"Meet the Team" InterviewEdit
Q: What do you do on Champions Online?
A: I’m coming into the team to act as Executive Producer, which means I’ll be holding the vision for the project. The immense responsibilities of production remain in the hands of Chris Lena and his team, allowing me to throw some additional muscle into the design process. I’ve literally played Champions since before it was published, having been invited into the back room of a game store to help playtest a new superhero RPG many years ago. I whipped up a claws character (killing attack FTW) and basically got my first taste of a super-powered brawl. I was instantly hooked, so the chance to come in and help bring the Champions Universe to a new generation of gamers is incredibly exciting.
Q: How long have you worked in gaming, and what did you do before Champions Online?
A: I’ve been in the industry for just over 14 years. I started by doing voice-over and music on Blackthorne for Blizzard Entertainment and then moved onto Warcraft: Orcs & Humans to create the world fiction, write the missions, put together the manual and basically everything and anything else they asked of me. Over the next 9 years I worked on the Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo franchises and did everything from design to production to working with outside developers and leading internal strike teams to press, marketing and eventually becoming a vice president.
In 2003, I started Flagship Studios (and later Ping0) with the core team of people that created Diablo and we put out our first game, Hellgate: London, in October 2007. We also were working on a casual online MMO called Mythos when we had to close the studio in July 2008.
I’m looking forward not only to bringing what I’ve learned from the numerous successes I’ve worked on to Cryptic and Champions Online, but also what I learned from the failures.
Q: What part of Champions Online are you the most excited about working on?
A: The game is really very far along. I’ll be looking at helping implement systems that have yet to be integrated into the game, such as crafting, in addition to adding my input to the polish process on things that have been in the game for a while and need refining.
There’s a great group of designers and developers on the game and I’ve really been blown away so far. I’m particularly interested in coming up with some ideas on how to make the game experience really last – things that players will want to do both with heroes they’ve built up over time as well as with new characters they’re creating. Bringing social and community aspects into the game is something that we never got right in Hellgate and I’d like to correct that moving forward.
Q: Who is your favourite Champions Online character?
A: I’ve always liked the name and concept of the hero Ironclad. He is an outsider to our world that is driven by honor and the desire to do good because of his past. Also, metal guys are just great!
Q: What is your secret superpower?
A: I can always choose the line that will take the longest to complete. Never stand behind me at a store, airport or bathroom queue at the ballpark.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I’m a gamer, so I play games of any and all types. I’m also a musician and spend quite a bit of time writing songs. I’m a movie fanatic and have about 1,000 DVDs, so having people over for cinema-themed parties with some Rock Band thrown in for good measure is always great. And did I mention sports? Go Giants / 49ers!
Q: What games are you currently obsessing over?
A: Blitz the League II, Fable II, Fallout 3, and the old standby, World of Warcraft. I also play in a monthly poker tournament because poker is the best game ever.
Q: What is an interesting fact about you that players would be surprised to know?
A: Every day I take a photo, write exactly 50 words on any topic and pen a haiku that I share with my friends. I’ve been doing this for a little more than 3 months and it’s amazing how challenging but centering it is.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a game designer?
A: If you want to be a designer, you have to intrinsically love games and constantly be thinking in terms of mechanics. When you’re playing a game – any game – you’re thinking about why they made the choices they did and why the game is or isn’t fun. The best advice I can give someone that wants to get into game design is to just do it. Design your own games with pieces and parts from other games, make up your own cards, or use an editor from another project to get your ideas represented. There is no substitute for trying out your ideas in any way you can and then iterating on that design. And play. Play a lot.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: The thing I’ve missed the most over the past few years is the chance to really interact with the community. This was something I loved while at Blizzard, but when we started Flagship, the duties and focus of being CEO made me much more of a “suit” than I’d ever been. With my attention on running the company, talking with publishers and press, and basically making the company my product, the guys who were in the trenches every day on the game were the ones that got to interact with the players. I’m excited about being able to get back to what I love best – making games and talking with gamers.