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Breaking In - Liz Bergeron

Ever since we started digging into the details of Destiny, we’ve paid a lot of attention to our Guardians, the heroes of our story. Guardians will be your vehicle to become legend. For that to happen, you’ll need adversaries. Our worlds will be packed with strange invaders for you to shoot and loot. To make sure that the quality of these combatants is worthy of your bravery, we have testers like this young lady to keep them honest.

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

LB: I'm Liz Bergeron, and I'm the Lead Combatants Tester. I manage a mighty team of two AI Testers. We’re the ones that make sure the bad guys work how they should (i.e. do proper damage, path properly, react to the player how they should). 
What does all that technical jargon mean to someone who will actually play Destiny?

LB: Well, it wouldn't be that fun of a game if all the AI was borked. I help make sure it gets UNborked before the player sees it.

There has to be more to life than unborking artificial intelligence. How do you fill the hours you spend away from our combatant petting zoo?

LB: I play Warmachine and Warhammer 40k/Fantasy. I'm really into painting and doing conversions to make my models look unique. Outside of that, I enjoy playing Rift, and spending time with my boyfriend (who also landed at Bungie after we moved out here) and our English Bulldog. I also just built myself a new gaming rig from the ground up and I've been told I'm a ridiculously good cook, though the parties involved MAY be biased.

You’re just our sort of geek. Have you always been so deeply focused on games?

LB: When I was younger, I wanted to be a paleontologist.

Obviously, I changed my mind quite a bit from all the way back then. It actually took me a long time to REALLY decide what I wanted to do. I was a translator for a number of years (I speak Mandarin Chinese and mediocre French) before going back to college for a career change to Game Development. Now that I'm here, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I've been gaming since the Atari 2600, so it was a fairly logical career choice.

A love of dinosaurs has to be valuable when you’re spending all day long with predatory beasts, even if they’re only virtual. How does college serve the goal of a career change to game development?

LB: I got my degree from the New England Institute of Technology in Game Development and Simulation Programming. College really just gave me a more in-depth understanding of how game engines work, and what goes into the production of a game. I really don't think there is anything that 100% prepares you for life in a studio.

That’s very true. Experience making games seems to be the most valuable currency for someone shopping for a career in this industry. How did you earn yours?

LB: My first job in the industry was at 38 Studios as a tester. After 38 closed (RIP) I had a temp stint at Irrational Games working on Bioshock: Infinite. Having already worked on two triple-A games before coming to Bungie, I was ready for the long hours and the work involved in shipping a project, as well as what was expected of me in terms of work ethic and overall skill level. Bungie sets a super high bar, and I'm really happy they found me awesome enough to meet it.

To vault that bar, you need to lace up your shoes and jump. How did you score an invitation to participate in our recruitment challenge?

LB: After 38 Studios closed, I had to take a step back and really took a look at where I wanted my career to go. I knew I wanted to work on something huge – something innovative and new. I also knew I would have to leave New England, and that chances were good that I was going to have to head to Seattle or California, as those are really the biggest game dev hubs in the US right now. So I applied. Multiple times. I asked people I knew who were already at Bungie (Hi Andy!) to poke people to see what kinds of positions were open. Then, I applied some more. Then finally, one day, I got the email asking if I was still interested in coming to Seattle to work for Bungie, and after I was done dancing around my apartment like a loon, I responded with a "HELL YEAH."

Interest is a good thing, but it doesn’t guarantee your survival of the qualifier. Can you recall the hardest part about your interview with Bungie?

LB: The interview took a whole day. They flew me out from Rhode Island, and got me started at about 9:30 AM. The questions were crazy in-depth, and I was a total nervous wreck, but everyone was really friendly and super professional. I'd say the hardest part was the lunch portion. Trying to eat a plate of panang curry while answering questions that were pretty much going to help decide the fate of your career was near impossible to do – especially when you only have an hour!

We do love our lunches. Some of our best work happens over a plate of curry – or some other exotic cuisine. What else is great about working at Bungie?

LB: The people! I quite literally have not met a single person that wasn't dedicated, talented, and extremely nice. It's amazing to work in a place where there's so much genius crammed under one roof. I come to work every day knowing that I'm a part of something great, and that's a feeling a lot of people only ever dream about.

Live the dream for us in real time. What is one day like in your waking life?

LB: Well, I check my email before I even get to work in the morning. My testers are in a bit earlier, so if there are any problems I will have an email in my Inbox before I even arrive at the studio. Each day, we run through basic tests of each combatant before we do anything else to make sure everything imported and its basic functionality is there. I also organize playtests and have been doing a lot of work on some specific baddies that have been getting a little extra love lately to make sure they're jaw-dropping when our players finally get to engage them. Seeing them actually doing their thing in the world we have created is so awesome.

You’ve got a singular focus on those baddies. We need you there. What’s something that Bungie does to keep your attention trained on our most dangerous targets?

LB: The barista we have come in sometimes. She's a sweetheart and makes an amazing vanilla latte. 

When those delicious coffee beans kick in, what’s the hardest thing about your job that you might tackle with that sudden burst of energy?

LB: Sometimes when a combatant isn't working quite right, it takes quite a bit of in-depth digging through error log lines to determine what exactly is causing the issue so I know whose plate to drop it on. You have to know where to look and what to look for. There's also a monumentally huge amount of tools and debug knowledge needed to track down problems and attempt to reproduce them reliably, which isn't always possible.

All of that sounds… complicated. What has been your finest moment in navigating the chaos of making sure we’re doing our best work in bringing these aliens to life.

LB: I actually had an idea for some specific animations for one of the combatants, and they wound up implementing my idea in game. Now every time I see that guy, I feel like that's my little fingerprint on Destiny. 

Unlike our fingerprints, which never change, our skills need to be in a constant state of evolution so that we can keep making our mark at Bungie. How then do you invest in your fingertips?

LB: I try to take a little time out of my day to run tools tutorials. I want to know how to use what we use inside and out, and practice makes perfect.

That’s sage advice. Aside from practice, what else would you recommend to someone who envies the chair you hold down on our development floor?

LB: I think the best advice I could give would be, whether you have a degree in game development or not, testing is a great foot in the door. It's the best way to see what it’s like to work in a studio. You get to see so many different facets of things that you wouldn't get to see otherwise, and it gives you a unique perspective on the project you're working on as a whole. I consider it sort of like grad school for game development. You learn a ton in college, but nothing matches the actual studio experience in terms of the sheer amount of stuff you have to cram into your brain.

Be the sponge.

Final question, and then we’ll thank you for your time: Who is currently your favorite combatant to blast to bits?

LB: Hive guys. ALL Hive guys. Watching them die is just so satisfying. You'll see for yourselves. Soon™.

Thanks, Elizabeth. Once the game is released, we’ll ask if your character animation made it into the final build. The Bungie Community never forgets!

How do you get Bungie?  Practice, baby.  Practice.  If you’re looking for a foot in the door, or you fancy yourself a battle-hardened veteran who can lead our charge, Bungie is still looking people to join our team. Those vanilla lattes could be yours as well. If you think your bar would be vaulted on a different field of play, check out our Breaking In archive.
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