Tell us about what got you into gaming and some of your favorite gaming memories?
I was born in the early 80s in Idaho, so I was a fairly outdoorsy kid. I spent a lot of time camping, skateboarding, snowboarding, and biking, but I also had a love for video games. My dad was a software engineer and would bring home floppy disks full of shareware games (the 80s version of a demo) and occasionally took me to the arcade. The GameBoy was my first console, but the NES followed shortly after. Games were expensive, so I didn’t own many, but it was a weekend ritual to go to Albertson’s or Video Memories to rent a game.
As I got a bit older, I started dabbling in (what I would later learn to be) game design. Mega Man was my favorite NES game, so I’d spend hours drawing my own boss and level ideas for it. My dad and I would also experiment with DOOM mods, and when Duke Nukem 3D came out, I used my allowance to split the cost with him. I ended up teaching myself how to make levels in Duke Nukem 3D, and my friend and I would play games of deathmatch on levels we had made over landline connection, tying up our family phones for entire evenings.
In 1996 that same friend bought a PlayStation. We spent countless hours playing the included demo disc; Warhawk, Mortal Kombat 3, Twisted Metal were the most frequent headliners. I acquired my own PlayStation about a year later and video games went from a hobby to a passion. Final Fantasy VII was the first video game I ever preordered (thanks to the demo), and shortly after came games like Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid. Those games changed my life; I was witnessing video games go from being a toy to a new storytelling medium and I knew I had to be involved.
In high school I made small groups of like-minded friends. In the 90s and 00s video games were not as prolific as they are now - they were still seen as nerdy and childish by most high schoolers. But I had a group of friends that would do regular game nights, which involved dragging our consoles and CRT TVs to someone’s house to play video games all night. Sometimes it would be multiplayer games, but most of the time we were all playing our own single player games and just sharing the experience. I had another group of friends I would go to the arcade with, where I would get pretty competitive in Marvel vs. Capcom and Tekken Tag Tournament.
Can you share with us your journey as a game developer?
The path to game development wasn’t as clear back then as it is now. There were no programs for it, and with the internet being so young there weren’t many resources to do your own research either. So, in high school I did the only thing I could think to do; I got a job in the video game section of Toys ‘R’ Us.
Most of my high school and college jobs were in video game stores, which ended up opening a door for me to start freelance journalism for GameZone.com. This opportunity was huge, since it included trips to E3 to interview developers and write previews for upcoming games. As a kid that had read about the Promised Land of E3 in GamePro and EGM throughout the 90s this was a dream come true.
I was going to school at the University of Idaho at the time, but just wasn’t getting the education I needed. I dropped out and moved to Seattle with the intention of attending DigiPen or The Art Institute, but ended up getting a job as a tester at Microsoft Game Studios. In my one-year contract I was lucky enough to work on Forza Motorsport 2, Project Gotham Racing 4, Lost Odyssey, and Blue Dragon.
To keep this story from getting too long, I hopped around studios for a while as a contract QA. I was learning the development process firsthand, studying all the roles involved in development. I eventually had a chance to try design and knew immediately that it’s what I was meant to do. I built up years of experience in mobile games before getting my first big break with Battlefield 1. I stayed for Battlefield V and 2042, and now I’m here working on this incredibly exciting project!
As the Lead System Designer where have you and the Atomic team drawn inspiration from for your GI Joe Snake Eyes game?
We are looking at a lot of the big third-person action games from recent years, including Jedi Survivor, God of War, and Ghost of Tsushima. I’ve personally revisited games like Shadow of War and Ghost Recon Wildlands for progression ideas as well.
In general, I am trying to recapture the feeling of freedom that a lot of games have given me. Many games today tell the player what to do next rather than let the player discover it on their own. I miss that sense of exploration and discovery in games and think it’s a unique advantage of video games over other mediums. It’s been tricky to strike a nice balance between natural, organic player progression and strong narrative moments, but I’ve been really excited about the solutions we’ve been discussing.
Joe or Cobra?
Okay, this one is tough. I’m a goodie-two-shoes rule-follower, so morally I side with the Joes. But villains always have the coolest designs! Destro, Serpentor and Cobra Commander are just so iconic, I’m going to have to go with Cobra (sorry Snake!).
Following that up, what GI Joe character would you be if you could be anyone?
Well, I definitely don’t want to BE anyone from Cobra, so it should come as no surprise that I would pick Snake Eyes. He comes with some emotional baggage, but it would be awesome to have his agility, strength and focus. I don’t want to sound too much like an infomercial for our game (He slices, he dices!) but I promise it’s the truth.
You play a ton of games, what are some of your recent gaming favorites?
Elden Ring really blew me away, it’s a masterpiece. It dethroned Shadow of the Colossus as my new favorite game of all time. Some other favorites from last year were Tunic, Neon White and Midnight Fight Express (and, of course, God of War Ragnarok).
More recently I finished Final Fantasy XVI and the Resident Evil 4 remake, both of which were fantastic. Dredge was a nice surprise this year as well. I’m really looking forward to Alan Wake 2, Space Marine 2, Mortal Kombat 1 and Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. Gamers are eating good this year.