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City of Heroes Interviews: Cryptic Studios Recruitment

By Jon Wood on December 22, 2006

A Look at Cryptic Studios Recruitment

Have you ever wanted a chance to work on MMORPGs? Cryptic Studios is looking for new staff members. Managing Editor Jon Wood sits down with a number of Cryptic developers to talk about what they're hiring for, and who they would like to hire. Joining Jon for the interview are: Michael Lewis, Chief Executive Officer, Jack Emmert, Chief Creative Officer, Bruce Rogers, Chief Technical Officer, Shayne Herrera, Art Director, Victor Wachter, Community Relations Manager, and Denise O’Laughlin, Senior Staffing Manager.

MMORPG.com:

I’ve noticed over the last little while that you have quite a few job postings on your company website. Why the sudden need for so many new bodies?

Victor Wachter

Because Cryptic is growing! We’re continuing to develop and support City of Heroes and City of Villains, while also starting new projects like Marvel and others that aren’t announced yet. We have a lot of cool opportunities, but it takes talent to make them all come true.

Jack Emmert:

The obvious answer is: Marvel Online! But as Victor said, we’ve got some other top secret projects we’re working on.

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MMORPG.com:

Most people see game company jobs and assume that previous experience in the games industry is a must. Do you have any jobs available for people who want to get into the industry, but have no experience?

Jack Emmert

As a company ideology, we tend to focus more on skill and less on experience. Every department, for example, gives applicants a test. That’s really the deciding factor between whether someone gets phone screened or not. I personally have seen resumes with a host of impressive products on it, but the applicant performed so poorly on our test that we didn’t take the process further. We believe that smart, talented candidates are extremely rare, and we value them above all.

Michael Lewis:

It is one of the mandates of the Staffing Department to look outside of the game industry for people with talent and skill that can add to our repertoire. You’ll note that only a few of our positions have absolute requirements- most of them have suggestions, and many of those suggestions don’t include industry experience!


Bruce Rogers:

In software, we like to see experience, but we don’t require it. More than half our team is from outside the games industry, and many were hired right out of school. Mainly we’re looking for talented programmers with the passion and ambition to take on big challenges.

Victor Wachter:

There are really very few people with “no experience.” In a creative field like this one, we need a lot of different backgrounds and areas of expertise. In Community Relations, someone with a background in journalism, public relations or web development would stand a good chance of landing an interview.

Shayne Herrera:

As far as hiring artists, we are really looking for the person who has an enormous amount of talent. We don't care if a person has 12 years in the industry or if the just graduated college. We look to see if an artist has a solid foundation (color theory, principles of animation, character proportions, etc.) We aren't looking for overly complex portfolios; we want to see that people understand their own strengths and cater their reel to accentuate their best skills. It is vital that an artist knows how to convey their vision in a fashion that we all understand.

MMORPG.com:

What kind of roles are you looking to fill?

Jack Emmert:

At the moment, we’re focusing heavily on Art and Software. Our Design department will be revving up in late Spring. Victor is in charge of starting up our online relations team, which I’m really excited about. From City of Heroes, we learned that it was vital to have the community people involved with the design team as much as possible. We’re taking the next step and actually putting the online community team within the design department.

Victor Wachter:

Like Jack said, Community is a part of the Design team at Cryptic, and we will play a significant role in helping our future games take shape and launch successfully. Community is responsible for the company and games’ word of mouth. We need web developers and designers to help us create the web sites that people will visit to learn about us and the games we make.

As our new games launch, we will also be looking for representatives, who interact with our players through forums and community web sites to help spread info about the game and answer our players’ questions. The reps will also be the ones speaking with the team to discuss players’ feedback, so we can make sure we are making the game our customers want to play.

Shayne Herrera:

We are currently looking for artists of every discipline. We need environment artists to build our immersive online universe, character artists to build cutting edge next-gen characters, user Interface artists to create our HUDs and our menu system, animators to bring life to everything that needs movement in our games.

Most people recognize us as a super hero developer, but in actuality we are creating a few new IPs to go along with City of Heroes and The new Marvel game. We are looking to staff up our current projects as well as the new IPs. It is an exciting time to be an artist at Cryptic; we are growing as a company and as a developer.


MMORPG.com:

What’s it like working in the online gaming industry, and at Cryptic specifically?

Michael Lewis:

Game players must think its one of the cushiest jobs in the world- but take a look at a typical game developer’s resume and you’ll see a lot of movement. It can be a very ‘Hollywood’ environment, with people getting used, abused, and occasionally made into rock-stars.

At Cryptic, we aim for balance: work-life, art-craft, innovation-timeliness. These are just a few of the balancing acts we perform on a daily basis. Great work is expected, but there’s no place for "prima donnas". We’re pretty relaxed about work hours and we allow for play-time at work (you should see our new game room!), but it’s all in the context of getting your job done on time.

Jack Emmert:

There’s no “down time.” We can’t just sit back and relax for a month or so after we release a game. Why? Because product launch is when the hard work really begins. Development is almost tame compared to keeping an online game working. Besides, we need to feed the game a continuous supply of new content. Since the release of City of Heroes, I think we’ve added more content than was in the game at release!

Bruce Rogers:

I think programming online games is one of the most interesting and difficult jobs available in software today. We write big systems that need to work reliably with thousands of users. Unlike some places that might just throw bodies at a problem, we try to get a small number of great people, and let each work on a major piece of the system.

Victor Wachter:

Even though it’s not all fun and games, we do get to work on products that we ourselves want to play, which makes the job really exciting and fun. It creates a unique work atmosphere that I enjoy going to every day. In my previous life, working in the corporate dotcom environment, I was hard-pressed to find somebody who would understand gamer points or what a d20 was. Not only do I get to work around people who are actually interested in these things, but these are part of the job.

That said, it’s also challenging work. We’re developing products and services with schedules and budgets, just like most other industries. It’s an ongoing challenge, and it requires smart people to help us get through and deliver the best game possible.

Denise O'Laughlin:

Cryptic Studios is a great place to work. The culture is very laid back and informal. We offer a flexible work schedule and an excellent benefits program to meet the unique needs of each employee and their family. We also offer on-site benefits including complementary breakfast twice a week and a game room. We have monthly all hands meetings to keep everyone informed as to projects and success. Everyone is part of the team here!


MMORPG.com:

What are the different things that Cryptic Studios looks for in a potential employee?

Bruce Rogers:

In software, we’re looking for excellent programmers, and pragmatic, quick learners who are eager to help others and love games.

Jack Emmert:

As I mentioned earlier, we really value intelligence. In addition we look for initiative. We encourage our employees to identify problems, communicate ideas and offer solutions. We probably lack the rigid, formal structure that many large developers and publishers have. We want people to give feedback when they walk through the door from day one! One doesn’t need to slave away for years in order to have their voice heard in Cryptic Studios. But that benefit is weighed by our selection process; we look for smart, communicative and mature people.

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