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Interview

Cryptic’s Bill Roper and Jack Emmert Interview

Following the recent news that Cryptic Studios’s Bill Roper had moved from executive producer on Champions Online to Cryptic’s chief creative officer, in turn moving Jack Emmert over to the new chief operations officer, we thought we’d contact the guys to find out about the changes, and the impact it will have on the company’s titles.Could you describe exactly what your new positions involve and how they differ from the last ones?

JE: Honestly, my position didn’t really change. It was just that my title didn’t really reflect what I was doing. Previously, as CCO, I ostensibly ran the design of all the games and ensured a certain level of “fun”. Realistically, I ended up doing budgets, headcounts, project management, etc. When we shifted to a more vertical hierarchy – with Executive Producers running each project – it made sense to change my title. Essentially, I’m held responsible for anything involving development of the games.

BR: As CCO my primary objective is to spend day-to-day time with the teams working with the Executive Producers and various leads to provide design support and guidance as required. I’m also a liaison between the teams and the executives, supporting and representing their individual game visions. I assist in coordinating systems, content concepts, and technologies between the teams while being involved in the top-level design. Shifting from the daily Executive Producer duties on Champions Online into a broader role is a rejuvenating new challenge. The teams have really welcomed me into their meetings and brainstorming sessions, which has been great. It’s been important for them to known I’m not coming in with some kind of absolute word that must be adhered to, but instead am there to support their vision, be a sounding board for ideas, and a source of creative energy they can tap into.

So Champions Online has been out for a few months now and Star Trek Online is still finding its feet; why re-shuffle at this point?

JE: I guess things change. I really value Bill’s input on games and I wanted him to be able to look at not just one product but all products. This way, Bill gets to give suggestions to every team. For my part, it’s just recognizing that I’m not just involved in design, but also operations.

BR: Cryptic is evolving as a company. Our games have been good, but not great, and that doesn’t make us happy. We’ve taken steps to recognize, acknowledge, and correct the issues that have contributed to this. We have new development processes, new design principles, and a revitalized and renewed dedication to staying in direct contact with our communities. Jack and I take a lot of heat personally and professionally when our games don’t meet the expectations of our community or the reviewers. We’re both driven to make Cryptic a respected studio with a focus on game quality and community interaction. The teams at Cryptic are amongst the best I’ve worked with, and their ability to create content is second to none. We’re making real changes on how we approach the quality and scope of that content to maximize their efforts. Personally, I’m excited to work with all of the teams to do whatever I can to keep us moving in the right direction and improve our games in every way possible.

How will the moves affect the two games?

JE: I’m hoping that it improves everything! Now both games can benefit from Bill’s input and both games retain great EP’s. Win overall. As for me as COO, honestly, I don’t know. I think my skills are probably best at the start of a project, so this frees up my time to help get things up and running.

BR: Shannon Posniewski is taking over the reigns as Executive Producer on Champions Online, and he is a great man for the job. He’s been with Cryptic for several years, programming on the City of Series and most recently being both lead programmer on Champions Online and our Director of Game Programming. Shannon is very active in the forums, plays the game, and has a very strong tech and game play sense. I’m confident that he’s going to be working with the team to bring some great things to Champions Online.

Star Trek is mostly unaffected by the shifts, except that now I get to spend time with that team and offer what support and direction they require. It’s been a little crazy shifting genre and design gears every day, but I’m really enjoying mixing it up with the different teams.

STO & Champions were developed closely. Will they end up with the same sort of expansion and content turn-around times?

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