Originally Posted by MMO-Champion
What would you say is the holy grail of a system designer?
Someone who can identify a potential design problem (often before players do) and suggest the perfect design change to solve that problem. "Perfect" means a lot here -- it has to resonate with players, it has to be easy to implement, it has to future-proof the problem, and so on.
The problem could be something like a bug fix or something like a game missing a major feature that will help keep players engaged for time to come.
What made you decide to leave WoW for League?
I had been working on WoW for six years and it was largely the same work for those six years. I realized I had started to get a little bored and I feared that boredom would lead me to making designs that entertained me as a designer, but weren't actually good for players. I looked around at other opportunities and none of them really spoke to me, though I strongly considered Diablo. I was a big Overwatch fan, but that team was pretty full on designers, and I didn't want them to have to create a space for me. I like solving problems and I get bored when there aren't a lot of problems dropped in my lap to solve.
Speaking of which, Blizzard was a mature company by that time. It still had (and probably has) some problems as an organization, as I'm sure any current employee would freely admit. And I don't want to give the impression that it's some deeply flawed company. It's not. It was a great place to work and I am still really close to a lot of my friends there. But the problems that remained to be solved were deep-seated, hard-to-solve problems, the kind that take radical culture shifts to address. They may not even be critical problems to solve, but they didn't feel like problems I was going to get a lot of traction on, and like I said, I get bored when I'm not doing just that.
I'll give you just one example. Blizzard has a lot of folks who have been there a long time. That makes it difficult to carve off leadership opportunities for the next generation of high performers. If you want to be a lead, and your team has a roster of stable leads, and every team has a roster of stable leads, where is your potential for upwards mobility? Many mature organizations with low turnover have this problem, but as I said, it's a hard one to solve!
But then we come to Riot. Here is a pretty young company with a lot of young developers and a whole lot of new company problems to solve. But I saw right away that many of them were the kinds of things I was good at solving. I knew how to fix that shit. I knew I'd be able to make a big difference at a young company and quickly.
Now solving problems is fulfilling and all, but it still wouldn't be a good fit if I wasn't aligned with the company values. But holy crap that ended up being such a good fit. Riot believes in teams that can act with a lot of autonomy. (I hate being constrained and I love being able to move fast without a lot of gatekeepers.) Riot believes in investing a lot of time in growing and mentorship. (Many of my most rewarding moments in this career have come from just that.) Riot believes in interacting with players. (Any of you who know me know how important it is for me to reach out to players. I'm doing that now!) It's not that I was misaligned with Blizzard values, it's just that the Riot values fit me perfectly.
I do think League is a great game, but there are a lot of great games out there that I could have worked on. I chose League because of Riot.
What has been your most frustrating moment during your time as a game developer?
I'm not sure I could come up with the *most* frustrating. It was probably a bug I couldn't fix or an editor crashing and losing hours of work.
Microsoft killed a lot of cool Ensemble game pitches for what seemed like bad reasons. That was frustrating. I wanted to be more bold with the design of WoW than was probably prudent for the game, but it was a little frustrating. Whenever players try to reverse-engineer why we make certain decisions and conclude its some internal political reason I get frustrated. When they claim we're out of touch or don't care, I get frustrated.