This article is part of Virtuos Insider, a series of interviews where Virtuosi share about their careers and experiences in the company and video game industry at large. In this installment, we chat with our colleagues from Virtuos Lyon to find out more about their journey building the studio from scratch, and what they envision for the studio.
Exactly one year ago today, we celebrated the launch of Virtuos Lyon, our engineering-focused studio dedicated to the research and development of solutions for complex and technical game projects. Led by Aurelien Kerbeci, Studio Director, and Domenico Albani, Technical Director, Virtuos Lyon’s team size has since tripled from 12 to 40 in the past year.
Despite the geeky or serious stereotypes that engineers are often branded with, our colleagues in Virtuos Lyon are some of the most outdoorsy, fun-loving and goofy people you’ll meet. To learn more about how the past year has been at our Lyon studio, we sat down for a chat with software engineers Romain Giocanti and Pierre Elloy, alongside Aurelien and Domenico.
Romain, Pierre, Domenico, and Aurelien (left to right)
Please introduce yourself and tell us about a personal hobby that you enjoy in your free time.
Aurelien: Hi! I’m Aurelien, Studio Director at Virtuos Lyon. I enjoy cooking and doing outdoor sports in my free time.
Pierre: I’m Pierre, a junior software engineer, and I love trying out new things such as eating at a new restaurant, visiting new places, meeting new people, and hiking. Gaming is still in my blood though; I spend most of my time indoors playing video games.
Romain: Hello! I’m Romain, a junior software engineer. I enjoy reading, playing competitive video games, hiking, and discovering restaurants and pubs in Lyon.
Domenico: I’m Domenico, Technical Director at Virtuos Lyon. My free time first goes to my family and two young daughters. Besides spending time with my family, I enjoy gardening, reading comics, and playing video games.
Tell us about your journey in game development. What attracted you to the games industry, and what keeps you going?
Aurelien: I started as a software engineer almost 20 years ago (wow, time flies!).
I’m still amazed at how the games industry has evolved, from monochrome floppy disk games to blockbusters in a relatively short period of time. The industry transforms constantly and there is always something new to learn and discover, which is a key driver for me. I’m also having lots of fun playing games, including the Horizon franchise that Virtuos worked on!
Romain: I’ve always enjoyed video games, but I never thought that I would make a career out of it until I decided to apply for a gameplay programming degree. I eventually realized that I love making video games and contributing to the creation of great experiences for gamers like me.
I also love the incredible range of projects that Virtuos is part of. Every project I’ve worked on till now has been wonderful, and we get to work with big studios all around the world! At Virtuos, we face new challenges every day and the tasks we are working on are very diverse – as I solve each challenge, I continue to learn and improve my skills as a developer.
Domenico: My curriculum vitae has always been based on pure happenstance and unexpected opportunities. I studied computer science and engineering in university and stumbled upon an internship in a video game company in Lyon in 2002.
I immediately fell in love with programming video games more than anything else and joined the engine programming department. As I progressed, I landed an opportunity in 2013 to co-create my own company, OSome Studio, as a technical director. That was an amazing experience as we developed our own proprietary technology.
Eventually, the opportunity to start a new studio in Lyon with Virtuos came along, and it has proven to be an amazing place to learn from innovative and motivated individuals worldwide, while surrounded by the best in the industry. My journey in game development has been of non-stop learning and exploration, and that’s what drives me.
Pierre: I started my journey as a developer in a different industry initially, but I wanted to try something more challenging and exciting, so I shifted to the games industry by self-learning the required technology and displayed what I learnt during game jams. I eventually found myself doing an end-of-study internship at Virtuos, and despite my lack of prior experience in a video game company, Virtuos gave me the opportunity to prove my skills with important tasks. Eventually, I was offered a full-time position here and I definitely see myself here for many years to come!
What is your biggest career highlight so far?
Aurelien: That’s a tough one, there are so many things that I’m very proud of! One would be shipping one of the first games for the iPhone which I developed with some friends back in 2008. My biggest career highlight most recently would have to be building this studio here in Lyon, which has been particularly exciting as I get to work with many amazing people.
Romain: I would say my biggest highlight would be the game I contributed to during my second year in school. We went to Paris to present our game at the Ping Awards, a ceremony celebrating the best games made by French professionals and students. Many people of all ages tried our game and had a great time. I was happy to see that they were enjoying it, and personally, that’s what game development is all about.
Pierre: A while back, I did an internship in Benin where I had the opportunity to teach the local students about digital literacy and other tech skills. While it was a bit of a culture shock for me at the beginning, I also learned the most about myself during this period, and how privileged we are.
Domenico: Like many programmers, I started a personal project for the pleasure of coding my own custom engine from scratch. After eight years of sleepless nights and collaborations, the engine finally went pro with the creation of my company, and was subsequently used to produce 11 titles for OSome Studio and Passtech Games. Those games have been shipped to PCs, consoles, and mobile platforms, and the engine will continue to be used by other developers for a while longer. It’s the kind of pride you get when you see your baby grow up and become independent!
Tell us something interesting about Virtuos Lyon!
Pierre: The coffee at Virtuos Lyon is delicious, and we also get a fruit basket every Tuesday. It’s a whole lot of fun here, and we go out for lunch together every day at different restaurants.
Domenico: My experience shows that your first job in your very first studio particularly influences the rest of your career. Fun fact: some of the key members of Virtuos Lyon met in another studio 20 years ago. Coincidence?
I can’t wait to see the trajectory of our current team, knowing that they are working with many famous clients that own the most advanced technologies, and come from diverse cultures around the world.
Romain: The studio location is perfect; it is very central and we have a lot of restaurants nearby so deciding what to eat for lunch every day is very tough, hahaha!
Aurelien: While we are working on the next generation of video games, our office is situated in one of the most historically-rich buildings in Lyon called Grand Hôtel-Dieu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s an interesting contrast, building the future of games and technology while we’re surrounded by history.
As a bonus fun fact, when you join our team, your first mission is to select your video game cosplaying rubber duck. This method of debugging code actually works!
Our rubber duck squad in Virtuos Lyon!
Pierre and Romain, what’s the team culture like at Virtuos Lyon, and could you describe your experience as a new joiner on the team?
Romain: I managed to integrate into the team very quickly. Everyone here is pretty chill and friendly, and we eat together during our lunch breaks. We also play some videos games or board games sometimes. Our team organizes a lot of events, so it’s pretty common to grab a drink with team members after work and attend sports events together. I think these events helped the team bond quickly.
Pierre: Yeah, I feel pretty integrated too and I’ve never felt left alone. I received a lot of guidance from senior team members and it helped me increase my skills. Small activities such as having lunch together with new coworkers really bring the team closer together.
Pierre (left) and Romain (right) goofing around
Pierre, what was your most memorable moment at Virtuos Lyon since your time here as an intern with us?
Pierre: During my internship, I was tasked with reworking a camera system for a project. Once it was in the prototype stage, our clients came to the studio for a meeting to try it out and give feedback. I felt a lot of joy and pride when they gave good reviews and constructive feedback on what I could do to improve the camera system. I think that was the moment when I felt that my work was seen, and that I had made a difference.
Romain, you were with us as an engineer at Black Shamrock before moving to Virtuos Lyon. What led to the switch, and how has the experience moving to Lyon been so far?
Romain: As I was in Dublin at Black Shamrock and away from home during the height of the pandemic, I wanted to be closer to my family and friends and also be able to work back in France. Through Virtuos’ internal mobility program, I was able to transition very smoothly from Black Shamrock to Virtuos Lyon, and a lot of it was thanks to the management teams at both studios. Shoutout to Marios, Lukas, Mathieu, and everyone else who helped out!
I really like Lyon – as mentioned earlier, I love eating and discovering new dishes, and Lyon is the gastronomical capital of France! Lyon is a prime location, so you can go everywhere you want around central Europe quite conveniently. Though I must say that I miss Dublin and Black Shamrock, so I could end up moving there again for work in future, nothing is impossible. 😄
Aurelien and Domenico, you’ve been driving Virtuos Lyon’s growth from day 1, from 12 to 40 studio members in a year. How has the experience been like, building the team from the start?
Aurelien: It has been a very challenging yet exciting journey! We signed our first project, hired key studio members, organized the team, and found our office space – all in the blink of an eye. There’s never been a boring moment in our first year. Of course, all of this was made possible thanks to the efforts of the entire team.
Domenico: Everything has gone by so quickly. Initiating something so ambitious is not without some effort and difficulty. On the other hand, we’ve achieved so much in a short period as well!
I’m very proud of the whole team that has made this possible. We always keep in mind that the conductor does not produce any notes. Our Virtuosi are that the ones who produce actual value, and we have very talented ones. Seeing the obstacles we’ve overcame so far, I’m confident that the times ahead are even brighter.
Aurelien (left) and Domenico (right), our co-founders of Virtuos Lyon
Aurelien and Domenico, what is your vision for Virtuos Lyon?
Aurelien: At Virtuos Lyon, we love tackling complex and technical challenges faced in modern game development.
We want to offer best-in-class engineering services to help AAA game developers succeed and bring their ambitious projects to life. And of course, we want to continue providing a great place to work, learn, grow, and have fun together!
Domenico: Aurelien has said it all. Personally, I want to create a strong, skilled, and happy team, produce amazing engineering value, and deliver the best quality to clients and players.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work as an engineer in game development?
Aurelien: Be curious, and keep pushing beyond your comfort zone.
Domenico: Select your chosen field and explore it, dig into it, experiment, and become the best you can be. You will get unique skills and perspectives, and your exchanges with others will be fulfilling. Eventually, you will have progressed in several related areas as well.
Romain: Be curious and experiment on your own. Start your own personal projects. Even if you don’t finish your prototypes, you would’ve learned a lot along the way. Don’t be afraid to jump in even if you think that you don’t have the full set of skills required, and always remember to have fun.
Pierre: Work hard, stay motivated, and do fun things. If you are in search of challenging and fun problems, I believe you will love working with us at Virtuos! 😊
Thank you, Aurelien, Domenico, Romain, and Pierre, for sharing your thoughts with us! As a tight-knit team that doesn’t shy away from challenges, Virtuos Lyon will continue to offer best-in-class engineering services and help game developers everywhere succeed in bringing their biggest projects to life. We are inspired by Virtuos Lyon’s positive and can-do culture that embraces innovation at all levels, and look forward to their future breakthroughs!