Interview with Kingdom Conquest II's Game Master, Kevin Callanan
Game Masters fill many different roles here at SEGA. To tell us a bit more about what happens in the world of a GM, the KC Community Team sat down with Kevin Callanan, known as Atavist on the SEGA forums. We talked to him about what his job entails, and some of the challenges of straddling the fence between players and developers.
1.We’ve spoken to you before, but not as much about the specifics of your job. Can you give us an idea of what you do at SEGA and on Kingdom Conquest II?
Fundamentally, I liaise between players of SEGA games and the developers creating those games. So, let’s say that the developers have just released a new feature (the Arena, for example) and they’re curious to see how it’s being received. They could go to the forums, Facebook and Twitter and so on themselves, but as part of the Community team, I’m already there, so I already have feedback at the tip of my fingers to give them. That’s not to say it’s all reactive like that, though. I send weekly reports of general feedback, and detailed reports on particular issues whenever appropriate.
I also manage game forums and social channels like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and so on. This not only includes moderating, but also posting articles, news, and community activities. I also create content for all these channels, or collect it from other sources if I’m not able to do it alone (like an art concept article, for example).
Beyond that, I play Kingdom Conquest II and other titles I work on quite extensively. As such, I go to a lot of meetings and work with other teams to make sure our efforts to make a game better are targeted and effective. Basically I bring a level of expertise to a discussion that helps everyone else do their job better!
2.How did you come to work for SEGA and in the video gaming industry in general?
Initially, I thought it would be impossible, because everyone wants to work in video games, right? I’m bilingual in English and German, and so after I moved to California I started looking for jobs that involved the German language. I got very lucky as a game studio in the Bay Area was looking for a German-speaking forum moderator. I had a great time there, but unfortunately the studio had to close down. Fortunately, I was able to find a home at SEGA and I’ve been here since!
3.What do you enjoy most about working on Kingdom Conquest II?
KCII was the first mobile game I worked on after working on a long-lasting, fairly complex MMO. I was really impressed by the depth of Kingdom Conquest (both the original release and the sequel), and I think it is great how that allows for a layered game experience, and a much more vibrant community. So, I’d say that I really love how KCII has the kind of complexity that allows for an interesting community to spring up around it.
4.What does your daily routine consist of?
Well, first I drive in to work in my Lambo… just kidding. I spend a lot of time reading both the forums and checking Facebook and Twitter for messages coming in and responding as appropriate. I also post any new events to our community channels that are published in-game by the KC dev team.
I also attend many meetings throughout the week to discuss what’s going on in KCII with upper management here at SEGA of America. In addition to these meetings, we also hold a few meetings a week to chat with SEGA teams elsewhere in the world.
The rest of my time is taken up with content creation, whether it’s articles, guides, etc.
5.What are some of the challenges of working in Community Management, and as a GM?
I think probably the biggest challenge is that in Community you have to take the side of both players and developers. You have to understand and be a fair representative for both sides, and that can be tough, because at some point something has to give. The measure of success is how much you can accomplish for both sides, and not just for one side.
At the same time, it’s also challenging to communicate with players in an open way while not giving away plans for upcoming content. It’s not always feasible to explain to players why something isn’t possible, or why something has to happen the way it is happening due to shifting release schedules and unreleased content/features.
As a GM specifically, it’s much the same as for Community, but I think it’s challenging to learn as much as possible about a game, and keeping track of all the things happening in-game. Especially when I read the discussions of players about game mechanics, I’m perpetually impressed by how much knowledge they have about the game. Even before working at SEGA, it was amazing how some players seemed to know more about the way things work in a game than the developers themselves, let alone a Game Master like me. It can be challenging to learn everything I can and keep track of details.
6.What’s rewarding about working in Community Management, and as a GM?
It’s great seeing people form a community around something they love. If you’re working in Community Management at a game company, you’re going to be passionate about games, and you want to see people have fun playing games like you do. Especially in multiplayer games, communities can make or break a game, and being in a position to make that kind of success, which benefits players and developers, is fantastically rewarding.
As a GM, it’s really cool to be able to understand the mechanics of a game and understand player requests, and communicate them to the developers. Seeing player suggestions or ideas take shape in-game is quite fulfilling.
7.What kind of community events would you like to do for Kingdom Conquest II?
I’d love to be able to do more in-person events. I attend conventions myself, and I think they’re a load of fun, and I think it would be great to see more players of KCII meeting up at conventions. It’s the kind of thing I really enjoyed when I was just a player, and I’d like to be in a position to go to smaller conventions and meet players.
8.What do you enjoy most about working for Sega in general?
I have a strong nostalgic attachment to SEGA, and its great working for the company that made all the games I enjoyed when I was younger. I also really like the people I work with here. Everyone is really helpful and fun, and it’s a great atmosphere.
9.If you could play only one game for the rest of your life, which would you choose, and why?
Hm, I’d say probably EVE Online… I love the universe (I’m a big science fiction nerd), and I feel like there’s always more to do. If you get bored with PvP, you can PvE. When you get bored with that, you do Industry, or exploration, or any of the countless other things you can do in that game.
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