The Tale I'll Never Forget to Tell...

Hello!

It's been a long time since I've posted on my portfolio here but I am going to get back into the swing of things! It will be good for me to reflect on the past few years as I look forward to my journey ahead. This is the story of one of the craziest years of my career and I wouldn't trade it for the world! I've been meaning to post something about my journey, so sit tight, cause here it goes.

"Where have you been Jeremy! You stopped posting!" - I know, I know. Trust me. I know. lol!

Well, if you follow me on my social sites, you already know my story, but last year I was finally given a foot in the door opportunity at a AAA studio! You know how it happened? By making friends and interviewing at GDC 2017! I interviewed with Telltale for 2-hours at GDC with a Designer, my Conference Associate mentor worked at Telltale, and I met another Producer at Telltale during a Conference Associate meet-up. This led to her messaging me on Facebook about an opportunity a month after GDC! I'm telling you, the networking opportunities at GDC are insane. If you are trying to break into this industry, GDC is where you need to be!

After the interview process, I was offered a 6-month contract to come out and work on the Development QA team! After almost a year after graduation, getting married, and putting in nearly 500 applications, it was the greatest feeling in the world to finally be given an opportunity, professionally. Now before reading into this any further, I should warn those who are reading, if you are expecting me to fill this with juicy insider details about Telltale, you are going to be disappointed. There are no leaks, spoilers, or anything in this post that isn't out there already. This post is to reflect upon my time, what I have learned and experience in a positive way for my portfolio. I will not be talking badly or mentioning names in the blog to protect identities. I honestly don't have many bad memories at Telltale. Except for the obvious 2x big layoffs in less than 1 year.

Don't know Telltale? Click on the image to go to our website!

Having to move from Milwaukee to San Fransico proved to be a challenge, however, with the help of my strong-willed wife, we managed to figure it out. We were on the verge of moving out to the west coast anyway to help me pursue my career. Living with an address in the Midwest proved to be extremely difficult to obtain a job in this industry. If you don't have any previous professional experience that is or you just have a god gifted talent for what you do. No one want's to relocate new candidates. It was a gamble to move out here on a 6-month contract but I knew that if I came in and worked hard enough they would hopefully offer me a permanent position. So we had to move out here without any relocation package but that's a sacrifice I was willing to make to start my career.

When I first accepted the job, they wanted me right away! I managed to squeeze a little extra time, but I had to come out, stay at an Air BnB, find an apartment and all the fun adulting that comes with moving across the United States. So for the first few months, my Wife stayed behind back home to finish getting things in order to move. It was hard on the Wife and I being apart but this actually proved to be really good for my career. I love my Wife for giving me the opportunity and working so hard with the move. I would not have been able to do it without her. She was the only reason I was able to come out here and establish myself at Telltale right away. Obviously, we didn't have to rush to move out here but being out here by myself really allowed me to give my new job everything I had right off the bat. I wanted to prove myself and become a permanent part of the Telltale team. I eventually flew back to Wisconsin after everything settled and moved my Wife into our new apartment in the Bay Area.


Although I knew I had nothing to worry about, I was super nervous on my 1st day! Probably more just overly excited than anything. My boss and my two leads made all nerves go away immediately. Everyone was extremely welcoming, willing to help and answer any questions that I had. I loved it because there was no time to waste and they threw me right into the pit. If it wasn't for my Leads showing me the ropes of Development QA and the Episodic Production process at this studio, I probably would not have succeeded the way I did at Telltale. Seriously!



My first project at Telltale Games:

PC / MAC / X360 / Xbox One / PS4 / NX / Android / Apple / Amazon / Windows
Spanish / German / French / Japanese

Official Trailer

Season Finale Trailer

Minecraft Season 2 Team

When I first accepted the position, I didn't know what project I would be working on and didn't officially find out until I arrived for my first day. I am glad that this was my first project and I wouldn't have changed it for the world. This was an amazing experience for me and was an amazing first AAA experience. Working on this title really showed me the ropes of what it takes to ship a game on multiple platforms and multiple languages. As a tester at Telltale, I worked closely with Development, Engineering, Production and QA teams to test games throughout the development cycle on multiple platforms and localization for the PS4, X1, PC (Steam), Mac, Android, iOS, and more. Then clearly documented and tracked bugs, performance, and more for several ongoing projects with a high level of attention to detail.

After about 3 weeks of really coming in, learning the development and testing process at Telltale, I was offered a permanent position as apart of the Development QA team! Let me tell you, I was SUPER stoked! Not only was it a relief knowing I'd have a job still 6-months from now, I finally had benefits again! Woohoo!

Between DevQA, Player Support, and Compliance, I couldn't have asked for a more talented and wonderful group of people to kick start my career with. We were like one big happy family. We all supported one another while at the same time managing to have fun while working towards crazy deadlines. Every single person I worked with was talented in their own way and added value to our team. We were a well mixed, diverse, and happy group of people who wanted nothing but the best product to go out the door. I'll never forget my time with all these amazing folks.

I had completed 2 full seasons and bugged over 1,000 bugs with 'Minecraft Story Mode' and contributing to the 'Batman The Enemy Within' team. Both games were very well reviewed, our fans loved them and our Episode 5 of Batman was our highest rated game in years at Telltale. After that, I started working on the Walking Dead on the Xfinity platform. I was working on getting more seasons of the Walking Dead onto the platform as Season 1 was already LIVE on it. However, this contract was eventually canceled.

PC / MAC / X360 / Xbox One / PS4 / NX / Android / Apple / Amazon / Windows

Official Trailer


Season Trailer


Batman: The Enemy Within Team

During this entire time, I kept my eyes and ears open for positions opening up. I even interviewed for a few positions up to this point. As we were moving to Unity3D, I had applied for positions related to these like Gameplay Designer and Build Producer roles. Even though I was not selected, I didn't let it affect my work and what I was hired to do. I made sure to get criticism and feedback on where I can improve and continue moving forward. I wanted to be where ever I was going to be contributing the most to the team as a whole.

Then the November layoffs happened...

Gamasutra article on the November 2017 layoffs at Telltale.

GameIndustry.biz article about the layoff in November.

This obviously put a hold on any opportunities to move up at the moment, considering all the amazingly talented people they just laid off. I couldn't believe that I wasn't apart of this but we were lucky that DevQA wasn't affected by this layoff. The companies shift towards promoting quality over quantity meant DevQA would be very important for the future of Telltale. I couldn't believe all the people that were let go. So many wonderfully talented people and good friends I made along the way. Needless to say, the next few weeks at work were TOUGH. Morale was the lowest I had ever seen it. The office felt like a ghost town and everyone that wasn't laid off felt horrible. This was a huge eye-opener for me and was a taste of what this industry can be like sometimes. It taught me to prepare for the worst, always.

Shortly after, I took an opportunity that was offered in becoming the 1st person at Telltale as an Embedded Tools Test Lead. I was to lay the groundwork out for the position while at the same time perform the day to day. Create, maintain, update and implement Test plans and Test cases. We added our own page onto the Telltale's Confluence and updated that regularly with our process. I worked alongside the Platform, Build, Rendering, Online, & QA Engineers, testing their code commits to the engine and pushing updates to the development teams for each project. Testing Tool and Platform crash reports from DevQA and debugging issues. My team was the go-to group when developers were having issues with their game engines. I would maintain clear communication with the VP of Development, Art Director, as well as Executive, Technical, & Build Producers for each project. I would also work with each projects Lead Engineer testing early platform builds for performance and stable builds. I maintained a stable engine pushes on both our own Engine & Unity3D, lead a team of two people for a little while. One intern and one contractor. I had them implementing Automation to our testing process and even started using Hansoft which was turning out to be very successful and we were achieving great results.

I was literally helping every project that Telltale was working on besides the Wolf Among Us 2 as that was still in early development. My priorities were to the Walking Dead: The Final Season team first, as that was shipping this year. Without going into any major details, I also helped with the Stranger Things and Minecraft Netflix projects during this time.

Click the image to read the Forbes article.

Polygon article on our Stranger Things project.

IGN The Wolf Among Us Announcement Trailer

An opportunity came up for internal interviews for an Assistant Producer role on the Stranger Things project. Of course, I immediately applied but I knew my chances were slim because of those I knew who had also applied. There was A LOT of good talent to choose from and people I worked with who deserved it more than I did. I did well in the interview and was given feedback but as I anticipated, they chose another amazing candidate. I didn't lose focus and continued doing my best work at the Tools Test Lead position.

While I was performing my Tools Test Lead duties, I was presented with an opportunity that I would have never thought had been possible. There had been an opening on the Walking Dead production team due to someone seeking new adventures leaving the team. Apparently, due to all the hard work I was putting in with my current role, I had impressed the right people who were running the Walking Dead. I interviewed for an Assistant Producer role with their team's Cinematics department and was offered the position a few short weeks later!

PC /  / Xbox One / PS4 / NX

Official Trailer


You're Still Little


Episode Two Trailer


Awesome fan reactions to our trailer! I love our fans!

Compilation of fans reacting to Episode 1! LOL! Love it!

My Walking Dead family!

Let me tell you. I was completely shocked, excited, relieved, and honored all at the same time. After all the years of hard work and sacrifice, I was finally given the opportunity towards the next step in my career. Don't get me wrong, I loved what I did in Development QA at Telltale, especially in my Tools position, but it was a foot in the door opportunity for me to get experience in shipping a AAA title. My goals were to eventually work into some sort of development role and then move into a leadership or project management role. Getting the opportunity of becoming a Producer on a worldwide known title, was something I only dreamed about before. Not only that, I was learning SO much from my fellow Producers above me. They all had a WEALTH of knowledge and experience! I was literally all eyes and ears every day, trying to soak up all the knowledge I could. On top of trying to become a better Producer, I was also learning a TON about Cinematics at Telltale and what it takes to be an Artist at this company. These guys were wizards. Seriously. They were the ones posing, timing, setting up cameras, facial acting, and more. Our Cinematics team worked with every single department you could think of. From localization to marketing. So not only did I learn a lot about Cinematics, but I also learned a lot about Animation, Environment, Characters, Creative and Design, Marketing and more.

As an Assistant Producer, I was responsible for assisting in the project management of our interactive entertainment for the Cinematics department. I also kept track of the process from design through code release by closely tracking and analyzing project schedule and milestone goals. I was to keep track of deliverables under the direction of my Associate and Executive Producers. I collaborated and met with team leadership regularly to ensure timely and accurate asset flow. I also helped maintain the Telltale Episodic production process while adapting to the needs of my team while ensuring quality and efficiency. While also contributing to event coordination, marketing, ratings, localization, and more. I also maintained a strong relationship and clearly communicated with our outsourcing teams in other countries. And so ... so much more! I even got to attend a recording VO session with the VO Actress for Clementine! :) That was awesome!

You see, despite all the negative things you may have seen or read about Telltale, remember, the people at Telltale is what kept it alive for so long. Not saying anything you've read is or isn't true or discrediting other peoples experiences. I'm just not here to reflect on any negatives here. As I've said before, people make games, not companies. Telltale gave people opportunities they weren't getting anywhere else. There are LOT'S of people I know, in higher positions today across the industry, who started in Telltale DevQA or just got their first start at Telltale period. I was able to come in, on a 6-month contract in DevQA and a year later given an opportunity as an Assistant Producer. That's insane and unheard of. Obviously, I just didn't walk into all of this. I had to earn it and no matter how many times I was denied internally, I didn't stop pursuing the next opportunity. My managers, leads, and close friends at Telltale were always SUPER supportive and looking for ways to help me improve and accomplish my goals.

It's super sad to see it end the way it did and yeah, I was upset. I think it was the just the suddenness of going into work, in the middle of the Walking Dead's Final Season, and then the next moment having to leave with no severance or benefits and 30 mins to leave the office, that really stings the most. Plus, I felt terrible for our Walking Dead fans. Of course, all the major news outlets picked up the story in no time. We were even trending #1 on Google for hours on that Friday the layoff happened.




No one likes being blindsided and that's exactly what it felt like. I, personally, felt like things were headed in a good direction and Clementine's story was turning out amazing! I know that this affected everyone differently at Telltale. Some of us are extremely pissed off and rightfully so. People have families who rely on the benefits Telltale was providing. To have the rug pulled out from under us is something no one should have to experience or go through. But if you were to ask me if I'd go back and do it all over again, knowing what I know now. My answer would still be, absolutely!

I truly believed in what we had on our plate, the technology we were moving towards, and the people I worked with. Telltale was the 1st AAA company, after so many failed attempts across the board, to say "We're going to give you a shot...". I've never seen a group of developers come together to accomplish so much in so little time. I passed on QA offers from a few studios at a GDC QA mixer this year because I actually enjoyed where I was at and believed in it that much. To put in into perspective, I want to quote what our QA Manager at Telltale stated about the employees and DevQA at Telltale. He explains how hard we worked and the goals we achieved as a team.
''Over the last 2 years, Telltale Games has been quietly building a world-class Functional DevQA solution.  Production was ramping, we were shipping more episodes than we ever had before and we needed a highly skilled QA team to keep pace with our development groups. 
To put this in perspective:  In 2017 alone, we shipped 35 Episodes across 10 platforms totaling over 162 Platform Submissions.   
Our recruitment process was not traditional.  We looked for a mix of experience, soft skills, memory, and development skillsets. 
2 years later, the group we ended up with is both high character and world class. 
When you get a group of people together who all have aligned goals, strong soft skills, and high ceilings for development and you introduce them into a development pipeline that is shipping 15-17 times a year on 8-13 platforms, people develop rapidly. 
When you see Telltale Games DevQA in someones resume or LinkedIn profile, know that you are getting a hand-picked, game industry vet, who will add value and perspective to your organization day 1."
Think about that. 35 shipped Episodes and 162 Platform submissions JUST in 2017? That's ridiculous and unheard of in this industry! Regardless of how crazy it was, the stories you may hear or read, I enjoyed every minute of my time at Telltale. I came in, looking to get experience, and boy did I get it. We all did. To be working with companies like DC Comics, Marvel, Skybound, and Netflix, was also just an added bonus to the experience. This  I got the opportunity to learn so much from some of the industry's most talented individuals.

This experience has allowed me a great start to my career and I will forever be grateful for the people at Telltale Games and all the memories I made ... #telltalememories

Like how the view from Telltale's rooftop was always so relaxing. Perfect for Beer Club!

Or like the time I lost my wedding ring and spent 7 hours searching for it around the office and my Air BnB I was staying at the time. After figuring out the only way I could have lost it when I was drying my hands off in the restroom. Drying underneath the ring, like I always do, I guess I must have slipped it off without noticing. After working with the maintenance crew to dig out all the trash bags out of the dumpster from the bathrooms, I sifted through each bag like 3x. Finally, I FOUND IT and I'm alive to tell about it because my Wife didn't have to kill me! :) Huge shout out to maintenance crew that night!

My wedding ring I nearly lost but I never gave up!

All the amazing places work ordered food from when we were working overtime...

Getting to skip the line during for our monthly Birthday treat during my month...

My crazy Minecraft family...

The crazy work parties we had...

All the fun desk gear...

#SelfiesWithRandal #CrushinIt

The fitbit I won at a work raffle. I never win anything. Ever! So this was cool!

The group lunches...

Donut Monday's and Bagel Fridays ...

Grady Thursday's and Chainmail Friday's ...

And so ... so much more!

That about wraps up my journey at Telltale. This is only just a broad explanation of my experience. There are SO many more stories and memories that I will cherish and hold with me forever. I'll never forget all the wonderful people I worked with and I can only hope to work with some of them again. These are just a few photos I captured during my time here! Obviously, with NDA's I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked, but that's the nature of the beast.

In the end, although it ended tragically, we were one big happy family at Telltale and that is 1 thing Telltale will never take from us. Telltale brought great experiences to gamers across the world for nearly 2 decades. I am honored that I could be apart of the history of Telltale and I look forward to reminiscing about it 20 years from now. 

Some good news to come out of this is that Skybound will be taking over the Walking Dead series and finishing it for us. They will be taking a small handful of the original crew to finish the game. Unfortunately, I will not be one of those folks, but that was no surprise to me as they don't need any more Producers to finish the game. At this point, I'm willing to help but I can't live in San Fransico without a job. lol 

I'm just glad it will get completed as it will not only finish Clementine's story but it will be another 2x shipped titles that the Walking Dead crew at Telltale can put on their resume's. They all worked super hard on it and deserve to see it finished not only for us but for our amazing fans as well. I can't wait to play Episodes 3 and 4 and for you to see how the story ends! :)


In the meantime, if you are reading this, and you are in the industry and your company is looking to hire, reach out to my Telltale family on Linked-IN or Twitter! There is a TON of talent coming out of this studio! Artists, Engineers, Producers, QA, Designers, and more! A handful of us have already landed on our feet but there is still a ton of the 250+ of us still pursuing our next opportunity. Please help spread the word by using the #telltalejobs hashtag and helping everyone land on their feet! If you are looking for something particular, reach out to me! I can point you in the direction of the Telltale talent you are looking to hire! :)

If you are reading this and you are apart of my Telltale family, just know, I love you! :) I would love to give a personal thanks to everyone who gave me such wonderful opportunities and supported me in my journey but I don't want to leave anyone out! I learned so much from each and every one of you and I will never forget what you all did for me. So this is just a message to everyone that I worked with at Telltale. If you need anything, anything at all, reach out to me anytime! Seriously! We are a family for life! You need references or anything for jobs, REACH OUT! I'm here to help! :)

I am excited about my career ahead and I am looking forward to my next opportunity! Telltale has launched my career in ways I never thought possible. Ever since the layoffs, the industry has been absolutely amazing and so helpful. Just proves how important Telltale was to games and how we inspired so many people. All the support has made looking for a new place to call home much easier. I will keep everyone posted on where my next adventure takes me!

Until next time ... don't forget ...

! Disco Broccoli will remember that...

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