The People

Neil A

Lead Game Designer

Joining us across a rope bridge composed of all our monitor cables and phone chargers comes Neil. Formed by brazing together ribbons of steel and iron, as if forging a shotgun barrel using the Damascus method, Neil brings with him a host of experience, much of it clothed, some of it legal, and has had an immediate impact on our Map-Makering Pit, which he rules with a rod of iron.

And a rod of steel. And a rod of chalk. And another rod of iron. And a loaf of bread. And a wallaby. Oh is that not your wallaby? It must be somebody’s wallaby. Well I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking. OK. OK, fine. Yes I will. Thank you.

In addition to waving pointy carrots and tempting sticks at our level designers, Neil can like totally fly. He was also very heavily implicated in the mappery of Killzone 2, which be purdy. Neil’s hobbies include Being Awesome, lathing candlesticks upon his patented vibraphone-loom and cutting a rug. He always says you can’t make a map without breaking eggs. No, not you personally. In general. And wait, that’s an omelette. Maybe I was thinking of a meringue. Anyway, he breaks eggs, constantly. There must be a reason.

Things You Were Too Afraid To Ask...

Every once in a while, we interrogate one of our own and put their answers up for all the world to see. Read on to find out more about what Neil does, how he ended up at Splash Damage, and more.

What do you do at Splash Damage?

As Lead Level Designer, I maintain a high level overview of all the different levels in the game, and make sure they fit in with the game’s vision and work together to create something stronger than the sum of the parts. I am of course responsible for the quality of the work our department delivers, but with the talent of the team I’ve inherited, I don’t have to give guidance as much as clear obstacles out of their paths so they can get on with doing their jobs. It’s also my duty to help prioritize different assets and features from other departments that will effect the work of our team, and then chase people around to make sure they get done!

What other games have you worked on?

My first game was the original Tom Clancy’s: Splinter Cell at Ubisoft Montreal for the then fledgling Xbox. I then went on to ship Shadow Ops: Red Mercury at Zombie Studios in Seattle, and after that had a relatively brief stint at 3D Realms working on the infamous Duke Nukem Forever. I most recently moved to the UK from Amsterdam, where I worked at Guerrilla on Killzone 2 as lead level designer.

Why did you join Splash Damage?

I saw a proven studio with humble origins, who have since built on that with a series of outstanding new hires. Combine that with proximity to the Arsenal, and I just couldn’t say no!

Plus, I'd also heard they were partial to a bit of cake.

What are the best and worst parts of your job?

The best part is getting to work with an incredibly talented yet down-to-Earth team, a combination which I’ve found to be quite rare in our industry. There really isn’t much I dislike about the daily work I do, but I do wish our medium got a bit more respect from the public at large, as it has so much to offer. But like any newer form of media, it takes a while for the mainstream to truly accept it, and also some time for it to grow into something worth respecting.

How has the craft of level design evolved since your start in the industry?

Level design, like most of game development, has had to evolve to accommodate much higher bars in terms of overall quality and production values. The pattern has been in effect longer than my time in the industry, but team sizes continue to grow along with the technology and production methods used to create games, so cooperation and communication have become increasingly important as time has gone on. Level Designers still benefit from being Jacks-of-all-trades, but it’s now just as important that they can properly interface with others to keep everything moving in the same direction.

What was your first gaming experience?

I’ve been playing games just about as long as I can remember, but I the games that made a real impression on me when I was younger were Double Dragon, Star Wars and Time Soldiers in the arcade, the old Sierra adventure games and Montezuma’s Revenge on the PC, and Ghostbusters and Donald Duck’s Playground on the C64. Even though it was a bit later on in my life, I have to give a shout for the Shadow of the Beast series on the Amiga, as they made me first realize that games didn’t have to sound like crap!

What types of games do you like, and what's your favorite game of all time?

I enjoy most types of games other than simulation-ish racing games (I prefer actually driving)… but basically, at least throw in some weaponry and I’m good to go. As a designer I find it important to try all sorts of games, so one has to try to keep an open mind and see what appeals to different people.

It’s tough to pick one as a favorite, but if I had to chose one it’d have to be Quake, as it had the biggest impact on my life and indirectly ushered me into game development. It coincided with my first year at University and was my first time with internet access (though I’d been involved with BBSes previously), and the combination of all that really did rock my world. I ended up switching my major from Computer Science to New Media/Interactive Design, and the rest is history…

What's the meaning behind your nickname?

Exedore is an alien character from the old Robotech TV series, who first proposes peace between the invading aliens and the defending humans when he realizes they will both face destruction. Even as a child I liked his pensive nature amongst a warrior race, and willingness to go counter to authority if its actions were ultimately counterproductive.

Finally, what do you enjoy doing when you're not at work?

Shockingly, I do quite a bit of gaming! I try to keep that balanced with other forms of media such as books, music, film and *some* TV, and I try to travel whenever time allows for it. I’ve lived in quite a few places by now, so I try to balance going back to places I once called home with seeing new things.