I first met David Bass in person at last year’s PAX, although we had been internet buddies before that. Back then he was working for Gazillion, and little did we know that he’d soon be diving into the maelstrom of Star Wars: The Old Republic as a community manager. Since then, he’s been enjoying the fine life of stress, Wookiee attacks, and the odd request to wear a Princess Leia slave bikini for his adoring fans. Which he’s done. Or so the legend goes.
Anyway, I called in a favor — I took a bullet for him back in the Clone Wars — and Bass agreed to suffer through a patented Syp interview (which means a lot of irrelevant details and probably nothing about SWTOR that you didn’t already know!). Here we go!
Syp: Since you now work on a Star Wars game, it’s required by law that you divulge your favorite (a) Star Wars film, (b) Star Wars character, and (c) Star Wars quote.
David Bass: a. Return of the Jedi (I’m a sucker for the third movie in a trilogy)
b. R2-D2…he is single-handedly responsible for the success of the Rebels, and I loves me some unsung heroes.
c. Definitely the part where R2 just barely saves Luke/Leia/Han from the trash compactor, and they start cheering and 3PO goes “Listen to them, they’re dying, R2!” Cracks me up every time.
Syp: What was it like jumping into the SWTOR team so far along in the game’s development? Was it hard getting your bearings?
David: It’s no secret that this is the biggest game BioWare’s ever made, and it’s probably the biggest game ever made period. I knew that coming into it, but this is definitely the first time that I’ve had to come to terms with realizing I’ll never know everything about this game. It’s just too big. So you learn it in pieces, you fill in the knowledge gaps as it becomes necessary. Like, “Hey, we’re showing an Operation at this con, so let’s sit down and go over it.” It’s definitely an unusual way of learning the system, but the alternative of sitting down and playing the game completely through would take me the greater part of a year, I’d guess, so I think this system works well.
Syp: What does an average day for David Bass look like? What are your primary responsibilities?
David: Right now we’re in the middle of convention season, and I’ve become the de facto point person for organizing the logistics for each show. These shows all come one right after the other, so there’s a million things that have to get done in quick succession, like putting together a staff schedule, the stage shows, any panels we do, as well as making sure all our fan sites get interviews and play time on the show floor.
Outside of convention season, I get to go back to a “normal” schedule, which means I get to focus much more closely on our fan sites and guilds. Every morning, the Community team does a standup, where we go around and go over the things we’re working on that day, and make sure everyone knows what everyone else is doing. Then I’ll hop onto our forums for a few minutes just to get an idea of what the hot topics of the day are. I’ll ease my way over to the fan sites, going over any news posted on them, and then check out their forums. The fan site forums tend to have a very different atmosphere than our official forums, and I really enjoy hanging out in them whenever possible. As for guilds, we just started up a Guild Testing program, so I’m keeping a close watch on the guilds and their forums so that I can pull a few into testing if we find any that are really beneficial presences in our community. One of my favorite parts of the job is being able to reward helpful members of the community with unexpected bonuses, like access to testing or some swag.
Syp: Who has the coolest Star Wars toy in the office and what is it?
David: Back when I worked at Gazillion, I got to visit NetDevil while they were working on Lego Universe. They had this awesome corner of the office that was basically a Lego warehouse…every single piece imaginable in aisles and aisles of containers. Stephen and I went in and built us a couple minifigs. I took an Admiral Ackbar one, which is my absolute favorite little piece of swag to have at my desk. What I really want, though, is the old Lego Imperial Star Destroyer… they don’t sell those anymore, sadly.
Syp: You’re an old hat at this MMO thing now. What companies and games have you been associated with, and how did you get involved with this line of work to begin with?
David: I think it’s hard to be an “old hat” when you’re barely out of college… I remember the moment in college when I realized there was an industry job where you get paid to talk and interact with fans, and I immediately said, “That. That’s what I want to do.” I became deeply invested in the Pirates of the Burning Sea community before the game came out, not because I was directly interested in the game, but because I loved the community and the people who were running it. Then I started pestering the Director of Community over there at Flying Lab to see if he’d be willing to invent a Summer internship for me, and I just kept bugging him every few days about it until he finally relented. I’m told I have to publically state that this is NOT the proper way to get into the industry, but hey, it worked for me. Unfortunately, Flying Lab couldn’t bring me on full time after my internship, so I began looking for other stuff, and ran into the Cryptic folks at New York Comic-Con.
Cryptic hired me while I still had a couple months left of college, so I worked remotely from school until I finished (which was not something they had ever allowed before; I felt very privileged), then immediately moved out to California. Spent almost a year there working on Champions Online and Star Trek Online, then I moved on to Gazillion, a startup company where I met the infamous Stephen Reid. We were both there until late last year, when we both got hired by BioWare at almost the exact same time, which was probably the funniest coincidence I’ve ever been part of.
Syp: Do you adhere to the light side of the force, the dark side, or the wimpy middle when you play?
David: Light Side. That’s not even a question. I absolutely find it impossible to make a dark choice. I was a huge fan of the game Black and White, and I wanted to check out some of the evil spells, but I couldn’t bring myself to kill innocent villagers for entertainment purposes. And KOTOR, obviously, I wanted to go with the canonical ending. Plus I liked the implications of the canon ending for that game (I won’t spoil what I mean here, but trust me, if you haven’t played that game, it’s got one of the greatest twists you’ve ever seen in a video game.)
Syp: Going to conventions is part of your job, but for most of us, it’s weird to think of what it’s like to be on “the other side” of the show floor. What’s the craziest thing you’ve experienced at a games convention?
David: PAX East was my first experience from the BioWare side of things, and I think the craziest thing was watching the doors open on the first day. People bolted in as soon as the show opened, ran over to our booth, and within 30 seconds the line was about 5 hours long, and another 2 or 3 minutes later, we had to shut the line down for the day. People were willing to wait 8 or 9 hours to play, and even when I told people the show would probably close before they got to play, they still wanted to wait in line. Our fan base is the most dedicated group of players I’ve ever seen, and it’s extremely humbling to all of us. It also makes me want to do the best possible job I can, because those are the people I want to do everything for and never want to let down.
Syp: If you could go back and change one thing about the Star Wars franchise, what would it be?
David: I wish that I had been born earlier, so I could’ve experienced the franchise when it first began. Never having been able to see the original films in theaters makes me sad.
Syp: Outside of SWTOR, what MMOs do you play if any? What are your favorites overall, even if you don’t play them any more?
David: I try almost every MMO that comes out, but a lot of what keeps me in a game are my friends, and these days, my friends are very bouncy from game to game, so that doesn’t help me at all. I’m also very easy to please, as I consider myself a fairly casual player (usually due to the lack of free time I have…), so I’ve never really run into a game I didn’t like.
I’ve played the tutorial to EVE at least 7 or 8 times…I love the idea of the game, I just can’t dedicate myself to its learning curve. At the moment, I’ve been shifting away from MMOs and into MOBAs (League of Legends, spefically), but in the past I’ve been heavily invested in LotRO, Rift, Warhammer, Guild Wars, and WoW.
My tastes vary depending on my free time and what I’m in the mood for. I don’t understand the people who have that mindset of you can only like one MMO at a time. That’s just wrong. I love LotRO because of its setting, Guild Wars because of its ease of hopping in and out, Rift because it’s one of the most polished MMOs ever, and Warhammer because I loved the PvP and the Public Quest systems. It’s not an either/or situation.
Syp: You said to me that you’re upset I’m not going to PAX because you won’t be able to tell me to my face that my opinions are wrong. Well, here’s your chance. I give you full permission to correct me about one wrong opinion I hold. Go for it! I double-dog dare ya!
David: Elves are awesome.