1. Hey Guest! If you're more than just a WildStar fan and want to keep up on the latest MMO news, reviews and opinion pieces then I'd like to suggest you visit our sister site MMO Central

Staff Spotlight No.2: Eric Demilt [Exclusive]

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

  1. Mr.Mike

    Mr.Mike Original Founder

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2009
    Likes Received:
    96
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    [​IMG][​IMG]

    In our second Staff Spotlight we interview Senior Producer, Eric DeMilt. Eric goes into a lot of detail and talks about his role at Carbine Studios and shares many things from how he got into the industry, to his view on game-play and storytelling, plus Eric also touches on some of his own personal hobbies.

    So without further ado, here is our Staff Spotlight with Eric. Enjoy!
  2. Mr.Mike

    Mr.Mike Original Founder

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2009
    Likes Received:
    96
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Hi Eric, please introduce yourself to the community and tell us a little about your role at Carbine Studios?

    My name is Eric DeMilt, I’m the Senior. Producer here at Carbine Studios. As a producer, my primary responsibility is to make sure the dev team has everything they need to make a kick ass game. This means a lot of scheduling, task prioritization, resource balancing, and making sure people are communicating. These are the fun bits, I get to be very hands on with the development of the game. In addition, I am also responsible for many of the day-to-day operations of the studio. Less fun than making the actual game, but it is still important.

    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?"

    My first big break came in two parts. To begin with, I went to High School with a guy called Feargus Urquahrt (Obsidian founder). He went to college in San Diego but would come back on breaks and work as a tester at a game company in Costa Mesa called Interplay. I was going to school at the same time and working a couple of different jobs. Testing sounded super fun, (getting paid to play games, how sweet is that!) so I bugged him to get me a job.

    I started as a part-time tester. I’d come in at night, test different games, and leave bug reports on the desk of a supervisor I rarely saw. I guess I’m good a breaking things, because part time turned into full-time, and I got to work on some amazing games.

    This initial break opened the door to my “first big break”. One of Interplay’s producers offered me a position as his assistant. This is really the point where the door opened and working in games changed from being just a really cool job I was doing while studying to get a real job, into an actual career path. I could go on a ton about what a great time in the industry it was, or how cool Interplay was at the time, but the simple version of the story from there is that the first producer I worked for, Michael Quarles, was an incredible mentor and I can trace anything I’ve done well in the industry back to the things I learned from him.

    There were a ton of other great people at Interplay and I learned a lot from each of them, but it really all started with getting my foot in the door as a tester, and then having the opportunity work for a talented producer, at a really unique time in the industry.

    Outside of working for Carbine Studios and away from computers, what would you say is your favorite hobby or type of entertainment?

    I don’t know that I have any one favorite. I like to do a pretty broad range of stuff. Anything outside is great– hiking, mountain biking, just being outside, especially if it’s with my kids. Anything on or near water is nice – kayaking, fishing, diving, the beach or the pool. Fixing stuff and working with my hands – I think I like it when things break around the house because it gives me an excuse to take stuff apart or run to Home Depot.

    To get a better perspective of sort of gamer you are, could you briefly share your preferred method of play. Also how would you rate the following game aspects based on your personal play style? (ie. PvP = 5/10)

    PvP = ?/10 | PvE = ?/10 | Crafting = ?/10 | Raiding = ?/10 | Role-Playing = ?/10

    You’ll have to ask Tim Cain about design changes to Fallout based on my preferred method of play, but it can be best summarized by “Shoot first. Ask questions later...”

    PvP = 7/10 – I’m not really a PvP guy in MMOs, but I do love getting my ass kicked by “internet gangsters” in a good FPS on Xbox LIVE... PvE = 9/10 – Probably where I spend most of my time. Even in a game like WoW. I love that it’s a big world full of people but I don’t really want to deal with any of them. Crafting = 2/10 – Not my thing... too much micro-management not enough immediate reward. I see why people love it, but it doesn’t really draw me in. Raiding = 2/10 – Again, not my thing. Too much waiting around, and my “Leroy Jenkins” play style usually leads to disaster and a lot of yelling. Role-Playing 1/10 – I can see why people enjoy it, but it’s never something I’ve really gotten into. My version of RP is to turn my mic off so I don’t ruin the experience for other people.

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

    Wasteland - without a doubt! Wasteland was a post-apocalyptic role playing game and was the first computer game I really got sucked into. I’d played a lot of different games up until that point and had a lot of fun with them but Wasteland was the first one that really drew me into a world. My friends and I would play it for hours, each naming and developing a different member of the party and argued over what actions to take in combat (it was a turn based game…) and who got what loot (Ghetto MMO – 3 high school kids and an Apple II…). Anyway, the game was brilliant and I was hooked but wanting to make games and actually turning it into a career still seemed pretty disconnected. It wasn’t until I stared at Interplay as a tester a few years later and found myself working with some of the people who had developed Wasteland that I thought that making games was anything more than just a thing a lucky few got to do for a living.

    I’ve still got a copy of the Wasteland Survival Guide, and the C64 version discs and manuals on my office bookshelf today.

    New technology is constantly being developed for computers and video games. As a Producer, do you find that this technology is making your work easier or more difficult, or do you feel that any technology that enhances gameplay is worth any price? Please elaborate.

    I don’t think that technology necessarily makes our jobs any easier or more difficult, but it certainly expands the range of what we are able to do, and the types of games we can make. The project I’m working on now has features and connectivity I could never have hoped for on past projects. One of my first projects as an AP had a total budget of $30K, a platform with a 4 color screen, and we could draw out entire levels on a single 8.5x11 sheet of graph paper. Technology has certainly moved us way ahead in the quality of experience we can give a user.

    Technology isn’t the only thing, if you look at all the games that are successful these days, some are very driven by being on the cutting edge of technology, and some are just brilliantly executed but built on very simple platforms. In the long run, I think anything that enhances gameplay is worth some price (the evil producer in me won’t say “any price”…) but we are always striving to enhance gameplay. Technology is a big tool in the toolbox of things which can be used to enhance gameplay but it’s not the only thing we’ve got to work with.

    Many MMO players prefer enhanced gameplay over graphical enhancements such as extraordinary spell/lighting affects, great character animations, highly detailed equipment, etc... Personally, what direction do you feel MMOs are leaning towards? And is it a good or bad thing for the average MMO player?

    I think MMOs are evolving like any other game genre, but I don’t think there is any one direction they are leaning towards. I think it’s a really great time for MMOs and for the average MMO player. There are a lot of talented teams working on developing the next generation of MMOs, and a lot of different directions are being explored. I’m sure some will hang their hats on visual quality and groovy rendering features, while others will focus on unique art styles or unique play experiences. In the end, I think the average MMO player will have a greater number of higher quality games to choose from.

    The social aspects of MMOs are often described as what keeps players interested in the game or brings them back after they have left, yet with social networks becoming linked up more and more (e.g. chat linking to Facebook accounts), do you see this as being counterproductive, as people may not want to be contacted by certain other people, or as completely beneficial for gaming?

    I don’t think this is a problem that’s unique to MMOs. I believe it’s always been tough to strike a balance between the social draws of any activity with your friends, and the desire many people have to section off parts of their lives. Work friends, sports friends, gamer friends, drinking buddies, family friends, acquaintances, whatever. With ever increasing connectivity – MMOs, Facebook, Xbox LIVE, smart phones, etc. it can be harder to maintain those separations, if you want to, but it’s also a great opportunity to maintain and strengthen them as well. As long as these links are used intelligently and are offered to players as options, I think they are great for the games we make.

    Getting your audience mentally immersed in a game can be a difficult task, while taking them out of the immersion can happen incredibly easily, especially in an MMORPG. Sometimes it's the wrong music, poor voice acting or simply the wrong "Mood" of the surrounding area. Other times it may be the fact that a player runs into an invisible wall or perhaps the player restricted in some way due to a very linear gameplay. How would you minimize or hopefully remove all of these immersion breakers and keep the player's mind in the right place?

    I think this one is the “holy grail” of good entertainment. To immerse your audience in anything – a game, a play, a movie, a book, a theme park ride, whatever, requires a lot of things coming together. We’ve all seen movies by talented directors that didn’t work, read books by stellar authors that fell flat, and played games that did not live up to their promise. Personally I think the key is creating a setting or environment for (in this case) your game that draws players in, and appeals to them at a level and in a way that’s very hard to define. I don’t think there is a magic formula for this – it’s a combination of hundreds of factors-- but you know when you’ve got it and when things “hook up”. Once you have established this immersion there will always be things that threaten to take the player out of it. You can’t ever eliminate them all, but you can work to make them fit your setting and be less disruptive. For example: In an MMO, I’m sent off to kill 10 baddies to save a farm. In this case, the baddies will respawn and the farm will always be threatened. In a good MMO, the player is able to forgive that point. The baddies, the farm, and the farmer’s plight should feel solid enough to draw me in. I’ll just overlook the fact that this guy is always going to have monsters in his pumpkin patch. We need to make sure the setting/context is cool – I’m in a world where goblins attack farms. Give the players cool things to do – kill goblins and save farms. Once you’ve got a rock solid setting and enough fun things to in that setting, I really think the rest will take care of itself.

    Storytelling in MMORPGs is a difficult art, how would you try to keep the player following the story and not just flying through the content?

    Telling a story in an MMORPG can be difficult. I think the key is to remember the type of game you are making and not to focus too much on story elements or exposition that simply doesn’t fit that game type. Imagine, for example, If the game you are making is inherently non linear, and about a cool setting in which people can play and advance in a myriad of different ways; crafting, PvE, raiding, grouped, solo, etc. If the design is such that players can move through a game like this when and how they want, you probably shouldn’t try to tell a linear story. In the same way that storytelling is different for a 30 min sitcom vs. a feature film vs. a 700+ page novel, storytelling for an MMORPG is different than storytelling in most other games. To be successful and tell compelling stories we need to remember the game we are making and how our players are going to be playing it—then tell stories that fit that experience. If we create the most brilliant, edge of your seat, story ever for Villain X, and we have 20 levels of quest conflict leading players up to a confrontation with Villain X deep in his lair, but we’ve made game where it’s possible for 2/3 of players to be off doing other things and consuming other content during those 20 levels, we’ve not done a very good job of storytelling.

    What major influences do you think will shape MMOs in the future? And how do you envision the genre in a decade from now?

    I think a number of things will shape the future of MMOs. The biggest of these is all the work, thought, and creativity going into MMO development today. Some of the best developers in the industry are working on MMOs right now, and I think they’ll do a lot to advance the genre in ways I can’t possibly predict. Take the historic example of WoW. Blizzard takes an RTS IP, makes an MMO with it, and brings MMOs into the mainstream at a time when almost everyone was predicting the death of the PC as a gaming platform.

    I think that, over time the genre will mature and fragment a bit as more people develop high quality MMOs that focus on specific subsets of the audience (World of Tanks, for example) but overall I think the games will just keep getting better and better and a decade from now gamers will have more AAA MMO offerings to chose from on a wider range of platforms.

    Warrior, Healer, Mage, Rogue, or Ranger. Which class would you like to play most?

    Ranger – I love being as tough as a warrior (see earlier “shoot first” policy), but I love having the standoff ranged damage that usually comes with being a Ranger.

    You have just won a paid trip for two to anywhere in the world. Where would you go and what would you see there?

    Trip for two – I guess I’d probably have to ask my wife where she wanted to go, so I’d probably end up in Paris or something. Left on my own, I’d probably pick somewhere with a lot of wilderness. Yellowstone or in your really expensive, someone else is paying, so go far, far away scenario- Galapagos Islands, Great Barrier Reef, Cost Rica rain forest, anywhere like that.

    Working in an administrative position, people find themselves wearing many different "Hats". If each of these "Hats" were labeled to indicate each individual job you perform, what would be some of the names on each of your hats? I.E. Cheerleader, Traffic Cop, Food Delivery Boy, Politician, etc.

    I think I’d just need one hat that said “Whatever it takes!” I’ve worn hats of all the roles above and then some at one time or another in my career as Senior Producer. The list is way too long for this article, but I’d say the worst hat I’ve ever worn was the guy in a goofy costume on the tradeshow floor. I got stuck wearing an “Olaf the Viking” costume as part of a Lost Vikings promotion at a tradeshow one time. It sucked, I <REDACTED>ed, but it’s what needed to get done, so I did it.

    This weekend I’m clear coat painting some awards we had made up for an upcoming company meeting because the vendor didn’t and we need them by next Friday. Not nearly as bad as the Olaf deal and it was an excuse to go to Home Depot. : )

    I would probably be easier to come up with hats of things which Eric should never ever, under any circumstances, be allowed to do. I’m sure my team and some of my past supervisors already have some lists.

    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?

    The ideal for me would be as little structure as possible. There are stories about the old Nordstrom’s Employee Handbook on a 5 x 8-inch card with 1 rule that went something like “Use your best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.” -- that’s the ideal for me. I think that whenever they are empowered, smart, creative people will do incredible stuff.

    Game development is probably one of the best industries to build this type of organization. The work is inherently collaborative and creative. Nearly every aspect of a game can be improved by almost anyone with the right idea, the energy, and opportunity to see that idea realized. Although we work in the real world and it’s not possible to give everyone a single rule and let them go crazy with creativity, we try to set up as few rules as possible. It’s easier to fix problems when they arise than it is to create a million rules and guidelines to prevent problems from happening in the first place.

    I could go on endlessly about this one. How effective organizations work and are structured is something I get really nerdy about. To keep it short though, I don’t think there is one perfect structure-- Personally, I prefer as little structure as can be practically managed. But it really depends on the people you have to work with and the environment you are in and the project you are working on. There is no one size fits all solution.
    Brotoi likes this.
  3. Mr.Mike

    Mr.Mike Original Founder

    Joined:
    Nov 8, 2009
    Likes Received:
    96
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    On behalf of all of us here at Carbine Central, we would like to thank Eric 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. 3 where we interview Art Director, Matt Mocarski.
    .selebu likes this.

Share This Page