about telling people what they’re going to do over the next week and they have no choices. At Criterion I have had a say in what I do and so I could focus on my strengths, but sometimes branch out into other things that my leads thought suited my skills or interests.
What will you be doing when your year at Criterion is up?
Well, when I leave here I have another year of university, but what happens after that might be up to you guys!
My specialist subjects:
Coding and comics
Prize of comic collection:
Amazing Spiderman #35
If I was at Comicon I would dress as:
It’s always going to be Spidey
My grey wool hat hides my hair during awkward ‘in-between-lengths’ times
Director of Product Development
Introduce yourself to the folks at home.
I’m Alan McDairmant and I am Director of Product Development at Criterion Games.
And what do you do with a job title like that?
I make sure we have a plan, show how the plan is progressing and try to make sure we are working well in everything we do in the studio. I also make sure we are not overspending on our budget. I get to deal with all sorts of challenges, which I love and also talk with our development leaders across the company to share and learn about how they work in their studios.
How did you get into doing that?
I’ve been a game maker for just over 20 years now, having graduated from Art College in 1994 as an animator and film-maker. I started off in games as a classical animator making kids games in Scotland. I naturally progressed into being a lead, then a producer as I tended to always be the guy who got stuck in and organized things to make sure we got the game finished.
So were you always a natural organiser, even in your artist days?
Yes, often I helped train the other artists and made sure they had everything they needed to work well. It came natural to me to plan and organise things so I tended to more and more of that until I became a Producer and worked much wider across the projects and publishers we worked with.
First game you worked on?
My first project was an interactive kids storybook called ‘The Fish That Could Wish’. I made it using a combination of drawn classical animation, Photoshop and Macromedia Director. It had lots of little mini-games in it as well as fun little story sequences. Back then the team was made up of only 4 people to make the whole project.
And what did it teach you?
I learned how to work with programmers and audio designers and how to be creative within tough deadlines. I also learned how to work and learn fast and what it was like to work with a publisher who had their own deadlines and challenges too.
First Criterion game you worked on?
I joined Criterion back on Burnout Revenge and have been involved in everything we have released since working with our awesome team. I am still very proud of Burnout Paradise. I think it stands out as a significant game from the PS3 and Xbox 360 console generation.
Your teenage self wants to get into the games business. What advice do you give him?
Be a lover, not a hater. Approach everything in work and life with energy and enthusiasm.
Favorite Board Game:
Meeting Muhammad Ali:
I once punched Muhammad Ali in a shoe shop, I have the photo to prove it!
I staged dived at a Foo Fighters gig.
There are times when you have to take a step back and realize how lucky we are to be doing what we love. We often hear about how difficult it is for young people to convince schools, advisors, or parents that making games for a living is a great career path.
We are dedicated to being a voice that helps the next generation realize their ambitions in game-making. Whether it’s partnering with our Friends at BAFTA on their Young Games Designers program, running Code Clubs in Schools, acting as Video Game Ambassadors, alumni giving speeches at universities, bringing in students for Work Experience, or even bring in interns, we are committed to making the future bright for tomorrow’s game-makers.
We want this blog to become a place to share our passion for video game creation and enable others who share that passion to achieve their dream…
– Criterion Games