Our monthly studio recruitment update looks at Fishlabs, Mediatonic and Swallowtail
[To read out other recruitment spotlight's for more juicy tips on breaking into the industry, you can find them here]
RECRUITER HOT SEAT
Fishlabs’ Marc Morian gives you all you need to know about careers at Hamburg’s rapidly expanding mobile developer
Name: Marc Morian
Title: Senior Marketing & PR Manager
What are the benefits of working at a studio such as Fishlabs?
Fishlabs has been spearheading triple-A 3D mobile gaming since 2004, so we’re veteran mobile mad men and women. Over the years we have built up unique know-how, which we are happy to share with new teammates.
Take our proprietary Abyss engine. In combination with evermore powerful mobile hardware, it has finally brought current-gen console quality within our grasp, as demonstrated by our flagship title Galaxy on Fire 2 HD. We hope our new team members will help us reach that goal and accompany us beyond to create increasingly immersive, story-driven experiences. So a great journey awaits.
On that journey, new team members will benefit from the reasonable size of our team as well as our flat hierarchies, open office structure and approach to development – all of which help to create a creative environment that will be particularly appealing to those disillusioned from working at giant gaming companies. Plus, you’ll get the latest mobile gadgets to play, and great partners like Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Volkswagen, The Coca-Cola Company and more to work with.
How many staff are you currently looking to take on?
We’re looking to fill about seven-to-ten positions, most of them for developers. As always, we’ve got several exciting projects running and a lot of great stuff in the pipeline, so all in all we expect to grow by another 20-to-25 across departments in 2013. Candidates should check fishlabs.net and sign up for our convenient jobs newsletter.
What perks are available to those working at the studio?
Thanks to Germany’s worker-friendly laws, a lot of things that many others consider great perks are actually mandatory for us. Take paid vacation: In Germany, the legal minimum is 24 days per annum and the minimum at Fishlabs is even above that.
Then, there is excellent medical care already built into the system over here. Add a pretty high-level of job security and overall work conditions and off you go.
That said, we also offer a host of voluntary benefits. No pool or gym, though. We leave it to other companies to burn their cash and rather put our money elsewhere; such as into overtime compensation, though I’ve got to say that thanks to our excellent project management, crunch periods are rare at Fishlabs. I know everyone’s claiming that one, but what can I say? It’s true.
Once you have earned your spurs on projects, we also provide financial aid for professional and academic development. International applicants also receive support, financial or otherwise, regarding the acquisition of a working visa, relocation allowance, finding a suitable place to stay and learning German.
Location is sort of a perk, too, and Hamburg is a phenomenal city of approximately two million with a vibrant nightlife and close to Berlin and the sea coast. It’s also been elected Europe’s Green Capital 2011, so I assure you the widespread belief that Germany looks much like Mordor is wildly exaggerated.
What should aspiring developers do with their CV to get to an interview?
Nothing special, really: Include an overview of your formal education, a full list of employers and what you did for them exactly, all in chronological order. Also add information on your hard skills, such as familiar software and programming respectively foreign languages, including skill level.
If you lack work experience, put in spare time or student games projects. Prove that you can’t keep your hands off games no matter what.
To me the worst thing you can do with your CV, aside from omitting the mentioned must-haves, is putting in actual mistakes. How can I trust you to write thousands of lines of great code or check press releases if you can’t spot the mistakes in your CV?
I actually find the cover letter as important as the CV. Too often all I get is, “Hi, please find my CV attached”. You’ve got to be an absolutely outstanding talent to get away with that.
A great cover letter provides answers to five questions: Why games? Why mobile? Why Fishlabs? Why this particular job? Why you and not someone else? And don’t forget: If you’re an artist, game designer or writer, work samples are a must.
Who is the best interviewee you have ever had and how did they impress you?
To be honest, I can’t think of anyone who’s really stood out that much. Maybe I haven’t been doing this long enough or maybe it’s because we manage to screen candidates well enough so that everyone we invite is at a similar level. I hope it’s the latter.
And who was the worst?
Same here. No memorable catastrophes so far. Lucky me.
What advice would you give for a successful interview?
Thoroughly research every aspect of our company, play our games and familiarise yourself with our mobile platform.
Also, remember that hard skills are important but not everything. Your interviewers know they might have to work with you for a long time, so you’ve got to give them the feeling it’s going to be a pleasant experience. Give the impression that the job you are applying for is the one you want most in the world.
If you are multi-talented, don’t imply you can’t decide between all the jobs you can do. Convince us that you can do the job by clearly relating the things you’ve done in the past to the tasks that await you.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to show any shortcomings and don’t even try to convince us there won’t be any problems once you’ve started handling things. We’re game developers. We know there will always be problems.
If your studio has recruited talent internationally, what was the process like? And what considerations should international applicants keep in mind?
Our process for national and international candidates is very similar. The first step for everyone more than half a day’s journey away from Hamburg is a Skype video call. It’s cost effective and convenient. We might then decide to have a second call and/or ask you to do a remote test.
Next we’ll invite you to Hamburg at our expense for a personal conversation. If we decide to make you an offer and you’re from the EU, we’ll assist you in your relocation and that’s pretty much it.
If you’re non-EU, we’ll have to look into obtaining a work visa.
Aside from the potential visa issue, international candidates should keep in mind both cultural differences and climate. Sounds like stating the obvious, but candidates tend to underestimate these two factors.
GET THAT JOB
This month: Product manager
Kevin Hogan, Product Manager, Mediatonic
“Communication is really important for product managers. You need to empathise with the players and understand the voice of the customer, but, at the same time, relate with the internal development team and the constraints that they are under. Being able to communicate that to the team is really key.
“You also need to be analytical and able to look at facts objectively, putting opinion to one side. A basic understanding of the core theory of statistics is also necessary.
“Finally, being a product manager is like being a small business owner – you have to identify opportunities and grab them while they’re hot, so having that eye and that business mind is important.”
NEW STUDIO SPOTLIGHT
Swallowtail Games has taken flight. Its young team of five picked up the 2011 Dare to Be Digital honour and BAFTA Ones to Watch Award this year. Afterwards, Swallowtail chairman Sophia George (centre) says she received emails from a “couple big publishers” that seemed interested in helping her team bring its game to market.
“We applied to the Prototype Fund from Abertay University as way of funding the project and our potential business. Getting the funding was incredibly valuable as it has allowed us to work on the project full-time,” she says.
“We decided that the benefits of self-publishing could potentially outweigh those of having a publisher, so we decided to do it ourselves.”
Tick Tock Toys, a colourful puzzle game for iOS and the title that earned the studio its awards is Swallowtail’s first project, and is set to arrive in early 2013.
“I make it a strong personal goal of mine and the company, to develop games that will appeal to everyone,” says George, who is also an artist and designer at the studio.
“However, I find it particularly important that our games will appeal to women, as this industry is so male dominated that I often feel like women are treated as an afterthought. It will be refreshing when we see games for women that are not about babies, ponies and rainbows.”
Swallowtail is currently based in Dundee at Abertay University.
George says the company is currently looking for contract work or further funding in order to keep going, and has positive hopes for its first title: “We intend to build Tick Tock Toys into a well-recognised and popular brand that we can continue to create content for by adding new themes and mechanics.”
SIX-SECOND STUDIO SPOTLIGHT
Based in Tampere, Finland, Prank Entertainment was founded in September 2010, by former production staff of Universomo.
With just six employees, creative director Seppo Santapukki says everyone is a ‘key performer’.
Prank makes games for iOS, Windows 8/RT, Android and Mac.
The studio tries to bring something unique to the table or at bare minimum ‘blow out the dust from a forgotten genre’.
It released its first game Ant Raid to critical acclaim, and plans to have another two games ready for the New Year.
Prank wishes to keep its team compact and carefully grow only when absolutely necessary.
SERVICE & TECH HOT SEAT
The Trailer Farm’s creative director Tony Porter discusses what this video production duo can offer your studio, and offers insight into what work in the trailer business entails.
What makes the Trailer Farm different from other video makers?
I guess this is where our main USP shines through. Unlike other agencies, we are exclusively working in the interactive sector.
Our core team has a rich heritage in games development and marketing, which really resonates with our clients, and ultimately the gamers themselves. Our processes, pipelines and production methods are 100 per cent tailored towards video game promo work.
At the Trailer Farm, we’re all about using your game, along with smart ideas and outstanding motion design, to create the perfect trailer. We draw heavily on both our marketing and games development background when creating our work.
Could you briefly describe your video promo development process?
Well, any trailer starts with the creative brief. This is followed by a flurry of activity and creative sessions, culminating in a visual pitch to the client.
We’re all passionate about games here, so it’s really important that we spend time actually playing the game, immersing ourselves in the product and demographic.
Capture time is a crucial part on game trailer production. This is where we probably differ from most promo agencies. Crafting compelling in-game sequences that make the cut are what makes an amazing trailer.
Again, our main USP comes into play here. Game capture is a real art, both creatively and technically, this is what we love to do.
Trailer Farm is now offering services specifically for mobile and indie developers. What aspect of your production will differ?
We’re very excited about this new service. Alongside triple-A console trailers, we are now opening a second division, Trailer Farm Indie. This will exclusively offer trailers to all indie developers and publishers out there for iOS, Android and PC.
This is really due to popular demand, and we intend to offer quality trailer services in a cost-effective way that suits the budget of an indie developer.
We feel that now more than ever, it’s crucial that you have effective marketing material to accompany the launch of your game.
The aim is to take all of our triple-A trailer production values, techniques and pipelines and apply them here. We’ve already produced several of these and the feedback has been phenomenal, resulting in reported uplift in sales; which is, of course, the goal.