[Prime] Uncomfortably Personal: Sanya Weathers

Posted: September 21, 2011 in Prime, Uncomfortably Personal

I’ve been wondering just makes a dev tick. Is it Funions? Bud Lite? Hating on the local weather station because they’re borderline incompetent? All of the above? I figured the best place to find out is to actually go to the dev themselves. I slapped together a dozen questions and sent them off to Pitch Black Games and said “Fill in the Blanks.” I may have said “Please”, but I’m not sure. At any rate, I’m hoping to put up a new developer’s responses every week. I’ll be tagging them into the same category, so they’ll be in one place. Hope this helps you get a good view of what makes these developers tick. And now, Sanya Weathers!

Going Rancid: Who are you and what do you do at Pitch Black Games?

Sanya Weathers: Sanya Weathers, Director of Community. That means I handle the forums, the social media, web media, the beta wrangling, and I plan out community support stuff – in game tools, web tools, etc. Marketing reels ‘em in, but community keep ‘em.

GR: What class will you be rolling at release, and what is your favorite archetype?

SW: You cannot pay me enough to tell you the answer to the first, but I will admit that I’m almost always a tank player. Unga kill. Unga whack things with big stick.

Between me the tank, Warren the stealther, and John the healer, we’re almost a functional group.

GR: What other MMOs are you playing right now, or what was the last one you played (and what made you leave, if you can say)?

SW: LOTRO is the released game I’ve played most recently.

GR: Do you do any console gaming? If so, what genre soaks up most of your time? FPS? Music? Racing games? RPG?

SW: I’m not much of a console player, because when I move my avatar, I’m one of those dimwits that lifts the controller when I want to jump, or leans my body over to the side if it’s not turning fast enough. I end up getting lost and slightly dizzy. You’d think I’d be great at Wii or other similar controllers, but with those I’m too spasmodic.

When I do play console games, I enjoy RPGs.

GR: Fondly recall your first MMO experience. What game was it and what happened?

SW: “Fondly” as a modifier changes the answer from “first.” My first fond memory was actually EQ. I’d been nagging my three roommates to get the hell out of the basement and out bowling or playing pool or darts or ANYTHING, GOD, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE. Then one of them went on a trip and the other two set me up an avatar on the absent one’s computer. I was surrounded with rat corpses and had a friend list within an hour. Then that roommate came back, and another one left, and the guys made me an avatar on that computer. Two weeks later I bought a computer and joined my guild.

After that I was a lost cause. I had friends all over the world who got all of my jokes, read the same books, watched the same movies, and didn’t care what I looked like or how well I danced or how much TV I watched. It was my first real experience with what the internet could be.

GR: Tell us about your most memorable or epic gaming experience, MMO or not, and why it was so memorable.

SW: Heh… well, er… so, the deal is, my favorite memories might perhaps be considered kinda sorta griefish. Mind you, I heartily reject that label for the high-spirited antics perpetuated by my guildmates and brothers.

I have a very good friend who also works in the industry. She and I met on the job, and worked together for years. One day we happened to be chatting about our previous game experiences, and it turned out we played EQ on the same server. What a coincidence, right, what are the odds?
Then we started swapping stories. It was quickly evident that we were telling the same stories, but from… er… very different perspectives.

Her slightly paraphrased comment was “I cannot believe you were one of those [unprintable] [expurgated] [euphemisms].”

GR: Tell us about your most memorable experience of being an utter noobie. What did you learn?

SW:I learned that “obvious” is in the eye of the beholder. No one is born knowing which mouse button opens a chat window and which attacks the target 🙂 I was very lucky, learning to play with a roomful of gamers – the learning curves were a lot steeper in 1999, and I’m not sure I’d have bothered learning the keyboard commands, let alone the complexities and subtleties that make playing fun. Now I’m kind of aggressively incompetent, because I want to be sure the game I work on is accessible. I don’t mean dumbed down, I mean you should be able to play the stupid thing without taking a class or reading the whole manual.

GR: How did you get into the game industry, and when did you know you wanted to actually stay and do this for a living?

SW: I did volunteer CS for a game I loved, but one that was at the time not well supported by the company. After literally days of taking front line abuse from customers without either the tools to deal with the problems or anyone from the company noticing, I went insane. I wrote a rant (somehow not directed at the company, but at the players) and it went viral before we used words like viral.

One thing led to another, and I started working as a game journalist. I also had a website where I shared all kinds of opinions about how to treat customers. I went to write an article about a game company with an MMO in development, and they hired me to do community. My day job skills were in communications/marketing/management (and I had been rather a good CSR until I went berserk), so it was a case of right place, right time, with the right skills.

After that there was no chance I was going to go back to a job where I had to wear makeup and heels just to be taken halfway seriously. Would you leave a job where you’re paid to hang out with your friends (or people so like your friends as to make no nevermind) and argue about AOE damage?

GR: What is your favorite part of working in the game industry?

SW: The players. Hands down. See [above].

GR: In regards to your position, and comparing the current landscape of gamers to the ones of the past ten years, what trends do you hope to turn around/accelerate?

SW: I think the MMO industry has put too much faith in trying to be all things to all people, and that doesn’t work for anyone but the market leader. I think huge megagames have their place, but collectively we’re ignoring a lot of niches. I’d like to show that knowing what customer you want and going after him has a lot of room for profit.

I’d also like to move away from the quick buck, ADD attention span, pay-to-win mentality of design. I want to be part of a community that grows together with the game into something legendary.

GR: When you’re not making games, what do you spend your time on?

SW: Playing games, reading, and my family.

[Rancid: Special thanks to Sanya for spilling her guts to us. ]

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