Streamline Spotlight: Art Quality Assurance

Welcome to Streamline Media Group’s ongoing blog series where we interview a Streamliner from one of SMG’s business divisions.

This time we spoke with a series of Streamliners, the Art QA team.

The internal Art QA team works across Streamline Media Group’s business divisions to assure that their art assets meet clients’ expectations. This unique team provides quality assurance across multiple business divisions.

From left: Mim, Adri, Samantha, Aaron, Arif, Andrew

 

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Can you please introduce yourself and your role(s) in Streamline Media Group?

Andrew: My name is Andrew James and I am the Art QA Team Lead for Streamline Studios.

Arif: I am Arif Abdullah and I am part of the Art QA team for All Pixels.

Mim: Hello, I’m Mim and I’m a Junior Art Quality Assurance for Streamline Studios.

Aaron: My name is Aaron, I am an art QA team member for Streamline Studios.

Adri: Salutations! My name is Adri and I am the Art Quality Assurance (AQA) Team Lead for All Pixels.

 

How long have you been in your current position?

Adri: I first joined the company back in 2015 as a QA Tester and officially became a team lead in early 2018.

Aaron: Just over a year.

Mim: I started on September 18th this year.

Arif: Five months.

Andrew: I have been in this job role for two years with Streamline Studios.

 

What does a member of the art QA team do?

Arif: We provide the best support solutions for the team to use so that everything is “Streamlined.”s

Mim: We check, pack, and deliver everything from the early stage of block out to the end of it, ensuring that the client can get the quality that they aim for. We prepare structures for internal and external conveniences too, going through the client's documentation and simplifying them for checklists together with leads. We train newcomers about SVN and always look for solutions to make the workflow smoother.

Adri: We provide the best support solutions and regulate quality assured practices to make sure that the art assets that our artists produce is of the highest quality and follows the client’s requirements.

 

What are your job duties and responsibilities? What does your day-to-day work look like?

Andrew: I start off the day by going for my morning stand-ups with every project team in Streamline Studios to have a better understanding and sync up with everyone. We then spend the day going through tasks making sure all the submissions on that day have met our client’s requirement. During the day, art QA leads would also join production meetings as well as team meetings. We would also go through our art QA council project space to make sure all our documents regarding client projects and checklists are up to date with the latest information for each project we are handling. Our art QA council project space is a space we have made in Streamline Media’s Streamframe site, that provides up-to-date documentation and checklists for every project that has QA involved. Think of it as a library of client’s requirements.

 

 

How does your role change throughout the production of a game or project?

Arif: Our role does not really change throughout the production as our goal will always be making sure that the client received the best quality assets from our artists. We do however have to adapt to the constant changes of requirements by the client.

Aaron: Over the course of my time working here I have grown a lot in the team and taken more responsibilities over the projects we work on, and I have gained opportunities to contribute to other aspects of production as well. Now that we have a new member of the team I have also taken on the role of a mentor which has opened my horizons further.

Adri: Our role remains the same - our main job is to check assets. However, what does change is the quality required for each asset’s work type. For example, a low poly asset submission would have a different set of requirements than a high poly asset submission. In addition to that, not every project has the same list of requirements so that is why we have checklists for each work type for every project.

 

What other members of Streamline Media Group (SMG) do you interact with the most?

Adri: We usually cooperate and interact with the head of production, project managers, lead artists, artists (both 3D and 2D), and occasionally general managers and members of the IT department.

Mim: QA mostly interacts back and forth with pretty much everyone in the production. I would meet the PMs to clarify anything that I need from the client’s documentation. I’ll meet artists and their leads too if there’s a problem with the assets and checklists.

 

What tools do you use?

All: Streamline Media’s Streamframe project management tool; Tortoise SVN; Autodesk software like Maya and 3DS Max; Adobe Photoshop; game engines such as Unreal, Unity, and Lumberyard; ZBrush; Microsoft Office software like PowerPoint, Excel, and Word; Substance Painter and Designer; and if provided, the client’s own dedicated game engines.

 

What skills are needed to be successful in this position?

Adri: Perseverance and determination as well as an eye to spot an incoming problem from miles away before bad things happen. This job can be stressful at times since we have so many requirements that we need to keep track of the number of projects we are handling, but if you are determined to see the assets you’ve checked is of the highest quality and see it being implemented in a AAA game, that’s the best success you can ever achieve.

Aaron: An eye for detail is extremely important, as well as good organizational skills, eagerness to learn and good communication skills (which all jobs require, to be honest) and fundamental knowledge of 3D software, game engines, and MS Office Suite.

 

What are some misconceptions others may have about your job?

Mim: Time per task to be QA-ed. It’s always different per assets and there’s a lot of things to consider before deciding whether it’s ready for submission or not.

Adri: Art quality assurance gets confused with game quality assurance most of the time (even with software testing to some extent). While game QA is the usual job that you can find in almost any game company, art QA is a bit more exclusive here in Streamline. To differentiate, game QA usually involves playing a very early prototype (and up to the final build) of the game and find bugs that might break the game. Art QA checks the art assets of the game before it is implemented in the game. In short, art QA involves in the art pre-production/production of the game while game QA involves in the production/post-production of the playable game.

Art quality assurance gets confused with game quality assurance most of the time (even with software testing to some extent).

What was your favorite project or title to work on?

Adri: My favorite title to work on would be Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite because it was one of the first titles I worked on and a game I played during my childhood. At that point, I didn’t know a new MvC game would come out soon and knowing that we will be working on it (before it was even announced to the public!) just made the child and fan within me so excited again.

Andrew: Personally, Street Fighter V, it was a very smooth project with detailed guidelines on how everything should be set-up.

 

Can you share any of the projects or work you are currently working on?

Adri: Unfortunately, NDA prevents me from saying what we’re doing now but I can assure you, they are amazing projects! Some are even announced to be in development.

Andrew: All I can say is it's amazing.

Mim: I’m sorry I can't say it but I know that they are all amazing!

 

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in doing art QA?

Adri: If you are interested in video game art production, want to be part of it but not that great in doing artsy fartsy stuff, you can join the AQA team and have a ball of a time!

Aaron: Always do the best you can but never forget to take care of yourself first.

Mim: If you love art and games, hunger to learn new things in every different project, and love to socialize with many interesting, talented people, grab the chance!

Arif: They must be passionate about what they do and able to work under pressure.

Andrew: Have a strong passion for games and an undying will to push yourself to be the best that you can be.

What’s the best part of being on the Art QA team?

Arif: The team itself. We are a pretty small and tight group. Each of the members’ antics is the stuff that keeps me going every day.

Mim: They are like real brothers, a family. It doesn’t feel awkward to talk to them about many different things, silly issues or not. When I don’t understand stuff, they are like the tank for a noob. They’re the best support team. They’ll explain stuff until I’ve fully understood it, assuring me when anxiety hits, and joke around, creating a friendly atmosphere. I don’t even feel like I’m working for eight hours, I have so much fun.

Anything else you would like to add?

Adri: The team lives by the slogan; “High-quality Assured Game Assets for You!”

Aaron: High-quality Assured Game Assets for You!

Mim: High-quality Assured Game Assets for You!

Arif: High-quality Assured Game Assets for You!

Andrew: Our teams' slogan would be “High-quality Assured Game Assets for You!”

 

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Special thanks to Andrew, Arif, Mim, Aaron, and Adri from Streamline Media Group’s internal art QA team for lending their time for this interview.

If you are interested in learning more about Streamline Media Group’s art outsourcing or art QA services, please reach out to us!


Streamline Spotlight: Sabine Ong, Project Manager for Streamline Studios

Welcome to Streamline Media Group’s ongoing blog series where we interview a Streamliner from one of SMG’s business divisions.

I spoke with Sabine Ong, a project manager at Streamline Studios (SLS), to discuss what exactly a project manager does, especially for a studio such as Streamline Studios.

Streamline Studios is Streamline Media Group’s business division that covers a multitude of aspects of games development, from pre-production to post-production, and everything in-between. Since its founding in 2001, SLS has worked with international clients of all sizes to help them achieve their vision and accomplish their game dev goals.

 

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Can you please introduce yourself and your role in Streamline Studios?

Hey there! I’m Sabine, a project manager here at Streamline Studios. I have always loved video games and film since a young age so it’s a privilege to have been given the chance to work here.

 

How long have you been in this role? Approximately how many projects do you estimate you have worked on since becoming a project manager?

I’ve been here for a little over two years now and have worked on approximately fourteen-to-sixteen projects. Some projects are long-term while some can be as short as a month. In fact, there’s a project that I’ve worked on since I joined and it’s still ongoing!

 

Prior to becoming a project manager, did you have any other roles at Streamline Studios?

Nope, this is my first role in Streamline Studios or even in the video games industry.

 

What does a project manager do? What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

We do many things! Ultimately our goal is to make sure that the projects run as smoothly as possible on all fronts. Some examples are making sure that information is being communicated to and from all parties involved, keeping tasks on schedule or rescheduling if necessary, making sure the team has the hardware or software they need, and troubleshooting. We’re the bridge that connects and facilitates everyone in the whole process.

On top of all that, we’re working with teams that are made up of complex individuals in many different roles. We’re very entrenched with running the company so we also get involved with reviews, promotions, acclimatizing new employees, and even performance issues.

 

What tools and software do you use on a regular basis?

Here at Streamline, Streamframe is our go-to project management tool. We use it every day to keep track of all progress and communicate within the organization. It really helps that we have a central tool considering the number of projects we work on.

Other software we mainly use to help with our work is Microsoft Office: Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. We do occasionally use other tools which are project dependent and based on what the clients need.

 

What are some of the skills that are needed to be a good project manager?

The most important skills are people and communication skills. We’re constantly having to interact with all kinds of people across different languages, cultures, and regions. It’s important that we know how to listen, to communicate, and to relate to others, from clients to artists to managers on a professional level. We also need to effectively convey vision, ideas, goals, and issues as well as produce reports and presentations.

Other essential skills would be leadership, time management, planning skills, negotiation, risk management, and subject matter expertise.

The most important skills are people and communication skills.

 

 

How is the role of a project manager different when working for a studio that does co-development?

We have multiple projects and shorter timeframes. We tend to be involved with several projects at any one time so keeping a cool head is important. The pace at which we work also greatly differs; some things are more urgent and need to go at a faster speed. Because of that changes happen very often, we have to be constantly on our feet and adapt quickly to the changes that happen. This means we gain experience faster by going through more project cycles.

We also have better insight into the market as we work with multiple clients. We can see what they are doing and how different each company manages their projects. This gives us the opportunity to take the things that work for us and implement it into our own workflows.

 

How does your role change throughout a project, from pre-production to production, to wrapping up a project and submitting the final assets to the client?

I’d say that differs with the working style of each project manager. For me, I like to get my hands dirty and get involved with the team in the pre-production and production phases. I love to collaborate with the art director, leads, and artists on the creative process figuring out new ideas or techniques to solve the needs of our clients. Everyone involved can have great ideas so it’s up to us to facilitate that and ensure we’re all contributing to make it better.

Nearing the end of a project, we must ensure that everything has been delivered to the client, so we’ll need to facilitate the submission process. You could say that we’re a collector at this point as we gather all the work that has been done, whether it be documentation or source files, and deliver it to the client. At the same time, we would have to work on finalizing various reports and analyzing the results. It’s the time when we can look back to see what went right, what went wrong and how we can improve for the next round. Think of it as a kaizen process where we are always continuously learning and improving.

[Editor’s note: Kaizen is a Japanese word for “improvement.” In business terms, it refers to the practice of continually improving one’s business processes.]

 

What have you learned about being a project manager?

The key is communication. We often say that this is important but it’s also the hardest thing to do or make happen on all levels. It is the thing that drives the work and makes sure things are running smoothly. Whenever a breakdown happens, a problem tends to pop up and time is needed to fix it. One must have lots of endurance and discipline to avoid that as much as possible.

Another thing would be that to it’s okay to make mistakes. To err is human but it’s more about how we turn things around and do better. If we make a mistake, we should own up to it and avoid excuses or lay blame. We deal with the facts, see what can be done to avoid this happening again or to mitigate it as much as possible, and move forward.

 

Are you working on any projects that you can talk about publicly? If so, can you elaborate on what those projects are, and when we can expect to hear more about them?

Unfortunately, not now. Most projects I’m involved in are in the pre-production phases, so it’ll take a few years before I can even talk about them. But I can say I have worked with clients from all over the world like Japan, USA, and China, so that’s what’s exciting!

 

What’s the best part about being a project manager at Streamline Studios?

The diversity. Diverse cultures, people, and projects. I’ve worked with many people across different cultures and many different projects in scale and genres. There’s never a dull moment!

 

Anything else you would like to add?

It all sounds rather stressful, but I want to say that it’s been a very rewarding experience working here as a project manager. All the blood, sweat, and tears are worth it when I see what the team here at Streamline has constantly achieved and continues to strive for.

 

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Special thanks to Sabine Ong for her insight on being a project manager for Streamline Studios.

Sabine is just one of the many experienced creative team members at Streamline Studios who dedicate themselves to helping bring their clients’ projects to completion.

If you’re interested in knowing more or would like to work with Streamline Studios, please reach out to us -- and we are hiring!


Streamline Media Group Attends Level Up KL 2018

Video Games: Beyond Interactive Entertainment

Level Up KL 2018 started out with a keynote by Michael Mumbauer, Senior Director of Visual Arts for PlayStation. Mumbauer is a twenty-year veteran of both film and games, working across properties such as The Polar Express, Monster House, Uncharted 4, God of War, and The Last of Us, specializing in performance capture and creating digital characters.

Mumbauer reminded us that every ten years, game development costs increase ten-fold. By 2020, the typical AAA game will run an estimated cost of $200-250 million USD.

Mumbauer also spoke on the importance of visual production, the idea that in the very near-future, movies will be made in-engine, utilizing game engine development tools. The goal is a real-time set rendering of environments and props, as well as real-time facial capture. If this can be accomplished, the cost and time to create will be reduced.

However, the technology is not quite there yet. Compatibility issues prevent assets from easily being shared across different engines. The base technology is not quite powerful enough, fast enough, or affordable enough to pull off real-time rendering.

He concluded by positioning that, Malaysia, with its young talent and resources, could be ripe for the future of visual production. His argument was that game developers would become experts and specialists in the visual production field, and that film production could utilize their specialized talents.

 

Exhibiting Nightstream

From the Streamline Game’s side, SLG was out promoting Nightstream, both in a shared booth with MyGameOn, as well as a table on the exhibit room floor. Streamline Games was also passing out physical copies of issue number one of the Nightstream comic, which was also designed and printed in-house. Some of the same Streamline Games artists that worked on Nightstream (Kelly Tan, Lynette Wong, Ahmad Hilmi, Sai Foo) also created the comic – everything from penciling to lettering and inking and coloring.

 

Surviving the games industry

Given the fact that Malaysia’s game industry skews on the younger side, it makes sense they would want to advise and mentor their talent. Given the state of the games industry in 2018, and how many of its employees have been treated, surviving the games industry has become a contentious topic.

David Lam, Senior Producer of External Content at Turn 10, gave advice on how to not only survive the industry but manage to thrive in it, based on his experience of almost twenty years in the industry.

The usual developer skills were recommended, such as curiosity, a determined work ethic, and adaptability, but Lam also mentioned the importance of soft skills such as social skills.

He also discussed the stages of a games industry career: being happy to be there, grinding it out, becoming a leader or a specialist, impacting through scope and influence, and giving and receiving.

The remainder of his talk was on choosing and prioritizing a work/life balance. He emphasized the importance of choosing your boss, seeing every new job as an opportunity to reinvent yourself, observing your team’s culture, and realizing that you have a choice to choose the life you want to live.

 

Streamline Games showcases multiple projects

 

“AAA is a moving target. It is always ambitious.”

- Stefan Baier, General Manager, Streamline Games

 

Outside of the Nightstream team, Streamline Games was represented by General Manager Stefan Baier, who presented his talk, “AAA Development in Southeast Asia.” The emphasis was on the rising middle class in the SEA region, with the majority of the world’s middle-class coming from the Asia-Pacific region within the next ten years.

Stefan Baier, General Manager of Streamline Games

SLG also touched on a couple upcoming projects: Bake & Switch, a game tentatively scheduled for 2019, and Unbound Oceans, a much bigger, more ambitious project that is still a few years away. Bake & Switch is a local multiplayer game for the Nintendo Switch.

Unbound Oceans is the other end of the spectrum: a big Unreal Engine sci-fi first-person shooter, which has the player dropping from their ship into different levels, completing objectives, and coming back to their ship for potential upgrades and new assignments, either alone or in co-op mode. This was SLG’s first public showing of Unbound Oceans, although they have been chronicling its development on their blog.

Unbound Oceans

In between Bake & Switch and Unbound Oceans, SLG spoke of doing additional smaller games, with the goal of shipping one game a year. They didn’t have anything specific planned to come out in between Bake & Switch and Unbound Oceans, but mentioned that internal teams will experiment and move forward with the best idea. It seems to be a shift in thinking on how SLG does internal development of their own IPs.

SLG briefly teased a clip of Hyde as well, a very early third-person action game set in the Victorian era, showing off some early transformation animations. Hyde hasn’t officially been announced, so this teaser was the first time it was shown to the public. There was no further word on when Hyde would officially be unveiled, but it seems to be a few years off.

 

Larian’s road to success

Divinity series creator Larian Studios was represented by Spencer Low, a local Malaysian who now works overseas as Larian’s Business Development Director.  Low presented, “Creators of the Divinity series – the Ups and Downs of an RPG Studio.” It was a talk that spoke of the studio’s problems in the past with publishers, which lead to a long stint of work-for-hire and educational game development for Larian, all in an effort to survive. Eventually, they were able to pull off Divinity: Original Sin, which was successful enough to lead to Divinity: Original Sin II. Now Larian employs 160 people spread across four studios in multiple time zones. Between the original Belgium studio and the other studios in Russia, Ireland, and Canada, Larian works around the clock, with only three-to-four hours of downtime a day.

 

Japan’s console journey

Soleil Ltd. President and CEO Yoshifuru Okamoto presented, “Console Developers in Japan: Now and the Future,” which was a candid look at Japan’s rise to dominance as the epicenter of video game development, prior to their fall to grace during the Xbox 360 and the PS3 era of development. While Okamoto mentioned that the PS3 while notoriously difficult to develop games for, he also acknowledged the many failures of the Japanese games industry during the era.

Mr Yoshifuru Okamoto at MyGameOn live streaming session
Mr Yoshifuru Okamoto (first from right) at MyGameOn live streaming session

While the western approach to game development was sharing knowledge and tools, Japan had a far stauncher, more conservative approach to game development. Unity and Unreal weren’t common tools, so most games had their own custom engines built. Events like the Game Developers Conference were pretty much non-existent in Japan, so knowledge was not easily shared. Poaching was a fear for many companies, so developers were often credited under pseudonyms, meaning that talent often went unrecognized. And when the HD generation brought a demand for more realism to games, Japan was still more comfortable with an art style based on Japanese animation and manga.

Other issues brought up was Japan’s lack of English skills, as well as every company having different development processes and strategies.

As a result, many in Japan’s games industry pivoted to developing games for smartphones.  This was bolstered by the fact that the Japanese often face very long public transit commutes to and from work each day.

 

“We worked with local company Streamline Studios, one of our biggest assets.”

- Yoshifuru Okamoto, President and CEO, Soleil Ltd.

 

Okamoto concluded his talk by mentioning that Japan had not given up on console development and noted that recent titles such as Dark Souls, Nioh, NieR: Automata, and Yakuza proved to be popular overseas. For Okamoto, a developer whose experience is based in console action and adventure games (his previous credits include games such as Monster Farm / Monster Rancher, Dead or Alive 4, Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2, and Devil’s Third, as well as the newly released Naruto to Boruto: Shinobi Striker), this was obviously a point of pride.

Soleil was founded in 2008, in the midst of Japan’s casual game craze. Yet, Soleil focused on high-end game development and learning the Unreal Engine, and developing the skills needed for console game development. As a result, they feel confident in their ability to develop online action games.

Okamoto believes the era of 100% internal development inside Japan is over. While Japan has an aging population, Southeast Asia as a much younger population. Due to SEA’s English proficiency, as well as high education standards, he believes SEA is not only a key market for potential consumers, but also for finding talent. Malaysia, being a central hub of SEA, is a convenient location. And Malaysians enjoy and are familiar with not only western media content but eastern media from countries such as Japan and Korea. Okamoto mentioned that reasons such as these have led to Soleil working with Malaysia’s Streamline Media Group.

 

SEA Game Awards

The annual SEA Game Awards occurred at the end of Level Up KL like they do every year. Our division Streamline Games soft-launched their mobile runner Nightstream earlier this year in Malaysia. Nightstream was nominated as a finalist for three categories at the SEA Game Awards: Best Innovation, Best Game Design, and Best Technology, and came home a winner for the Best Technology Award, which recognizes the overall technical quality of a game, such as graphics programming, artificial intelligence, and networking. Streamline Media Group is very proud of the Streamline Games team and their success.

Nightstream wins Best Technology award!

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Overall, Level Up KL continues to grow and attract talent from around the world. At the closing remarks, it was announced that over a 1,000 people attended this year’s event, which is up from about 800 last year. Guest speakers from major companies continue to be attracted to the event, whether it’s conducting a Unity workshop, speaking on the potential of the SEA gaming market, or enabling new business connections.

Next year’s event dates have already been set, so mark your calendars: Level Up KL 2019 is set for November 2-6th.

Level up kl 2018

 


Streamline Games’ Nightstream Wins Big at SEA Game Awards!

Streamline Games’ free-to-play next-gen runner, Nightstream, has won big at the Southeast Asia Game Awards!

Nightstream won the Best Technology Award, which recognizes the overall excellence of technology in a game. It is awarded to the game that best uses advanced technologies, multiplayer and graphics programming, networking, and artificial intelligence.

In addition to winning the Best Technology Award, Nightstream was also nominated for the Best Game Design and Best Innovation Awards. The Best Game Design Award recognizes the best overall design quality of a game, including gameplay mechanics, level design, and balance. The Best Innovation Award recognizes the innovation of a game and how it pushes the boundaries of the medium.

The SEA Game Awards are held annually during Level Up KL, Malaysia’s premiere gaming event. In total, over 104 games were submitted to the awards, from across the Southeast Asia region. From the 104 submitted games, only 40 were short-listed for the awards. And for each category, only four games were nominated as finalists.

Congratulations to the Streamline Games team!

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If you haven’t tried Nightstream yet, now is the perfect time. The free-to-play game is available in Malaysia on both the iOS and Google Play app stores.

Download Nightstream on iOS: https://apple.co/2QuKLyy
Download Nightstream on Android: http://bit.ly/2p8EXhJ