We chatted with our Producer and Narrative Designer, Zeb L. West about his beginnings in the video game industry, and the hard work he’s put in to get where he is now.
What attracted you to the game development industry?
Fabulous secret worlds were revealed to me the day my mother brought home an Atari 130ST – a lifelong love affair began with Wizard of Wor and a million other games to follow. I have a background in Theater Production and brought some applicable skills to when I transitioned from running a theater company in Brooklyn to project managing video games in Austin, Texas.
What are some previous game titles or studio names you’ve worked with?
BioWare Austin – Star Wars: The Old Republic, Trion Worlds – Heroes of Telara (would become Rift), Binary Solo – The Indie Van Game Jam (Web series where we drove around in a big blue van game jammin).
What is the earliest or most intense memory you have of a video game experience?
I had Zelda II: The Adventure of Link for months and thought it was a total dud (like many kids did), but after playing Final Fantasy I finally understood the RPG mechanics (that you had to level up Link by grinding monsters in certain areas) and suddenly it became my favorite game ever. It’s crazy now to imagine that those essential mechanics were new to me then, but discovering how it all worked blew my young mind and opened a whole new video game world to me.
Other than any Stoic games, what is your favorite video game of all time and why?
King’s Bounty was the first game I really played over and over again. I had a black and white copy for my Mac Plus and just loved the strategic, turn-based combat. It also was beatable in a couple hours, and you could recruit different kinds of troops to configure different armies, so it had a lot of replay value. John Van Canaghem would go on to make Heroes of Might and Magic which was also a favorite series of mine.
What’s something you’re proud of in the Banner Saga series?
I’m proud of the care that’s taken in many, many small choices. The backgrounds are full of detail, atmosphere and drama. The music is orchestral and epic – elevating the storytelling to mythic proportions (seriously, so much of the drama of epic fantasy is in the music). I’m also proud of how everyone on the team’s feedback is welcome and heard – at other companies, not so much 🙂
If you did not work in the video game field, what kind of job do you think you’d be doing?
I would be a full-time puppeteer. I’m an old theater guy at heart, and still do lots of weird one-off puppet shows at burlesque nights and variety shows like that. Small-time weirdo theater doesn’t really pay the bills, so I’m glad to have stumbled into a career that is fun, challenge and also centered around a passion.
When you’re not working on Banner Saga, what are you doing in your free time?
I’ve been doing ridiculous amounts of figure drawing. I first wanted to improve my drawing for storyboarding puppet film ideas, or quickly concepting a video game idea to communicate it better, but I truly love drawing human figures – it’s a a simple celebration of our fragile, and beautiful mortal form. I highly recommend it! I also like roller skating.