Hey there, I‘m Dan!
You may know me from such ventures as BioShock Infinite, Heroes of the Storm, and this webpage. I’ve been in the games industry since 2007, working at AAA studios across genres, generations, and US states. As a game designer, my main interests are in meta systems (particularly social systems like matchmaking and guilds/clans) and narrative design.
I started in games in 2007 at Kaos Studios as part of a small, ambitious team working on the multiplayer shooter Frontlines: Fuel of War. From there I headed to Boston and Harmonix, where I worked on multiple Rock Band titles and realized that design was the game discipline that really made my gears spin.
I joined Irrational Games in the middle of full production on BioShock Infinite. After a year or so of prototype testing and test plan creation, I took on the role of a scripter for the audio team, where I was responsible for implementing VO across the game via Unreal3’s Kismet visual scripting language. I pitched and built my first game system: a reminder VO system that improved player experience, implementation, and stability. I then killed my first game system when production determined we didn’t have time for the additional scope the narrative team wanted to build for it.
After BioShock shipped, I went to Turbine to work on Infinite Crisis, then on to Bungie to help get Destiny across the finish line. Since 2014, I’ve been a UI & game systems analyst at Blizzard Entertainment, working on StarCraft 2, Heroes of the Storm, and World of Warcraft. I collaborated with other developers to build test suites for major features like Heroes‘ tournament mode and WoW‘s auction house revamp.
Beyond my professional duties, I have collaborated with other Blizzard employees in a board game prototype class taught by former senior WoW designer Craig Morrison. I participated in game jams with the Heroes and WoW teams, and have recently started assembling this portfolio site. You can see some of my work on the Design page.
Games, prototypes, design treatments, and other ideas of varying reality.
Recent and current games I’m thinking about
This one caught my eye in a recent Steam Demo event, and its chill presentation has made it a fantastic comfort game. I’ve described it to friends as a sort of single-player Carcassonne – at its simplest you’re just laying tiles, but the score and quest systems are perfectly tuned to reward thoughtful play with impressive high scores.
Final Fantasy XIV & World of Warcraft
I’ve found myself bouncing between both MMOs recently, and it’s been an enlightening experience. I’m too far from Final Fantasy‘s endgame to really dig into its combat system, but there’s still plenty to explore and admire: crafting professions, leveling/quest philosophy, class progression, player expression (glamours and housing, among others), and social systems like the newbie/sprout icon.
In WoW I’ve been a bit of a loner of late, filling my days with transmog hunting, Torghast, and the superb Shadowlands quest content. I miss raiding and tanking (and even raid-leading), but there’s still plenty to keep a solo bear druid busy.
I’ve been a Supergiant fan since Bastion, but Hades may be their best title to date. Many games I’ve played recently struggle to onboard the player at an appropriate pace, often losing me shortly after the tutorial as they dump a pile of systems on me all at once. Other than a little squirreliness around the weapon unlock/upgrade process, Hades has one of the cleanest complexity ramps I’ve ever encountered in a game – a perfect velocity of gameplay systems, complimenting the exceptional narrative to keep the player engaged and growing run after run.
I’m rarely a completionist in games, but I enjoyed Sekiro so much that I got the platinum trophy, came back to clear the boss gauntlets (all except the BIG one, anyway), and still wanted more time with the game. An item/enemy randomizer mod not only gave the game a fresh shine for several more runs; it also showcased the flexibility and variety of the game’s many upgrades and abilities, forcing me to approach fights and environments in new ways. It’s certainly my favorite From Software game; I think the team took just enough from its Souls franchise and built an deep, fluid combat system and engaging new world around that core.
Subnautica: Below Zero
I’ve been an Unknown Worlds fan since Natural Selection, and the first Subnautica was another game I replayed multiple times just for the excuse to enjoy the world and gameplay. Below Zero successfully walked a fine line between keeping familiar elements and updating or adding new ones; for instance, the Sea Truck was an impressive piece of technology and a satisfying replacement for the first game’s two subs. The expanded land-based gameplay was a bit of a mixed bag, but the heat system was well executed and the Ice Worm was an impressive and satisfying new hazard.
Below Zero didn’t quite measure up to its predecessor in either world design or narrative. Subnautica‘s level design managed to keep a very light touch while organically guiding the player to progression-critical locations, while the sequel’s map is smaller and feels less thought out. And while it’s impossible to recreate the bottled lightning of Subnautica‘s “why am I here/what happened before” narrative, Below Zero still offers engaging characters and a story that twists just right.