Jeff learned how to write his first quest by attending a review meeting of another's work. "I attended a peer review of one of the quests there, where the player helps a Ranger named Candaith retake the summit of Weathertop. I would eventually make quests as complex, but on that first day and in those first few weeks, the word of the day was simple." He had the right skills, talents, and knowledge to write great quests, but Jeff had to be trained on how to transform concepts into something a player could interact with. "I was paired up with a member of the team who would show me the quest-writing tools and the world-building suite, and teach me the process of taking an idea and transforming it into something in the game. It would take more than one day to learn the whole procedure, and I remember thinking I would never be able to keep it all straight."
To start out, Jeff used the classic tools in an MMO quest designer's repertoire. "Monster kill quests, item deliveries, these were my bread and butter of learning how to make content for LOTRO. I would graduate to making escort quests, complicated instances, and eventually become responsible for the Epic Storyline that runs through the entire game. But it all started with learning the basics."
Having only worked at Turbine, Jeff is a little spoiled by what sounds like an awesome corporate culture at their offices in Needham, MA. "Turbine feels to me like what a games company should feel like: people playing computer games during lunch, running CCG tournaments and participating in online FPS leagues, getting excited about all the latest MMOs to come out, all the sort of things that make me as a gamer and as a games designer feel right at home." Turbine doesn't skimp on the amenities either. "We have an Entertainment Committee that plans events and parties, we have chili-cooking competitions, we have a Crystal Castles arcade machine in one of the break rooms."
That's not to say that Jeff doesn't work his elven arse off. "It's still a job, of course, and the key is to get all of your work done well and on time," he said. "The number one most valuable trait for a game designer, not just at Turbine but I'm convinced anywhere, is the ability to work at a high level of quality and to a deadline. The second most valuable trait is enthusiasm about games and an ability to think about and discuss them. You can learn something about design from every single game you play, not just the good ones, not just the bad ones."
No one would say that Jeff Libby was the most popular kid in our high school. His love of videogames put him on the fringes of what was "cool" and didn't get him invited to many keggers. Even though he tried to fit in where he could - we were both on the same Parks & Rec basketball team in middle school - it wasn't until he'd run the gauntlet of college and law school that he realized gaming could be lead to a satisfying professional life. And his job certainly has cachet for people like me. After being hired as an Associate Content Designer at Turbine before Lord of the Rings Online shipped in April 2007, Jeff is now crafting the "Epic" quests that lead the player through all of the content of an MMO with one of the most loyal populations on the market. For the millions of players of Lord of the Rings Online, Jeff Libby is the coolest guy in Middle-earth.
Although Greg Tito only played a lowly apostle in Jesus Christ Superstar, he did build the sets. That's cool, right?