It’s been a while since we did our last batch, but with the games business having blossomed into a hotbed of ongoing recruitment, it seems like a peachy time to bring back Rare’s in-house staff profiles. Hopefully these will prove informative for those hoping to get into a particular line of work, but also entertaining enough to be worth a read for anyone interested in Rare or a general industry career.
To kick us off: Rich Nguyen, Tools Engineer. Take it away, Rich!
Rare: What’s your background and how did you arrive at Rare?
Rich Nguyen: I began working at Rare pretty soon after finishing my Computer Science masters at York University. All my course mates were jumping into business jobs in London. I was sure I’d enjoy my career most if I did something I was really passionate about, so I looked into games programming rather than the FTSE 100.
Have you found yourself doing the job you always thought you’d do?
No! I had assumed that I would have been part of a games team, but my time at Rare has been far more organic than that. I have always had an interest in audio, and when my team picked up on this I was given work developing audio software for Banjo-Kazooie N&B. It was a brilliant way to focus on core technology whilst contributing to Rare’s latest title. Since then I’ve naturally grown into a tools engineer.
Which Rare games have you worked on, and what’s been your biggest achievement?
My first game was Banjo-Kazooie N&B, then I was part of the tools team for the duration of Kinect Sports and Season Two. I learnt a lot about the runtime during the first one, and was ready to take on some more engine and tools work for Season Two. But there was a need to for someone to take care of the audio asset pipeline in Season Two, and that turned out to be a full-time job for me! I had to create a bunch of new tools and systems for Season Two that allowed us to work effectively with our partner studio in Canada. I’m proud of the final transatlantic audio workflow we ended up with, so that’s my biggest achievement.
What do you see as the top perk of working for Rare?
I have two top perks! Firstly, being a key first party within Microsoft Studios is a real plus. We are at the very forefront of the games industry; always privy to the Next Big Thing, always working on something relevant. Secondly, Rare is about people. It’s a privilege to work with so many smart people who are also down-to-earth and friendly.
What do you find most exciting about your job?
Tools engineering is an immensely fulfilling job. It’s all about making decisions that can save others countless hours of frustration, so the satisfaction is often vicarious. At any given time in the development cycle, we are constantly evolving our ideas, so the role suits people who like to continually learn new things and improve current solutions.
What’s your vision for the future of tools at Rare?
We’ve adopted a brand new pipeline recently, so we’re taking the chance to redefine how things work. After learning so much from making our own bespoke tools in the past, we are now looking to avoid burdening ourselves with such complexity. We want to empower the other teams at Rare with tools they have full control of. I think the team’s current vision is just right. We’re aiming for a lean and effective toolset, and it’s simply a case of travelling in a straight line towards that goal.
Favourite Rare game, favourite Xbox 360 game and favourite game of all time?
My favourite Rare game is Conker’s Bad Fur Day, closely followed by Viva Piñata. On the Xbox 360, I’d say the flawed brilliance of Bioshock gets my vote. My all time favourite game today is Grim Fandango (I like to cycle through my favourite games list).
Any good (printable) anecdotes or memories from within the walls of Rare?
Very few Rare colleagues know that my secret identity is Rapid Robot. I’m not sure how that happened.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying for a role similar to yours?
I am most impressed by engineers who are flexible and well-balanced. There aren’t always ideal solutions in tools engineering, so the most successful approach is to show that you can use both experience and new skills together. Be able to confidently push for the right solution but encourage feedback that could help the team even more. Challenge everything, and improve things in ways that people didn’t think possible.
Weighing up a career in the games biz? What roles would you like to see covered in future Rare Life columns? Drop us a line and let us know.