Name and job title!
Chris Stewart! Producer (who sometimes designs)! Why are we yelling?!
What does a Producer do?
It varies from company to company, but in general a producer keeps an eye on how the project is coming together, watching all the various important dates on the calendar, liaising with publishers, and, in a sentence, doing whatever the team needs to help keep them on task and moving forward. Order in dinner, pick up office supplies, make coffee, pay the water dude, crack a few jokes, help someone move, wash dishes, write a LOT of emails, maintain our various web and PR assets (y'know, like these Q&As), answer interview questions, make sure the team answers interview questions, crack a few more jokes, and even, once, unplug a toilet.
I’m betting EA producers don’t unplug toilets. Squeamish types maybe…
And when all that is done, I help oversee voice recording, participate in the design meetings, set weapon arcs, any number of assistant designer stuff, whatever needs doing. Not all at once. Well, not always all at once.
What are some of your favorite games of all time? (not counting your own)
Ooh, Lemmings, which lead to a lot of The Lost Vikings. I love keep-em-alive puzzle games. I used to play a lot of RoboSport – dear Maxis, I have an iPhone. I’d pay good money for RoboSport on iPhone. If four of us were willing to take turns setting up our orders on a single Mac in the '80s, imagine how awesome it would be to play turns remotely on our phones.
This could take a while…
I played a lot of Ultima, which did lead to a lot of Everquest ultimately (hah), but not WoW – I ran out of spare time for MMOs, sad but true. What I really, really loved were city builders where stuff grew. SimCity was OK – better than OK obviously, a classic, but I really loved building my cities in Caesar and Pharaoh, and watching the fields change with the seasons. This lured me into FarmVille for a bit, but without all the city building and trading, it didn’t hold me for long.
I actually failed a University Course thanks to Mike Tyson’s Punch-out. In retrospect, I don’t know that I’d call it one of my all-time favorite games, but it’s hard to argue that it didn’t devour my life for three months.
I can also sing the theme song to Skate or Die? What does that mean?
More recently I’m trying, but never finding the time to complete a wide range of games, that I’m pretty sure are worth the praise, but it’s a massive list. Like, it’s actually hurting to think through them all.
In recent years, I’ve only finished Fallout 3, Bioshock, and Ghostbusters. Ghostbusters was great, but had a couple of quirks (trapping in 3D on a 2D screen has some issues, for example). I just had to play through as a fan of the movies. That it was actually fun was a bonus. Bioshock pulled me in and actually creeped me out like nothing else since hearing headcrabs for the first time. Fallout 3 was hard – not gameplay wise, but rather, it was depressing to play. I could only go for an hour or so before it became too morose to play. I got through it, but man, humankind is HOOPED in that game. Then I have a giant pile of games I’ve yet to find the time to complete. I’m currently stalled on Batman: Arkham Asylum, but I made good headway when I was playing it.
And I played way too much Spaceward Ho over the years. MOO is great, but adding up the hours, Spaceward Ho easily racked up the most time, just from intra-office multiplay. Actually, now that I think about it, most of my gaming in my middle-age is borne of whatever office I happen to be in at the time. GTA and Quake at Radical. At Barking Dog it was Spaceward Ho, Serious Sam, Counter Strike, Motocross Madness, Battlefield ’42, and Global Ops (I know that looks outrageous, but I was at BD for way longer than Radical, and the company was working on Global Ops and Counter Strike / Team Fortress, so that was testing… a lot of testing… heroic amounts of testing.) Some of that carried over to Rockstar, but in a blink of an eye, we had left to form Kerberos. More recently, in our decreasingly spare moments, we play Minecraft (company server), and whatever else we can get time in on – Borderlands, Red Dead Revolver, World of tanks… solid online co-op stuff. We like playing co-op over competitive. Ideally, all teams should be like that. Though, I’ll tell you proudly, I was a Motocross Madness wizard… on a keyboard. The team thought it was the Devil’s business. It was the first time I would honestly say I could brag about my skillz (with a zed.)
How did you get started in the games industry?
I followed the time honored tradition of starting as a tester and working my way up.
Favorite thing about making games
I like that it’s a rare job in a rare industry. People make assumptions about the work (“Oh, how lucky! You get to play video games all day!” Yes, the same work-in-progress for the better part of a year...) and the industry (“It’s like making movies, right?” No, not really), a lot of which misunderstand the amount of work required to make a game. But at the same time, nobody else in the world gets to solve the kinds of problems a dev team gets to solve. Not just technically, but creatively. There’s a line at the end of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 The Movie where one of the robots spots the special-effects team and cracks, “Oh, those are the guys that spend all day making elves dance.” That’s what I tell people I do… it’s not far off the mark, really.
The best thing about working at Kerberos is...
The team is great, and I’ve worked with a lot of great teams, but these guys are close to my heart. On top of that, the neighbourhood we get to work in makes this studio extra special to me. Everything a group of creative types could want is within easy walking distance. And it’s Vancouver, so walking is an option all year round. It’s nice to be something non-retail like game development, but still getting to be part of the community around our office.
Which is your favorite race?
I think I like the Humans the most. The more beginner-friendly modes of transport enjoyed by the Liir and Tarkas are fun, and I certainly appreciate the Liir maneuverability in combat, but Humans, with their node-lines get things moving fast at the start of the game, and provide a logistical challenge that I like. On more mellow days, I’d pick the Hivers as a close second for similar reasons – they’re much much slower at the start of the game, but the familiar bomb-burst expansion method is sometimes a nice bit of nostalgia.
Are you a warmonger or a diplomat?
Warmonger. I can do diplomat, but you can’t beat the easy learning curve of brute force.
Favorite feature of Sword of the Stars II?
The SotSpedia – the depth of the Sword of the Stars universe grew out almost as a happy accident. We informed so much of the game with how we saw the game universe that by the end of the first series, we have a huge wealth of information about who’s who and what’s what. Organizing a lot of that within the game is not only going to be convenient, but be fairly unique in a genre where it’s tough to let players experience anything approaching a detailed narrative.
What are you listening to right now?
The Caustic Soda podcast about mudslides.