It's not often that we get a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes operations of an MMO, but when we do, we can appreciate the real people seen creating our favorite games. Included in this pool of development talent are more than just the stereotypes you would see on TV or film, depicting nerdy men with thick glasses and severe hygiene problems. There are nerdy women making these games too!
Ok, maybe not all so nerdy, but the fact is, there are many women in the MMO development industry as well. To showcase and celebrate this, we at Massively interviewed 12 of the most influential women in MMO gaming development. We asked them how they got into the industry, how public opinion on women gamers is evolving and what advice they have for female MMO players who want to make that leap into development.
Starting today and continuing throughout all of next week, we'll present one article a day with one of the questions we asked these developers. Look for each post to drop at 5pm EST this coming Monday through Friday.
But first, we'll kick it all off by getting to know these fine developers. Keep reading after the jump for a brief introduction to each participant and a bit more about their time in the industry.
Massively: Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.
Carrie Gouskos (Producer, EA Mythic - Warhammer Online)
I am obsessed with video games, a collector, an avid player, a sometimes 360-achievement fanatic. I've been in the video game industry for eleven years now, and had the opportunity to work in several different facets, from QA to game journalism to design to production. I've worked at such illustrious and infamous (I'll let you determine which falls into which) companies as Acclaim, GameSpot, and now EA Mythic. I'm currently the producer for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning.
Melissa Bianco (Lead Designer, NCsoft - City of Heroes)
My name is Melissa Bianco, and I'm a Canadian transplant from Vancouver, British Columbia to San Jose, California. I graduated from Capilano College with an Arts and Sciences Diploma in Media Resources in 1991 and worked in the Vancouver entertainment industry as a casting agent, talent agent, production assistant, and production office administrator. In my spare time, I like to write, go camping (as long as I don't have to pack, unpack, cook or clean), volunteer, ride my motorcycle, and spend time with my husband and three-step children. I love to travel so there have been a few trips to Europe, but I'd like to definitely take that passion a bit more globally.
I'm the Lead Designer on the MMOs City of Heroes and City of Villains. What this means is that I lead an extremely talented team of designers in driving the direction of our game, from what will go into each Issue (content, features, systems, etc.) to where we're going in the next year, or five years. Until my recent promotion, I was the lead World Designer so my scope has definitely broadened, which is an adventure and a challenge.
Marissa McWaters (Assistant Producer, NCsoft - Lineage II)
I am Marissa McWaters, the Assistant Producer for Lineage II. I've been with NCsoft for 4.5 years and with Lineage II specifically for a little over 2 years. I've worked in customer support, quality assurance, and now in production.
Jessica Downs (Game Content Writer, NCsoft - Aion)
My name's Jessica Downs, and I'm a Game Content Writer working on the Korean-to-English localization of Aion. I get to be part of the mammoth task of overhauling every name in the game, from NPCs to items to quest names, and the creative rewriting of every bit of text, from system messages to quest dialogs.
Lani Blazier (Associate Producer, NCsoft - Aion)
My name is Lani Blazier. I'm the associate producer on NCsoft's MMO, Aion. In a nutshell, I work closely with the executive producer and producer on managing the day-to-day functions of Aion, the Aion website, and the PowerWiki.
Katy Hargrove (Senior Artist, NCsoft - Guild Wars/Guild Wars 2)
I make monsters! There's a lot of art that goes into a game: environments, characters, items, props, and so on. These elements are all important, and at times I've worked on all of them, but creatures are my specialty and passion. I care about who they are and why we're bringing them here. They're imaginary, yet living things which make the world rich.
Linsey Murdock (Lead Designer Live Team, NCsoft - Guild Wars/Guild Wars 2)
I used to tell people that I write quests and spawn monsters. That's still true, but I've had to broaden that statement a lot since becoming the primary designer for Guild Wars when the rest of the team moved into full production of Guild Wars 2. Now I have to fill all of the design roles that used to be spread out amongst a large team of designers. In the last two years, I've worked on quests, missions, monsters, bosses (both normal and raid), items, UI, maps, a PvP format, new skills, two systems turning existing content into repeatable content, skill/profession balance updates, and gobs of lore (that's my favorite part). With a small team like this, we have to operate under the motto of "If you know how to do it, do it." It's an amazing opportunity to learn in an environment where the feedback is real-time and coming from hundreds of thousands of people.
Laralyn McWilliams (Creative Director, SOE - Free Realms)
I've been making games for a little over 15 years, on a really wide variety of projects ranging from movie-licensed platformers to military strategy simulations. I joined Sony Online Entertainment in 2006, where I took on the role of Creative Director for Free Realms.
Emily Taylor (Game Designer, SOE - EverQuest II)
My name's Emily Taylor, but I'm known to most EverQuest II players as "Domino" on the forums. I've been working for SOE since May 2007. Prior to that I was a Lotus Notes developer and administrator, and an I.T. Manager, and I have an M.Sc. in Molecular Plant Pathology. I have worked in Canada, England, Brazil, Australia, and now the U.S.
At SOE my primary responsibility is to manage all aspects of the tradeskill system in EverQuest II. Besides making recipes, items, and quests for tradeskillers, this means guiding the overall direction and role that tradeskills will take in the game and how they will fit into the game world. I make decisions such as how many quests tradeskillers will get, how many new recipes, what factions they will be able to work for, and what special recipes, titles, armor or other unique rewards they may be able to earn. Outside of tradeskills I am a bit of a jack-of-all-trades and often help out in whatever area is needed: for example, writing the G.I.R.L. blog, assisting Marketing, Community or Customer Service with any specific requests, helping support the volunteer guide program, and assisting with general content design work.
Rosie Rappaport (Art Director, SOE - Free Realms)
My name is Rosie Rappaport, I was part of the original EQ team here at SOE. I am an Art Director so I am responsible for the art team, direct the look and feel of the games and work with the Producers, Execs and other departments to make sure we are all unified in our goals.
Kate Paiz (Senior Producer, Turbine - DDO/LotRO)
I've been a producer in MMO development for nearly nine years now. I started in the games industry working on a product called There, which was a social world using MMO technology. My focus at There was in developing and refining the initial experience and also the ecommerce aspect of the game. As a Senior Producer at Turbine, I work with the development team to make sure that we are developing a fun, engaging, polished game release for players. I've worked with both the DDO and LOTRO teams, and really enjoy helping to extend the games in new and innovative ways to bring players more of what they love – great gameplay.
Sara Jensen Schubert (Game Designer, SOE - DC Universe Online)
I'm a systems designer on DC Universe Online, and I've been here for about a year and a half. I've been in the industry for over 10 years, if you count volunteer gigs! I started as a volunteer Volunteer Manager for Ultima Online back in 1999. Five years and a lot of life events later, I was the live lead designer on Shadowbane. Five more after that, I'm here at SOE. Now I work on items and progression. I spend most of my time in Excel.
Stay tuned on Monday for the next installment of this interview where we will ask the question: "What influenced you to get into MMO development specifically?"