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Breaking In - Wesley Olson

For the expanding Bungie family, the development of Destiny represents a bold step closer to world domination. Our studio has become home to a sprawling clan of developers that is larger and packed with more diverse talents than any team we’ve ever housed (and clothed). As you read these words, they’re hard at work on a game that will reach out to more gamers than ever before. Destiny will find them playing on many devices – some old, and some that have yet to be released. To make sure that our usual bag of tricks work on the new array of gadgets, we hired this guy.

Who are you, and what do you do at Bungie?

WO:  Hello. I’m Wesley Olson, a PlayStation tester at Bungie. I’m helping break new ground for Bungie by being on the PS3 core team and helping ship on a Sony platform for the first time.

Well, if we wanted to split hairs, ONI was released on the PlayStation 2.

WO: I believe Bungie developed ONI on PC and Mac and it was ported to PS2 by Rockstar. If you want to split hairs, you are correct.

Point conceded, Sir! In that case, since this is a broader project for us, when you think about finishing this game and pushing it out the door, what do you look forward to the most?

WO:  I’m excited to see how the public reacts to Bungie shipping on Sony platforms. For years, only people who have owned an Xbox have been able to experience the greatness that is Bungie. Now, Sony fans can also be embraced by Bungie.

When you’re not extending your loving arms to embrace the PlayStation Nation, what do you throw them around?

WO:  Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, I love the outdoors. Naturally, camping and hiking are a must. I also enjoy playing football and Frisbee golf whenever I get the chance. Aside from that, I am a BBQ master. Friends come from far and wide for every BBQ I throw. The key is bacon! Hamburger missing something, add ground bacon. Still missing something? Top it with candied bacon!

Bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon what did you want to be when you grew up? Bacon?

WO:  I actually wanted to be a game developer. So yes, I am living my dream.

This series of interviews is all about chasing your dreams, so let’s retrace that pursuit. Did the chase lead through an institution of higher learning?

WO:  I actually went to college for the art and design side of multimedia. I found out soon after graduating that it was not the path for me. I’m much more technically minded so being on the QA/Engineering side of the ball is a better fit for me.

That’s the trick: Finding out what you want to do. Once you knew that, what was your first step into the larger world?

WO:  I started off in the trenches at Nintendo for a few years. My first break development side was at Snowblind Studios. WB bought out the company and I was merged onto a talented team at Monolith Productions. That was a great opportunity to learn the ins-and-outs of Sony platform development.

And then, one day, you saw the Bungie is hiring for the PS3 ad on our forum?

WO: I actually found out about the job opening from my old boss at Monolith. He is the Platform lead at Bungie and knew I was the perfect candidate.

It’s always nice to know people – especially when they used to be your boss. If you hadn’t had the inside track, what would you have done to make your application more appealing?

WO:  I would have covered my Resume in maple bacon.

[Editor’s Note: Don’t try this at home. Parcels that reek of decomposing pork as summarily discarded.]

No, really. Give us some insight on how to get a foot in the door.

WO:  I just happened to apply at the correct time and had the skillset that made me perfect for the job. The only advice I can give is to have a clean resume and strong work history. If you have both those things any studio will take you seriously as a candidate. 

Taking candidates seriously is something we relish at Bungie. We take all day long to size you up correctly. You know this, because you survived this. Is there a moment from that memory (nightmare) that stands apart from the others?

WO:  It was actually making time for the interview! I was in heavy crunch at my last job, getting ready to ship a game. To make the time I worked an eighteen-hour shift the day before the interview so I could take the morning off. 

Your work-ethic did you credit, to be sure. Now that you’re here, what is the best thing about working for Bungie?

WO:  The best thing is that it’s Bungie! So many talented people working on a great project makes for an amazing feeling.

Take that amazing feeling, and package it into a single-service for us, if you would. Give our readers a sense for what that feels like over the course of one full day.

WO:  As soon as I roll in I get a coffee, a banana, and something from the cereal bar. Next step is the normal routine: check email, get builds prepared, and get ready for the day. I am still a newbie, so I go out for new hire lunches – Bungie pays for your lunch the first 6 months of employment! The rest of the day, I grind on the game, making a polished product for the consumer.

What is your favorite accomplishment as a member of the Bungie team?  Describe that one moment in which someone appreciate your work, and assured you that you belonged here…

WO:  As simple as it sounds, my first week was when I proved I could set up PS3 dev kits. I have a saying “every PS3 setup is like a snowflake, no two are the same.” When you are thanked by an engineer for saving them possibly hours of troubleshooting, it is a good feeling.

Bungie has a saying all our own: Every employee is a unique and special snowflake. By this, we mean that each of us needs a special skillset that we can contribute to the team. How do you stay frosty, and make sure that what you have to offer is always crystalizing in new ways?

WO:  The way I stay ice cold is simple, learn something new every day. Game development is ever changing not only in house at Bungie but the whole industry. At first this was simple for me because I had so much to learn about the tools and processes. Now I am reading up more on the nitty gritty about test management and certification procedures. I have to be flexible and stay on my toes what I am doing today can and probably will be different tomorrow.

What recommendations would you make to people who want to work in this industry?

WO:  First it is a really competitive industry to break into. You have to work hard because even though we make games it is still real work.

Wesley speaks the truth, although it has been said that it’s nice work if you can get it. If this sort of lifestyle appeals to you, Bungie is still hiring. Your old boss doesn’t need to work here for us to pay attention to you. If you’d like to explore the other people on our team, and the ways they found themselves breaking new ground in Destiny, check out the Breaking In archive. You’ll be glad you did.
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