Designers, programmers, artists and sound engineers can all create something beautiful in our games, but if the infrastructure of a games development studio isn’t up to the job, the creative process will soon come to a shuddering halt. Not only is team management essential, but the technology must be scratch. Step in the IT manager, the superhero of many a game studio in crisis.
Alan Lumley is the current IT manager for development studio Outplay Entertainment. It’s his job to make sure Outplay don’t need to worry about their equipment and focus on making titles such as Word Trick and Booty Quest. And when he’s not maintaining servers and infrastructure, he’s working as the Managing Director of Lumley Media Ltd, or laying down some electro-house beats as a DJ.
“To be a successful IT manager you need be very methodical about your approach,” Alan starts. “. Always look at the possible outcomes and find the right approach to complete your task or mission with minimal disruption to the day to day running’s of the business.”
You don’t have to be a videogame fan to be the IT Manager of a development studio, but it certainly helps in feeling part of the team. Alan spends a lot of his gaming time playing Outplay’s social game titles, but he still fits in some console gaming:
“I’m a Xbox 360 fan on the console front, playing the usual suspects such as Call Of Duty, FIFA ,and Tiger Woods. My favourite game of all time I suppose is still Ghost Recon as it was my baptism into online gaming. I spent weeks perfecting my skills at that game some time ago and still have very fond memories of playing it.”
Alan’s assortment of qualification certificates cover an array of operating systems, he doesn’t see any particular differences in what he has done previously as an IT consultant for companies, and what he does now at a development studio such as Outplay:
“There isn’t really a difference in creation of infrastructure for any company in my opinion,” Alan said. “The main fundamentals should always be adhered to. I would expect that taking on any IT Managerial role the person should always maintain that IT as a service should align with the company’s goals. The infrastructure should complement the needs of the business. The only difference is that the chances of a more diverse selection of software requirements could be expected within the games sector.”
So what does a typical day at Outplay entail? “Mainly I do the same things, checking servers and logs first and making sure the day is pain free for the guys using the systems.” Alan explains. “Work through tickets on a priority basis to clear them and ensure everyone is able to do their jobs. Apart from that the main goal of the day is to see how many coffees I can get Woody (Outplay’s assistant producer, Richard Wood) to make me in a day. If I am having a quiet day I can kill his Spotify remotely to see the pain on his face!” Alan joked.
“I am quite lucky that the whole team here are obviously very technically minded and appreciate technology and its place within the business to keep it all running. They go through the right channels before making a request and are quite happy to await their response with the reasons for or against what has been requested.”
The Outplay team also feel they are quite lucky, in between making coffees for Alan, Richard Wood highlighted that their IT manager is not only an asset to their development needs, but also a key component in stopping the team from hemorrhaging money: “Alan’s really important for us on a day to day basis,” Richard said. “If anything goes down, especially our internet connection, he has to respond immediately or we could literally be losing money. Luckily he does this, plus he makes a mean cup of tea!”
When Alan hangs up his cape as the technological guardian at Outplay, he spends his leisure time doing something else entirely, as electro-house DJ ‘Da General’ playing some of Scotland’s top clubs. Although Alan admits that recently he has scaled back his musical work in order to focus on other areas, his DJing credentials are pretty impressive.
He explained: “It was a more serious thing a couple years back when I was playing quite a lot but it was a hobby in all fairness and has been left alone for a while so that I can spend all of my time concentrating on my career.”
As well as playing with the likes of Public Domain, Anne Savage and Vibes, ‘Da General’ has also played sets for radio airplay and released two tracks on his own record label. Not too shabby for a hobby.
As IT security has evolved, so to have the hackers who set out to attempt to “break the system” in front of them. The rise to infamy of Anonymous and other similar hacker groups hasn’t changed the rules though according to Alan:
“Even before the rise of Anonymous and similar groups it has always been an important area that should be thought out and implemented. Companies generally have a lot of confidential or important data stored on their systems. In turn this should be protected with robust and secure systems. Bear in mind also however that hackers could take a network or servers down, where would this leave the desktops on the network? In short, we shouldn’t have to worry about this as there should be policies and security in place to prevent and recover from said risks.”
And so to some final words of wisdom from Mr Lumley to any fledgling IT students who may be reading:
“To be a successful IT manager you need to possess an exceptional attitude and be very methodical about your approach to all aspects of the service needed. Do not rush don’t lead a rash decision into a major issue. Always look at the possible outcomes and find the right approach to complete your task or mission with minimal disruption to the day to day running’s of the business.”