Dev Box Interview: MapleStory’s Associate Producer Sheloman Byrd

Dev Box: Maple Story

It usually takes a small army to create the video games that we play, and, most of the time, all of the focus gets put on the game itself, and not on the people that came together to make it. Our weekly Dev Box interview series takes a look at some of the unsung heroes that have committed their lives to entertaining all of us. This week we are letting Nexon America Inc.’s Associate Producer Sheloman Byrd take a break from working on “Maple Story” and give him a chance to get on the Dev Box and tell us a bit about himself, and what he thinks about the games industry.

Name: Sheloman Byrd
Title: Associate Producer - Game Planning & Design - MapleStory Team (Nexon America Inc.)
Most recent game worked on: “MapleStory”
What you do: Associate Producer for the No. 1 free-to-play MMO, “MapleStory.” I do quests, items, areas, sounds/BGM, monster designs, game play concepts, as well as write and edit a lot of the game text. I also assist heavily with the day-to-day operations of the game, as well as marketing, long-term plans, and new initiatives (Pets, new systems, etc). I’ve worked here since September 2006, and I’m happy to say our game has over six million registered players in North America.
Most recent game worked on: Shockingly, “MapleStory.” =)

What game has most influenced you, and why?

Not one game per se, but one developer, that would be Hideo Kojima and his portfolio. His willingness to try something different, execute fresh and exciting designs, and generally make kick-ass games is a quality I admire and work towards. He’s Yoda.

What are you playing right now?

“Killzone 2,” “Resistance 2,” “Zuma,” “Wipeout HD,” “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night,” and preparing for “SF4″ and later, “Resident Evil 5.” “Portal” is also in there; quite fun. I play a lot of casual PC games too and am looking forward to playing “Dungeon Fighter Online,” Nexon’s next title.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about game development?

It’s important to have clear, concise goals from the beginning of any creative project, and stick to them. The tradeoffs and sacrifices along the way are a part of it, but as long as you have a good, adjustable roadmap, your game or project will be better for it. Also, the ability to stay up for 30+ hours if necessary is also helpful. =)

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

Heh, depends. One was “Being straight about something is more important than being nice about it.”
And probably the one I remember best, “If you have to choose between difficult and fun, pick fun.”

What do you think is the biggest problem current games suffer from?

I think a lot of games suffer from too many ideas and not enough polish. It’s quite obvious which games really stuck to their guns in the end-such as “Killzone 2,” which essentially boils down to no two firefights being the same and total immersion in the game world. Two other examples are “God of War 2″ and “Resident Evil 4.” From beginning to end, every piece of those games was polished to a high shine-combat mechanics, graphics, extra items, objectives, story, everything. Whereas other games don’t necessarily sit down and really see what is or isn’t working, adjust and polish. That’s the difference between a AAA title and one that falls short.

I think along with that, it’s time for us to get serious as an industry-true union, pay scale, the works. Games are not the next big thing, we’re already here, and it’s time for us to grow up and act like it.

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