Chris Rubyor

Senior Game Designer, Microsoft Game Studios

Chris Rubyor is a game designer who whose credits include Command & Conquer: Generals Zero Hour (2003), Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth (2004), Star Wars: Empire at War (2006), and Star Wars: Empire at War—Forces of Corruption (2006). While working as a community manager and in QA early in his career, his credits included the Command & Conquer series and many other titles.

On getting into the game industry: I was fortunate enough to know someone who worked in the industry. At the time (1994), I was working at a computer store, selling games and hardware. One day my old boss called the store and asked if I was interested in working as a QA analyst for the company that created Dune II (Westwood Studios). Being a big fan of Dune II and The Legend of Kyrandia, I couldn’t refuse.

On learning about game design: For every designer it’s different. I knew from the day I started working at Westwood Studios that I wanted to be a game designer. Unlike most people, I made a conscious decision to learn more about the industry, thus my foray into marketing and community support. From 1997 through 2000 I worked as a PR manager for Westwood Studios under Laura Miele (VP of marketing) at the time. This position gave me the opportunity to learn about marketing products to our consumers and the importance of PR and how it relates to gaming. I traveled to various trade shows, worked with some of the top gaming magazines from around the world, and helped set up events to promote Westwood’s games. It was great experience that I look back on with fond memories.

On working in community management: Starting in June 2000, I made the decision to take on a new community manager (Command & Conquer) position at Westwood Studios. It was something new to the company and dealt exclusively with the fans. For the next year I worked very closely with Brett Sperry, the company’s cofounder and visionary behind the Command & Conquer series, and Ted Morris, the Web development director, to carve out the role. Working with these two individuals gave me the chance to learn a great deal about Web design and the importance of an online community for a multiplayer product.

Over the next three years I did everything from helping design Web sites and managing message boards to creating six-month community plans layered with events for both pre- and postlaunch of a product. I also put on the PR hat at times and set up online chat events, contests, and fan site events at the main studio to help excite and promote growth of our community. From this I walked away with a wealth of knowledge about online gaming, community integration, and a realization that multiplayer gaming is my passion.

On getting a game design position: In July 2003 I made the decision to begin working my way into a design position. Westwood Studios was just beginning work on a new project, and the team was limited to only a few developers. So after hours I began working with the creative director on concepts and big ideas. We also talked a lot about multiplayer gaming and what we should try for our next game. After about six months, an assistant design position became available, and I gladly took on the role.

Now (2007) I’m working as a lead game designer at Petroglyph. I credit the choices I made and people I met for my smooth transition into my dream job.

Advice to designers: Don’t be afraid to take chances; it would be a shame for gamers to miss out on the next killer game experience.