Category Archives: Starhawk

Leaving LightBox


Today is my last day as part of the LightBox Interactive team.

In the four-plus years I’ve worked with LightBox — six-plus if you count that I worked with this same group back at Incognito Entertainment, on Warhawk — I’ve had opportunities and experiences that shaped my career and my identity as a game designer. I moved to sunny Austin, Texas, one of the most vibrant game development hubs in the United States and home to a large and varied indie community. I built a design team from the ground up and led them from concept to completion on an excellent AAA title: Starhawk. I worked alongside stunningly talented designers, artists, engineers, producers, and QA, including former colleagues who are now at such pedigreed studios as Bungie and Naughty Dog.

But perhaps most importantly — and most pertinent to this post — I gained the financial resources and wide-ranging industry experience to enable me to pursue a path of true self-sufficiency.

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Starhawk Released!


On Tuesday May 8 LightBox Interactive launched our first PS3 title, the game I’ve spent the last four or so years of my professional life working on: Starhawk.

For me, Starhawk represents a lot of firsts.

It’s the first time I’ve worked with a startup. LightBox was formed from the remains of Incognito after we finished Warhawk and its expansions, so I’ve been with the studio since Day One.

Incognito was based in Salt Lake City, Utah, but we wanted to move LightBox to a more active creative center. That led to my first interstate move, to beautiful Austin, Texas!

When we formed LightBox I was the only game designer on the team. I guess I became lead designer by default. ;) It fell to me to hire a team of designers, another first for me. Fortunately I landed a great crew!

Starhawk is also my first full-featured AAA title. Sure, Warhawk had the production value, but it was multiplayer-only. This is the first time I got to work on a AAA game with not only great multiplayer, but also a story-driven single-player campaign, which is something I’ve wanted to do ever since I got into the industry.

It’s the first time I, personally, had serious media exposure. On Warhawk I gave an interview or two, but on Starhawk I was doing the full rounds, both at our unveil event in downtown Austin, and later at my first E3.

I also got to attend GDC for my first time (and my second!) while Starhawk was in development. I met a lot of new people and learned a ton of amazing things there; GDC has since become the one thing I most look forward to each year.

Late in development I had the opportunity to speak (alongside colleagues Trent Polack and Matthew Gallant) at Juegos Rancheros, a local gathering of game developers, about the relationship between Starhawk and my indie work. It was my first ever public speaking engagement. (It could’ve gone better.)

As a lead I was exposed to lot more of the inner workings of the game development business than I ever had the opportunity to see before. Not just tech and process, but also publisher relations, marketing, financials… the works. For the first time I got a very real, practical sense of how much it costs to make a AAA game, and where all that money goes.

I’ve been in the industry about seven and a half years now, and LightBox is the first studio — and Starhawk the first project — where I experienced really loving my career. On the flip-side, it’s also here that I’ve had to deal for the first time with real frustration over creative differences (because this is the first time I’ve actually cared enough to be invested in them). And unfortunately, it is NOT the first time I’ve had to endure an end-of-project crunch.

But I guess that’s creative work for you: the greater the distance between the highest highs and the lowest lows, the more likely you are to be working on something special.

So what’s next?

Just like with Warhawk, we’re planning extensive post-release support for Starhawk, starting with our launch-day announcement that all DLC maps will be made available free of charge. We’ve released early concept art for the first such map, named “Cypress” (no release date announced, yet):

As for me personally: if you’ve followed this blog at all you’re probably aware of my indie project Fail-Deadly and its impending iOS port.

Due to several months of crunch on Starhawk, all my indie work has been completely on hold. But now that Starhawk is on shelves, I should be getting back in the saddle and finishing up the iOS version of Fail-Deadly, hopefully this summer.

In the meantime: enjoy Starhawk, and I’ll see you online! 8)

Starhawk Announced!

I’ve been working at LightBox Interactive on a new, secret project for a couple years now, and on Friday we finally unveiled Starhawk to the world!

Starhawk is our spiritual successor to Warhawk, the most recent commercial game I worked on. We’re featuring an all-new single-player campaign set in a fresh new universe inspired by Western and sci-fi genre influences, unique co-op missions, mechs that transform into fighter jets, and a cool new gameplay system called Build & Battle with which you can call down structures in real-time to augment the battlefield: you can wall off chokepoints, build bunkers and turrets to defend your base, call down garages and launch pads to gain access to vehicles, and more. We carefully engineered Build & Battle to provide strategic opportunities with the same speed and accessibility of pulling the trigger on your gun: Starhawk is still very much a fast-paced third-person shooter.

And of course, we haven’t forgotten our roots: we’ve still got the intense online multiplayer gameplay that fans of Warhawk have come to know and love, along with expanded community features and assorted cool bits. And yes, Build & Battle is available in multiplayer as well, which makes things very interesting. ;)

A lot of folks praised Warhawk’s excellent game balance, which of course is critical in a multiplayer shooter (and one of the things I’m most proud of in that game). As the lead game designer on Starhawk, I take balance very seriously, especially with respect to the new Build & Battle system. It’s still too early to get into the specifics, but I hope at some point in the future to have an opportunity to give our hardcore fans a glimpse into some of the things we’re doing to ensure that competitive gameplay in Starhawk is fair and legitimate.

I’m really excited about the game and it feels great to finally unveil it and see all the positive feedback we’ve gotten so far. The final product is still a ways off, but I’m looking forward to getting it into all of your hands and filling up some servers as soon as it’s done!