Inside The Games Interview with Kate Paiz of Turbine who is the senior producer of Dungeons and Dragons Online.
THE GAME REVIEWS: What is your name, and who do you work with?
KATE: I am Kate Paiz, the Senior Producer on Dungeons and Dragons Online. I started in the games industry about eight years ago, working on a product called there.com. More of a virtual world, it was very open ended, and meant to be about providing a destination for people who are looking to get away from their daily lives and explore that a different sense of identity. It is very open ended. You can change your color, size, and creed anytime. There is a change re-functionality there, that really allows you to explore who you are, and the way you interact with other people. It also shows how a variety of different sorts of aspects can be leveled up to, such as social aspects versus fusionist aspects. We wanted to make sure that the whole person was being represented, rather than just one kind of specific fighter identity, so that it was a much broader experience.
After that, I got attracted to Turbine and came on board to Dungeons and Dragons Online, where I have been for three years, shepherding it through beta into launch, to where we are now.
THE GAME REVIEWS: So how do you get the producer’s job? Was it as simple as just calling and asking to be a producer?
KATE: Actually, when I graduated from college, I went to MIT and ended up in IT consulting, where I was doing a lot of survey kinds of work, and helping IT organizations be utilized more effectively, which led me into marketing. In a sort of focus group setting, I started out as a marketer doing the very initial small betas, gathering feedback, and understanding types of data. As a result, I got a sense for how it would be really compelling and interesting, through the initial experience, as well as looking at having a catalogue that allowed people to buy things. I pitched that idea to my boss, the VP of marketing, who suggested that I build it. That is how I got into production. After it worked really well, I spent more time building from there, into more things. That built up the producer side of my resume, so that I eventually I moved over full time into the production house.
THE GAME REVIEWS: So if you had some things that you know of that would help someone get into the game industry, including some cool things they may or may not know about, what would you recommend?
KATE: I think for somebody who is just out of college, I really recommend going into QA, quality assurance. QA is an opportunity where you do not have to have a lot of prebaked skills around the industry, but you can get a real sense for how games are built from testing them and giving feedback. Once you are in the space, and in the team talking to developers, they can help you really understand what areas where each individual needs to be perfected, in order to be in the development space. One of the things I find, especially for designers, is that you have to be sure you are able to stay and focus. A lot of design is not just creativity, which is important, but is about being diligent and following those DPS numbers to their logical conclusion. Much of design is making sure you actually think through all of the systems, and I think that level of focus and dedication is something that a lot of people can kind of grasp on to, as a way to get in.
As far as production goes, diligence, and making sure that you are really good at following up on details, being very detail oriented, is a great way to learn, and certainly quality assurance can do that. But for professionals who are already in other areas, communicating to a games developer what aspects of your job really applies to the game development job that you are looking for, is germane. For example, the idea that you could be a really good producer because of your last job, being really thorough, and always the one who was putting the connections together, is like an evangelist – or someone who really likes to go out and talk to people about making sure a feature is complete and working fully, and things like that.
THE GAME REVIEWS: what is your favorite game of all time?
KATE: Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Wow, that was very fast, that is probably the fastest I have ever heard!
KATE: Oh, I love that game! As a kid, I played it over and over again; it was absolutely one of my favorites, so it is tried and true for me.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Okay system, PC, 360, PS3?
KATE: Working on PC games, I am certainly very much a fan of that, I enjoy the DS a lot, I have a PS3 and an Xbox 360 at home, and enjoy those tremendously. I feel like there are a lot of great opportunities out there, in developing all those titles.
THE GAME REVIEWS: So you like all the systems?
KATE: I do. Again, it is a part of being a developer. You have to know what everybody is doing, you have to know what the trends are in every system, and luckily, I have the luxury to really investigate all of those. But I do find that there are real innovations and really amazing things. My two year old uses my DS for some of the Mario games, because she can really understand what she needs to do with that pen aspect of interaction. I certainly enjoy seeing how the ways that each of the systems have different opportunities, which is very interesting.
THE GAME REVIEWS: Thanks so much for your time!
KATE: My pleasure.