As flattering as it is to wish otherwise, I am only here because of the incredible influence of the people who have filled my life. Every person I meet gives me a shard of something new. This is a short list of a few from my past who have had the greatest impact:
|Right: Tom Cadwell|
Tom Cadwell (Zileas)
Tom and I were roommates and before that internet friends through Starcraft. Tom’s example by starting his own company (Ethermoon Entertainment) encouraged me to explore game design as a realistic life option. Similarly, as he learned from his own mistakes, he shared the seeds that became the framework for improving my own designs.
Later he invited me to the beta tests for the games he worked on for Blizzard Entertainment. After going back to college for his MBA, Tom Cadwell joined up with Marc Merrill, Colt Hallum, Steve Mescon and several others and founded Riot Games, known for the incredibly successful League of Legends.
Justin Crites (Xiphoris)
When the World of Warcraft Beta started, UI modification was close to anarchy. No two people could adjust the UI without utterly stomping on the other. Justin originally proposed a confederation of the most passionate developers and the hardware to host our projects. Incredibly inspirational, Justin enlisted me early on to help organize and manage the addons while he recruited additional authors.
He was also wise enough to take my advice that the name “Cosmos” was a better one than “EverythingScript”. As with all passions, Justin moved on and is now a senior software developer for Amazon.
Possibly the most well-read man I have ever met, Bill understood two things well – the scope of technology and the power of reducing the barrier to entry. When Justin and I were struggling to make our scripts available to the growing World of Warcraft player base, Bill offered hardware in exchange for letting him datamine our users. I shot him down completely the first time.
Wise as he was, he came back a few weeks later, this time offering a one-stop solution which automated our patching woes, allowed users to regularly update before launching the game and made the data mining an opt-in feature, which gave users credit for the items they found. I relented and Bill became an incredible mentor.
From technology, to health and love, he always had words of experience. Bill created Thottbot, and handled all of the controversy created by such a site. After some legal issues, Bill retired the site to manage his ISP business and I remain impressed with the degree of commitment he has shown to his family since then.
When I first started at Blizzard Entertainment, I knew little of the people who worked there, only that they made incredible things. In a company like Blizzard, individually glory is often discarded to the credit of the whole. Mike is the living incarnation of this philosophy – always passing on the glory while doing his best to support those who seek it.
Mike was my first mentor at Blizzard and taught me much about the important of attention to detail in our work. Mike knew more about the “why” things were done than perhaps any other designer at Blizzard. If you ever thought casting a Fireball was a simple thing, you need only need ask Mike about all of the parts that make it relevant, important and responsive.
While training me, Mike wrote an incredibly detailed document that continues to live on the World of Warcraft Wiki to this day, given to each new encounter designer when they start out. While many of the lessons are missed, it persists as a prime example of the level of thought Mike put into everything he created.
There are few people who have been properly instructed in the Wyatt Cheng school of Game Design… and I wasn’t one of them. However, I don’t think any other designer has had as much indirect influence on my work. Wyatt Cheng is most famously known for the statement “Any horrible mechanic, no matter how bad, is considered fun if sufficiently overpowered.”
When I started at Blizzard, I frequently compared my work against his. Wyatt’s work regularly espoused the virtues of visible game mechanics, avoidable damage and using numbers to create emotional tension. Wyatt’s greatest virtue is his ability to create situations that allow players to exploit his game mechanics while promoting challenge and tension in his work.
Wyatt is also incredibly talented at encouraging and accepting feedback. He famously said the words: “No feedback is wrong, but you should never act on more than 25% of it.”
Possessor of the secretly voted-upon title of “Best Oiled Hair” for three years running, Alex is a champion of the philosophy of indulging player fantasies. When I first started working with Alex, I had an incredible understanding of game mechanics and a poor understanding of player’s dreams. Alex always pushed to reduce the minimum bar to entry for our game, while balancing it with the need to provide the most masochistic, hardcore players with a challenge.
In addition to breaking the game a million times on his behalf, Alex patiently helped me learn the importance of fully absorbing all of the feedback before arguing with any piece of it.
Darren F. and Rob Bridgman
While not directly connected to the games industry, I want to give a quick shout out to the two guys who taught me the importance of both embracing who you are and accepting that your identity is a fluid, growing concept.
Rob taught me what it was to be accepted. Darren taught me the difference between making a joke and being one. They both drove me to take risks and grow as a person.
Not surprisingly, Rob and Darren both served our nation in the armed forces and I have been incredibly fortunate to have crossed paths with both of you.
Mom and Dad (And Family)
I love you both. You taught me well, even when you taught me wrong. Enough said.
Why is this important?
While we’re all alone in deciding to change, the people who support us along the way make the process infinitely more bearable.