Words with Tony Sturtzel
It really is a blast for me to get some insights from people in his position both concerning the game and themselves. I hope you all enjoy his responses as much as I did!
What sports/hobbies/non-game activities do you enjoy?
I love all sports and played a lot of them growing up. I also enjoy things that get me outside — rock climbing (mostly bouldering at climbing gyms these days) and backpacking. Sleeping in the woods in my hammock is the epitome of recharge and relaxation for me.
What is your favorite part about being a Senior Producer? Most challenging part?
My favorite part is being surrounded by so many talented people and getting to help them achieve their goals and make great entertainment. I derive all of my day to day motivation from supporting the team and enabling them to be at their best. Sounds mushy I know, but it’s the truth!
The most challenging part is operating a team with so many moving parts and so many stakeholders, from our co-development partner studios and Massive as a lead studio, to Ubisoft HQ and ultimately to all of the players and the community. We work hard every day to make sure we are taking everyone’s opinions and motivations into account and giving maximum effort to reach the best possible result. Working with this group of studios and on this IP is something we love dearly and I wouldn’t trade being a part of it for anything.
“It’s humbling and exciting to find out that something you thought to be true or accurate isn’t…”
What kind of training/education/experience did you receive to become a Senior Producer?
It’s hard to say there’s a formula or degree path for game production. I’d say a lot of producers come from testing, mainly because the requirements of having a rudimentary knowledge of most game functionality and how the job families interact is required for both. My college degree is in Physics, which I think just means I enjoy solving dynamic, complex problems. I also love that as exact and formulaic as science can be, any scientist will tell you that their work is always a work in progress and their theories and calculations are always being tested by themselves and others for the sake of improvement. It’s humbling and exciting to find out that something you thought to be true or accurate isn’t, and then you get to work on answering why. Sound familiar? ☺
My start in games was as a tester part time when I was in college, and from there I just worked as hard as I could to be as useful to the developers as possible, making little tutorial gyms and things in my spare time and stuff like that. They kept giving me more testing contracts over a few years, and by the time I graduated college they offered me a job as an Associate Producer. Eventually I accepted a job at Red Storm and found a home here. Beyond that, the road to Senior Producer is just a lot of experience and a lot of coffee.
Who in the game industry inspires you/stands out to you the most? Why?
Any team maintaining a live game inspires me because there’s always so much to learn and draw from how they operate beyond just the scope of the actual game they’re making. I started being active in gaming communities in college playing America’s Army and was immediately affected by the idea that the developers would post in the forums and interact with the community on IRC and it drove me to become a member of their beta testing community and ultimately my first job in games. The idea that there were normal humans just going to work and doing this for a living and communicating with me broke down a lot of barriers and was one of the things that inspired me to get into the industry in the first place. I like the idea that maybe we’re doing some of the same for our community.
What is your personal favorite game system of all time? Why?
I have to say that the N64 was the first time I felt a strong sense of being drawn to gaming every minute that I was away from it, probably because of all the 4-player multiplayer games that meant me and some friends could head to someone’s house after school and skip dinner and be late getting home and do it again the next day. That nostalgia still rules my brain when I think about this question. Also, Oddjob is OP.
What are you most proud of when it comes to The Division as a whole?
I think Terry said something similar, but the collaboration on this project has been a huge undertaking of its own, and being a part of that has been extremely fulfilling. Working for Ubisoft gives us a shared culture and infrastructure to leverage, and the rest is up to the teams to find ways to work together constructively. Even as a group of different studios around the world we use the phrase “One game, one team”, and the Massive team has been adamant since the beginning about making us all feel welcome and trusting us to help them with such an incredible project.
Did you get to test fire guns during development? What was your favorite gun?
Yes, we get to the range occasionally ☺. One of our gameplay programmers has a Remington 870 similar to the Military M870 in the game. He always brings slugs and good grief that thing will do some work on a target, as well as your shoulder and back if you’re not careful.
What do you wish the average player of The Division knew from your perspective?
One thing I touched on earlier that can get lost on the average player is that the development team consists of a diverse group of people who are making games as a career. When I say career I mean that they are growing, evolving, trying, failing, becoming experienced, achieving goals, leading, and pioneering every day. It’s easy to think it’s just a bunch of kids with their own obscure motivation (and sometimes it is in smaller studios or on indie games, and that can be great too) — but for me as a senior manager of people, so much of the job is focusing on helping people achieve their career goals and be better devs and managers etc. all while making a game of this magnitude.
What is your favorite thing to do in The Division as a player?
I love running farming loops in the DZ with friends and the way that a night can end up creating so many different stories. Right when you think the night is over you get hit with supply drops, and then you get in a fight with Rogues, and then you try to find them after they kill you, and then Contamination Events start and some friendlies show up and help you clear out the subways, it’s always a different experience. It’s either that, or running Lexington. Where’s the “Negative Ramos” shirt from the community anyway?
Is there anything in The Division the community has never noticed or found?
All I’ll say is that the world is full of stories and I’d be surprised if they’ve all been discovered. ☺
What is your favorite place to eat? What is your favorite item there?
Hands down — Zaxby’s chicken finger plate and fries. I like to think I’ve got a moderately adult palate these days, but I ate like a 9 year old for a lot of my life and this pile of carbs is a crippling weakness that can be used to bribe me for any and all secrets. Ranch, not Zax Sauce. Fight me.
What is something on your bucket list you would like to do in the next year?
I’ve always wanted to go backpacking in one of the National Parks out West, maybe this is the year for that.
And last, Terry and Keith meet in the Dark Zone… who hits their toggle first? Who wins?
Terry ABSOLUTELY hits his toggle first (surprise), but super-genius Keith Evans eeks it out in an epic 1v1 duel. Terry blames Nomad.
I again want to thank Tony for answering some questions for me. I’ve been trying to “class” these Q&As up and make them appear more professional. I also would like to start spreading the focus a bit so if you have any requests or ideas of people to participate let me know! Until the next one. — Baundiesel