Meet the Team Meet the Team - Commander Sputnik and Commander Electron

Paige Harvey

Community Manager
Frontier
Hello Commanders, and welcome to our second Meet the Team interview of 2019!

Over the years, Elite Dangerous has grown and evolved and so has the team working on it. Because of this, we wanted to give you the opportunity to learn a little more about the people who work on the game and to get a glimpse into life here at the studio. Last month we spoke to Principal Game Designer, Steve Kirby, and this month we're speaking to Commanders Sputnik and Electron from our customer support team!

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Let’s get started and introduce ourselves one at a time!

CMDR Sputnik
Hello, I’m Commander Sputnik of the Frontier Developments Customer Support Team!

CMDR Electron I’m Commander Electron, also of the Customer Support Team.

Excellent, let me just say, you all do fantastic work in the Support Team, and I know the Elite Dangerous community agrees! So, how long have you both been with Frontier Developments?

CMDR Sputnik
So, I’ve been with Frontier Developments for… almost a year!

CMDR Electron I’ve been in the position just over a year, so a little bit longer than Sputnik. I only started a couple of months before her!

You’re both part of our fantastic Customer Support Team, what do you see yourself doing in the future?

CMDR Electron
Well, having spent a lot of time doing a number of different jobs in my short amount of years on this earth (everything from recruitment to tech advice)… I actually just want to do this, customer support! I’m hoping to make a career within customer support and continue supporting our community in bigger and better ways.

CMDR Sputnik Yeah, CMDR Electron is very suited to it, I’d say. He’s always helping me out! As for me, I'd love to get into art. I dream of being a character artist one day and it’s what I’ve always aspired to become.

Tell us how you got into the games industry originally.

CMDR Sputnik
Ah, well actually I got into the games industry by applying for this job! It’s always been an interest of mine to work in the industry. I’d literally just finished my master's degree and taken a gap year, then I happened to find this position listed and… got the job! Getting it is actually something I didn’t expect to happen, because I didn’t have any previous technical support experience, but I had a passion and a drive to learn. After I had my first interview, I went outside and just thought to myself “this is where I want to work.”

CMDR Electron I got into this specific role after I’d done some support/technical adviser roles at my previous job, a mobile banking company. However, my degree was in Computer Games Technology in which I spent three years studying the production, development and the creative aspects of video games. I didn’t want to get into games development itself, but I wanted to find another position in the industry which apply the skills I'd already learned elsewhere.

I love that both of you had very different entries to the industry, but both revolved around passion and a drive to learn. Do you have any advice for anyone trying to get into the games industry?

CMDR Sputnik
Oh, god… I don’t know! I just took a chance, even though I wasn’t confident. Initially I thought the experience would be very daunting, but everyone was friendly and like-minded, and that surprised me. If you have the passion, don’t be intimidated, take a chance and understand that everyone has been in exactly the same position as you!

CMDR ElectronSo, I did the Video Game Technology course at uni and when I finished, I decided to try and break into the games industry. I failed to do so for nearly a year and so I took any opportunity I could get. If like me you're struggling to get into the industry, take what you learn with other jobs and apply it to the games industry. Every job has transferable skills that will work in the industry, so hone them and make them work for you.

Wow, that was pretty intense but some great advice. Let’s break it up with a quick fun question! Today, we’re largely talking about Elite Dangerous, but what is your favourite Frontier Developments game?

CMDR Sputnik
Uh… so truth be told, I love Elite Dangerous, but I do find it really challenging at times! I’ve found myself thinking about it a lot and wanting to play more and more, because it’s a very enjoyable game once you find what it is you love doing in the universe. That being said, I think my favourite Frontier game is Jurassic World Evolution, I could literally play that game for hours and not realise I’d spent any time at all!

CMDR ElectronYeah, my favourite would have to be Elite Dangerous. Having bought into it at early beta initially, it’s just the go-to game for me. It’s great for passing time, and since VR was added it’s just… fantastic.

CMDR Sputnik It’s beautiful!

CMDR Electron Yeah, you know it just impresses me to no end, especially the Stellar Forge! The fact that there are things in-game that (I believe) were predicted by the system before they were found by NASA is mind-blowing!

Good choices. Can you tell us about a normal day in the Customer Support Team?

CMDR Sputnik
When our day begins (we have different shift patterns to best serve our games’ communities) we tend to get settled in before starting on daily tasks; these are things like social tasks (checking Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, forums for people who might need support advice), playing the game to keep up to date with the newest features (when possible!), meetings to also ensure we’re up to date, emails to answer and more. The bulk of our work, however, is with customer support tickets, which players send in for all manner of reasons and we answer them as best we can!

CMDR Electron That was pretty much my answer as well!

Now it's time for a tough question. What kind of challenges do you face working on Elite Dangerous?

CMDR Sputnik
For me, I think it’s the size of the game itself! There’s so many differing play styles and so much information to remember, that it’s impossible to know everything. When a ticket comes in with an issue, and it's not something we see frequently, I have to either investigate it internally with our various teams, head into the game to look into it myself, look at previous tickets and sometimes even turn to the Elite Dangerous community.

CMDR Electron Even with the knowledge that I’ve gained on Elite Dangerous over the past four-odd years of playing it, it’s such a vast game that there’s almost no way to know absolutely everything. I mean, we’ve generated a universe! It’s one of those games where you will end up with niche cases, where a player needs to know something very specific, like Sputnik mentioned. The way in which customer support is handled at Frontier means we can reach out to other teams and ask their advice. It means that even if we don’t know the answer, someone will, and they will gladly spend their time to help us support this fantastic community.

Good answers! Let’s lighten this up a little. Tell us about your favourite memory of working on Elite Dangerous.
CMDR Sputnik
I love having fun! Sometimes, roleplaying-type tickets come in and I get to play the part of a Pilots Federation member and respond in kind. Being part of a player’s own narrative is a lot of fun.

CMDR Electron Yeah, the lore interaction stuff is always really enjoyable! It’s funny, because in the Customer Support Team, we kind of are the Pilots Federation and so we can take actions that would reflect correctly in the game. We get to show our personalities and interact with the community. The best thing for me, as a player originally, is seeing what we can do for players and everything we've already done! It makes me proud to be part of this team.

Well, we do see some of your answers on Reddit when a Commander has found them particularly humorous! What’s your favourite thing the community has done in regards to Elite Dangerous?

CMDR Sputnik
Definitely the Fuel Rats. 100%. I think they’re great. When I first heard about them I thought ‘that is such a nice thing!’ The website they have is collaborative, friendly and professional and it’s such a great thing to do. I really admire them all. They also saved me once!

CMDR Electron I’d say the same but on a broader scale, because I’ve looked and seen so many facets of the community. For me, my favourite thing is how they gather together, create personas, roleplay and create these amazing galaxy-wide groups. Their Commander isn’t just a player in a game, it's so much more!

Another tough question coming up! What have you personally learned from working on Elite Dangerous, or even playing it?

CMDR Sputnik
That is such a hard question. I think resilience. When an issue comes up I’ve not encountered, I’ve learned not to just give up, I work through it, investigate, speak with the team and ensure the job gets done. It’s really taught me independence, because I didn’t have it when I joined the company and now I’ve learned to stand on my own two feet!

CMDR Electron I’d say persistence is something I’ve learnt from Elite Dangerous. Having played the game for as long as I have, I’ve been inspired to keep going, to keep learning and to keep growing and moving on! When it comes to behind the scenes, you have very unique systems like the BGS (Background Simulation), and I’ve never seen anything like that before in a game.

Fun questions again! Tell us what your favourite ship is, and why.

CMDR Sputnik
The Mamba! Just because of the name, it’s a sexy name. The ship itself isn’t my favourite. I personally love the Imperial Clipper because it’s curvaceous and sleek! The interior lighting is just beautiful, and the white paint is just so extra.

CMDR Electron Gotta be the Federal Corvette because it's such an industrial and efficient machine. You need a ship to cause an explosion? Federal Corvette. It even looks good doing it. It's the monster truck of Elite Dangerous and there’s nothing more you need.

Tell us a fun fact about you!

CMDR Sputnik
I’m an artist with a pretty unique style. Also, I’m obsessed with Shoto from My Hero Academia.

CMDR Electron I’ve had so many pets in my life. Currently I have three hamsters (Fibbles, Sundae and Popcorn) and four stick insects. Prior to that I had four dogs, three cats, guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits. We've only named one of the stick insects (Fetch) so if you have any suggestions, let me know!

Last question, if you could ask the community one question, what would it be?

CMDR Electron
If you had to have a ship, made from the front half of one ship and the back half of another, what monstrosity would you create? Imagine you cut two ships down the middle and tape them together.

That concludes our interview with the fantastic Commander Sputnik and Commander Electron of the Customer Support Team. Tune in next month when we'll be speaking to Senior Programmer, Kay Ross!
 
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Pet stick insect names.
Walking, Pooh and Glue.

Frankenships.
Front of a DBX and the back of a Beluga.
Front of a Clipper and the back of a T7.
 
Good interview: CMDR Electron IS as good as he sounds (that's from personal experience of his insightful help on one VERY trying occasion)... and I'm sure CMDR Sputnik is just as cool as are the rest of the entire support team. I've been knocking around in the game since early Alpha (38W 1D 8H 16M whatever that is in hours) and here on the forum since 2014 and have had multiple interactions with support (it's those er... bugs... you see... cough). You guys ROCK!.... best in the business!
 
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Front end of a clipper, rear end of a DBX.
You Customer Support people are absolute heroes. (I've been accident prone or stupid several times).
Would you prefer a support request be worded in a ingame way (perhaps making it harder to understand but keeping immersion) or a plain boring explaination?

Cheers
DZ
 
I have had support from both of these fine people and both were great. CMDR Sputnik in particular made me and my friends smile with their entertaining response.
On a side note, I can no longer un-imagine wanting a courier welded to the front of a dolphin.... That would be one sleek ship.
 
Surely Fetch's best friend should be called Carry!
And the obvious names for CMDR Electron's other two stick insects are Strange and Charm (or Bottom!).

Front end of a Type-10 with the back end of a Beluga.
Or the front of a Mamba with the back of a Krait Phantom.
And finally the front end of a Coriolis with the back end of Jaques' station! :D
 
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