John Hopler is a lead content designer for Champions Online.
"Meet the Team" InterviewEdit
Q: What do you do on Champions Online?
A: I'm the content implementation lead for the Champions Online content team. Zeke (Sparkes) and John Layman come up with the who, what and where of our content; I concentrate more on the HOW. My time is split between implementing cool new mission content and events, answering implementation questions and talking with our programmers and producers about any new technology or tool features the team needs for the areas we are working on.
Q: How long have you worked in gaming, and what did you do before Champions Online?
A: I've been working in gaming for almost 20 years now. I started out as a freelance writer/designer for pen-and-paper games, and eventually turned that into a full-time job with Pinnacle Entertainment working on the Deadlands games. I used that experience to hoodwink Cryptic into giving me my dream job of working in the computer game industry.
Q: Tell us about the pen-and-paper RPGs you designed.
A: I'm probably dating myself, but I started our doing freelance work for West End Games (who doesn't love TORG?), Iron Crown (Silent Death) and Chameleon Eclectic. I designed my own collectible card game, The Last Crusade, which was published by Pinnacle Entertainment. Not long after, I started working there full time on the Deadlands RPG. My time at Pinnacle was an awesome learning experience since I got to wear many hats: writer, designer, editor, art director. At some point I worked on all three of the Deadlands lines – Weird West, Hell on Earth and Lost Colony – but I'll always have a soft spot for the original. I love that Brom cover. I was also fortunate to work with a lot of talented people who have gone on to bigger and better things in the pen-and-paper and computer game industries.
Q: What is your typical workday like?
A: I usually come in, get a big mug of coffee, zone out for about 30 minutes or so, and then fill out my TPS reports.
Seriously, though. Coffee. Then I go through my e-mail and answer any questions from programmers or production about the tools or any new tech needs the team has. After that I spend some time fixing bugs or adding polish to existing content based on playtest feedback. Once that's done, more coffee. Squash a few more bugs, add a little more polish. Lunch. More coffee. Having now achieved a heightened level of consciousness where I can detect the individual beats of a hummingbird's wings, the rest of my day is spent creating exciting new content.
Q: Who is your favorite Champions Online character?
A: Doctor Destroyer. He appeals to my need for world conquest.
Q: What aspect of Champions Online are you most excited about?
A: The level of interactivity in the game world. We want the game world to feel alive for the player, so we are designing our zones with all sorts of interesting mini-events, sub-bosses and the like. The opponents the player faces aren't just standing around waiting for some do-gooder to gank them.
Many of our instanced maps are designed from the ground up to reward creative thinking and varied team make-ups. Depending on the skills and powers a group brings to the map, the players will find different options open to them that can make progress easier or give extra rewards.
Q: What is you secret superpower?
A: Jingles and theme songs. I have more brain cells wasted to the storage and retrieval of obscure commercial jingles and TV theme songs than 99.999 percent of the human race.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: Space piracy.
Q: What three things would you want on a deserted island?
A: All of these are related to my answer for the previous question. I need a computer, a satellite internet link, and rum (or maybe coffee).
Q: What is something about you that players would be surprised to know?
A: I have two bus driving championship trophies in my closet. And no, I didn't steal them.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to break into gaming?
A: Play games, lots of games. Look at the games critically. The number one criteria is did you enjoy the game. But beyond that, look at what worked and what didn't. Did the interface help or hinder the player? Was the game balanced? Did the choices made by the designers fit the subject material?
Also, if you have a favorite game with an accessible editor, try making a small map or mod for it. Don't just write down your idea and call it a day. Actually finish it, play it and polish it. Lots of people have cool ideas, but to do well in the industry you need to be able to translate those ideas into actual gameplay and content.
Q: Do you have anything you would like to add?
A: Yeah. I can't wait to meet everyone online next year!