Carbine Studios' executive producer gets the rapid-fire question treatment

FAQ: Jeremy Gaffney

[This feature was published in the August 2013 edition of Develop magazine, which is available through your browser and on iPad.]

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Jeremy Gaffney, executive producer for Carbine Studios.

What are you working on right now?
We’re working on Wildstar, which currently is the next great MMO, if we get our shtick together and do our stuff right.

What was the first game that you ever worked on?
It was Asheron’s Call. I founded Turbine in 1993, and we worked on that game. That was a labour of love for quite a long while, but actually we did that deciding it was our way of getting into the games industry. We figured we’d start a company, fail – as that’s what new companies did – and get hired by bigger companies within a year. But we never failed and just kept on going.

What was the first game you played?
Oh God. That was probably Zork, and yes, I knew I enjoyed it. I enjoyed games so much that I knew I wanted to make games from the age of seven.

What was the most recent game you played, and did you enjoy it?
I’ve been playing Civilization V up to the moment to keep up for the new expansion pack coming out. Actually, I’ve discovered that expansion pack comes out four days later here in Europe, and that’s killing me. I feel the pain of being European.

What’s your favourite game ever?
There’s too many I love, but if I was stuck with one, it would be the original XCom. It was such a brilliant combo of sim-style base building, squad level combat and a cool storyline unleashed through combat. Who else did all that in the 90s, and did it all well?

How many hours a week do you spend playing video games?
An embarrassing amount. My wife [watching the interview take place] isn’t allowed to grimace when I say this. I guess 30 hours or so still.

What area of the games industry today needs more investment?
Innovation. The problem with investment of the financial kind is the more money spent the more scary it can be to screw up an opportunity and waste it. That leads to clone games. Ironically, the one thing that never works is a fricking clone game.

What do you enjoy most about the industry?
Oh, the short hours and relaxing work cycle, and all the lying around. Not really; it’s the doing what you love surrounded by people doing what they love. And you’d have to be insane to do this if you didn’t love it.

What disappoints you most about the games industry today?
Done wrong, the work can be soul crippling, because you have to invest your heart and soul in this stuff. Sometimes the investment of self isn’t rewarded.

What project that you’ve worked on was your favourite to be involved with?
I’d probably say City of Heroes. That was a really fun game with great developers and a great development cycle.

What game that you were not involved with would you most liked to have worked on?
That’s a grand question. I always want to work on what will be the biggest game on the planet, so maybe World of Warcraft. But I want to be working on the game that beats the biggest game on the planet.

Which developers do you most admire?
There’s a few of them actually. I like those willing to innovate and take chances, so I love a lot of the stuff that Bungie has done recently, I love Riot Games full-on commitment, and Blizzard has done such a great job of making so many great games.

What hobbies, collections or interests do you have outside of video games?
I collect esoteric stuff, so I have everything from a Chinese repeating crossbow to a painting by a monk where he dedicated his life to one single painting. Our house is filled with stuff where people doing what they love is also their work, so that’s my collection, in a way.

What is your favourite book, movie, TV show and album of all time?
For book, I’d say Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. For movie, it would be original Star Wars or The Godfather; could I merge the two into some Jabba the Hutt mob drama? TV show? I’m loving Breaking Bad, and it’s never ‘jumped the shark’. And album is tough; Peter Gabriel’s So, I think.

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