38 Studios: An Interview with Jennifer MacLean, VP of Business Development

Questions by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor
Questions by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor

Answers by Jennifer MacLean, Vice President of Business Development for 38 Studios

Every other week, it seems like the public relations team at 38 Studios is announcing that another top tier personality has been recruited to work on their upcoming massively multiplayer game and online entertainment experience. The most recent staffing addition to the 38 Studios business team is Jennifer MacLean, who has taken the role of Vice President of Business Development. Even with all of the new work on her plate, Jennifer took a moment to answers a few questions about her previous experience in the industry and what she will bring to the 38 Studios team!

Jennifer MacLean, Vice President of Business Development

Ten Ton Hammer: How did the offer from 38 Studios originally come up? Did you go to them or did they come to you?

Jennifer MacLean: I first met the 38 Studios team as part of my work at Comcast, back in the fall of 2006.  As we continued our discussions, I became more and more impressed with their product vision and team.  We had a few conversations and realized there might be a great way for me to be more involved in the success of 38 Studios.

Ten Ton Hammer: Why did you end up joining the 38 Studios crew? What potential did you see in their upcoming products that made their offer attractive?

Jennifer: The biggest reason I wanted to work for 38 was the team.  I'm so excited about working with the crew; they've put together such an amazing collection of talent.  When you combine the people with the vision they have for the Online Entertainment Experience, as well as the progress they've made in making that vision a reality, I knew 38 Studios would be a great place to work.  Bottom line, every time I spoke with someone at 38 Studios, heard them speak, or even read about them, I would wish I was working there!

Ten Ton Hammer: Next Generation named you one of the 100 most influential women in the gaming industry. How are you going to translate your previous experience to your upcoming work at 38 Studios and their online entertainment experience?

Jennifer: I have a long background in games; I started as a playtester 15 years ago at Microprose, I worked on games at AOL when online games really caught on, and I've been working on multi-platform entertainment experiences (including games and other types of entertainment content) at Comcast.  Thanks to that experience, I've been working at the intersection of games, online content, and traditional entertainment like movies and TV for some time now, and have learned a fair amount about what makes these products successful.  Since I've worked on core and casual product lines as well, with a variety of billing models and business and partner relationships, I'm looking forward to helping 38 Studios deliver a great gaming entertainment experience to as many people as possible-and doing it in a way that makes the most sense for the business and our customers so that we can create many more in the future.  (I have to be true to my Business Development role!) 
Ten Ton Hammer: How familiar are you with massively multiplayer games? Do you have a favorite game that you play?

Jennifer: My gaming philosophy is, I'll play anything if it's good.  Right now I'm playing Mass Effect, as well as an occasional Poker night, and if I have a short block of time, I'll pull up a casual games site.  My biggest challenge is finding enough time for all of the games I want to play.  I've played WoW, of course, but my favorite MMOG experience was with the original Everquest.  I was a barbarian shaman, and I still remember my first woolly mammoth kill, and how proud I was when I got to be high enough to cast Spirit of Wolf and could SOW people.  I love the hybrid character classes; I like casting, but I'm also a wannabe-tank, which gets me into trouble if I play a pure spellcaster.  The hybrids may be more difficult, but I enjoy being a jack of all trades in an MMOG -- and in real life.

The 38 Studios Logo

Ten Ton Hammer: Will your upcoming position on the IGDA Board of Directors conflict with your work at 38 Studios? Or will it be helpful in the long run?

Jennifer: Being on the IGDA Board has already been helpful. Through my position on the board, I've gotten to know some incredibly talented people who have become friends in addition to colleagues.  Moving from a big company like Comcast to a young video game studio is a pretty big switch, and it's great to know that I can call on my fellow board members to help me make the adjustment to full-time game development as part of an independent company and share some of their experiences as game developers.  Being in the IGDA  also gives me a way to help highlight some of the outstanding policies and processes 38 Studios uses; since the IGDA focuses on issues like Credit Standards and Quality of Life, for example, I can bring best practices from our studio to others and bring back knowledge to 38 Studios. 

Ten Ton Hammer: Before joining AOL and Comcast, you worked at Microprose and were credited with several influential titles including Master of Orion and Civilization. How much input did you have on these games, and how has your work at Microprose influenced your career?

Jennifer: I was a playtester at Microprose, so the input I had really depended on the development teams.  Some teams sought out lots of feedback, and others saw testing as a barrier to release.  The pinnacle of my experience at Microprose was Civilization II, with Brian Reynolds and Sid Meier, and that's the team from which I learned the most.  We played versions of Civ II over a year before it was released, and the game quality really shows the effort.  In addition to being a great game that I still play, however, the most important lesson from working on Civ II that I learned was how to lead a diverse team so that everyone made the product better and loved what they were doing.  Brian and Sid not only welcomed opinions from everyone on the game team, no matter their title and position, they sought them out. Knowing that I would be listened to by some of the most talented people in the industry was pretty heady stuff for a 22-year-old.  Brian and Sid taught me a lot of lessons about game development, but the most important thing I learned on Civ II was the importance of creating and leading a great team, with excellence and involvement at every level, and I've used that in every job I've had. 

Ten Ton Hammer: What sort of role do you hope to play in the development of 38 Studios' Online Entertainment Experience? How are you going to make this product stand out from the rest of the massively multiplayer games?

Jennifer: One of the things I love about 38 Studios is that there are no "suits."  I'm not going to be just a biz dev guy; I'm encouraged and expected to know the genre, know the game, and help make it the very best entertainment possible.   There have been some great MMOG experiences, but the genre is still in its infancy, and there's a lot of room for innovation.  We have a great opportunity to learn from the success and failures of our peers -- not only in the MMOG space but in all forms of entertainment -- and create an amazing online entertainment experience that innovates and pushes the industry as a whole.  I want to create the kind of experience people talk about not only the night after it happens, but five or ten years after it happens -- and fortunately, I've found an entire company of people who feel the same way.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you'd like to tell the Ten Ton Hammer readers and 38 Studios' fans?

Jennifer: Without giving too much away . . . every time I leave the studio, I leave with a huge grin on my face and a feeling of "I can't WAIT to play that!"  It's a tease to speak about the game in any way right now, but it will be well worth the wait for the players.

What do you think of Jennifer as a new addition to the 38 Studios team? Will her previous experience help the upcoming MMOG from the studio? Let us know on the forums!

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