Every week, at least for the foreseeable future, we’ll be presenting you a new segment called “Get to Know a Dev” where we get all the developers you know and love to answer a few serious questions like, “Where is the best place to grab lunch?”
This week we get to know a little bit more about Damion Schubert, Principal Lead Systems Design for Star Wars: The Old Republic. We find out that he loooooves bounty hunters, got rid of all his board games (we need to investigate why!) and that Texas needs more shade and possible out-door air conditioning.
Favorite Star Wars Movie:
Favorite Star Wars Character:
Principal Lead Systems Design
The Empire Strikes Back
I’ve always had a fondness for Boba Fett
What are some of your favorite games of all time?
I like strategy games a lot. I’m a big fan of the Civilization series, and city builders like Caesar and Tropico. I’m a big fan of BioWare games, of course, especially Knights of the Old Republic. On top of that, I’m currently on a board game kick. Favorite games of mine right now include Dominant Species, Twilight Imperium, Power Grid, and Dominion.
What other games have you worked on and how long have you been working on Star Wars: The Old Republic?
I started in this industry working at a small startup making a game called Meridian 59, which was one of the first MMORPGs to come onto the market. After that, I did some work at Origin, ran a startup, and then found myself working on Shadowbane, where I helped ship and led the design efforts on two expansions. I started working at BioWare Austin a little more than five years ago, and nearly all of that time has been focused on this game.
Can you explain what you do for BioWare and what a typical day might be like?
As Lead Systems Designer, my job is pretty much spearheading the design for everything that’s not conversation or direct combat. I have an incredibly talented team that is currently responsible for all of the associated data for itemization, crew skills and crafting, codices, and our maps. However, I spend even more time working with gameplay and interface programmers on new features coming into the game – being sure that their work matches the design, testing to be sure that the idea was fun, and helping to iterate on the feature to bring it up to the BioWare level of quality. Also meetings. You don’t get to where I am without spending a lot of time in meetings.
What have you worked on specifically in SWTOR? When the game is released, where will we be able see your handiwork (in the game or out)?
This is surprisingly hard to answer. As the Lead Systems Designer, I’ve had enormous influence over the entirety of the game design, and actually been largely responsible for the designs of several key systems, but in general my role is to design the system in broad strokes, work with the programmers to get it going, and then hand it off to other designers who bring it to life. For example, the maps system was my design responsibility, but now a solid and thorough maps team has taken that over and solved all the tricky design problems that make it actually useful to the player. The skill tree system was largely my broad strokes, but the combat team were the ones who actually figured out how to make that balanced, fair and interesting. The crew skills system sprang from a design document that I’d written, but its success since then can largely be attributed to the talent and attention to detail of another designer. These guys really deserve all the credit in the world, as these game systems were skeletons before these other designers figured out how to make them magic. My role is to keep them on the rails.
That being said, I do have one bit of perverse pride. I’ve written one piece of code pretty much in the entirety of the game, which is the code that grants experience points. Now, that bit of code has been heavily modified by others since then, but it’s still the same essential algorithm, which means that every time I see the flytext telling me how much XP I’ve gotten from a kill, I feel a little well of pride. This is pretty important after spending your whole day in meetings.
So far what is your favorite Advanced Class to play and why?
They all have their strengths. I love the kinetic feeling of flying through a warzone with the Juggernaut and tanking with him. I’m still partial to the Commando for my straightforward DPSing. I adore the writing for the Inquisitor – the sarcasm is strong with this one. And the Bounty Hunter has a great story and some marvelous companion dialogue. I still don’t know which one will be my primary once the game goes live.
Can you share with us one of your favorite moments so far in playing SWTOR?
There’s a certain Bounty Hunter companion character who I can’t mention yet, but pretty much any moment he has a line of dialogue is one of my favorites. =) Beyond that, just watching the game come alive has been incredible. Given how long I’ve been working on it, it’s incredibly gratifying to log on and watch what other players are doing, trying to figure things out and making Chuck Norris jokes.
People who work for game companies are famous for their desk creatures and other awesome decorations. Want to show off anything to the rest of the world?
A shame you didn’t ask me last week, there was a rather impressive stack of board games on the shelf behind me. Right now, my desk is mostly decorated with stacks of paper and coffee rings.
Where’s the best place to grab lunch if you’re leaving the office?
Pretty much anyplace we can sit outside and get some fresh air. Thank god the summer of 70 straight 100+ degree days is over!