I started my career in game development from the ground floor, as a security guard at SCEA in San Diego. When I realized that video games were actually, for real, being made there and not just in Japan, I quickly jumped into testing. While in QA and later Customer Service, I learned an amazing about how video games get made and how design decisions impact players.
After joining Sony Online Entertainment, I was fortunate enough to receive an opportunity to apprentice in design on EverQuest II. Over the next nine months, I was able to try a variety of design disciplines and found my home making live event content, which allowed me to work on diverse aspects of the game, from raid scripting and level design, to itemization, UI design, narrative, and everything in between.
After five years and four expansions on EverQuest II, I moved on to Free Realms, where I first led a team, as Lead Systems Designer. Free Realms was an extremely diverse game with traditional RPG systems and unique features like pets, non-combat classes, and minigames. I also led the UI team, to create and usability test, a front-end meant to be easily understood by kids.
After Free Realms, I became the Lead Designer for Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, which was another game for kids built in the same engine as Free Realms. We were able to work closely with LucasArts and integrate the game with the show, releasing new levels that let players join in on the episode they just watched. It was a fun project where I was able to design a large variety of minigames, while mentoring the designers on my team.
After Clone Wars, our leadership team moved to start pre-production on PlanetSide 2. I left early in this process, but was able to contribute to the early design.
My next journey took me Trion Worlds and RIFT in San Francisco. Working on RIFT gave me incredible insight into designing for dynamic content. Exposure to this group of extremely talented designers, engineers, producers, and artists leveled me up. I was lucky enough to work on a pitch for a new game, where I learned a significant amount about communicating a broad vision. It was an invaluable experience that set me up for success in the future.
After a year I moved back to San Diego to work on Defiance, where again I was able to level up my design skills due to the influence of an amazing team. Defiance marked a number of firsts for me, including the first time I worked on a third-person shooter, worked with a full cinematics and narrative team, designed for console release, and took part in a formalized level design process. All of these experiences were eye opening and changed the way I thought about design, becoming less gut and more rational. Post-release, I also learned the hard lesson of fewer, higher quality, better tested features and systems provides a better experience than the opposite.
When the Trion San Diego studio closed, I was fortunate to move back to SOE and lead the release of PlanetSide 2 on the PlayStation 4. The lessons on learned on Defiance for developing console UI served me well, as we tackled the huge task of translating the very PC-centric interface to work for a console. Instead of quickly bashing in controller support for the existing UI, I drove the decision to make a completely separate interface. While, some screens were reused, my team and I spent extensive time revising, iterating, testing, and polishing a completely new interface. In addition to redesigning the interface, we also tackled the new player experience by adding a brand new level intended to more slowly ramp players into the immense depth of the game.
When SOE was purchased and became Daybreak, many management changes happened that led me to take over design leadership for all of PlanetSide 2. With a reduced team size, the Executive Producer and I planned a future for the game to add more sandbox features that put more strategic and tactical variety into the players’ hands. I led the design for the main conduit, the Construction System. Our small team of passionate developers and I collaborated to come up with a system that was scopable, flexible, monetizable, and could grow throughout the lifetime of the game. Even though I left the team before the release, I was immensely proud when the system launched to see how much iteration and polish the team put into it.
Next, I was asked to take over design leadership on the Landmark team to prepare the game for release from early access. Our main objective was to provide value to those players who already invested in the game by giving them a finished game. We spent our time improving and the UI and making it consistent, building lore and a world, tuning, itemizing, balancing, redo’ing the new player experience, and generally doing our best to make it something we were proud of.
During that process I was made the Creative Director of the EverQuest franchise and am enjoying the privilege of working on one of the most iconic IPs in gaming history. Additionally, I’ve been doing outreach to local game development programs.