Q&A: Twine as a Portfolio Piece

I noticed that your personal projects were all game jam entries, and looked like most of them were done in twine? How useful do you think twine is to getting a design job in AAA? Would you use twine to build a portfolio to get a job today? I just get the sense (from job postings) that AAA only wants to see Unity or Unreal projects, and so I feel that any work done on board games and card games is frivolous to the goal of “getting a job at a studio.”

So it’s true: I have a bunch of game jam and twine projects on my side bar as personal projects. However, my website is not really set up to get me a job because – fortunately! – I already have one. They are up here because this is just my website where I want to collect all my game development related stuff in one place.

If you look at my website, my actual portfolio is listed under Professional Work. These are my shipped games. I don’t think any employers, at this stage of my career, will really care about my game jam entries (unless they were deliberately offensive, racist, sexist, etc.).

I do not recommend using twine to build a design portfolio for a AAA job.

I say that with a broken heart, because I make no secret of how much I love the tool. But the work I do in AAA game development is very different than the work I do in twine. I don’t need my side projects to prove to employers that I can work in AAA because my list of shipped games does that already.

I go by the 80/20 rule on a lot of things. If you are a student with a collection of game projects in your portfolio and are applying to a AAA studio, 80% of those projects should be with AAA tools or content in mind, and 20% can be something unusual, unique, and different. That means out of 5 projects, 4 can be Unreal, Unity, or Source levels (or similar) and 1 can be a project that explores the use of economic game theory in a 2D shooter (to use one of my old portfolio pieces for an example). That also means that board games or card games are okay as part of that 20%, but you really need to support their inclusion (did they win awards? Were they showcased at conferences? are they published? can you write about their design in an interesting and engaging way?).

I’d still hesitate to use twine as part of that 20% unless there’s something very complex going on with it (such as developing a system for dynamic narrative) or you’ve gained recognition for that project (as an IGF finalist, for example). Twine MIGHT be okay if you’re applying for a story-focused game company that is a bit untraditional like TellTale Games or Quantic Dream (but I don’t work there or hire there, so I can only guess). But if you are applying to a traditional RPG studio, using a tool like Skyrim’s creation kit or Unreal or Unity will get you a lot further.

Remember that a design portfolio is not just to showcase that you are a good designer, but that you have the technical skills to work in game development. For a AAA studio, that means you absolutely need to show off your design skills using AAA tools.

I’m trying out a new thing where instead of responding to emails about game development privately, I’ll be posting some of the questions – with permission – and answering them here.