What would it be like to actually work for Blizzard? If you've ever asked yourself that question, then you're in luck: we are releasing a short series of articles that will provide you with glimpses into the daily work life of some of Blizzard's employees.
A day In The Life — Michael NicholsonSenior Artist II Diablo III
It's early, and I'm at home with a cup of coffee. The kids are getting ready for school and I'm checking up on my work emails to see if there were any replies to the batch of Lore UI mockups I sent out yesterday before I left work.
Round up the kids to take them to school. I'm mulling over the feedback from my mockups in the back of my mind as I give my older son grief for carrying too much junk in his backpack. He's wearing Diablo-themed clothing from our team outing. It's his favorite and he looks funny in it.
It's been fun to see that my kids have picked up on the fact that I am proud of where I work, and echo the sentiment. "My dad works at Blizzard!" In addition to playing World of Warcraft, they love anything I bring home from work.
Drop my kids off at school and make my way to work. It's roughly a 30 minute commute.
I use the time to shift from 'Dad mode' to 'Worker mode', mentally organizing my to-do list. The suggestions from the emails are now being sorted and evaluated in order of importance.
Get to work and do some morning socializing before I get the day's work started. Talk about whatever game is being played around the office. Watch a couple video reviews of games and a few news items on my favorite gaming sites. I also like getting my morning art fix so I hit cghub and randomly pick from the thumbnails as it's always inspiring (and if I'm being honest, sometimes a bit terrifying to see the crazy talent that's out there)
Fire up Photoshop and start today's adventure.
My office roomie Andrew Vestal continues his Great Cookie Experiment, and shows up with a new batch of his most recent adventures in the kitchen from last night. Cookies = awesome. My choice in morning music is NOT to his liking and he lets me know in no uncertain terms. We like a lot of the same music but THIS however, is not one of them. I turn down the volume and get back to work.
I admit Rob Zombie can be an acquired taste.
Having been displeased by my morning's music, Andrew exacts his revenge on me by unleashing a mashup of Miley Cyrus and Biggie Smalls. His devastating attack has left me in ruin.
Chris Haga, the Tech Artist I work with on a lot of the UI, stops by to discuss a suggestion on cool down timers for the skills across the bottom bar. He had done a rough mockup and emailed me before swinging by my office to discuss.
My schedule typically doesn't include many meetings. When someone has an idea they will mention it casually or pop into my office if they feel strongly about something in the UI.
Weekly strike team meeting is cancelled. YES! I'm in a good art groove and I can keep working.
We have small teams of people associated with certain functions of the game. We call 'em strike teams. In this case a number of us are focused on the game's vendor (buying and selling) systems. I am on this team because so much of the final experience with vendors relies heavily on the UI associated with them.
Ian Wall, Senior User Interface Artist over on World of Warcraft, IMs me, calling me a slacker because none of my UI work showed up in our team newsletter. Ian regularly hazes me because it gives him great joy.
Ian started a UI specific emailing listing and it's been really cool to get to know others in the company that work on UI, and to get feedback on works in progress. It was a great idea; just don't tell him I said so or else I'll never hear the end of it.
Been fiddling with the Lore UI (all the in-game story information, like diaries, journal entries, etc.) this morning and have incorporated all the requested changes from the guys and also added a few tweaks of my own. I'm ready to send out the new mockups for review.
I approach my job as the User Interface artist in much the same way I would a freelance job. The designers are my clients and it's my job to translate their ideas into a visual medium. When I get a task to create a new interface component I like to sit down with the designer and get a feel for what it is they want to represent. What idea? What feeling? Sometimes the two are at odds and I must find a way to bridge the gap visually and efficiently.
Mockups sent; I send Jay an additional email requesting some time to go over outstanding mockups that are under review. He agrees and we are set to get together sometime this afternoon when he has a few moments.
Jay Wilson is the Lead Designer and is a busy, busy man. Christian Lichtner, our Art Director, is also embroiled in meetings most of his day. Because of this I always try to have several plates spinning, so to speak, so that I always have something to do without having to constantly pester Jay or Christian. Only when I've reached a certain threshold do I rope them in to try to nail down some concrete approvals. The threshold changes based on the task but I try to use my best judgment.
Lunch! Heat up the pizza I brought from home and check out some gaming sites, or whatever.
Jay and Steve Parker (producer) stop by my office for a quick priorities update. We look over my tasks and shuffle around priorities. I have five UI mockups in review, some at the design evaluation stage and others for tech review (mainly programming). We talk about how those UIs may impact other functionality and revise the list to accommodate.
My schedule tends to be very loose since it is affected by all three disciplines (art, design, and programming). Often times something will clear art and design only to hit a snag in tech review which causes a revision. Most of the time it's minor, but in rare cases it can mean scrapping everything and starting from scratch.
Wyatt Cheng (designer) stops by my office to brainstorm some UI ideas for one of his tasks. We talk through various scenarios and Wyatt puts his ideas on the whiteboard. This will be my reference point as I move forward with the UI later.
I prefer whiteboard scrawl to stuffy formal design docs as it tends to bring out the emotion of the designer. I get to see what they're really passionate about in a particular UI. A lot of that gets lost when converted to a word document.
Time to get some art assets into the game!
My Trade UI has been approved, so it's time to break it down into game assets.
Once a UI mockup has passed all areas of approval (Design, Art, Code) I then covert the mockup into actual game assets. It's kind of like breaking up a jigsaw puzzle into all the pieces. I put all the pieces into the game engine and let the programmers know where they are, what they're named and so on. Then I send along a coordinates image that shows where all the pieces go and how they work so that when a programmer reassembles all my pieces it looks nearly identical to my mockup.
For this reason I make my mockups game-quality art (most of the time) so that when it comes time to break it up into all the separate components I don't have to make new art. It's already done.
I send along both a sample image (the mockup) and the coordinates image so the programmer can see what the final UI should look like. This is a helpful reminder because sometimes things get moved around in the schedule and the layout may not be fresh in the mind of, or even familiar to, the programmer assigned to implementing the UI.
Mid-afternoon stretch! Hook up with coworkers to go grab a cup of coffee from the café. Must…get…caffeine…
Getting away from my desk, stretching my leg, and just moving around helps to clear my head and restore my energy levels in the afternoon. Sitting at my desk for hours at a stretch and staring into a big glowing monitor inches away from my face kinda gets to me after a while.
Continue to work on the rough stages of the vendor UI. I get an email from Christian asking if I have time in my schedule for a side project that involves layout. SWEET!
I love doing the side project tasks that come my way because I can be a lot looser with my layouts and the normal game restrictions are gone. Sometimes it's PowerPoint presentation stuff for Jay, or Pirate posters for Ray, or the Hearts/Diablo suit for the Holiday Poker set. I was in advertising before I got into game, so doing print layouts are always super fun for me to do.
It's not crunch, so I leave at 5:45. I wrap up the one Vendor screen showing how Crafting could fit. I send it off to Wyatt for his thoughts. I'll check my email when I get home to see if he has any immediate thoughts. If not, I'll check in the morning.
My wife is waiting to pick me up outside. From the rolled down window I hear my youngest calling my name. In the back of my mind I'm thinking about the side project as I shift from 'Worker mode' to 'Dad mode'.
*Mike Nicholson is an industry veteran and has worked on such titles as Sanitarium, God of War, Condemned, and Vanguard and is currently a Senior Artist II on Diablo III.
A day In The Life — John ShinQA Analyst II
This "Day in the Life" article was written during the development of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm.
I wake up and my house is silent. I’ve always been a morning person and I like to do something in the A.M. to make my day feel a little longer. I’ll read, watch TV, play some games online in my Snuggie, or just browse the interwebs.
Time to head out to the Blizzard gym. To combat the rigors of the day, I need endorphins and bro time. At 8 a.m., the gym is populated by the usual suspects. Conversations are the same every morning and we still find it amusing: “What you working out today, bro?” “Bro, chest and biceps. I didn’t know there were other muscles.”
After showering and heading upstairs, I clock in and the day begins. I start by checking the e-mails that came in overnight, noting any issues with the Cataclysm builds. We currently have both a day crew and night crew testing World of Warcraft. As WoW is a live product, QA support is needed and provided on a near 24-hour period during the work week. I take a quick look through new bugs entered by the night crew. I identify the areas the bugs are from and forward them on to my specialists, who typically go through and assign these to developers to be fixed. (More on what they do later! Stay tuned.) Then I give the bugs the stamp of QA approval. Hard at work checking bugs, bugs, and more bugs.
We’re in the middle of hardcore testing for Cataclysm. I’m close to finishing a quick “smoke test” of the newest Cataclysm build that was generated overnight. Smoke testing is fairly simple: can you create a character and enter the world? Does the Auction House work? Do monsters drop loot? Can you complete a quest? These are the sorts of things we check for in a smoke test. After the smoke test, I go around to each of the QA content specialists that I oversee to check on their plans for the day. I could do it over IM but I prefer to walk around and share this handsome face. Sharing is caring!
I’m finished with my first set of rounds on the floor. As much as QA has the game project to think about, I thrive on personal interactions and I absolutely need people time. As an assistant lead, it is important for me to have a good pulse on the testers on the floor. I like to take the time to speak with as many testers as possible to see if there is anything I can improve for them and to make sure they’re having a good day. Not only is a happy worker a better worker, but these are fellow gamers like me: it’s easy to have a good conversation at Blizzard.
All part of the job of being a good lead! The smoke test results are solid and we now need the build pushed to an internal production level server. I let one of the newly promoted assistant leads send out the email, all part of the training process. I’ve got about 15 minutes before my production sync-up meeting with the World of Warcraft producers, so I go back to my desk and finish up reviewing emails and approve a few more bugs.
Time to hike over to our main building for the biweekly production sync-up meeting with the World of Warcraft team. I grab some of my specialists and head out. Our QA specialists are each assigned the responsibility of overseeing a specific content area— -- environments, items, spawns, combat/PvP, raids, quests, and PC/UI— -- to ensure that each is thoroughly tested and receives the Blizzard polish.
The core responsibilities of a specialist can be broken down into three parts: know what the developers plan to change; know what currently exists (and is working as intended!); and make sure everything that needs to be tested or flagged for fixes is done. Before my promotion to assistant lead, I was the WoW environment specialist, so ultimately, everything falling under environments was my responsibility. I had to make sure it all was tested properly and at a level that can be shipped to satisfy our players around the world.
John and Ray, two of the World of Warcraft producers, are already in the meeting room when we arrive. We trade some jokes and toss around leftover Halloween candy while the other folks trickle in. Once everyone settles in, I start off the meeting by opening up with a status update on patch 4.0.3.
Listening to the specialists' status updates for the World of Warcraft team. After that, I’m more of a moderator than a participant, as each of the specialists gives his/her status update. My current items specialist, Andrew, has encountered an issue with Worgen ears not displaying properly with certain types of armor. Rob, senior producer who oversees art, asks some questions and I ask Andrew to make sure to prioritize testing for this. Otherwise, the meeting is pretty uneventful, except when Alex Afrasiabi, lead content designer, throws us all for a loop when he brings up an issue that nobody has thought about-- making sure experience gains from opening treasure chests are going to be implemented. However, I quickly jump in and ask him what the priority is, and Alex assures me that beginning testing next week is just fine. I breathe a sigh of relief. Whew, another delay averted!
I get back to my desk after the meeting, and surprise, surprise -- more emails!
Time for a little break. I grab Whitney, one of our QA specialists, and head off to our break room. Super Street Fighter IV is already loaded up and the matchup is just slightly unfair. I’ve played Street Fighter in SoCal’s tournament circuit for a while, so poor Whitney has little to offer in terms of challenge, but I like to condition him for punishment. (Hey, it’s just part of my job as an assistant lead!) I’m sure The Learning Channel could do a special on what happened that day: “Panic and Press Random Buttons: How to train someone to do exactly what you want them to do.” …narrated by Morgan Freeman, of course. The final score is 9-0. I can live with that.
For lunch, I usually go down to the gym for some running, biking, and elliptical training, but today I’m doing what every other Blizzard employee is doing: playing StarCraft II. I have trace amounts of Hydralisk blood running through my veins, and my platinum-level Zerg is unstoppable! Too bad I couldn’t say the same for the other guy.
Back on the clock with more emails, and even more bug approvals. The project lead, Edgar Flores, has asked me to work on some interview questions for a new quest specialist. Our current quest specialist has just taken a temporary assignment with the World of Warcraft team as a designer, which is an awesome opportunity for him, but that also means I need a new quest specialist. I start working on those interview questions.
Time for my weekly specialist meeting. The three specialists I oversee are James (spawns), Joseph (environments), and Andrew (items). To begin, I review the goals/milestones they had set for themselves and their teams the previous week. We go over what went right, what went wrong, and what roadblocks they encountered. Then we plan and discuss the goals for the following week. We usually end up with a few extra minutes at the end of our meeting, so I use this time to socialize and let my guys blow off some steam.
Time for some human Tetris! We recently received an influx of new testers from the StarCraft II team and had them checking the Chinese builds of Wrath of the Lich King. But now that the checks have been completed, the testers have been given new assignments under different specialists, which means they need to move their cubicles to be closer to their team. I go around to each specialist to discuss the best place to move their testers.
A new build is ready to be tested by QA, but it turns out that we can’t log in to the game server. Call in the cavalry -- it’s the IT department to the rescue!
Back to bugs. You’d think the end is near, but the WoW QA team is on overtime prepping for Cataclysm. It ain’t over ‘till it’s over, son! After ten minutes, I’m feeling bold and decide to take a break. I need to get out and stretch my legs a bit, especially since I still have five hours left to go. I take a 20 minute walk around the Blizzard campus with my roommate (who also works at Blizzard) and clear my head. When I return to my desk, I notice nothing critical seems to have come in while I was out, so it’s back to the unapproved bugs.
Second lunch break. It’s only a half-hour long, so there isn’t much time to go out. I grab a sandwich from our cafeteria and come back upstairs to play a battleground with my dwarven warrior. Ah, Arathi Basin, I’ll always love you!
…And we lost. I keep telling myself that the instant queues are worth it.
Usually during overtime, things are a little more lax. I make the rounds and see the testers and other specialists to gauge how we’re doing. I like to emerge from my lair every once in a while to keep up the face-to-face relations with all the people on the floor.
Back to approving bugs. I’ll be here for a while…
These bugs are hot. I spend so much time approving bugs, I should just realize that I like it and put a ring on it.
I clock out to go home and decide to get in some game time. I end up getting frustrated at the last achievement I need in Alan Wake. Do I really have to go through the entire DLC in one sitting without dying? Why? Whyyyyyy?!?
Ding! Achievement 1250/1250 in Alan Wake. I am so sick, yo! Gonna have a little nightcap with the roomies to celebrate before hitting the sack.
And that’s just another day in the epic life of John Shin. Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve come to know a little more about the life of one of the many (and possibly the most handsome) faces in Quality Assurance and how our daily bug-catching duties help make Blizzard’s games as epic as they can be.
Note: Since writing this article, John has been promoted to a position on the World of Warcraft team where he continues his quest to help make Blizzard's games as epic as they can be.
A day In The Life — Micah WhippleCommunity Manager / Editor
I hit the snooze button.
I hit the snooze button.
Normally I’d hit the snooze button a few more times, but I manage to roll out of bed, abandoning the soft warmth of my sheets for the cold, bitter world. I’m not a morning person. Some mornings I’m also not a shower person. This is one of those mornings.
I tend to get into work, most days, at around 9:00 a.m. I’m a community manager, which isn’t my actual title (that’d be editor), but it refers to the work I do. These days I go by my super-secret name “Bashiok,” and at some point I was also “Drysc,” but whichever name I go by, my goal is always to ensure the work we’re producing is of “Blizzard Quality.” (Imagine a "ting" sound and a lens flare effect reflecting off that term.)
Most people don’t quite understand what a Community Manager does. Some think we just sit in the forums all day. Not true! It's an understandable misconception as this role is still a fairly new thing. It's not a position most companies have, a lot of the work isn’t seen externally, and from company to company the responsibilities can vary wildly. In some cases, a Community Manager will also do PR and marketing for an entire company. Being as large as we are (our North America Community Development and eSports team numbers over 35 people) we're able to specialize.
Any time I'm asked to sum up community management, I refer to that scene in Office Space where the guy being fired feebly tries to explain how he acts as a courier between the customer and the programmers, and ends up screaming about how he has people skills. It's a fairly apt comparison, as that’s a big part of who we are, only we’re (hopefully) more useful in reality than in the reference.
As players can't be present in internal meetings or take part in the decision-making process, our job is to ensure that their voices are represented -- so naturally we complain a lot (kidding!). We also act as a buffer for any external communication, ideally mitigating any issues once news hits the site. As players ourselves, we can help inform company decisions and communication to best serve the game communities. That's the overarching idea of what community management is about, but our department does a whole lot more, including run eSports tournaments and programs, social media outreach, promotional projects like the “Join the Dominion!” and “Your Fortune Awaits” promotional campaigns, as well as daily content creation. I’m a manager of the content team.
First thing in the morning for me is really to catch up on email, the internet, and my tasks. Being a global company, we receive emails around the clock, and while most don’t require my direct intervention, I read, on average, four hundred emails a day. I like to try to stay informed of everything going on, so it's a lot of reading.
I got one reply from Greg (Ghostcrawler) to a talent-related concern I sent him last night while leveling a new hunter. He assuages my fears and tells me that Mists of Pandaria and the talent revamp will fix everything. He promises. It's awesome being able to just email a lead designer about a game I enjoy playing, and I like to take advantage of it whenever I can. Any time I can gain more insight into design, it’s done with my primary job responsibility in mind – being ready and able to discuss the game with our players.
Being on the west coast (left side is the best side!) we’re obviously a few hours behind when a bunch of industry news or info could drop that would affect our day. A major world event, some big community issue, or even celebrity news could dominate the internet, our forums, and our lives for the rest of the day if not week or weeks. It’s important to keep up on current events as well as fansites and community trends.
General web surfing/twittering/forum perusing now out of the way, I’ll hit my tasks. We use an internal proprietary tool to create and track personal tasks, which could be anything from cropping some Tier 13 images for use in one of the set reveals, editing and approving the FAQ for a new game service we're introducing, or writing a feature article on a game system. In a perfect world I'd have time to complete these tasks, but it's nearing 10 a.m.
Being one of a handful of seniors in the department, my day is full of meetings. Beginning at 10 a.m. and then fairly consistently throughout the day I’ll be away from my desk deciding the fate of the world… of Warcraft (or Diablo or StarCraft). We’ve completed most of our high level strategy meetings for 2012, and now a lot of our time is focused on executions of individual projects, tracking metrics and successes of various programs and department efforts, and sharing progress on tackling future goals.
This meeting is specifically to go over metrics for social media and our blogs to see what’s popular, what isn’t, what people are saying about our games, and how we can use all of these things to try to focus future efforts to do more of what people like and less of what they don’t. It's not rocket science.
This meeting we're covering post-BlizzCon forum activity drop-off, and a return to statistical normalcy after the huge influx of activity that surrounded the event. Using the info we can go into a meeting later in the day to help determine some of the content we're going to be generating over the next few months.
After a few meetings out of the way it's probably time for lunch, but I tend to forget to eat or think about how I will procure myself sustenance. While I was in meetings I've racked up 75 or so emails, which I go through pretty quickly, responding when necessary to offer my sage advice.
Managing to peek at the forums I'm able to knock a few replies out. I dearly enjoy interacting with people on the forums, and I get so little time to do so. I've found recently that I can get some of that same sense of enjoyment from Twitter (you can follow me @Bashiok if you’ll forgive the shameless plug), and being easily accessible from a phone or tablet, it's far easier to work into my schedule.
I tricked someone into getting me lunch. Most of the team rarely eats lunch away from their desks. I feel like it's an awful habit and one I should try to break from more often, but there's a lot to get done. I'm sure there's some study I can reference about how spending a lunch break away from work increases productivity when you return, but nevertheless there I sit, working while I eat. It also offers me some privacy as I'm convinced I constantly have food smeared throughout my beard.
I get an instant message from Greg asking about the upcoming Mists of Pandaria talent calculators and how we may want to handle feedback. We go back and forth on concerns over how relevant the feedback will be (and the work that goes into collecting it) when they are likely to change so much before release. We ultimately decide it's probably worth the effort to make class-specific talent feedback threads, but it all hinges on when those threads make it to the website.
We also begin collecting questions for the Diablo III design meeting tomorrow. While we're constantly emailing and chatting with the developers, we also have dedicated weekly meeting time set aside to go through community-submitted questions and to get a sense of how the players are feeling. Answers are great, but getting the devs’ candid take on design and the game allows us to actually converse with the community, and not just copy and paste answers.
The latest Dev Watercooler returns from its editorial review and is ready to go. As I said earlier, a big part of our time these days is spent generating content for the website. This isn't one of those times. Greg does a great job writing these up and they undergo minimal edits. Also, because we already have the image assets set, there's not much left to do at this point but coordinate a global posting time with our international community manager counterparts, and then prepare the article for publishing.
Global coordination is a big point we strive to hit with all of our information releases. That means localizing and simultaneously posting as many articles on our sites in each region and in each language as possible. With 12 languages to support it's no small feat.
We draft the articles using an internal content management system (CMS) that helps make publishing to the website, game launcher, and even in-game news for StarCraft II, super easy. This is good because, being writers and community managers, most of us only have basic knowledge of HTML. It's the web team that makes the entire site, updates the individual site sections, and creates awesome features like talent calculators or item databases, as well as the CMS and its upkeep. To us it's just a few big shiny buttons, which is about all we're able to handle.
There was another meeting in that time gap somewhere, but it was boring. Now is our Content Team meeting, and today we're specifically brainstorming article ideas for Diablo III and Blizzard DOTA. Normally this meeting would also encompass going over individual tasks as well as forum posts each person has made in the last week, or articles we've published. We really need to focus on getting out content for these two games because our players are excited about what we unveiled at BlizzCon. After jamming on some ideas, we take cell phone shots of the white board, someone types up the notes, and what we came up with will be assigned out as tasks by our project management team, who help keep us crazy creative types on track. Joking aside, we would be utterly lost without them.
Once that meeting is over, I take a trip to pick up some games from the campus library. We have a really awesome employee library, staffed by our own librarian (!). It's full of game development books, work and performance guidance, manuals, and video tutorials, but more importantly, it’s also well stocked with movies and games. I've just checked out Dark Souls, which is going to severely conflict with my upcoming Skyrim play time.
Back to my tasks! It's time to bust out a post or two. I have a few easy ones assigned to me, including a reminder for the community to enter our Facebook Diablo III beta key drawing and a quick update to last year's "PvP Season 9 is Ending" announcement to make it applicable to 4.3. I get those drafts out for approvals and update my tasks list.
We like to play music in our little area and recently have been hooked on music from the 1930s, as well as something called "Exotica" (check it out). Tonight, I've decided to load up an Anita Baker station on Pandora. After grooving to the smooth and sultry sounds of "Sweet Love," I look at the clock and grumble. It's all good, though, and I get to go through the Diableards inbox. It’s one of my great pleasures to look through community submissions like these, and a gift that keeps on giving because I never seem to be able to make a dent in it. I look through emails and their attached images and copy those I approve (edited photos and goatees don't count!) into a folder. Later they'll be uploaded to Facebook in a gallery, and a few entries I've personally selected will be published individually over the next week or so. Publishing some pictures individually like this helps spotlight those I find particularly hilarious or awesome.
I grumble at how late it is, but manage to get myself caught up in some twittering and forum posting for a few minutes before heading out for the night. The rest of my night is inevitably spent sneaking looks at my inbox, checking the forums, or otherwise staying attached to a job career I've had for eight years. I do this not because I have to, but because I care where the company is going, how we're making the games we're making, being a part of the process. Because I care what our players think. I find that to be true of everyone at Blizzard, and it’s why I'm happy to have this opportunity to provide a brief (and poorly written) glimpse into one of my days. I hope you enjoyed it.
A day In The Life — Geoff FraizerWeb Content Manager
My 3-year-old daughter Megan wakes up and asks for help out of her crib. I get her a drink and she goes to play with her toys. Back to sleep! I’d wake up at 2 p.m. if I didn’t have a family. That’s how gamers do it!
Wake up for work. My spouse, Melissa, walks through the door after taking our son Ethan to school. She'll take over parenting duties while I'm at work. I say goodbye to everyone. Megan always wants a hug. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
It’s time to bike to work. I live near the Blizzard campus, so it’s a short bike ride. As I bike, I often pass other Blizzard employees also biking or walking to work. Blizzard has a great rideshare plan. If you carpool or bike to work, you can earn rideshare dollars that you can spend at the café. Who doesn’t love free food?
I arrive at work and say hello to my best work friends. We have a great group of people in my area. We discuss our latest exploits from gaming the night before.
It’s time to check my email. Blizzard is an international company, so we always receive a fair amount of email during the night shift from other regions or from people who were working late hours. Those often need to be sifted through and replied to first thing in the morning.
It’s daily meeting time. We discuss what everyone in my group has worked on, is going to work on, and alert everyone to any potential issues. I usually focus on website media updates, so I talk about my plans and any side projects I’m working on.
It’s time to prepare one of our regular media updates. Our current schedule looks like this:
- Monday - World of Warcraft Trading Card Game Artwork
- Tuesday - StarCraft II/World of Warcraft/Diablo III Wallpaper
- Wednesday - World of Warcraft Fan Art
- Thursday - Blizzard Artwork
I fire up my test web server and start plugging in images and code. Once everything looks good, I start the upload to our image server. One final sanity check, then I deploy the update to the live website. Now it’s time to verify the work one last time in the live environment to make sure nothing got lost in the process. Everything looks good, so I let the community team know that they can go ahead and post the news. Zarhym tells me that the update is now live. Yay!
With that done, I prepare next week's update. I go to my collection of saved media (screenshots, artwork, wallpaper) and pick out the pieces I want to use for next week. After I’ve gathered everything, I collect them into a nice package and send out an email to give everyone a heads-up of what I plan to do for next week’s update.
I check the comments on the news update that we posted. Did our readers like it? Did they have anything funny to say? (If so, I pass it on to my co-workers.) I keep checking throughout the day and the next. Player feedback is extremely helpful, and I try to gather as much of it as possible. I also check out the comments for the World of Warcraft screenshot of the day. Yes, these shots are selected manually and not just randomly drawn from a pile.
It’s time to prepare the winners page for the pumpkin-carving contest (available in US region). Two days ago I set up a meeting and gathered members of the community and web teams to judge the winners. We judged over 100 entries and selected ten winners. It was a hard decision because so many honorable-mention entries could have also won, as a lot of players pointed out in the comments. I gather all of the winning images and format them for the page. Since I’m just re-using the same template as last year with different results, it’s pretty easy to… cut and paste! I follow up with emails to a few of the winners, asking them to plug in information they left out of their entry.
I’m working on updating the BlizzCon media section. Each year I gather all the photos (you’ve seen the web posts) and organize the photos into categories, then get the images approved by our PR department. PR emails me and asks for some photos from the show they want to use in a media request, but alas, their request has to wait… it’s time for lunch!
My friends stop by and we head out for lunch. We walk downstairs to the cafeteria. If you don't time it right, you can get caught in a lunch rush of employees from the other buildings, so we quickly get our food and head out to the picnic tables in the courtyard. One by one, work buddies all join us at the table. We manage to fit eight people at a table meant for four (UPGRADE!). We talk mostly games, TV shows, movies, and other stuff that's on our minds.
Back from lunch and the time for relaxation has passed. I check email, then I start gathering BlizzCon photos for the PR team. I go through all of my emails and folders and package up the photos into nice directories. I then email PR the link. Even though they didn't ask for a categorized selection, I still like to make other people's lives easier. I think it's cool to see people benefit from work I did.
It’s back to work on those BlizzCon photos. I keep gathering and filtering and organizing, and I need to post those sometime this week.
It’s meeting time. I head over to our web producers area to meet up with Mickey and Jenny, two producers who are also coming to this meeting. The web team meets weekly with the PR, community, creative development, and marketing teams. Everyone provides updates on their upcoming projects and asks for any help or assets that they may need to complete what they’re working on. Interdepartmental communication is super important, and this meeting helps everyone stay on the same page.
It’s back to the desk. What did I miss while I was gone? Time to check email.
I remember that the current batch of World of Warcraft “Screenshot of the Day” images are about to run out. I go to the folder where I collected my screenshots; I’ve spent months collecting them and I got the community team and PR to look them over to make sure they’re OK. I then start plugging them into the site. After they’re added, I test them on my local web server. They look good, so I post them to the live site. One new screen will now be published per day over the next few months…until they run out again.
It’s time to filter some World of Warcraft screenshots. I’ve been doing this for many years. There's a shield and a sword hanging in my cubicle, and next year will be my 15-year anniversary with Blizzard. Time really flies. I go to the box that collects the World of Warcraft screenshots and go through as many as 1,000 per day. That takes a lot of work. I’d say I’ve seen at least 500 screenshots of a person sitting in a catapult over the course of my career. After I’ve gathered the best shots, I save them until I’ve collected enough to show to others. The screenshots are often one of our top updates for the month.
One of Blizzard's core values is "Every Voice Matters." I write up an email, making suggestions for the StarCraft II site. On the web team, we have many sites to cover, including StarCraft II, Diablo III, World of Warcraft, BlizzCon, and Blizzard.com, so we always need to be planning and thinking about improvements. For example, our April Fool’s joke planning is going to start soon. We've been doing this for years, and it keeps getting harder and harder to top ourselves... Crabby is going to be a tough act to follow, that's for sure. Still, I'm sure we'll come up with something funny for our players.
The community team wants the World of Warcraft launcher updated. The launcher is the pop-up window that comes up before you start the game that contains the news links and banner images. I update the news links and then deploy it to the site. I launch the game and check out my update to make sure it’s OK, and then let everyone know their update was done.
Someone asks for a new gallery for the BlizzCon costume contest. Somehow it’s been lost in the shuffle… and needs to be posted today! I start gathering the images and preparing them for the web site. I work with Jeremy, one of our web producers, and a scripter (Woonchang) to add the new gallery. We work together until it’s deployed with no time to spare. The community team posts about it and now people can enjoy voting for their favorite BlizzCon costume.
It’s time to go home. Sometimes I stay later if I’m working on something. Tonight, my family is waiting for me and I need to help with dinner. I say goodbye to everyone and ride my bike into the night.
A day In The Life — Micky NeilsonLead Story Developer
What a God-awful time for the alarm clock to go off. My wife Tiff is sick, so I need to be up and ready to get my daughter prepped for school.
She’s used to Mom waking her up, which she usually fights. But me waking her up? Hey, that’s new! She’s on her feet in no time.
While my daughter Tati eats breakfast, I snag some time to write a bit of my Autobiography.
I make sure to slow down to 40 when dropping Tati off at school (kidding). On the way to work I listen to the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban audiobook, and marvel at Jim Dale’s ability to voice a hundred different unique characters.
Nothing like a morning workout to get energized for the day!
Time to go through emails.
Head over to reception to greet our new TA, Breanna Bader. Bree joins us from Austin CS. She’s excited and ready to hit the ground running!
Now that Bree’s had a chance to make sure her computer, email, phone etc. is functioning, I sit down with her and Josh Horst and give her a rundown of what to expect during her time here. We assign her first tasks.
Monitoring progress on several projects, including a ton of short stories that will go on the web around the launch of Heart of the Swarm, a zerg blog, and QA lore/background questions for Mists of Pandaria.
Sign stacks of books—prizes for the Global Writing Contest winners and runners up.
Start a draft of one of the Mists QA questions: Who are the Pandaren? Panda people who kick ass and drink a lot. Next question.
Mondays from 1-2 are set aside for the team to play Blizzard games. The 1 o’clock time slot works well so folks can play during lunch as well if they like, and get in 2 hours of game time! For me this week: StarCraft single player campaign.
Conference call with a new author who will be tackling a WoW book for us! For new authors, we’ll bring them to Blizzard, give them a tour, meet with Chris Metzen and one or more people from the dev side, and provide a lore download in the appropriate IP.
One on one with Jason Stilwell, department director for CDEV. He shakes his fist and occasionally kicks his desk while brandishing a Colt .45 and a bottle of Jim Beam.
Okay, not really, but that would be awesome.
Mainly this is an opportunity for the team leads to sync up and discuss concerns, as well as a time for Jason to share information with us. And we get to talk about a department movie outing for Avengers. I make a note to watch the trailer.
Tommy Newcomer talks about upcoming projects for the community that will increase awareness of, and build excitement for, our upcoming games. He spent a month with the Community team as a TA to get a better sense of how our two groups can work in tandem. He complains about repeated floggings. I tell him not to complain, some people pay good money for that stuff.
Avengers Trailer! I don’t follow football, so I didn’t see this during the Superbowl. I’ve been excited for this movie for a long time, and this trailer really has my psyched.
Review workload, and check in with Breanna. She has survived her first day!
Pick up Tati, grab food.
Eat Pollo Loco while watching Cajun Pawn Stars. If you’re not watching this show, you need to.
While Tati watches That 70’s Show, I catch up on DC’s New 52.
Time for Hedbanz, a game I play with my daughter. You have a card on your headband that you can’t see, a picture of what you’re supposed to be. You ask questions to try and figure out what you are.
I love my daughter, but she’s terrible at this game. I ask her what I’m made of. She says “Plastic, metal and barbed wire”. Barbed wire? What?
“Am I a POW camp”
“A supermax prison facility? A top secret military compound?”
Several minutes later I find out I’m a guitar. A guitar. With barbed wire. Tati says “well if I would have said ‘guitar string’ that would have given it away.”
Tati reads for a while and then I read to her and Tiff and I tuck her in.
Tonight’s TV selections: Being Human and Lost Girl. Part of SyFy’s Power Monday! I think “Syfy” is a stupid name, by the way. But they have some cool shows.
Get in a little more writing time before bed. And then, it’s lights out!! I drift to sleep with visions of barbed wire guitars dancing in my head.