Jessica Mulligan currently serves as the Executive Producer of The Saga of Ryzom. Previously, she's enjoyed high profile positions with Turbine Entertainment and the Themis Group as a consultant on Anarchy Online.
Let us begin with an introduction to who you are, what you do and what you’re working on.
My name is Jessica Mulligan and I bill myself as an Executive Consultant in the online games industry. I’m currently working with Nevrax in Paris as the Executive Producer for The Saga of Ryzom. In that respect, I’m responsible for the strategy and day-to-day operations of the game and the service.
The gaming industry draws from all quarters. Can you run us through how you came to your current job?
I’d met the principals of Nevrax at E3 a couple times over the years and liked them a lot. I was also impressed with how Ryzom was coming along, the fact that a small company managed to launch an MMO when larger companies we’re pulling out of the space and the vision of the CEO, David Cohen Corval, appealed to me. And it didn’t hurt that they’d read the book I co-authored with Bridgette Patrovsky and they liked it, :D.
At about the same time that I had decided to leave Turbine earlier this year, David and the COO of Nevrax, Marine Treppoz, called me up and asked if I was interested in coming to Paris for a while, helping to plan the strategy for more development on the game and to get that strategy moving. I decided I wouldn’t mind some time in Paris at all, :D.
You have what many would consider a dream job. What is your favorite part of your job?
Obviously, the slave-like control I exercise over the lives of my developers .
Truly, my favorite part of the job is encouraging members of the team to exercise their passion for games by taking ownership of various pieces, then watching them and the game flourish as they build. I’m very consensus-oriented; we all know what the mission is and I mainly make sure we all agree on the mission, that we articulate it clearly to the players for their feedback and suggestions and then make sure the train doesn’t derail while we build.
What to you is the most challenging part of your current job?
Here, in this position, it is communication. I don’t yet speak French very well and, although there are quite a few people at Nevrax that speak English at varying levels, wires still get crossed occasionally. I have to check up on my assumptions with people two or three times, just to make certain that I adequately communicated my thoughts.
Usually I can tell if I’ve failed just by the looks on their faces. They get that “What is that crazy women saying now?” look and laugh. I have these visions of bad B movie scenes, where I think I’m saying “We need to develop this” and it comes out as “I wish to sell your sister.”
For those who wish to follow and join the industry, what is your advice?
First: Start thinking globally; the US and Europe are the smallest part of the market. It isn’t enough to know your own culture; now you have to have a basic understanding of all the major cultures worldwide and what they like in a game.
Second: Get educated. It isn’t enough to just get a job in customer service at game company and then work your way up the ladder while experimenting with different types of games. Those days are gone.
If you want to make compelling games, get a broad education in everything from computer science to the humanities. THEN go work at every job you possibly can in the industry - everything from development to customer service to marketing - and get a broad education in the business of games.
Third: Once you have that education and have some chops in the game industry, find funding and start your own company. That is the only way you’ll ever get to make the games you want to make, especially if you want to make something other than a horrid sequel (and how long will it be before we see “Killer Babes In Bikinis IV: Death Wears A Thong”?).
Finally, can we get a brief update on Ryzom’s progress?
We’ve really been cranking over the summer. We had a big patch in July to add some features and clean up a bunch of small bugs (we called that our ‘spring cleaning’). This month, September, we not only gave our players a free month to celebrate the 1st anniversary of the game, we’ll be having a massive content patch to kick off Episode 2 of the storyline. By massive, I mean over 30 new base missions, several new features such as the Hall of Fame and the introduction of new game system skills and crafts, such as making buildings.
In October, we plan to launch the long-awaited Outposts feature, which will allow players to take and control Outposts that provide special raw materials. These new raw materials allow crafters to make new items for other players. So there is something for everyone here: PvP for those who want it and new crafting and materials for those who don’t want to PvP. Our current player base is chomping at the bit to help us test this one, :D.
While all that has been going on, our CTO, Daniel Miller, has been heading up the expansion pack team to create The Ryzom Ring, our set of tools that will allow players to take game maps and construct adventures, personal spaces or Guild spaces, using the objects, NPCs, monsters and terrain libraries of Ryzom.
When you think about it, the Ring is the next step in the evolution of MMOs, giving the players access to libraries and tools to let them build onto the game itself. How long have gamers wanted an MMO that let them use a point-and-click interface to place buildings NPCs, alter NPC speech, set up an adventure… then have a whole separate set of tools that allow them to be dungeon masters and guide a group on that adventure? Or maybe, instead of just buying a small house for the guild, having an entire map in which to custom build a Guild space?
I’m really psyched about the Ring and, from what I’ve seen on the forums, so are our players. We plan to start testing it with players before the year ends, tentatively in November.