Thursday, January 2, 2014

I lost focus

Over the last couple of years, I have been so focused on developing myself into becoming a Rioter and getting myself into Riot that I've totally lost sight on why I started the chase. Then after being hired at Riot, I felt a bit lost.

I honestly was surprised and super excited I got hired, but after being at Riot for a few weeks I started feeling insecure about being a Rioter (more on this later).

Then I began asking myself and looking again at my career and personal growth - What the heck do I want to be moving toward? Well. Honestly I haven't though that far. The 'plan' has always been; 1- get into Riot; 2- figure the rest out. I have such a diverse background, and I didn't know what to do with it.

Although I was fairly lost, I had a clue where I was going toward. The lucky thing is that I am at Riot Games. Riot values its employee and their growth. So like any idiot would do, I asked for advice. I had a meeting with my Dev Manager, although it was an extremely short meeting, it was extremely helpful.

The meeting left me with a lot of unanswered questions and a different perspective, but one thing really stuck with me from that meeting (Paraphrased)
You don't want to build yourself to a job at Riot. You want to become world-class at whatever role you are passionate about and become so damn good at it so that you can be that at any other company. 
Of course, I still had no idea what I was really passionate about, I was lost from the years of focusing on breaking into the industry. This left me thinking over my winter vacation;

During my enlightening holiday, I came across the blog of a System Designer, Alexander Brazie, at Riot Games: http://alexanderbrazie.blogspot.ca/ . I pretty much then spent that entire night reading all his game design posts and trying to learn as much as possible.. then it hit me.

I am still stupidly passionate about game design, no one would go off reading a blog up until 4 am in the morning and have time fly by without noticing it unless they are super passionate about it. I want to be a designer, I still want to be a designer. I may have the capacity to program the game systems, or the capacity to manage those game projects, but ultimately, I am most passionate about and would be most satisfied by creating and designing those game content to players to enjoy.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

3 Months at Riot



It's been a while since I've last posted here. Riot has been busy and I've been working hard at Riot. I work on the team dealing with the PvP.net and have delivered some awesome features to the current client - the notification panel.

Now that I've been back home for the holidays, do I truly realized the impact and changes Riot have helped in my personal growth. There are many lessons and experienced over these 3 months, that I want to share over my next couple of posts.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Reactor Rush, DONE... For now


Reactor Rush's presentation was completed, and I am now moving onto Riot. There are many things that we still plan to do with this. Hopefully a discussion next Tuesday will determine in which direction we are moving toward!

A big shout out to:

Adam Clare - My Mentor on this project
http://www.realityisagame.com/

J. Lee - For being my super awesome everything helper. He's mysterious and hides everything.

John Yau - For providing the wonderful art work that you see
  • ca.linkedin.com/in/johnyaudesign

Crystal Chow - For the stylist UI in the game
  • ca.linkedin.com/in/crystalchow0116

Michael Zaplotny - For his dedication and wonderful texture and particle work.
  • ca.linkedin.com/in/michaelzaplotny

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Preparation Experience for Riot Games' Interview

I think this would be a good time and place to share my story of Riot’s Recruitment process. 

I hope by sharing my experience, it will give some insight as to what to expect and the mistakes that could occur, so that you may learn from my experience.

First, a little bit of background information about me:
  • Bachelor of Engineering and Management, Mechatronics
  • Work experience in QA/Engineering at Com Dev, and IBM
  • Taught as an undergraduate TA for 4 years.
  • Currently working on a post-graduate certification in Game Design and Production

I've been brought on-site to the Riot HQ for interviews twice within the span of ~1.5 years. Both these times were for the same entry level quality assurance position. 

This forum post really started it all.

Interview #1

Obviously, I was unsuccessful the first time. The truth is, it was demoralizing; so close, yet so far. I've never been really good at dealing with failures; it always just makes me want to try again harder. A year ago after some self-exploration, reflection and learning, I gave myself two years to get into the industry ( more specifically, get into Riot Games). If I didn't make by the two year mark, then I would then focus my effort back into Engineering and Project Management. That was the short-term career plan.

I reflected on my eye-opening interview experience, the mistakes I made during the interview were:
  • I was really intimidated during my interview with one of the QA 
  • I got way too excited and didn't get a good night’s rest prior to the interview
  • I was horribly burned out during my phone interview (bad choice on my part)
  • I forgot to prepare materials for specific sections on my resume that wasn't related to the role I applied for, which totally caught me off-guard
  • I felt that I might not have demonstrated my passion and cultural fit for the position
  • I was dressed WAYYYY too formally

From there, I made a list of goals I wanted to achieve for my next application and a general plan to improve and develop myself, and they are as follows:
  1. Blow Rioters away with the quality and standard of my application – To ‘Riotize’ my resume, not only visually, but to give off an impression of a Riot Resume
  2. Become more qualified than I previously was, learn more about the industry as a whole, and educate myself on the process and art of creating video games
  3. Not only demonstrate cultural fit, but become embodied Riot’s culture and spirit 
  4. Further improve and develop my personal strengths, skills and interests

1) Resume

I know I needed to polish my resume more. If my last application did not make the cut, everything I did had to level up. I needed a way to make my resume standout from the sea of resumes that Riot gets. I know from my own experience that a stylized resume, when used appropriately, really helps ‘pop’ a resume. I also needed to make sure Riot understands that I am serious about them. I needed to “Riotify” my resume, I needed to take it ‘over-the-top’ and make this a resume that was ONLY intended for Riot Games. I wanted Riot to understand that I am dead serious about getting in. 

I had a number of requirements for my new resume:
  • Curiosity must be sparked upon initial inspection of reviewer
  • It needs to be awesome
  • It will be enjoyable to read my resume, as well as contain all relevant information that a resume contains
  • It needs to spell  RIOT GAMES ONLY resume

Initially I stuck on League of Legends stuff onto my old resume, but that looked really tacky. So I took toward my friend list on League of Legends for suggestions, who suggested that I make a champion profile of myself. Writing a champion profile of myself is a good idea, but was kind of lame when it is only text (BOOORRRRING). I know that I had to think outside of the box for this resume.... So after about one and a half days of picking up Photoshop, I ended up with my champion profile resume that was completely identical to the current champion profile on the League of Legend website, based on the art, font and layout. The only things different are some of the text and information regarding the champion’s abilities, which now became my professional experiences. 



Afterwards, I took my resume and ‘tested’ it on a few Rioters on my friend list. Luckily, I got good response from them and seems like I don't need to iterate on it anymore. The whole redesign process took me about 3 days to complete. 

2) Game Experience / Knowledge

Finding a entry level job in the game industry in Toronto, without any experience is next to impossible, so realistically I had one of three options:
  1. Go for a Masters in Software Engineering, then try to get into the industry via programming
  2. Go study game design through either a 4-yr undergrad program, or a 1-yr super crazy intensive post-graduate course at local colleges, then try again to enter Riot via QA.
  3. Stay at home, and learn whatever I can about games I could, and try Riot’s QA again.

In the end, I went with option 2b – Post-Graduate Game Design Certification. I figured that not only would this provide me the game knowledge I needed, but I would also learn more about everything within the games industry, build up a network of people and have references from professionals from the industry. Then, I went for the interview, got the acceptance letter, and accepted the course. Now here I am, a post-graduate game design student at George Brown College. I am one of the 11 students in the program, managing a large group of top undergraduate students, butting heads with other designers regarding design philosophy and processes in one of the best game design program in Canada. This is one of the best things I could have done to improve my chances at getting into Riot.

3) Cultural Embodiment

This was mostly about a deeper understanding of Riot’s culture, how they work, putting that to use, and internalizing them. Here are some very insightful websites.

These talks really give you a good idea into the heads of the leaders at Riot Games. (Less so on the Game Design talk by Tom Cadwell, but it’s still gives insight into the operation at Riot Games )

Riot Games: About Us 

Stacking Talent: Growing the League of Legends Team – Travis George

The Science Behind Shaping Player Behaviour in Online Games – Jeffery Lin

Player Experience: What It Means to be Player-Focused – Steve Mescon

League of Legends Retrospective: One Year Later– Marc Merrill

Letting Go: Creating Self Managed, Self-Directed Teams – Travis George

Navigating Unforeseen Challenges: Why leveling up your talent pool is key to Min-Maxing your 
Studio – Brandon Beck

Designers are Human Too – Cause of Poor Design – Tom Cadwell

4) Other Self-Development


On top of my studies, I needed to keep myself up-to-date and continue to improve myself. I looked at my desired career path and I focused on areas of interests and relevance, such as leadership, communication, presentation & project management. I also took a lot of effort understanding general resume and interviewing skills too.

I read books outside of my studies and just learned whatever I can, wherever I can, then continue to practice these skills.

Interview #2

Earlier this year I started my second interview process at Riot Games for the same position. (I actually wanted to test the new career website, but the withdraw application button didn't work, and I just treated it as a reapplication. I then totally forgot about it until I got an email from Riot)

That proceeded with sets of phone interviews involving members of the QA team and finally to an on-site interview.

For this interview, I prepared a lot. 

Mock Interview

I asked one of my instructor, who used be the COO to an AAA game studio in Toronto to give me a mock interview and run over my application. We ran over a lot of things regarding recruiting, possible questions that might arise during the interview, and general interview advice. 

 I treated him to a drink, and it was the single most valuable drink I bought. 

Tablet – Visual Aid

I made a point slide and put it onto a tablet/laptop. This power point contained all relevant information about projects and games I have done – videos, pictures and demonstrations. It included a recount of all my hard and soft skills developed, key achievements of all my professional experiences, and professional references and recommendations. It also served as a visual aid for myself when I was explaining how awesome my project was; I could just load up the video and hit play, and let my interviewer see for themselves. 
I began to learn how to interview people, so that I can understand what my interviewer will look for. I understood why someone would ask a certain question, and what the question tends to lead to and what they are looking for. For the record, the managers at Riot Games are one of the best interviewers I’ve met thus far. 

For the actual interview, I went to a professional print shop and got these printed (after an update and more edits) on cardstock and assembled it into a poster.

I brought games that I am working on, and demo builds of everything. Anything that Rough and Tumble did I brought, including poster boards, handout cards and demo build. I had them with me. 

http://roughandtumblegames.com/ (Shameless promotion for my talented colleagues)

Pre-On-Site Interview Preparation

Although I don’t know exactly where I want to be in 5 years ( I have a wide array of foundational skills in Production, Design, QA & Programming ), my resume makes me look like a design candidate in ways. So I made a note to myself to clarify that I understand the importance of QA in a game development environment, and I am more than willing to develop myself within QA and figure out what’s next for me.  

The flight to Santa Monica took a fair bit of time, so this time i got a good chance to mentally prepare myself for the interview. I also got a good chance to review my strengths and weaknesses. Review my Resume to spot potential issues or questions that interview might have, and add it to my power point and mental checklist if it isn't already there.

The day of the interview started with breakfast, and running over my mental checklist. This time for the interview, I felt relaxed. I wasn't so focused on doing well in the interview, and was more focused on just being myself and showing my improvement since my last interview. 

Conclusion

What I learned is that Riot doesn't hire people to make them Rioters. Riot hires Rioters to be Rioters. 

If you would like me to clarify or elaborate on any of these points, please let me know, I would love to share. 

Stay humble, stay hungry.

Huge thanks to WIFOM for the edit

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Reactor Rush - Director Design Award: Best Game Design Thesis Presentation


YEAH! Reactor Rush's Thesis Presentation won best presentation! We are now 100% greenlit for the thesis project and ready to plow through it!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Reactor Rush: The Benefit of Crude Text-Based Level Editor


Reactor Rush is one of the thesis games being developed at George Brown College. The idea was inspired by Minecraft: Industrycraft mod experience during an explosion of a nuclear core. Reactor Rush contains components in a grid based pattern that interacts mutually and creates a chaotic situation for the player to balance, tweak and manage. The ‘oh sh!t’ moment dealing with crisis situation and being rewarded for sustaining its functionality is a fundamentally very rewarding experience, so Reactor Rush is intended to take this experience to another level with more depth and interesting gameplay.
During the development of Reactor Rush’s beta build, it became very apparently early on that being able to rapidly develop levels and prototype was extremely important to streamline polishing the game, and creating the sets of levels. We produced a very rudimentary text reader that phrases a text file and builds a level on loading of the game.

We restructure the game’s programming architectures into a two scene structure;
Menu --> LevelLoader                     


Early Prototype of Reactor Rush 
Thanks to this simple solution, we were able to create rapid prototypes of the game, allowing us to spot both technical and gameplay issues early on in the process.

One example of a fairly complicated technical problem we discovered thanks to this script was inconsistency issues within Unity. We noticed this issue during testing – when the game is played identically, the play results are not consistent. We had to solve the problem of creating a very modular code structure within Unity, while maintaining the rigid code executioner order. This may sound stupid, but we simply created a ‘core director’ script that drives the method calls within the game. This method controls the way the mathematics are done. On top of this, we created some mathematical magic that simplifies the interactions between each individual components and how the heat mechanics is applied, making the order of method calls even more irrelevant. 

One benefit was the ability to rapidly create test cases for all our game objects, within 15 seconds, we can easily create a new level and playtest it. The script loader lets allowed us to test the game pacing and flow super early in the process. This allowed us to find edge gameplay issues and in the end benefited the project nicely and made a fairly fun game.

Although making a level tool right off the bat become a heavy front load of work, but the long term benefit for polishing your design and getting the best game balance greatly outweighs the upfront work.

-          Aaron Li

Monday, April 8, 2013

Rough and Tumble Games



Brace yourselves. it's coming! The first public viewing of Rough and Tumble Games are now avaiable, go check out http://www.roughandtumblegames.com/ !