Dev Box Interview: Destineer’s Director of Product Development Peter Anthony Chiodo

Dev Box: Stoked

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 Destineer’s Director of Product Development Peter Anthony Chiodo take a break from working on “Stoked” and give him a chance to get on the Dev Box and tell us a bit about himself, and what he thinks about the industry.

Name: Peter Anthony Chiodo (“Tony”)
Title: Director of Product Development (Destineer)
What do you do?: I coordinate the production and development of Destineer’s game releases. I work with all of our external development partners, review their technical and creative capabilities, and create development contracts for the games we want to develop. I also work with our license partners and present [to them] the types of game experiences we want to create off their properties. I have a team of Producers who I assign to our externally developed partners and I work with them throughout the development process to bring our games to market.
Most recent game worked on: The most recent game I worked on was “Stoked,” a freestyle snowboarding game on the Xbox 360.

1. What game has most influenced you, and why?: There are a couple of games that have influenced me. The first is the original “Legend of Zelda” game for the NES. I was instantly amazed how a game could teach you a basic skill and then creatively push you to try the skill in different ways to solve a wide variety of puzzles. If there was a game that I could play over and over again it would be the “Legend of Zelda.” (I also really love the DS “Phantom Hourglass” title; it was amazing to me how excited I could get by being able to write notes on my map for future reference). The second game that influenced me was the original “Knights of the Old Republic” title for the Xbox. It was the first time where I felt that my game play decisions really had an impact on the story and the overall game experience. I can go so far as to say there are some aspects of “Knights of the Old Republic” that directly influenced the Stylish VS Hucker feature of Stoked.

2. What game are you playing right now?: I’m playing a wide variety of games right now. “Stoked,” of course, and “Pure,” “Gears of War 2,” I love “Rock Band 2″ (I’m our band’s drummer and my wife is our singer). On the casual side, I am addicted to “Bejeweled” and have been checking out “Kung Fu Panda” (I really loved the movie), and anything Lego is fantastic.

3. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about game development?: The biggest lesson I have learned about game development is to keep it simple. You should be able to talk about what a game is / what you do in a game in a single sentence or less and you should have no more than 3 to four dominant feature pillars that support the “what you do” sentence. If you can’t describe what the game is in a sentence and if you have a huge laundry list of features you’ll lose people… a lot of players just won’t get the experience you are trying to give them. Sometimes more is not better… it is just more.

4. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?: The best advice I ever received is to not become too emotionally attached to a feature while developing the game. Sometimes things looks / sound better on paper than when they are actually prototyped and you need to know when to “pull the ripcord” and cut the feature or make a change that is more supportive of the game experience you are trying to create. Too many times have I seen people become so emotionally attached to a feature that it takes over the development of the game and everything else suffers because of it.

5. What do you think is the biggest problem current games suffer from?: I think the biggest problem current games suffer from is size. Many, many games are just too big and too expensive [to make]. I think smaller teams with tighter budgets make for better game play experiences.

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