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Red Storm News Interview
Jonathan 'Ringo2000' Sharpe :: 03:00 AM @ August 6th, 2003 :: In-House: Interviews
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Today we've sat down with Red Storm game designer Christen Allen:

GameGossip: First off, thank you Mr. Allen for accepting this interview. Could you clarify to our readers your current position at Red Storm? Can you break out what that means your day to day activities are?

Christian Allen: My position at Red Storm Entertainment is Assistant Game Designer. My focus is mainly on mission scripting, as well as working with a Lead Designer on general Design tasks relating to almost every aspect of a game. Documentation is another large part of my life as a Designer. We work very hard to create clear and concise documentation to help the rest of the team. An average day for me breaks down into mission scripting, documentation, discussions with team members about projects, and of course playing games.
GG: Prior to working at Red Storm, you were part of a well known Mod, can you let our readers in on what NATO was all about?
CA: The NATO series of Mods for Rainbow Six and Rogue Spear is one of the most well known Mods for those games. After producing several of my own Mods, I was lucky to be invited to participate on the 3.5 version of the Mod for Rogue Spear: Urban Operations - updating and adding to a large body of work created by a prolific group, the Alliance of Rainbow Six Mod Makers (ARMM). NATO concentrated on expanding the already impressive arsenal of Rainbow, and catered to the most hard-core Rainbow fans. Of all of the 25+ Mods that I had the pleasure of working on, NATO was one of the most enjoyable to work on.
GG: What was your reaction when you were approached about the job?
CA: The most prominent feeling I remember was disbelief that I had finally gotten the call. I had been pursuing a position in the industry, and specifically, at Red Storm Entertainment, for almost two years. When the phone rang and the caller ID said Red Storm Ent., I initially thought someone was playing a prank on me. After coming in and meeting the folks here at RSE, I knew that this was the place for me. Friendly people, a great work environment, and an awesome collection of talent make for a cool place to come in to work everyday.
GG: How much different is being a mission designer then how you envisioned?
CA: It is actually quite different than I imagined. I guess I had leftover visions of the 90's web startups, with everyone sitting on beanbags and riding around on scooters. While the attitude is laid back, this industry is full of dedicated people who are passionate about making great games.

What really impressed me at first is the level of professionalism and planning that goes into mission design. I think that most gamers would be surprised with how much effort really goes into defining the pacing, difficulty, and overall feeling of each mission they play. Still, every once and a while, I will find myself sitting at my desk, feeling amazed that someone is paying me contribute to some of the coolest games around.
GG: How much different is working in a professional team setting then in a Mod crew environment?
CA: It is quite different. Aside from the differences in volume of work, as a Modder you are working to expand and change an existing game, trying to push boundaries and put your own personal touch on a project. There is a framework of a stable and tested game that you can work from. When you are developing a new game, you are starting the process from the ground up. While this means you have a lot more creative input, it also means a lot more groundwork.

I had the pleasure of working with a lot of great people when I was a Modder. However, I also had a lot of projects fall through because "real life" got in the way. When game development is "real life," you don't run into that problem. You know that you can depend on the talented people you work with everyday to come through with awesome work to make the best game possible.
GG: What personal skills have you found to be most important now that you are part of the industry?
CA: I feel that communication and flexibility are the most important skills at my job. You might have the best ideas in the world, but if you cannot communicate effectively with other developers, then your input won't get heard. Being flexible means being ready to work on a variety of tasks and being prepared to learn new skills as the need arises.
GG: What has been the biggest perk of working in the industry thus far?
CA: Getting to go to work every day in a job that I love and working on the games that I love to play! I am extremely lucky to be working at a company that developed some of my favorite games, and now I get to be in on the ground floor. That, and free Pizza every once and a while.
GG: What was your educational background?
CA: My biggest educational experience was the United States Marine Corps, where I spent four years and became a Non-Commissioned Officer in the Military Police. Later, I did attend some college, studying Game Art and Design. I am returning to school again, part time, in order to finish up my BA.
GG: There are hundreds of young Mod groups populating popular game title communities. What do you recommend to them so that they might be noticed by a developer?
CA: Persistence is the key. It is a rare occurrence that any one single Mod project will get you "noticed," however, a large portfolio of high quality work that demonstrate your skills is what will help you land that first interview. Make sure that you release quality, tested work that showcases your talents and abilities. Also, become involved in the community you are Modding for, and remember that once you release a project to the public, you should support it as best you can.

Modding isn't the "one" thing that will get you into the industry. You also need to have a strong work ethic, dedication, and talent. Modding is an excellent way to showcase those skills, but you need to make sure and continue to develop a well-rounded portfolio.
GG: What tools should an industry hopeful be learning to find a position like yours?
CA: Technical writing is very important, and it is a good idea to have at least a basic knowledge in the major types of modeling and graphics programs. While my particular job does not require any particular programs besides Red Storm's proprietary scripting tools, it is very important to be familiar with the general tools, technology, and platforms that are used in the industry.
GG: What level of influence does a community have on the development staff? Do you find members of the team discussing popular subjects that the community is bringing to light?
CA: We pay a lot of attention to feedback from the community and the fans. Having been part of that community in the very near past, I personally spend a lot of time reading the forums and keeping up with the discussions on various forums and message boards. We often discuss the very same issues that are brought up in the community.
GG: Are the development tools you are using being shaped at all by feedback from Mod groups? Are they being designed with versatility for those same Mod groups in mind?
CA: We are always working to make our tools easier to use. The changes we implement to make our daily work easier will translate directly into versatility for Mod groups. We also spend a lot of time documenting our tools, so that the community can make use of them, as illustrated by the comprehensive Igor guide that Matthias Dohmen put together for Ghost Recon Modders.
GG: How much planning is involved in making a successful mission? What do you feel separates a good level from a bad one?
CA: A successful mission combines the elements of pacing, suspense, and action together into a fun package that is both challenging and rewarding. Hours of planning and discussion go into each mission, and more work goes into playtesting.
GG: To bring a more realistic setting to your missions what are you doing for research on a project?
CA: I spend a lot of time reading up on military tactics and operations, as well as studying different conflicts around the world. I also work closely with the Lead Designers and our Character Artists keeping current on the most realistic weapons and gear in the military and special operations world.
GG: Aside from your busy work schedule what games are you finding time to play?
CA: Recently I've been online a lot, playing Raven Shield, Ghost Recon and Rogue Spear; you will see haunting the game lobbies as "Serellan." Offline, I have been enjoying GTA3: Vice City, and when I have time, some Empire Earth for my RTS fix.

Latest Similar Story: Interview Round-Up (03/16/06)

#1 - Serellan - 08/06/03 @ 02:43 PM EST
Thanks for the opportunity!

Christian "Serellan" Allen
Red Storm EntertainmentLast Edited on 08/06/03 @ 02:51 PM EST
#2 - Serellan - 08/06/03 @ 06:21 PM EST

Last Edited on 08/06/03 @ 10:25 PM EST
#3 - Houdini - 08/06/03 @ 07:02 PM EST
good read.. good stuff
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