I've been horribly remiss in mentioning that an interview I conducted with an old friend and colleague has been up over at Boxes & Arrows for some time now. (The second part just went live a day or so ago.)
Colm Nelson was my colleague when we worked together at AOL in Mountain View, CA. We never worked in the same group during those years, but—even then—Colm stood out as a super-talented and capable designer. For the longest time, he was the UI lead for AOL's Screen Name Service. SNS was a type of 'federated login, single-sign on' solution for AOL's corporate-owned brands—Netscape, Compuserve, AOL—as well as third-party partner sites. It was a lot like today's vision for OpenID (only using your AOL/AIM screen name, therefore 'closed') and—from my comfortable observational distance—it looked like a gnarly, nasty project: a buncha different stakeholders to please; a buncha interdependent schedules to account for; a million oddball technical details to track, edgecases to account for; 3d party partners to handhold; AND taking design direction from 'the AOL mothership' in Dulles. Colm, to his everlasting credit, handled it all with aplomb.
It didn't surprise me in the least to learn—a couple years later, only after I'd moved away from CA—that Bungie Studios hired Colm away from AOL to handle the interaction design for their (as yet unannounced and still-super-secret) Halo 3 title.
Colm became my friend later, during our regular Thursday-night Halo 2 fragfests for, oh, most of 2005 I guess. Some weird amalgamation of AOL people from the Bay Area, and LAN-party friends of the same formed the nucleus of Colm's TLC (Thursday Live Crew.) You really haven't taken the measure of a man until you've watched your wife hurl a sticky grenade into his face from the passenger seat of a racing Warthog, you know. (Yes, my wife was a regular participant in the mayhem—motherhood's mellowed her out a bit, though.)
Anyhow, I really wanted a chance to get some more of Colm's story out there. He's a 'classically trained' UX/interaction designer who spent some time in the consumer web world, and he's gracefully made the transition to the gaming world. He's got a unique perspective on how those skills translate, and how the game industry can best utilize folks like us. So, please do read and enjoy: Flowmaps & Frag-grenades, Part 1 and Part 2.