Frequently Asked Questions
I’m frequently asked a lot of questions on Twitter and other social sites, so I figured I’d compile this document. It’s also a great chance to clarify many things about my career, my personal life, and what I believe in general.
I’ll update this as needed.
Q. Where are you from, and where have you lived?
A. I was born in Boston, Massachusetts. I grew up in North Andover, Mass. At the age of 15 my father suddenly died of heart issues and my mother moved my brothers and I out to Southern California. No, it wasn’t a cool place like Santa Monica, it was the average (but nice) suburb of La Verne. I went to Bonita High School for 2 years. I now reside in the lovely city of Raleigh, NC. People question the city but it is constantly voted one of the top 10 places to live. I’d rather live in a city that’s on the up and up and watch it grow as opposed to a place that’s overcrowded and overpriced. (NYC is my one exception. I love it there.)
Q. Did you go to college for games?
A. When I was young there were not a lot of options for videogame education. When I was of college age I went to Cal Poly Pomona for 6 months. I hated the idea of going to college and the idea of taking the typical route. I worked day and night – sometimes all night – on my games. I would often struggle to stay awake in class because I was up working on Jazz Jackrabbit the night before. When Jazz came out it started making me enough money so I could drop out of college and pursue what I truly wanted to do – make games.
Q. What do you drive?
A. I drive a 2013 Lamborghini Aventador. My wife drives the 2010 Gallardo LP560. We also have a pair of day to day drivers. PROTIP: If you buy a supercar and can’t afford a “daily” driver then you can’t afford a supercar. Growing up the Lambos were my dream cars. We all had the Countach posters and aspired to have them.
Q. HAR HAR YOU’RE THAT GUY THAT MADE THE BUFF GUY GAME WITH CHAINSAWZ FAGET
A. I’m not going to re-post the tremendous success that the Gears of War franchise had. What I will do is point out a few facts.
1. I had nothing to do with how buff the characters were. Epic at that time was very art direction driven as opposed to design driven, and Epic’s art director at the time, while talented, was very strong headed. (We never asked for the Corpser to have the “fingers,” he just put that in, and we had to design around it…not my preferred way to work.)
2. I am also greatly responsible for the successful Unreal/Unreal Tournament series, as well as Jazz Jackrabbit. While those games all have guns they are different from Gears in many, many ways. I’ve been doing this for 21 years.
3. I did have a hand in the writing of the franchise, but I didn’t write the day to day dialogue. In hindsight having the characters yelling things like “Shit yeah” while in the midst of a life and death situation might not have been the best idea. Still, it’s things like this that were a signature of the game.
Q. What advice would you give to an aspiring game designer?
A. This could be a multi page rant, but I’d rather keep it short so I can answer as much as possible.
1. DO SOMETHING. Anything. Don’t say you have ideas. No one gives a shit about your idea unless you can start to build said idea. Go to UDK.com and get the Unreal Development Kit. Get Unity. Get anything and START GOING. If you’re good at level design find a coder online to start working together. Find an artist. Remember that game development is like sculpting or panning for gold…your initial idea might suck, but keep trying. Fail early, fail often.
2 . PROMOTE YOUR WORK. It doesn’t matter if you start to make something cool. You need to get online and TELL THE WORLD about it. Get a website up. Tweet people like myself. Go to GDC.
3. WORK HARD. Sounds silly, but don’t get distracted. I didn’t start drinking until 25. I never went to bars until my late 20’s. I remember in high school when two of the “cool kids” were quizzing me on why I didn’t go to parties. They looked at me and asked me what I did for fun and I remember looking at them dead in the eye and saying “Make money.”
Q. How did you meet your wife?
A. She won a contest called “Miss Video Game” a few years back in which she slaughtered 200+ other girls in a gaming competition. She was all over the news blogs. I saw her and said “That’s my next girlfriend.” A while later we were married. Don’t date a “cool” girl. Don’t date the type A girl that comes up to you at the party and seems super bubbly. She’s the one that will hook up with the rock star that comes to town when you’re not looking. (This is somewhat based on personal experience.) Date the hot nerd. There were not any girls like this around when I was growing up. Now there are many gorgeous cosplayers, nerds, gamers. Find an awesome one and keep her.
Q. Your biggest regret/accomplishment of your career?
A. My biggest regret was the launch of Gears 2’s online play. It was a huge mistake for everyone involved, unfortunately. My biggest accomplishment was helping launch a billion dollar franchise with Gears 1. Demoing it at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood in front of a packed house was an amazing moment for me personally and professionally.
Q. Do you even lift bro?
A. We go to the gym 3-5 times a week. I’m not trying to get huge, just trying to stay fit and healthy. Our rule? The more you don’t feel like going to the gym the more you need to go, and the better you will feel after going. Funny thing about fitness…many American kids stay relatively fit in high school, but after they often lose it. You can’t eat your average American diet without working out, even then, it’s an uphill battle. Start early, and young, and get in those good habits. Play a ton of games, but take care of your body.
Q. If I see you can we stop you for a picture?
A. Of course. I love that shit. In fact, it’s the ones that hover strangely that creep us out. If you ever see the car, feel free too. Getting a car like that is like screaming for attention. It’s like the girl who gets the visible tattoo on her body and then is offended when you comment on it. THEN DON’T GET IT RIGHT THERE, FOOL.
Q. Why did you leave Epic?
A. I was burnt out after 20 years of working there. I also feel that in becoming the overall “master of the fun” as Design Director I didn’t have “my baby” project any longer, which was something that I really missed. I also had saved enough to just take some time off and roam the earth like Kane in Kung Fu.
Q. Will you return to the industry?
A. Some days I wake up at noon, shuffle around the house, do nothing, and I love it. Other days I’m rip roaring and ready to go. I miss the fun playtests, the interactions with co-workers. I miss getting new builds with code progress to test, and sitting with a coder or artist and nudging things until they feel perfect. I miss the comic con fans, the fan tattoos, the cosplayers, the folks who got married after they met online in our games, the reviews, the fun business trips. I don’t miss the deadlines, the hours, the cynical journalists who twist your words, the jaded gamers, and the difficulty of development.
Q. When will we see Jazz Jackrabbit 3?
A. That’s in Epic’s hands now. I never really cared to make another, to be honest. I loved Jazz, but I’ve moved on.
Q. Have you met any celebrities?
A. Yes, thankfully, too many to count, I even have a few as friends. They’ve almost always been super nice, gracious people. Except for Jamie Kennedy. He’s a giant fucking douchebag. To be frank, though, my celebrities are people like Miyamoto and GabeN.
Q. Do you hate other developers?
A. No, most of us all get along. In fact Tim Schafer and his wife along with Randy Pitchford and his wife were at our wedding. The gaming industry is a very tight nit business. So much so that if you are an idiot or you say silly things it will get around rapidly!
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