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Staff Spotlight No.1: Jeremy Gaffney [Exclusive]

Discussion in 'WildStar News' started by Mr.Mike, Aug 2, 2011.

  1. Mr.Mike

    Mr.Mike Original Founder

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    We kick-off our Staff Spotlight interview series with none other than Executive Producer, Jeremy Gaffney. This is the first of many exclusive staff interviews and we’re aiming to release future Staff Spotlight’s on a regular basis.

    Carbine Studios are still very secretive about their upcoming MMORPG, so we couldn’t ask them any game specific questions. We even tried prying their mouths open with all types of second hand dentistry equipment, which we bought off eBay for next to nothing, but these guys and gals at Carbine Studios cannot be cracked! So unfortunately, we couldn’t get them to cough up any new information about their project........ Blood, yes.

    Seriously though, the whole purpose of these interviews is to give the developers and staff members the opportunity to talk about themselves, as well as, let us get to know them better on a more personal level.
    So without further ado, we give you our very first Staff Spotlight with Jeremy Gaffney. Enjoy!
  2. Mr.Mike

    Mr.Mike Original Founder

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    Hi Jeremy, please introduce yourself to the community and tell us a little about your role at Carbine Studios?

    I’m Jeremy Gaffney – I’m Executive Producer for Carbine. I love our game so much that I play it daily, and get to be one of the louder voices in the room, celebrating and supporting our efforts when we do great stuff, or being one of the jerks who says when things aren’t going so well or a new feature isn’t so hot, while working to make sure we more or less stay on time and budget.

    My personal background started in programming and game design, although I generally manage now more often than doing Real Work™. I worked on Asheron’s Call, Ultima Online 2, City of Heroes, and Auto Assault, and helped on the publishing side for Guild Wars and Lineage 1-2’s US releases. There’s also a few unannounced and/or unreleased titles mixed in there as well.

    Even now, I’m still hoping a programmer will burst in the room and say “Gaffer, there’s a critical bug deep within our code, and only you can fix it!” – I haven’t coded for most of the last decade, but I can still dream.

    What was your first big break in the computer game industry, which you said to yourself, “WOW, I am finally getting paid for doing what I love?”

    Personally, I knew I wanted to make these games when I was eight or so – everything since then was just finding a way to do it. After college, a few of my similarly minded friends and I couldn’t get jobs in the industry because it was so hard to get in. So we came up with a Clever Plan®: We’d make a new company called Turbine* and start making a game. Since we knew that 90% of start-ups fail, we figured we’d run out of money in 6 months and fail – but then we’d have great titles on our resumes and real companies would be more interested in hiring us!

    However, that plan failed – we forgot that since we didn’t pay ourselves we couldn’t run out of money, so the company didn’t flop. Turbine has made a lot of games at this point (the Asheron’s Call series, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, etc. – so I guess it worked out; we never got around to the failing part).

    *A side note – Carbine and Turbine, despite the naming similarities, are totally unrelated. Carbine actually got named a few weeks before I joined the team 3 years ago, and my old Turbine friends have given me a lot of sassing about it.

    What computer game, regardless of genre, seems to have had the greatest impact on your desire to work in the computer gaming industry?

    Wow, too many to mention, but here’s a few:

    Old school/pre-working in the industry:

    Nethack (really Angband/Moria/Roguelikes in general): Showed me the value of content variation, setting up rules for the players and then giving ways to break them, and that you could insert hand-crafted content into generated content to make both feel more powerful.

    Diablo showed me how to take exactly the needed parts of the above and make them polished and playable by a larger audience. It sounds like that trivialized what they did, but that also is a really hard thing to do.

    Fallout: Don’t tell Tim, but this was a great game: deep RPG elements, meaningful consequences to player choices, and a unique blend of humor and a gritty world. Before that, I also loved Wasteland.

    MUDs: All the cool “gotta play more” factors of MMOs with nothing extra (like, say, graphics).

    XCom: Great genre-bending fun. Just an excellent combination of systems.

    Modern era, now that I’m in the industry: I play most of the MMOs (duh) – really there isn’t a one of them that doesn’t have some element you can’t respect and say “damn, good idea”. I play the Civ series (just excellent design), a variety of shooters (l4d most recently), a lot of the indy games (Braid, and similar), casual games (Lawn of the Dead aka Plants vs. Zombies, other Popcap and similar goodies) and more. Some of it is for research; I try to play a variety of genres so I “get it” about even games that I don’t play a lot.

    Is there a particular place or situation where you seem to typically get your best ideas for your work? i.e. the shower, while cooking, sleeping, sporting events, etc…?

    Designing in the shower is one of my favorites – the tiles help me mentally structure system designs or area layouts (it’s like having mental graph paper for me; goofy but true.) Plus: there’s a built in deadline to stay on track when the hot water runs out. I also design while hiking – for me it’s the right combination of emptying the brain of the usual while keeping it engaged enough to be stimulating.

    Are there any pranksters that work at Carbine Studios? Have you played any pranks on your co-workers? If so, did it make you infamous?

    Tim Cain is a known chocoholic (and really is a candy addict of all kinds) – so we decided while he was out to fill his office to the brim with candy – hundreds of dollars worth, thanks to donations from office mates. That was about a year ago – and candy is still attached to walls and dangling from the ceiling, and it does still get munched on occasionally mid-meeting.

    Thankfully, years of cold pizza and warm Mountain Dew have inured most of us to food poisoning.

    Our office has also seen a Richards Simmons impersonator visiting and singing for our AP/Community Guy, Troy Hewitt – and we share the love; we just recently sent a dancing gorilla in a tutu to our sister studio in Northern California (Paragon Studios, working on City of Heroes) to make sure they don’t too distracted with work either.

    In times past, we also convinced the NCsoft US CEO to come to the Carbine company party in a toga (which he did, for $20). CEO types are common targets; in a past company I filled up the president’s office with a Super Sugar Crisp knockoff brand (it’s a long story). Heck, going way back I helped install a hot tub in my college computer center after all the administrators left for the weekend. This blew all the fuses on the first floor out – in the middle of finals and just before theses were due. Whoops!

    As soon as the statute of limitations runs out, we’ll have even more stories…

    Do you typically try to incorporate the people, places and/or objects that you see everyday into your artwork or designs, or do you just try to make everything as original as possible?

    I think there’s an art to taking good designs from everywhere. I believe a good design tends to do the following:

    Consider something aspirational, from the real world or that’s fantastical. Aspirational means “something I’d love to do” – shoot aliens. Fly. Save the world. Go fishing. Anything.

    Take that cool thing and reduce it – what is the simplest system you can come up with that somehow still gives you core, the soul of the cool thing? Let me give an example; let’s suppose we were making Birdwatcher Online. What’s fun about that? Well, it could be a bunch of things:

    • The thrill of the chase. Maybe you need to sneak up on your birdy targets. Hmm, a potential stealth mini-game…there’s some neat stuff in there.
    • Lining up your binoculars/camera just right and capturing the shot (hey, that can be pretty satisfying – it is the same itch scratched by lining up the perfect photo in the real world – or very similar to, say sniping in your favorite shooter).
    • Seeing something rare – maybe you can witness something unusual, not just a rare bird but an animation or a rare behavior, and get rewarded for seeing it or “capturing it” on film.
    • Collections – there must be some deep human need satisfied by this, given how addicting many achievements and games are based on this. Seeing and “collecting” all of a kind of bird – or seeing all the behaviors a given bird is capable of, or of fully “understanding” a bird by watching it do all of eating, flying, landing, etc. could be deeply satisfying.
    So I believe the most elegant designs capture the essence of a real-world (or imaginary) subject into the simplest system that can contain it.

    When managing your team at Carbine Studios, do you like to have a very structured environment with the staff, with tighter guidelines, or do you more or less just stand back and let the team go crazy with their creativity, with loose guidelines?

    Personally, I like a mix – there are over 100 of us here working away, and with no structure we’d go crazy. However, the best ideas generally come from letting loose the hounds of creativity, so we try for a mix.

    We do a lot of rules by department – programmers have a different set of “core hours” where everyone should be here as opposed to art or design, for instance. In my experience it’s very difficult to maintain a company culture as you get bigger and bigger – there’s a tendency to get more and more restrictive. My answer to that is to have very few rules at the “big company” level and let smaller units form their own subcultures: different departments set their own core hours or rules for crunching or not rather than having it be a big studio-wide dictate from the company that might or might not really be “one size fits all.” This sometimes causes friction – maybe a programmer is annoyed that he has to crunch while the artists don’t, or something similar – but it does let us have some flexibility as well.

    So, we aim for a kind of barely-controlled chaos. Sometimes it might get a bit too controlled or a bit too chaotic, but we have the right goals in mind.

    Is there anything else you would like to say before we wrap things up?

    In closing, I just want to thank everyone for all the support! We’re really excited to talk about what we’ve been up to, and we look forward to doing more and more of these features as we move forward with development. There are lots of unique voices here – with lots of interesting things to say. Every day the game’s getting better, and we’re really looking forward to revealing more and more of it.
    .selebu likes this.
  3. Mr.Mike

    Mr.Mike Original Founder

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    On behalf of all of us here at Carbine Central, we would like to thank Jeremy for finding the time out of his busy schedule and taking part in our Staff Spotlight interview series.

    Please join us again soon in our Staff Spotlight No. 2 where we interview Senior Producer, Eric DeMilt.

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