Scott Pease and Jeff Swenty are the inventors of PlayMonster’s TOTY and TAGIE, nominated Snap Ships. Though relatively new to the toy industry, Scott and Jeff have a long history in the video gaming space. They found each other while working at the game studio, Neversoft, where they worked on billion dollar franchises like Guitar Hero, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and Call of Duty: Ghosts.
I wanted to learn more about how two video game guys came to be toy inventors. Here is our conversation:
Richard: You each began your work life in video games. Tell us what you did there and how you chose that industry?
Scott and Jeff: I helped run a game studio named Neversoft for Activision for 15 years. We developed the original Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise (9 games over 9 years) and Guitar Hero from Guitar Hero 3 onward (7 titles). Jeff joined the studio as a Motion Capture Director in 2005. In 2014, after working on Call of Duty: Ghosts, Neversoft merged into another studio, and I took the opportunity to retire from AAA video games. Jeff continues to work on the Call of Duty franchise to this day. We both studied film in college, but we both have a deep love of gaming – we jumped into the industry at the right time, just as it was taking off.
Richard: Can you tell us about the video game industry and how it differs from the traditional toy industry?
Scott and Jeff: During my career, video games changed dramatically; when I started we could make a high quality game with 15 people in about a year. By the time I left, that number was up to 500+ people – pushing towards 1000 – and 3 years. It’s hard to be a “hands-on” creative when the teams get that big – you spend more time organizing the project than working on it. That’s what’s been refreshing about coming over to toys – smaller, tighter knit teams, and direct, every-day creative contribution.
Richard: How did each of you happen to move from video games to traditional toys?
Scott and Jeff: After 20 or so year of making video games, I had the itch to create something… physical. To get away from the screen. Snap Ships started as a board game concept with the core idea of constructible spaceships. I knew Jeff was a 3d printing mastermind, so I showed him an early concept and he started making “pieces” for it right away. As the concept matured, we became more enamored with the look and feel of the building system, so we jettisoned the game part. It was fun to push that aspect and to see if we could innovate in the constructible toy space. Thanks to the magic of home 3D printers we were able to test the idea in a way not possible just a few years ago. A few years of iterating in the garage… and here we are.
Richard: You are both inventors. How do you divide up the work?
Scott and Jeff: When it comes to ideating, I think we feed off of each other. We discuss nearly every creative detail together, and the concepts get stronger as a result. More specifically, Jeff’s the modeling and animating wizard, and I do a lot of the app development, graphics, and business stuff.
Richard: Your latest product is Snap Ships, a TOTY nominee from Play Monster. I understand it involves both physical and digital play. Can you tell us about Snap Ships and how you came to invent it?
Scott and Jeff: We set out to create a construction toy system where every piece was detailed and unique – not blocks, but true “hero” pieces. And to make the system lighting fast to build and rebuild. Snap Ships isn’t about the ship on the front of the box – it’s about being creative and using the pieces to create or customize YOUR dream ship. We also wanted WHAT you built to look AWESOME on the table and to hold up to real life battle play. A lot of people look at Snap Ships and don’t even realize they’re modular – they think they’re specifically designed toys. But then you show them how they disassemble, and can be endlessly rebuilt into creative new configurations – that’s the “wow” moment.
Richard: Where can shoppers find Snap Ships – the toy as well as the app?
Scott and Jeff: Snap Ships are available in Target, and online at Amazon.com, Wallmart.com, and Target.com. There’s a ton of additional info at Snapships.com. The app is 100% free; just search up Snap Ships in the Apple or Google app store. It’s a great way to check out the line in Augmented Reality. We’re also on social media (@snapships) and there’s an animated series on YouTube.
Richard: We always like to ask this question – What is your favorite toy?
Scott: I’m a child of the 80’s, so for me it’s G.I. Joe. The amount of detail and playability in that line is staggering, and I love reading about the care and creativity that Larry Hama and others put into developing the lore and story.
Jeff: I’m a similar age and when I was younger I really loved the old Starcom toys. They were all space themed vehicles that interacted in different ways. Cargo pods would spring open and everything was poseable. They represented the excitement and adventure of space and got me into sci-fi at a young age. I also enjoyed building plastic models quite a lot. WWII airplanes were my favorite as well as tanks. Building models taught me patience and precision which were invaluable as we were designing and printing prototypes for snapships!