Meet the Developers: Jesse Sky
Welcome to our first Developer Spotlight! This new recurring blog features interviews and Q&As with Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ developers. We’re going to be featuring several of the people behind the game to give you a closer look inside the studio. In each spotlight, we’ll introduce a developer and ask them questions about their background, what they’re working on, and what they do for the team. After the interview, we will set-up a thread on the forums so you can ask our featured developer further questions. Without further ado, here’s our first spotlight: Lead Flashpoints and Operations Designer Jesse Sky!
What role do you enjoy playing the most in the game?
I prefer roles that allow me to exercise a lot of control over the state of the battlefield. In Star Wars: The Old Republic, I play a Defense Guardian.
Who is your favorite companion? Why?
I primarily use Doc, but I’d trade him for Elara Dorne if I could. Guss Tuno is probably my favorite companion, for his combat vocals alone.
Do you have a favorite story moment in the game?
In Flashpoints, the finale of Maelstrom Prison. I’m the annoying guy who never spacebars through that cinematic, because I love the characters and the music.
My favorite moment from my class story is when Satele Shan reveals that she knows I’m turning to the dark side and sort of agonizes over it. I just imagine her thinking, “I’ve made a huge mistake.”
What do you like the most about working on an MMO?
The fact that we get to keep expanding it, hands down. We’ve built three Operations since launch, and we’ve got so much more planned. When I see some of the concept art for our future content, it’s extremely exciting because I know we get to turn that around and give it to players after we finish it. On any other project, as a developer, you’d be waiting years, and you’d be too sick of it to play it once it’s released. With Star Wars: The Old Republic, we actively play the game, and we get to shape the galaxy around us.
What specifically attracts you about Flashpoints and Operation design?
Flashpoint design is a lot like running a tabletop roleplaying game with a massive audience. You get to explore a lot of different kinds of storytelling that aren’t really feasible outside of a video game. I’ve always felt that our Flashpoints and Operations were aided by the fact that you have a very personal story. You actually form a bond with your character, and then you take him on these really wild and dangerous adventures. Every time my Dark Jedi pairs up with a bunch of do-gooders for a Flashpoint, I cackle when I win the conversation rolls. So on one side, it’s a lot of fun to draw up ideas for these adventures and pace out the big reveals.
On the other side of it, encounter design is a challenge that never really loses its teeth. Players are always getting better at the game, and they’ll go to great lengths to absolutely pummel whatever challenge you throw at them. It’s not the kind of job that ever lets you sit back and phone it in. Your team really needs to micro-manage every moving part if you want the content to be engaging, especially the mechanics design and the balance. That can be tiring, but it’s also very rewarding.
Do you have a favorite Flashpoint or Operation boss? Who and why?
My favorite Flashpoint boss is probably Mentor, because every group seems to fail or succeed at that fight in a unique and interesting way. I’ve previously named Firebrand and Stormcaller as my favorite Operations bosses, but it’s really a toss-up between that and Warlord Kephess. I never get tired of watching guilds attempt Kephess, especially when people start dropping like flies in his final phase.
Terror from Beyond is out now – what do you like most about it?
From the perspective of encounter design, I love the final boss. It’s huge, hard-hitting and awesome. Overall, I’d say Terror From Beyond is more challenging and climactic than Explosive Conflict. But in a way, it’s also more approachable because it has five bosses and it ramps up in difficulty in a more obvious way.
What advice would you have for anyone who wants to break into design?
Don’t wait until you have a job in game development to make games. Start making them now, with whatever tools you have at your disposal. Play games in literally every genre and have long conversations with dedicated players of each of them. Don’t dismiss any genre, discipline, or hobby because you can find surprising lessons in design just about everywhere you look. Learn a scripting language and have a working knowledge of the hardware for whatever platform you want to develop on. Most of all, be open-minded and easy to work with – everything else can be picked up as you go.
Do you have any hobbies outside of gaming?
I read a lot of fantasy fiction, and I’m a web developer. My bachelor’s degree is in art history, and I collect artwork and art books. I spend most of my time with my girlfriend and our two cats.
Thanks for checking out our Meet the Developer blog. If you have any questions for Jesse, please post them in this forum thread. We’ll choose questions that relate directly to Jesse and his responsibilities. In the near future, we’ll have some answers from Jesse to your questions!