Tom Cadwell (also known as Zileas) is currently VP of Game Design at Riot Games, where he acts as Design Director of League of Legends. His previous shipped titles as a game designer include World of Warcraft, Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne, and Strifeshadow. He is also known for his influential Starcraft strategy guide, and his early Starcraft dominance as a top Protoss player.
Involvement in StarCraft
Zileas is often pointed to as an early innovator of modern RTS strategy frameworks, formalizing concepts such micromanagement and small concentrated attacks. He published an influential strategy guide early in StarCraft's history, and promoted several key ideas including:
- Human concentration as a resource, and the notion that effective strategies disrupt your opponent's concentration while using minimal amounts of your concentration.
- The importance of basic formation tactics like deep encirclement, meat shields, etc.
- The idea that good execution of unit micro-management can prevail against a simplistic macro-management approach.
Prior to his success in StarCraft, the overall approach to the game was to out-build your opponent, focusing on trying to get 10:1 odds and having massive battles. Zileas used this strategy to eventually win the StarCraft: Brood War Beta Tournament, and placed highly in the first StarCraft PGL.
While at MIT, Zileas developed a multiplayer-only RTS game, "Strifeshadow" as one of the founders of Ethermoon Entertainment. While Strifeshadow received some positive critical reception, it was not commercially successful.
After graduating from MIT in 2001 with a BS in Computer Science, Zileas was hired by Blizzard Entertainment to work on Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne as the play balance lead. He continued at Blizzard working as a designer on World of Warcraft designing the much of the core talent system and refining many elements the new player experience. Eventually he left the company to pursue an MBA at The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
Tom was hired by Riot Games in late 2008 to lead the Game Design department, and he went on to lead the launch and post-release of League of Legends's game design.
In addition to his role at In his role in game development at Riot, Zileas has has articulated a variety of design methodologies on the forums and at various industry talks, most notably:
- Counterplay and Teamplay (as presented at GDC 2013), or more specifically, the idea that designers have an obligation to create a richness of interaction between enemies and teammates that go beyond simple 'counters' or 'buffs'.
- Designers are Human Too (as presented at GDC 2011), in which he articulated that common human psychological biases pose a challenge to high quality design.
- "Zileas' Anti-Patterns", in which he describes what he feels are common design traps that should be holistically balanced when making a game.
For his work as the design director of League of Legends, Zileas was honored by Gamasutra as a member of the "Game Developer 50" (A list of 50 top game developers) in 2010.