PopCap Games

Art Lead, March 2012 - March 2014

Role

In 2012 I was excited to bring a more nimble style of design and development I'd learned over the previous years back to game development where I'd started. I knew PopCap was rebooting Peggle, and discussions with the Franchise Director revealed our similar conclusion about what held original Peggle back and how we could succeed with the next version. (I go through the process in greater detail in the Process section.)

In my role I was responsible for defining the vision for Peggle 2. This involved understanding the original title -- what worked and what didn't -- and creating a plan for how the new version would be different and why. This was socialized within the team and the people within leadership who needed to know.

At the point where the vision, storyline, and general structure of the game were loosely defined the franchise director left the company. I assumed management of the seven individuals on the art team, and was responsible for augmenting my staff with contractors and vendors later during production. The director was not replaced, but instead the small group of leads (me and five others) guided the project through production and delivery. We collaborated on all aspects of project management including scheduling, staffing, and communicating with leadership, marketing, and our Xbox partners. It was up to me to make certain we didn't veer too far from the vision, and to keep everyone communicating within the team.

There was plenty of opportunity for me as an individual contributor as well. I deconstructed and rebuilt the in-game interface to make it more clear and engaging. I designed a front end set of menu screens that was understandable and introduced and supported the game world. There was also some legacy tooling for making and getting fonts into our game engine which I gladly took on.

Take-Aways

Game development at this scale can be straightforward if you're able to deflect external pressures, follow established PDLC process, and focus on building, nurturing, and shielding the team making the title. Let them concentrate on making software and avoid distractions like polished demos and early marketing explorations.