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Author Topic: Jan 21st - Meet The Team: Craig Zinkievich  (Read 1227 times)

Offline Zach

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Jan 21st - Meet The Team: Craig Zinkievich
« on: 21 January 2009 09:54 AM »
[img align=right][/img]Cryptic Studios have posted another informative "Meet The Team" segment about Star Trek Online's Executive Producer (and his goat), Craig Zinkievich:

What do you do on Star Trek Online?
Iím the Executive Producer on STO. I have to worry about every single aspect of STO. From the design vision to making sure the art gets executed, making sure that software does what they need to do. I have to make sure that, ultimately, you guys get to play this game. Basically, if something on the project goes wrong, everybody in the company can point at me. Woohoo!

How long have you worked in gaming, and what did you do before Star Trek Online?
I have been in gaming for 6 years now. I came to Cryptic as a technical designer back before COH shipped. I enjoyed designing game systems for COH, working with Software to make sure that they implemented systems that the designers could use and then working with Design to make sure that they used the systems properly. Eventually it got to the point that I was working with and scheduling Art to make sure that they were making art that fit into the systems that we had designed. And then Ė wowĖ we all realized that thatís what producers do. And so I became producer for COH and COV and then Director of Production at Cryptic Studios for the past few years. Now Iím Executive Producer on STO.

Who is your favorite Star Trek character and why?
Iím going to have to go with Spock. I think heís the coolest. I like the inner conflict that he has but, when push comes to shove, heís pretty cut and dry.

What is an interesting fact about you that players would be surprised to know?

They already know about the goat, so I canít double up on that. How about saying I donít like to talk about myself? In fact, I donít like talking about myself so much that it took six months to do this interview.

If you could choose to be an alien on Star Trek, which species would you want to be?
The alien races that really intrigued me are all the secondary and tertiary ones. Like the Breen, the Bolians and the Andorians - those kinds. The races that have gotten nods in the shows and you know that thereís a lot more to them, that a lot more thought that went into the creation of that race, but the shows and the movies didnít really go into them. One of the joys of being on this project is getting to look at those races, to talk about those races, do the research on those races, and get those races a little bit more in the forefront. In an MMO like we are, which has got to be huge, weíve got to go deep. So we really canít just pay lip service to all the cool races in the Star Trek universe. We really need to get them Ė and as much of their history as possible Ė out there.

What profession would you want to have if you lived in the 25th century?
I think the opportunity to just go out and explore; to just go out, point your ship at some place, and just go is really, really appealing. Just go and find something new. Not go and fight the Klingons. Not go and do something on the front of battle. But to really go out and explore planets, solar bodies -things that nobody else has ever seen before. That fascinates me.

What is your favorite episode and why?
There are so many important arc episodes that define the storylines and shape the Star Trek universe, but if I were to pick my favorite episode, it would be ďThe Inner LightĒ.

I remember watching it when it first aired back in college and how powerful the emotions were in the episode. It is filled with such simple humanity, in the shipís crew trying to save their captain, Kaminís children and wife, the people of Kataan struggling and then building the probe.
I love how the episode ends with Picard quietly coming to terms with the two lives that he has lead.

Itís not an episode with big special FX or explosions or events that shape the history of the galaxy Ė but an amazing episode that really captures that personal nature of Star Trek for me.

Which is cooler: monkeys, robots, pirates, or ninjas?

Iím not even going to try to be witty. Iíll just say monkeys. Monkeys are cooler. They stand on their own. The ninjas, pirates, and robots, are all kind of in one category. Monkeys stand outside of that category.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to break into the gaming industry?

I spent ten years as a software engineer working right next to the gaming industry Ė I did 3D graphics drivers and work of that ilk Ė thinking I could earn my chops and get into the gaming industry. My advice to people would be to apply. Try to get in. Like most industries, if youíre smart and talented and can show that in a resume, or a reel, or an interview, you can go really, really far. You donít need to go to school. You donít need a huge degree, although those things help make your resume look better. Apply and get in. I donít want to say that anybody can get a job in the gaming industry, but donít think that thereís some sort of magical key. Just be smart. Just go after it.

What was the first Video game you really, really enjoyed?

Youíre going to age me! The first games I really, really enjoyed were Atari 2600 games. We were playing Adventure and Asteroids. Those two were the ones that my brother and I really got into. Legend of Zelda for the NES was the first one that really opened my eyes as to what gaming could be.

So, I hear you have a goat. Howís she doing?
Snowflake is fine. Itís been a cold winter, but sheís doing well.

How did you get a goat?

She came with the house.

In addition, Craig also answered some additional questions in the forum later on that day:

What development methodology are you using?
We use whatever methodology fits the task. MMOs are large and I don't subscribe to forcing a single methodology onto every aspect of the project just for consistenciesí' sake. For content - we use more of a scrum/agile methodology that allows us to control iteration towards completion. For critters and powers - it's closer to waterfall, the workload for the different departments doesn't match up so well. Game systems Ė those have their own method too. For each piece of the game, it's own.

What task tracking system are you using?
We use a modified JIRA in house for the majority of the project tracking. For many of the other things - tickets, errors, crashes, etc... - we've grown our own. Cryptic's big on writing our own tool chain. We figure if we control it, we can make it what we want. I can easily imagine our own project tracking tools in the next couple years.

How many people are on the team now, and what's the team size going to be before the game ships?
I'm thinking it'll top out at around 40 people on the dev team. (Not counting QA, Core engineering or any of the fine people in publishing, OCR, CS or Ops.)

I believe that you keep a team small and you get ownership down to each member. If have a 300 person dev team - the majority of the people are going to come in and punch the clock. Build the assets on their list and go home when the boss lets them. But - you put together a team of 30-40 wicked talented and passionate people and you get people who will really get invested in what they're making.

With a team at that size, the artist who has a really good design idea feels like he can walk over to a designer and talk to him about it. We can all play the game, give feedback and feel as though our voice is heard. If you give everyone a MAJOR role and responsibility in making the game, people rise to it and it shows in the passion they approach their work with.

That's the theory anyhow. : ) It's what Cryptic has done for all its projects and it seems to be paying off.

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« Last Edit: 21 January 2009 09:59 AM by Zach »