Here’s why we think Dan is swell:
Quality assurance lead Robert Tzong: Dan joined the team with prior testing experience, but it wasn’t yet enough to tackle the demands of being an Irrational Games QA tester. He’s not one to back down from a challenge, though, be it virtual (read: World of Warcraft) or otherwise. Dan picked things up quickly and is now one of our many superstar testers. He’s learned the ins and outs of the Unreal Engine from next to nothing and now creates maps for us to isolate game functionality for testing purposes.
To avoid any confusion between him and the dozens of other Dans at Irrational, we call him DJ.
Your title is “Quality Assurance Tester.” What does that mean?
Dan Johnson: The easy answer is “tester,” but the more important half is “quality assurance.” We’re responsible for making sure that everything that goes into the game works – both functionally and in the sense that it results in a fun experience for the player.
What games have you worked on?
DJ: I worked on Frontlines: Fuel of War at Kaos Studios; Rock Band 2, The Beatles: Rock Band, and LEGO Rock Band at Harmonix; and now Bioshock Infinite here at Irrational.
Describe Life at Irrational in three words or less.
DJ: Great conversation starter!
What is your favorite game of all time?
DJ: Honorable mentions: Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Uncharted 2, Red Dead Redemption, Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, Beyond Good & Evil, Super Mario Galaxy.
The winner: Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening for the original Game Boy. It’s one of the first games I ever played, and it’s still a memorable experience for me.
Name a game everyone should play once in their life.
DJ: Limbo. Beautiful visuals, flawless gameplay, and just enough world and story to draw you in and get you filling in the gaps on your own. I have to mention Portal as a runner-up, though, for its puzzles and awesome script. But first-person games can be daunting to non-gamers, which is why Limbo won out. Both games shine for the clarity and brevity with which they present their core concepts to the player.
What is your favorite movie?
DJ: When I was 13 and planning my future in Action Paleontology, I ran out of the room every time a commercial for Jurassic Park came on TV because I didn’t want to know anything about it before I saw it in the theaters. (I still do this with trailers. -IG.Chris) It blew me away in the theaters, and 17 (wow, 17) years later it hasn’t lost a scrap of what made it so impressive.
What are your hobbies outside of work?
DJ: I’m a raid leader in a casual World of Warcraft guild, which leaves time for Xbox and PS3 games as well – generally single-player or cooperative. I snowboard or bicycle as the weather permits, I spend time with my Italian Greyhound and Schipperke (look it up; they’re adorable), and meet up with six friends about once a month for Dungeons & Dragons.
Tell me about life managing a WoW guild and balancing your hobby with work.
DJ: To be honest, when I first started playing World of Warcraft, I definitely played too much – four to six nights a week, four-hour raids, the works. Shortly after I got my job at Kaos, I reduced my playtime by a lot, and I canceled my account completely when my girlfriend and I began looking for work in Boston. After several months at Harmonix I started playing again, but I dialed back my playtime even more to make sure I still had time for other things, like necessary chores or evenings out with friends.
I think I’ve found a good balancing point for WoW. I enjoy the game a lot; I’ve made strong friendships within my guild (by sheer coincidence, my guild leader is also in Boston and he and I are good friends), and I’ve learned a lot about working with people through leading raids. Most recently, I’ve been making sure to find more time for other games; in the last month I’ve polished off four that I’d played three-quarters of the way through but never finished. I think it’s important in this industry to have experienced a wide variety of games.
Tell me your favorite story about life at Irrational.
DJ: Shortly after I joined the company, we had a large picnic event in a park near the office. Significant others were invited; it was an all-day-you’re-getting-paid-to-eat-hamburgers-and-play-frisbee event. The whole deal. The office team put together a monstrous triple-decker cheeseburger for Ray in IT, who was playing shortstop in the softball game. Not only did he accept and consume the whole thing, but he actually made a play mid-burger.
It’s a pretty accurate description of both Ray and Irrational: sometimes you need to – and get to – make a play mid-burger.
After the picnic, several of us adjourned to a nearby bar, which was having Wednesday afternoon Bring-Your-Kid-To-Karaoke. We’re talking seven-year-olds in little princess dresses. One of my coworkers got up and kicked the crap out of “Ice Ice Baby.” That’s a pretty good representation of life at Irrational, too.