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Trenches comic: Thursday February 9, 2012 - Yesteryear

BrogeyBrogey High MaintenanceSanta Monica, CASuper Moderator, Moderator mod
edited February 2012 in The Penny Arcade Hub
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The Bug-Superpower

02/09/2012 - Anonymous

I’ve been part of a game developer team for a couple of years, and while i was not a tester, I would sometimes join them in their chores.

And from that, it appeared I had a strange power: I could make crashes and bugs appear on the workstations of others by *looking* at them. This was how it usually went:

Tester: Wow, this level seems to be good! Have played for over half an hour and not even a glitch!
Me: *looks*
Tester Game: *Crashes in some weird, bizarre, random way*

It even got to the point where they would look in my direction if a weird crash occurred. And they often ended up staring right into my eyes, as I happened to be looking at them that moment.

Some of them would start frowning or even started to warn others if I was around. On the other hand, it was kind of useful if they needed to reproduce bugs quickly. I was called over and…can you guess it?

In the end, I discovered that my power could be negated by the presence of a programmer. You know how a bug never appears when you have to show it to a programmer? That is their super power, and it cancelled out mine.

The bastards.

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Posts

  • RMS OceanicRMS Oceanic Registered User regular
    I would describe that story as "Gremlin on the Wing" Syndrome.

    Isaac was pretty presumptuous to think he would get the job.

  • PonyPony Registered User regular
    once again not a single character in this comic is even remotely likeable

    tales remain funny, however

  • Man in the MistsMan in the Mists Registered User regular
    Wow, that was one of the most clear examples of slitting a creative work's throat I've ever seen.

  • McGuffinMcGuffin Registered User
    edited February 2012
    Comic sucked, story rang true. I could crash most things in seconds by "not playing it properly"...

    Unfortunately it also works with every other piece of software I've ever used in any capacity, which can be really frustrating when you're just trying to do something.

    Anyway, I'm constantly amazed how people refer to working in the Games industry as 'a career'.

    Yes, it's a career like training to be an Olympic athlete is a career: Find something you think you'll be good at/enjoy at a young age, then find out it is really poorly paid, with long hours, and ultimately 95% of people are on the scrapheap at 30 with no transferable skills and with work-related health problems/injuries.

    I wouldn't advise the kids of my worst enemy go into the industry. At any level.

    And I was one of the lucky 5%...

    I could try and back up my point with examples from my career, but 'speaking from authority' is a poor arguing tactic to use, which no one believes anyway. The statistics (and common sense, when you think about it) are proof enough.

    It's like the early days of chimney sweeps hiring small children to climb inside the chimneys to clean them. To 'encourage' them up the chimney they would light a small fire below them. When they got too big to fit up the chimneys, they were sacked and apparently, suffered from quite high rates of testicular cancer from being cooked from below.

    So the take away from this is: Get out of the Games "industry" while you can still have children.

    McGuffin on
  • StormwatcherStormwatcher Uee Citizen Record #2051 Über Star CitizenRegistered User regular
    I... don't know why I read this. I love the art and the tales. But... i hate almost all characters.

    Steam: Stormwatcher | XBL: Stormwatcher 21 | PSN: Stormwatcher33 | Gamecenter: Stormwatcher33 | 3DS: 0130-2805-2850
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  • Dark Raven XDark Raven X When you speak I hear muffinsRegistered User regular
    Isaac is suddenly a massive prick again!

    Is this the first time it's mentioned that he used to be a 'higher up'?

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  • jackaljackal Registered User regular
    I never understood "work your way up to programmer" thing in the games industry. It doesn't seem to happen in other industries. "I'm a flight attendant, but I'm trying to work my way up to mechanic."

  • StormwatcherStormwatcher Uee Citizen Record #2051 Über Star CitizenRegistered User regular
    Isaac is suddenly a massive prick again!

    Is this the first time it's mentioned that he used to be a 'higher up'?
    We knew he used to be big, but not exactly where.

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  • DiannaoChongDiannaoChong Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Things are making more sense about the "being arrested" part now, when he interviews with the tester manager. I am guessing he broke down Japanese office worker style?

    Edit: also the expensive looking car in the first comic.

    DiannaoChong on
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  • GaslightGaslight Registered User regular
  • fearsomepiratefearsomepirate I ate a pickle once. Registered User regular
    jackal wrote:
    I never understood "work your way up to programmer" thing in the games industry. It doesn't seem to happen in other industries. "I'm a flight attendant, but I'm trying to work my way up to mechanic."
    This actually happens in Mexico. Well, not with flight attendants and airplane mechanics, but with engineers and assembly line foremen. There are way too many engineers and not nearly enough engineering jobs, so your best bet is to get any position on the factory floor higher than "bolt turner," work for a few years, and hope that at some point, someone above you quits and you get the nod. It also happens in academia, where you language for years as an adjunct or PTI, trying to work your way up to "research professor." Or Hollywood, where "I occasionally get to be in the background of toothpaste commercials, but I'm trying to work my way up to starring in a sitcom." It basically happens in any profession where far more people want to work in it than there are jobs available. I'm guessing way more young CS majors dream of writing video games than of writing databases or internal apps for giant corporations.

    Nobody makes me bleed my own blood...nobody.
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  • GyralGyral Registered User regular
    Gaslight wrote:
    I like the Starfire Saga callback.

    And the Steel Coffin reference is nice as well.

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  • jackaljackal Registered User regular
    At least in hollywood you have the chance to become a star (it's not going to happen in the vast majority of cases but it is possible). With games the reword is a position as code drone #247.

  • 19southmainco19southmainco Registered User
    i'm surprised by isaac's reckless behavior. it's clear now that he is very unintelligent. i'm also a little surprised by some of the feedback that the comic isn't very good because the character's aren't likeable. i'm not against the notion! i'm actually curious. is dealing with an unappealing main character too much? would the comic benefit if it were to begin focusing on a more positive character, like Cora?

    onward, stalwart steed
  • jackaljackal Registered User regular
    A cast of unappealing characters can work (Workaholics, It's Always Sunny), but it doesn't seem to work as well here.

  • Dark Raven XDark Raven X When you speak I hear muffinsRegistered User regular
    Cora and Mr. Toots aren't unappealing! They're nice.

    Marley is unappealing, and Q is a dick to Isaac, but that's pretty justified.

    Boss man and receptionist haven't really had enough time to judge.

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  • AurichAurich Registered User regular
    Obviously his reaction is inappropriate, but I don't think Isaac is a completely unsympathetic character. Previously, he had won at life, and now his life is a parody of poor working conditions. He still thinks of this as like an embarrassing speedbump on the way back to his old life. I expect Han Solo-like character development to follow, where he is transformed from a scoundrel to a good man and whatnot.

  • Bobkins FlymoBobkins Flymo Nice day for a Waa WeddingRegistered User, Super Moderator, Moderator mod
    I barely understand what's going on in this comic. What the heck is "Icey" a reference to his? Isaac's dev nickname?

    Maybe I need to reread the archives.

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  • EndEnd Registered User regular
    I like today's tales
    it amuses me due to the truths contained within

    everyone I know goes away, in the end
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  • Fatty McBeardoFatty McBeardo Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    So the surprise twist reveal is that Trenches is the comic biography of Derek Smart?

    Fatty McBeardo on
  • vardisvardis Registered User regular
    The sad thing about the tale is that I've known a few developers who seem to also believe in that sort of nonsense. It shows in their ability to troubleshoot problems, because they're more likely to throw up their hands and attribute the cause of some bug to something nonsensical to explain away why they can't find it.

  • MuddBuddMuddBudd Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Bug superpowers are a real thing, as is the anti-bug forcefield projected by devs.

    MuddBudd on
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  • runwiledrunwiled Registered User regular
    It's pretty hard to pull off a 'dick' protagonist, even if they do have a redemption character arc, which is what I'm guessing is going to happen here. Bill Murray has always been very good at pulling off these types of characters (think of Groundhog Day, Scrooged, even Ghostbusters). The trick is to make the character, in addition to a not very nice person, at least astonishingly rude/vulgar to the point where you almost want to be that character because of what they can get away with; very amusing; have a certain vulnerability or a certain level of 'relatability'; or just don't make them all bad and show that sometimes they can be nice.
    Issac just comes across as a massive penis. We had a little bit of hope when he watched Q's Lawstar and seemed to be learning how to get along with everyone, but this puts him so far back into doucher territory that it'll take a long time to claw that ground back.
    He's arrogant, ignorant and not very easy to relate to for the reader. He had a form of money and power and lost it, but we, the readers, would probably argue that he deserves that and as such don't feel sorry for him.

    All the other characters are pretty ok. I think Q is my favourite character because he's only an ass to those who deserve it and comes across as pretty nice otherwise. I hate Toots though. He's a horrible 'mascot' character. You're supposed to fawn all over him and gush about how he's cute. His reasons for being there are covered through some lazy exposition (he's a lab experiment gone awry? Really?) But then I hate Scratch Fury from PvP as well, because he's just there because Scott got a kitten and the internet is retarded for cats. Scratch, more than Toots, is the Bun-Bun rip-off if for nothing other than the annual Santa fights and general malice.

    I also agree with the post above about feeling that the 'Icey' dialogue didn't make much sense. I had to read that bubble a few times to parse it correctly. It's not very clearly written dialogue at all. Tangentially, Penny Arcade yesterday was also very hard to follow because of poor writing. The first and second panels don't flow right at all.

    Aaaaand I've become a whiney faboy. Awesome.

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  • GaslightGaslight Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    runwiled wrote:
    Issac just comes across as a massive penis. We had a little bit of hope when he watched Q's Lawstar and seemed to be learning how to get along with everyone, but this puts him so far back into doucher territory that it'll take a long time to claw that ground back.
    He's arrogant, ignorant and not very easy to relate to for the reader. He had a form of money and power and lost it, but we, the readers, would probably argue that he deserves that and as such don't feel sorry for him.

    I have to say I somewhat agree. This strip was disappointing to me because it seems to be throwing all the character development up to this point out the window.

    I also am highly dubious that Q is really going to get written out so early, as he's obviously been set up as the main foil/antagonist for Isaac since his introduction.

    Gaslight on
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  • pirateluigipirateluigi Registered User regular
    runwiled wrote:
    All the other characters are pretty ok. I think Q is my favourite character because he's only an ass to those who deserve it and comes across as pretty nice otherwise. I hate Toots though. He's a horrible 'mascot' character. You're supposed to fawn all over him and gush about how he's cute. His reasons for being there are covered through some lazy exposition (he's a lab experiment gone awry? Really?) But then I hate Scratch Fury from PvP as well, because he's just there because Scott got a kitten and the internet is retarded for cats. Scratch, more than Toots, is the Bun-Bun rip-off if for nothing other than the annual Santa fights and general malice.

    Mr. Toots won me over with the visual of him holding a controller the size of his body and the 'pap. pap. pap.' of him pressing buttons. I could see hatred if he'd been over-exposed or used as a crutch comic relief character, but he hasn't really been used enough to be a problem for me. He's cute and inoffensive.

    Fully agree with all the parsing problems though, both today and yesterday. I was worried it was just me, but everyone else seems to be having the same issues.

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  • runwiledrunwiled Registered User regular
    edited February 2012

    I have to say I somewhat agree. This strip was disappointing to me because it seems to be throwing all the character development so far out the window.

    I also am highly dubious that Q is really going to get written out so early, as he's obviously been set up as the main foil/antagonist for Isaac since his introduction.

    I don't think Q is going anywhere either. You don't set someone up as principle cast and then have them disappear in the first year, not unless you think that character is harming the story, which Q clearly isn't. He's also the only character, like you said, that's kept Issac in check.
    Maybe that's why we like Q so much? Because Issac is a dick and he's a dick to Issac? Or it could be because he cares about his team and they like him, is a giant nerd (like us) and wears a utili-kilt.

    e: Toots isn't that egregious because he has been used sparingly (so far). I have an agenda against mascot characters in general.

    runwiled on
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  • PwnanObrienPwnanObrien Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Gyral wrote:
    Gaslight wrote:
    I like the Starfire Saga callback.

    And the Steel Coffin reference is nice as well.

    Whoa, didn't even catch that. Nice attention to details.

    PwnanObrien on
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  • TofystedethTofystedeth veni, veneri, vamoosi Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    MuddBudd wrote:
    Bug superpowers are a real thing, as is the anti-bug forcefield projected by devs.
    .
    It's all about bogon emissions.

    Tofystedeth on
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  • mnihilmnihil Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    McGuffin wrote:
    with no transferable skills

    Really? I don't quite see where this is coming from. Programmers are certainly wanted outside of the game industry. Artists are motivated by art, not gaming, so they aren't tied to the game industry in the first place. Same goes for writers. Game Designers are usually either programmers, artists, or writers, so while, yes, their game designing chops are hardly transferable, they usually have some assets that are. And the entire PR and business management machine involved in gaming is obviously transferable.

    So please, correct me if I'm wrong - I'm genuinely curious.
    However, I would also feel uncomfortable pursuing a game-related degree, when you can develop those same skills in a broader curriculum (and I hope the game industry will never arrive at a point where they are actively seeking out game-related degrees, or degrees at all, actually).

    There's a lot of things that I would imagine (having no hands-on experience) to be discouraging, like fierce competition by people who believe an adequate compensation and treatment isn't required for a job just because there's "Game" in the job title, but backing yourself into a corner by wishing to be part of that industry? Hm.

    Segue into the comic -- I just don't know how to feel about The Trenches. It paints a bleak picture of an industry this website thrives upon and as a comic is often so uneven. I guess time will tell if it finds its voice, but I'm not even sure if it's a voice I'll like.

    mnihil on
  • TleilaxuTleilaxu Registered User regular
    Mr. Toots won me over with the visual of him holding a controller the size of his body and the 'pap. pap. pap.' of him pressing buttons. I could see hatred if he'd been over-exposed or used as a crutch comic relief character, but he hasn't really been used enough to be a problem for me. He's cute and inoffensive.

    When did that happen? I thought he was in two panels of a single strip, as a hallucination. Did I miss a strip?

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  • MichaelLCMichaelLC In what furnace was thy brain? ChicagoRegistered User regular
    edited February 2012
    MichaelLC on
    Excision wrote: »
    My girlfriend is going down tonight!

    Steam:MichaelLC
  • DurkhanusDurkhanus Commander Registered User regular
    Rorus Raz wrote:
    What the heck is "Icey" a reference to his? Isaac's dev nickname?

    Maybe it's a reference to I.C. Weiner.

  • Munkus BeaverMunkus Beaver Registered User, ClubPA regular
    This comic was kinda outta nowhere.

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  • Ori KleinOri Klein Registered User regular
    jackal wrote:
    I never understood "work your way up to programmer" thing in the games industry. It doesn't seem to happen in other industries. "I'm a flight attendant, but I'm trying to work my way up to mechanic."

    Works in management.
    You have to study for some kind of management degree on the way, of course, but in the end (and if you make the right contacts) you can get promoted to replace your boss and (in extreme cases) above him.

    A flight attendant, actually, could be taking piloting lessons and use her career to fund those studies as well as get in close contact with pilots and learn secrets of the trade and qualification procedures from them.

    There are chances to progress up within the corporate of most industries, but it's very individually dependent. You have to make the right contacts and you have to have a personality and performance that stick out.

    Most of all, timing. You must be in the right place at the right time and charge no holds barred at a slot when a position becomes vacant.
    You also have to make it clear several times in advance that you are interested in that slot and get positive feedback from your superiors when you do so.
    Then when it vacates, move in for the kill.

    If all previously went smoothly, high chances you'll manage to score it.

  • NeuroskepticNeuroskeptic Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Hi everyone. Registered to comment on this post.

    I think I'm a bit unusual in that I really like the Trenches (I can even forgive the noses) and in particular I don't think Isaac is a dick at heart. I see him as fundamentally a rather tragic character, he had it all, and lost it, and now he's desperately trying to regain his former glory. What makes it even more sad is that actually he was never that glorious in the first place - his games bombed - I'm picturing him blowing all of his money on his car, because he was so sure that he'd finally hit the big time and that from now on he'd be rolling in money, only to come crashing down to earth when reality caught up to him.

    Maybe that makes him a bad person, I wonder though, I think it just makes him naive. I see Isaac a bit like David Brent in the British version of the Office, at first he just seems like a tool, but by the end of the series you see that all his arrogance and insensitivity is his way of avoiding facing up the fact that he's basically a very average person who desperately wants to be great. And you feel sorry for him, well I did. Maybe it helps to be British...

    Neuroskeptic on
  • AurichAurich Registered User regular
    edited February 2012
    Ori Klein wrote:
    jackal wrote:
    I never understood "work your way up to programmer" thing in the games industry. It doesn't seem to happen in other industries. "I'm a flight attendant, but I'm trying to work my way up to mechanic."

    Works in management.
    You have to study for some kind of management degree on the way, of course, but in the end (and if you make the right contacts) you can get promoted to replace your boss and (in extreme cases) above him.

    A flight attendant, actually, could be taking piloting lessons and use her career to fund those studies as well as get in close contact with pilots and learn secrets of the trade and qualification procedures from them.

    There are chances to progress up within the corporate of most industries, but it's very individually dependent. You have to make the right contacts and you have to have a personality and performance that stick out.

    Most of all, timing. You must be in the right place at the right time and charge no holds barred at a slot when a position becomes vacant.
    You also have to make it clear several times in advance that you are interested in that slot and get positive feedback from your superiors when you do so.
    Then when it vacates, move in for the kill.

    If all previously went smoothly, high chances you'll manage to score it.

    I think he means there are people who think of it in terms of The Sims career tracks. You just work as a game tester for however long, perform well, and you'll be promoted to programmer.

    Also, re:
    mnihil wrote:
    McGuffin wrote:
    with no transferable skills

    Really? I don't quite see where this is coming from. Programmers are certainly wanted outside of the game industry. Artists are motivated by art, not gaming, so they aren't tied to the game industry in the first place. Same goes for writers. Game Designers are usually either programmers, artists, or writers, so while, yes, their game designing chops are hardly transferable, they usually have some assets that are. And the entire PR and business management machine involved in gaming is obviously transferable.

    So please, correct me if I'm wrong - I'm genuinely curious.
    However, I would also feel uncomfortable pursuing a game-related degree, when you can develop those same skills in a broader curriculum (and I hope the game industry will never arrive at a point where they are actively seeking out game-related degrees, or degrees at all, actually).

    There's a lot of things that I would imagine (having no hands-on experience) to be discouraging, like fierce competition by people who believe an adequate compensation and treatment isn't required for a job just because there's "Game" in the job title, but backing yourself into a corner by wishing to be part of that industry? Hm.

    I assume he meant testers. I can't think of any transferable skills. You don't even get that coverall "Customer Service Experience" you get at even the lowliest burger joint.

    Aurich on
  • mnihilmnihil Registered User regular
    @aurich Yeah, I considered that McGuffin meant testers in particular, but there's no mention of that in the post, and he repeatedly refers to a career in the games industry in general. In addition, I was skeptical that someone would actually set his life on a path in pursuit of a QA career. If you want to develop games, you study either programming, art or writing (maybe), and with that educational background might, if all else fails, temporarily test games, until something better comes along. Not that every QA job needs to be horrible, but it's not something one would want to build a life around, I assumed. It's like saying you don't want to be a mechanic, you only want to work the screwdriver.

  • McGuffinMcGuffin Registered User
    No, I didn't mean just QA. Programmers, Artists and Designers too. Musicians to a lesser degree, they can shuffle sideways into film perhaps, or join a band. Producers can (re)train, if they ever took any Project Managment training in the first place (sadly, quite a few wing it, or move sideways from QA, Code or Art Leads).

    The skills that make you a Programmer, Artist, etc. are only a small subset of what you need to do your job.

    Degree in Programming in C++? Great start.

    Now learn this cranky Studio/Project/Team Specific Bug reporting, build and code sharing system, the regime of when to check in, test, repeat, don't break the game or QA grinds to a halt. Put in hooks to allow updates, put in hooks to get testing information. Make sure your small part of the code doesn't hog processor or memory resources. Build robust code so that when you remove said hooks the game doesn't fall over because it's relying on some weird feature that only exists as a side effect of the test code etc. etc.

    It's very, very specific to the Industry, Studio, even the particular project and that's why people who work on say, racing games get hired to work on racing games again. And after the fourth one, come to hate them with a passion that could melt bricks.

    Ditto Artists (covering modeling, lighting, texturing, animation etc. etc. etc.)

    So when you change studios, 50% of what you know is now useless. Go outside the industry and only the 20% of your skills that allow you to know WHAT a model is, or WHAT a Subroutine is, is usable. You aren't much more useful than a graduate and they are cheaper, younger and easier to mold/train as they have fewer 'bad' habits.

    Only successful translation I know of are some artists who left a studio to go to the animation place that did Walking with Dinosaurs for BBC, after working on an unreleased game that had Dinosaurs in it, so had a ready showreel to give them.

    Actually, I'm not sure which came first: the showreel or the BBC show...

  • blurfmanblurfman Registered User
    a furry in a skirt with the personality of a Black & Decker edge trimmer

    yeah the developers are going to completely love that guy

  • Fatty McBeardoFatty McBeardo Registered User regular
    pap.
    pap.
    pap.
    pap.

    how can anyone hate Toots?

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