The Internship Chronicles – Cyrus Burris

By Cyrus Burris (GPMG ’19)

During the Spring semester of my junior year in Montreal, I was afforded the opportunity to serve as a Production Intern at a game studio called LuckyHammers. LuckyHammers was originally founded in 2004 as a company called “Fidel,” but eventually rebranded to the current name after being acquired by the Stolo holding company. Throughout its existence, LuckyHammers has worked with many different relevant brands and properties, but has more recently focused on VR projects, and digital versions of tabletop games for PC and mobile.

At LuckyHammers, I was brought on as a Production Intern to work with the board games team. Right around the time I was brought on, the team hired Marc Tremblay, a new QA Lead. Having started around the same time, Marc and I formed a quick bond, and he really took me under his wing. Being the QA Lead, Marc (and I, by association) were involved with pretty much all of the projects that the board game team was working on.

The first project I recall working on was a straight adaptation of a board game called Terraforming Mars (TRM). TRM is a very complex game with a lot of different rules and mechanics, so we were up to our eyes in things to test. On my first day, myself an a few other new employees spent a few hours playing the original tabletop version of TRM. It was definitely overwhelming, but it was certainly a fun way to spend the first day on the job.

One of Marc’s large tasks for TRM was developing the test plan. We spent a lot of time together working on the various test cases, and making sure that all of the game’s complex situations and mechanics were tested in thorough and complete ways.

We also spent quite a bit of time finding, reporting, writing, and tracking bugs with the game. QA at LuckyHammers is a bit interesting in this respect, in that it basically have three different QA departments, despite being a relatively small company. In our office, QA was mostly handled by Marc and myself, and later our friend Wilfred, a new hire in QA. On top of that, we outsourced a good amount of QA to a local company called “Enzyme.” Given that they weren’t directly involved the development team, we had to make sure that Enzyme was clear on what our expectations were, and how the game worked. Additionally, our publisher, Asmodee Digital, had their own QA and set of standards to meet, so we had to make sure we were up to snuff on their expectations.

Another project I was very closely involved with was code named “French Ceramics,” more specifically the Inns and Cathedrals expansion. Having never played the board game version of French Ceramics before, I was fortunate to spend a lot of time playing the game, learning the ins and outs, and was able to provide meaningful feedback throughout the development process.

French Ceramics was where I really cut my teeth in writing, reporting, and updating bugs in JIRA, which is an incredibly valuable skill that I’m incredibly fortunate to have picked up on. I learned how important it is to write bugs that hit the perfect balance of being detailed enough to be clear, but not turning into incomprehensible walls of text. Videos and screenshots often helped too!

While LuckyHammers did not attend as a company, our publisher, Asmodee Digital, brought a couple of our titles to PAX East 2018. Seeing games that I had worked on (Terraforming Mars and others) on the PAX East show floor, and seeing people playing and talking about games that I worked on was one of the more surreal moments of the internship. Even more exciting, I can recall how extremely excited I was when I returned home to see that the Inns and Cathedrals expansion that we had developed was now released and available! In a way, I’d just bought and played my first officially shipped game!

Finally, a smaller project that I was involved in was an digital adaptation of a game called Onitama, a chess-like strategy game with an eastern/asian influence. Onitama was in an interesting place, given that the development on the game had finished quite a while ago, but unfortunately, testing on the game was rushed, and the final product was riddled with bugs.

As such, coming into Onitama a couple of months after formal development had concluded was an interesting point to see the whole process from. Despite this, I think I learned a lot from working on this game, despite how little time we spent working on it, compared to the other titles I worked on. I spent a lot of time playing and testing Onitama, and was able to find the root of a couple of weird and complex bugs. In that way, I could see a large tangible effect that I had on the quality of the game, which was a really great feeling to have.

I absolutely loved my experience at LuckyHammers, and genuinely looked forward to going into work three days out of the week (despite having to wake up at 8AM, ha!). The people I worked closely with, Marc, Wilfred, Raph, Dan and Stephen, as well as those that I worked with less frequently, taught me so much about games, the games industry, and life as a whole. I learned how essential QA is to the development process. I overcame some of my anxiety in regards to meeting with and talking to people who may have previously intimidated me. On top of all that, I was incredibly fortunate to work with a group of people who were willing to spend time teaching me about their process, and those that took a real interest into how I could be of assistance in the development process. Everybody was incredibly friendly, and I loved being able to spend days laughing and enjoying our time together.