Kim Wood is a Content Designer that has worked with both Sony Online Entertainment as well as Carbine Studios. She designs lore, quests, and various other content in MMO games for players to interact with and enjoy.
Q: What was your original inspiration to go into the videogame industry?
Kim: Well that’s an interesting question. It’s a long line of cause and effect. I originally got a Sonic the Hedgehog comic book when I was a kid, and I started with sketches and doodles, and then I moved on to canvas painting and charcoal. In high school I took graphic arts, 2D and 3D. And as I grew older, I realized that rather than traditional art, game design was more my forte. It would allow me to wear many hats, as I am personally a jack of all trades.
Q: What does being a content designer entail?
Kim: Umm, wearing many hats! I have to know writing, I have to write dialogue and quest run-throughs. It has to be concise and make sense to the players. I have to be a level designer and make sure that the players go through the world properly that it feels natural and enjoyable. I have to be a bit of an artist and marry visual effects, props and NPCs to work together in the world properly. I have to be a scripter; I have to write complicated scripts in order to make Super-Fancy-Things happen. I also have to be an organizer, in that, I have to make sure that all my content is properly organized so that if I’m out sick, people are able to get in to fix, change, or manipulate my content with ease.
Q: What was your favorite videogame when you were growing up?
Kim: Sonic the Hedgehog was a big one, Pokemon was pretty huge, Zelda was definitely one. Pokemon I think was the biggest, I spent too many hours playing that game. Or rather, games.
Q: What is your favorite type of videogame to play now?
Kim: I like to play social games where I can interact with different people. Currently I’m playing League of Legends and Guild Wars 2. I like to play support characters in general.
Q: Why did you choose to apply to Carbine?
Kim: They were starting out a new and secret project at the time, now known as WildStar Online, and I wanted in on it. It’s fun moving on to new and different projects. I was done with Sony and I wanted to spread my wings and explore new possibilities. I wanted to stay in MMOs, but one day I’ll move on to consoles.
Q: Do you have a lot of fun working in a game company?
Kim: Yes, it’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. Yes, everyone rides around on razor scooters, yes there’s Nerf fights in the hallways, yes there’s lots of snacks and sodas. But there’s also 10-15 hour days, and when you want to scream you have to do it silently. But when your script works, when my stories and content flow just right, and when all your spell effects are looking amazing, it’s very satisfying.
Q: What’s your favorite project that you’ve ever worked on?
Kim: I’d have to say it’s this one, Wildstar Online.
Q: Can you tell me more about Wildstar Online? Or the parts you’ve worked on?
Kim: I can’t talk about much since it hasn’t been released, but I’m currently one of the two people in charge of the Settler Path and getting it out the door, and I’m working tooth and nail to make it super fun. In our game, like many other MMOs, you can pick a race, you can pick a gender, and you can pick a class. The three classes that have been announced are Warrior, Spellslinger, and Esper. But in our game you get to pick something else too called a Player Path. The four player paths are Soldier, Explorer, Scientist, and Settler. Nothing has been revealed about what Settler does yet, so I can say no more.
Q: I have to admit, I’m really excited to hear more about it.
Kim: Our website releases lore and other information every Wednesday at http://www.wildstar-online.com! You can also follow us on Facebook.
Q: Is there a dream project you would love to work on the most, more than anything?
Kim: I’ve actually heard this question before, and the answer is no. But there are some companies I would love to work for. I would like to work for Valve, absolutely. Would I move to Seattle for Valve? Yes, yes I would. I would like to work at Double Fine, Naughty Dog, and if I could go overseas, it would be very interesting to work for Nintendo. It would probably never happen, but if it could, being able to work on a Zelda or a Pokemon game would be pretty cool. Or working for Capcom on the next Monster Hunter game, that would be good too. There’s a few places, but I’m happy where I am now. I will go wherever the wind takes me.
Q: I’ve heard a lot of stories about how it’s a lot harder to find work in the game industry as a woman, do you think that is true?
Kim: It used to be, I don’t think that’s quite true anymore. Not too many years ago, women were outnumbered 50-1 I would say. Nowadays it’s evening out, I think at Carbine it’s about 5-1, as there’s a whole mess of girls there. Of course these aren’t actual figures, this is my guesstimation. I think places like Gamasutra might have accurate figures.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to break into the industry?
Kim: It’s going to be tough, and very hard. The only reason I’m here is because I was very, very lucky. If you want to be an actual game designer—not an artist, not a programmer—you have to write documents. Think of game ideas, and write full fledged game design documents explaining not only the story, not just the game mechanics, but other aspects such as economy, marketing, presenting it in less than five minutes to a CEO. Read a lot, play a lot of games, and record your experiences involving those games. Get a QA position, and try and go above and beyond your duties where applicable. Some companies you can move up from QA, some companies you cannot, but keep trying. I would recommend the Extra Credits videos at Penny Arcade. Watch them, they have great advice and insight.
Q: Do you have a presence on the Internet where I can view your body of work?
Kim: Yes, it’s a rainbow-y, sugary goodness website called kimbychu.com!