[TRENCHES] Thursday, September 25, 2014 - Guest Art: Alex Hobbs

GethGeth LegionPerseus VeilRegistered User, Moderator, Penny Arcade Staff, Vanilla Staff vanilla
edited September 2014 in The Penny Arcade Hub
Guest Art: Alex Hobbs

Guest Art: Alex Hobbs

Of Bags and Tea


This isn’t so much a “horrible working conditions” story, but one I found hilarious nonetheless.

I worked for a very large electronic manufacturer based in Japan and was on the QA team for their game console. I was stuck on the floor for a first person shooter that has already been released, but was mediocre at best. It was a mil-sim game that was decidedly a rocketfest.

Anyway, the Vice-President of this very large corporation decided to drop by for a visit. We’d been warned beforehand of this visit. What we weren’t warned about was that the VP decided to drop in one of the matches we were in (testing connectivity issues with another country). We were given a quick “don’t do anything stupid” talk, so we played around on the game like you were “supposed to”.

A few minutes later, another call came down to cut loose. So we did, instantly turning the battlefield into chaos. The VP, needless to say, died very quickly. But what did happen, is one of the testers ran over to the VP’s body and teabagged it (as was the custom in those days).

Not a full minute passed before the test lead burst into the bay and screamed his lungs out, demanding to know who did it. None of us spoke, since we didn’t know who did the deed and the person who did it didn’t speak up.

So, after having a job where I got to play video games for a whole month, our entire section was unceremoniously fired.

Geth on


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    zepherinzepherin Russian warship, go fuck yourself Registered User regular
    You have to go for it.

    Low paying job with long hours. The VP is getting deez nuts.

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    VinvenVinven Registered User regular
    This comic reminds me of Dungeons & Dragons Online, with their Astral Shards system. Died? Just pay a dollar to resurrect instantly!

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    fortyforty Registered User regular
    I think it's more specifically a play on World of Warcraft's Soulstone resurrection.

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    DratatooDratatoo Registered User regular
    edited September 2014
    Why do I have the sudden urge to play a music based theme park mmo?

    Dratatoo on
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    Fleur de AlysFleur de Alys Biohacker Registered User regular
    ....I'd play this MMO

    Triptycho: A card-and-dice tabletop indie RPG currently in development and playtesting
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    geniekidgeniekid Registered User regular
    The chat log by itself is hilarious, but all the details make this one of my favorite comics ever. I especially like the saxophone-wielding sloth wearing a cape and a hat named SlowwwJazz.

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    marsiliesmarsilies Registered User regular
    So there was no new (guest) comic on Tuesday, but there was a new tale:

    Hard Lessons
    09/30/2014 - Anonymous

    Upon graduating college close to a decade ago, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. My degree wasn’t one that tied itself closely to any particular (sustainable) career path. I ended up spending about half of my twenties just sort of stumbling around, trying to find my professional footing.

    About a year and a half after I graduated, I managed to find work as a game tester for a larger company in the Seattle area through a temp agency. I worked assignments there off and on as they came, filling in what time I could with side assignments doing menial office work. Eventually, I took on assignments at some other area-based developers and publishers of various sizes. Over the course of that time, I built some bridges and burned some others, mostly through my attempts at navigating a professional life I was forced to learn as I went.

    After about three years of this cycle, the temp agency set me up with what I thought was a possible break. One of the larger companies in the area was hiring testers on a temp-to-hire basis, so I went in and interviewed. It turned out that my interview was with a QA manager and a VP of the company. The interview was going well when I mentioned that for a time, I had served as a volunteer moderator on a video game forum.

    The interview unexpectedly shifted gears at that point. The VP said that they were going to hire a community manager in the near future and after answering some more questions, he asked me to return the next day with a reference from the site I had moderated at and a written review of one of their games, for which I was provided a download code. I followed through, e-mailed the requested materials, and returned for a second day of interviews. To my relief, I got the job.

    Well, sort of. Since they weren’t ready for me to start in the position yet, having some things that needed working out, I was asked to work in their test department for the time being, doing some basic certification work. I had no problem with that, and started right away. Things were looking up!

    One week later, I was called into a meeting with a QA manager and told I was being let go. The reason? They weren’t supposed to hire for that community manager position yet.

    How in the hell does something like that happen?

    Suffering the indignity of the worst humiliation of my professional life, I staggered out of the office and called the temp agency to let them know what happened. Of course, the rep that I had gotten me the interview was shocked. But there was nothing that could be done, of course.

    About two months later, I finally managed to get a full-time position as a tester for a small commercial software start-up, thanks largely to the game testing experience I had built up over the previous three years. I’ve since been hired at another company and am currently making a healthy living for myself.

    I haven’t worked in the game industry since and have no burning desire to go back. Those three years were draining physically, emotionally, and financially, and the cherry on top was beyond embarrassing, but sometimes you have to learn things the hard way before better opportunities present themselves.

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    marsiliesmarsilies Registered User regular
    edited October 2014
    So there was no new (guest) comic on Thursday, but there was a new tale:
    Who Hired Whom Trumps Who Does What
    10/02/2014 - Anonymous

    This true tale may help you avoid a trap, even though it comes from outside the game industry.

    One day, I noted to My New Boss that the New Web Guy refused to test on browsers other than IE. His logic was that it was the standard so that should be enough. My logic was that we needed to satisfy customers wherever they were, and many were shifting to other browsers. My New Bosses’ logic was that she had hired him and therefore I was questioning her judgment. Which I suppose may have been true but at the time considered irrelevant. Silly me!

    After a few months of this sort of thing (many, many issues all coming down to the same basic problem: New Web Guy didn’t really care about serving our customers) I escalated to the Big Boss. My strategic error was in not noticing that the Big Boss had hired My New Boss from a failing organization where they had both worked (...and, in retrospect, possibly contributed to its failure…). In a few words, they were pals.

    And soon I was unemployed.

    It all turned out well for me but I believe that the 1st lesson of retaining a job until you depart on your schedule instead of someone else’s is to note carefully who is pals with whom.

    I'm wondering if New Web Guy and New Boss were also pals, and that's why New Boss had hired New Web Guy and was so defensive about it.

    marsilies on
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    marsiliesmarsilies Registered User regular
    So there was no new (guest) comic on Tuesday, but there was a new tale:
    You got H.R.‘d
    10/07/2014 - Anonymous

    This is in response to ‘Miscommunication’.

    I had been with my company for over five years, getting positive, albeit not spectacular annual reviews. The project I was working on lost a large follow on contract, due to circumstances outside my company’s control. Everyone knew that layoffs were a possibility, but the company was scrambling to find places to put people.

    I was told that I was wanted on a small effort, so don’t sweat it. Well, the small effort hit the end of its funding before I could move on to it and was awaiting more money. I was then called into my manager’s office to get my final review. As with ‘Miscommunication’, they were all easily addressable, if I’d been told they were that much of a problem.

    The funding for the small project came through, and I, with morale shaken, continued with the company.

    I have since learned, that HR was demanding that everyone who was scheduled to be laid off had to have a negative performance review, so that it could be shown they were laid off ‘for cause’. A friend of mine who was a manager at that time had been asked to resurrect a negative review he had written for a subordinate, which had originally been replaced by a much more positive review.

    So, to the author of ‘Miscommunication’, the ‘shrug’ that you got probably meant, ‘I like you a lot, and recommended hiring you on permanently, but corporate said that when this project ends we have no permanent jobs open. They were sitting on your review, and rejecting it over and over again, until we wrote one that would cover their asses when it came time to lay everyone off.”

    So, cheer up! You probably were doing a great job, if not fantastic (which, due to the whole ‘verbal contract” b.s. you couldn’t have been told). At the end of the day, you got H.R.‘d.

    Note that this tale is apparently a response to this tale from January 2013:

    So The Trenches has about a 22 month backlog of tales.

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    TubeTube Registered User admin
    Not necessarily. People go back and read old tales and have something to add.

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    marsiliesmarsilies Registered User regular
    Tube wrote: »
    Not necessarily. People go back and read old tales and have something to add.
    True. i had assumed that he had written it up shortly after the original tale had gone live.

    Anyway, again no new comic on Thursday, but a new tale:
    One Does Not Simply Walk into Bugfixes
    10/09/2014 - Anonymous

    Most everything gets tested, including the panels that make buttons work. We had automated reports for these panels created on a daily basis.

    One week, those reports stopped. And so our hero’s quest begins…

    Day 1: Log in to the faulty reporting server. Clean, except for a single folder filled with reports. I check the logs, and find something that’s been connecting over FTP once a day. Looks like a UNIX box. No problem. I’m rusty, but no problem.

    Days 2-4: Log in to the UNIX box, and find what I was looking for. Except…the files are retrieved via FTP from another box from an old network segment.

    Unknown host.

    To make a long story short—that network segment had been gutted the week before due to age and politics, and everything had been thrown away—literally.


    The order at this point, was to “fix it”, and, “No, we’re not rebuilding the network just for you, no matter how important [X]‘s reports are.” There goes my easy solution.

    Day 5: Having run out of leads, I march out to the testing machine, and I open it up. I’m not sure what I’m looking for. What do I see inside? An HP-9000 machine from 1986. Numbers grinding away in monochrome green. My heart sank. It still displayed messages that it was connecting to the hostname I was looking for, and was copying files, though! Where??? How???

    I pulled the box out so I could see its network connection. Again—my heart sank. An IEEE-488 connector, and hanging off it was a standard 4-wire telephone cable, of which two of the wires were soldered directly to two leads. No connector or anything—just wires and solder.

    Days 6-12: Monday again. I think—“If it’s soldered on that end, maybe it’s soldered on the other end, too?” Crazy logic. No one else offered suggestions, so I spent days crawling through rafters, networking closets, false ceilings, and raised floors.

    I found my prize, though—it had been sitting in our data center all along. A VAX—as big as a dorm fridge, and in the same shade of beige as my HP-9000 friend at the other end of the facility. It was in the back corner of the room, buried under boxes filled with old manuals and trash. And yup—that phone line was soldered to a corresponding IEEE-488 on the box, too. Amazing.

    The rest of my tale—gaining access to the VAX, hooking it up back to the network, and having to learn enough FORTRAN to fix the real problem, is another story altogether.

    Oh, and to stay in line with the rest of these stories, I was laid off six months later.

    It seems like the thing that would make sense would be too try and move the report generation and the testing machine off of such old equipment, but that might've taken more programing time and knowledge than the author had.

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