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Dev Profile: Chris Nengerman

Interviews 0

The Lead Game Designer of Spellborn gives us insights into his career

Garrett Fuller kicks off a new series of developer profile interviews today when he talks to Chris Nengerman, the Lead Designer of the Chronicles of Spellborn.

MMORPG.com: Tell us a little bit about your life growing up. Where did you live, what did you do, did you go to school?
Chris Nengerman:

I was born in Cologne, Germany but my parents moved back to Holland when I was 2, of course taking me along. I grew up in a small town in the northern Holland, called Groningen. Her I rode my first bike, got my first kiss from a girl, got into fights with the kids at school and build my first star destroyer from Lego. In other words all the important stuff. I finally ended up in Amsterdam where I studied philosophy at the University of Amsterdam.

MMORPG.com: At what age did you start playing games in general? Did you play any sports? What were your favorite games as a child?
Chris Nengerman:

Not counting the Fisher Price years, I started playing board games at the age of 5 or 6. I played Monopoly with my cousins a lot. And when I say a lot,…We probably went through 3 versions of the game in 3 years simply due to the bills getting all worn. I even went as far as to design a board game when I was 10 and sending it to MB (Milton Bradley) so I could get free copies of it when it published. I got back a very friendly letter explaining that they we re used to working with in house designers only. So, sadly, I had to postpone my gamedesign career a few years. Of course owning plastic hotels and designing board games didn’t do my physique any good so I picked up Basketball and Water polo for some much needed battle scars. I can recommend the latter if you re into that kind of thing.

MMORPG.com: Various influences can have a major part in games. What influences outside of game-play bring life to your work? Are there any ideas that you get from Books, Movies, Comics, Real-Life Stories, Art?
Chris Nengerman:

I have always been an avid comic reader. The usual like X-men and Spiderman when I was younger and more lengthy graphic novels when I got older. I also get a lot of inspiration from music, either listening or making. Since I was 14 I’ve been in bands. But probably the biggest influence on my work and life in general has been philosophy. What I think is very important in any creative profession is being able to break your subject matter apart, taking perspective and rebuilding it from the ground up. If there is one thing philosophy teaches you, it is to distrust (in a healthy way) every concept that is treated as the truth. This is the way new ideas are born, something that I also respect in a lot of modern art. I especially appreciate the work of recent British artists, like the Chapman brothers and Paul McCarthy.

MMORPG.com: At what age did you start playing video games? Can you tell us what your first video game experience was?
Chris Nengerman:

This is a bit of a rough guess but it was probably around the age of 6 or 7. My grandfather had opened a new account at one of Holland’s big banks. At the time the bank wanted to come across as high tech and modern. They wanted to get rid of their ‘stuffy’ image. So, my grandfather got a pong game as a welcome gift. Sunday afternoon visits to the grandparents became a lot more interesting after that.

MMORPG.com: Is Chronicles of Spellborn the first game you have worked on? If not what others have you been involved with?
Chris Nengerman:

Spellborn is the first game I have worked on. Then again with the office hours I keep it feels like I’m already on my fifth.

MMORPG.com: What is your job at Chronicles of Spellborn? How did you get your foot in the door?
Chris Nengerman:

I am lead gamedesigner. A friend of mine, who is head of the art department, got me on board. Although I am responsible for all the glamorous stuff like making task lists and planning I also get to design a boss fight or a dungeon here and there. Good thing about Spellborn is that lead positions are relative. We have a very open office-atmosphere. Everyone gets their ideas heard and if feasible, considered for implementation. On this note, we’re still debating squeezable, musical bunnies. It’s a marriage of two undeniably important things in life. Music and... bunnies. With, of course squeezing as a close third. Who can resist?

MMORPG.com: Take us through a typical day of work on Spellborn, what is it like when you show up at the office?
Chris Nengerman:

The Spellborn office is located in The Hague, very close to the beach. So the first thing I get when I arrive is a healthy breath of sea air. Entering the office I get a cup of tea from our very questionable coffee machine. It seems to lead a life of its own. Producing liquids no man should get close to. Although, it might be the reason for the recent outbreak of people stripping in front of our office. Hmmm,…that might on the other also be due to the beach being 30 yards away. Anyway, after the early morning fun at the coffee machine I have my daily email run. This often the takes till the early afternoon. At this time I should probably be in either a design meeting or concept session deciding on the details of a feature or implementation process. My early evenings are mostly spent with reading up on the progress of the other gamedesigners.

MMORPG.com: Are there any friends or family who had a major impact on your career or chasing dreams that you’d like to talk about?
Chris Nengerman:

Apart from our Art lead, who got me on-board, there have been many people who have had an impact on my career and life in general. The list ranges from my parents and friends to university professors and random people on the street. At the risk of sounding like a neo-hippy I think most people you meet in a way influence you if you are sensitive to their ideas and drives. I always like to talk to people who are really passionate about something, even if it’s a total stranger talking about his collection of hats from Tirol.

MMORPG.com: What are your hopes for the video games of the future, any thoughts on where the industry may be going?
Chris Nengerman:

There are two things I see as important elements in the future of video games and the games industry. One is the increasing level of professionalism. More and more schools and courses are popping up directly related to video game development. The amount of professionals entering the industry has been increasing steadily and this is something that is, I think, reflected in the quality of the games that are coming out. This ties in closely to the second trend that is been going. For a couple of years now we have seen an increase of experience range in playing video games. People are playing video games with more and more people. And a multiplayer option has become a needed feature for many games. Going as far as determining the success of a game. People like to play games (of course), they don’t mind playing alone, but playing together is often the preferred way for many people. Often, an achievement has a greater value when you re able to share it with someone. Things that come to mind in this respect are the immense rise in popularity of MMO’s. But also Xbox live is a good example. The experience range I’m talking about isn’t constrained to the social arena though. The way we play games is also changing. Things like the i-toy and the new Wii controller will give us much more engaging gaming experience.

MMORPG.com: Is there anything you would like to write to the readers of MMORPG.com that we have not spoken about?
Chris Nengerman:

This is of course a dangerous question to ask any game designer. Before you know, in all my enthusiasm, I’ll be talking about all the features we have planned for the future. But I will try to protect you and more so myself from my ramblings. Talking about musical bunnies has probably gotten me in trouble with our sound designer already. I do want to thank you for this interview as I enjoyed answering your questions. Also thanks for Mmorpg’s continued support of and interest in Spellborn. Only thing left for me to say is that talking about it will become secondary soon as you will all be able to play it.

Thanks Garrett

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