Tagged in: game design

Types of Designers

“So who writes the story? Who designs the bosses? Do you make the levels? What about skill trees?”

In an effort to help clarify “what does a game designer do?”, I want to go over all the different TYPES of designers. There are designers who are affectionately called “jack of all trades” who dip their hands in all elements of design and sometimes even art and programming, and then there’s specialized roles like “systems designer” and “combat designer” and “level designer”.

The truth is, any general definition of design has flaws because the actual responsibilities of a designer varies depending on the size of the studio, the platform, the genre, the size of the game, the studio culture regarding roles, how specialized people are, and even whether there is a “design department” at that studio. The designer on a first person shooter has very different practical responsibilities than the designer on your next favorite match-three mobile game.

 

GENERALISTS

Designer / Game Designer

Generic term to mean any or all of the design specializations, used at any size studio, any genre, etc. Most companies just use this term for job titles, while individual designers might still specialize informally. The larger the studio, the more likely they will have specialized designer titles.

Overall, designers are concerned with the rules  of the game, what ways a player can interact with the game, how the mechanics and story work to provide a desired experience to the player. This is the vague description that gets clarified as you read on.

Junior Designer / Associate Designer

Junior or Associate designers usually have less experience, and less creative control. They may spend more time implementing under the eyes of a Designer or Senior Designer. This is often an entry level position, catering to new hires from outside the industry (such as students), those transitioning between roles within a company (from art to design), or existing designers hired into very different scale of games (moving from a 2D game studio to a AAA studio).

Senior Designer

A senior-level position in the design department. Someone who could fill the position of “lead” and usually takes charge of a large system in the game, such as all combat or all levels, and delegates to or guides other designers. They may be the major point-person for a system and work with programmers and artists and the leads to bring it from an idea to a fully featured system.

Lead Designer

Leads translate the Creative Directors vision to the design team (much like the Art Director or Lead does for the art team). They review the gameplay from its macro to the moment-to-moment bits, giving direction and feedback to designers and making decisions regarding the gameplay mechanics.

Creative Director

The top of the game development pyramid who reports directly to the owner of the company and to the publisher funding the game. They hold the ‘vision’ of the game – this is the closest to “the idea guy” that you can get. They are analogous to a film director, and are usually the most visible in the media as the face of the development team.

Creative Directors can come from any department – art, programming, design, or even an owner of the company. Some studios use Director or Executive Producer to describe this role, but Creative Director is the most common.

 

LEVELS & MISSIONS

Level Designer

A level designer is responsible for the architecture and gameplay in a chunk of physical space – a level. They care about how the player flows through the level, puzzles or enemies or other obstacles they encounter, and implement basic geometry of the level and the moment-to-moment gameplay. They work closely with level artists to get the aesthetics in place, and gameplay programmers for specialized functionality they may need, and the writer and creative director to ensure the level fits within the overall game.

Where do I hide the intel? Where is the next objective? How does the player get from A to B – an elevator or a ladder? Which enemies attack the player in this room? Where is the cover placed? What kinds of puzzles exist? Where are the exploratory spaces? What story elements do I need to communicate to the player, and when?

Multiplayer Level Designer

These designers have the same basic responsibilities as other level designers, but they focus on the unique needs and challenges of multiplayer gameplay. They focus on designing levels that accommodate competitive and/or cooperative gameplay and the placement of any elements specific to a certain mode (flags, control points, enemy waves).

How long is this racetrack, and is it wide enough to accommodate all the players? Where are the control points that players need to take over? How far apart are the flags in Capture the Flag? Where do players respawn and how do you prevent spawn-camping? How many players need to be in this arena to defeat the boss? What architectural features of the level best cater to different player classes, such as a sniper vs. short-ranged melee attacker?

World Builder

World builders are a type of level designer – many of their responsibilities are the same, and someone qualified as one would usually be able to move to the other. The world builder title tend to exist more in open world and MMO spaces – games that don’t have individual concrete levels but rather large areas for the players to traverse around. As such, these spaces usually have multiple purposes (story missions, side quests, activities or minigames, multiplayer hubs) as opposed to traditional level design where the space has a single purpose.

Does this area have large city buildings, highways, shops, mountains, rivers, or flat? How does this area fit in with the areas directly around it? What landmarks make this area unique? What kinds of enemies, architecture, plants, or other features populate this area? How does the player navigate through it? What are the critical paths players take as shortcut, and what are the dead spaces players tend to avoid?

Mission Designer

Sometimes a mission designer and a level designer are interchangeable, but in cases like open world games or MMOs a mission designer usually handcrafts gameplay in a space that already exists, or exists for multiple purposes. Mission designers are focused on what the player is doing during a mission – the gameplay beats, objectives, combat, implementing dialogue and ensuring story elements are communicated to player.

What is the player’s current objective – is it interesting? How does this mission fit into the overarching story? Where does the player traverse to in order to complete the mission? What is the pay-off at the end? Is there any new functionality being introduced in this mission? What kind of combat, puzzles, or other obstacles does the player encounter? Is there appropriate spectacle in the mission to signify its importance in the game?

Quest Designer

Very similar role to the Mission Designer (and sometimes interchangeable), Quests tend to be secondary story-focused gameplay, usually smaller but still using many of the same mechanics as a mission or main story line. You find quest designers in studios making role-playing games and MMORPGs.

Is this quest part of a quest chain? What is the ultimate pay-off of this quest? What kind of quest archetype is it – explore and discover, fetch, combat, or something else? What enemies are involved? Where does the player have to go to get, engage in, and complete the quest? What area of the world does the quest cover? When does the player first get the quest? What story does the quest tell and how does that fit into the overall design of the game?

 

SYSTEMS

Systems Designer

A catch-all term for various systems design. Systems refers to global rules or things the player interacts with across the entire game, not specific to missions, quests, areas, or levels.  They aren’t focused on the moment-to-moment experience so much as the overall birds-eye-view of the game. To help clarify, a system may be something like “combat” while a mechanic may be “throwing grenades”. They spend a lot of their time in excel sheets and organizing information.

What kinds of slots can the player equip armor or clothing to? How does the player level up, and at what rate? How often does the player get a new weapon? How many pieces of intel are they, and what is their spread across the entire game? What are all the different puzzle mechanics and at what rate do you introduce them to the player? How many quests, challenges, minigames, and other optional pieces of gameplay are there?

Combat Designer

These designers are often at large studios that make games where the main interaction is fighting. Combat designers are concerned with enemies, weapons, bosses, ammo, difficulty balancing, and any class-based combat skills. While they are focused a lot on the combat systems, they also govern the moment-to-moment experience a player has in various combat scenarios throughout the game.

When does the player encounter a new enemy type? What is the optimal combat distance for a shotgun and a sniper rifle? How many bullets is in an enemy volley, how often do they fire, and how accurate is each bullet? Does the game use dynamic difficulty adjustments to the player’s style, or a flat easy/medium/hard setting? How much do you want to starve the player of ammo? Do bosses have weak points and, if so, what is the optimal way to attack them? How much health does a player has, and how much can a medic class heal them for?

Combat designers on competitive fighting games like Street Fighter actually have a pretty unique role that differs a bit from the above. They are concerned with such details as how many frames it takes for an attack animation to play, and dealing with the rock-paper-scissors elements to ensure that each character is extremely well-balanced.

Economy Designer

Economy designers are focused on the design, implementation, and – most importantly – the balance of a virtual economy. This mainly covers how the player earns and where they spend in-game currency. This is rarely a job title on its own but rather a descriptor for a type of system a design may be in charge of. For example, both Valve and CCP have full-time economists on staff, but any game that has loot and vendors would need a designer to oversee this system.

What ingredients are required to craft a new potion? How many experience points do you need to level up? What kind of loot drops from enemies? What are the loop drop rates, and how often do rare or common items drop?  Can players trade items with each other? How does an auction house work? If there are vendors, how does the player interact with them?

Multiplayer Designer

Multiplayer Designers focus on custom  cooperative or competitive gameplay modes and design, such as deathmatch, horde modes, MMO groups, guilds or clans, and leaderboards. They also serve the role of Multiplayer Level Designer where appropriate (depending on the size of the team or style of game).

Is the multiplayer mode cooperative, competitive, or both? What type of modes are in this game – horde, deathmatch, capture the flag? Can players organize their own guilds or clans? How many players can play together in a single match? How do leaderboard work and what do they score on? What, if any, rewards do players earn from multiplayer achievements? How do players enter and exit multiplayer from the singleplayer campaign?

Puzzle Designer

Puzzle designers are kind of the mirror of a combat designer, except that the obstacle is not an enemy but a piece of logic, like a locked door or a series of scrambled letters. Puzzle designers are often a level designer, such as in Portal or any sokoban style block-moving game. However, the role extends to puzzle games that are not based about hand-made stages – they also include balancing games like Candy Crush Saga or Bejeweled.

What new mechanic am I teaching in this puzzle? How can I re-use the same mechanics, such as a switch and a door, in different ways that feel new to the player? Does each puzzle become progressively harder? Does the player have all the necessary information to complete the puzzle? Is there a timer and how fast does it count down? In this gem-matching game, what is the bonus mechanic for matching 3, 4, or 6 gems in a row?

Narrative Designer

Narrative designers are concerned with gameplay elements or mechanics that allow the player to interact with the story, whether that’s in a linear fashion or through meaningful choices that result in branching stories. While they certainly deal with some level of writing (which varies by studio), they mostly focus on the design and implementation of narrative-related gameplay. While many studios hire writers (because most games, particularly AAA titles, have a story), narrative designer roles tend to exist at studios that specialized in story-oriented games, like Bioware or Tell Tale.

How does the player interact with story elements – through dialogue options, quick time events, or text input? Is the story linear or branching? If it branches, how many branches are there and do they always branch or do they loop back together at key moments? Is there a morality system tied to player choices? How do you communicate that a choice is meaningful?

 

CROSSOVER POSITIONS

Crossover roles are usually a hybrid of design and another specialization, so they may exist in the design department or not.

Monetization Designer

A cross between design and business, a monetization designer deals with how to take gameplay or aesthetic (non-gameplay) elements and sell them to players for real money, and how much these elements should cost. These positions exist at mobile and social games companies,  studios that make free-to-play games (like Riot’s League of Legends), studios that make MMOs (like Blizzard), and at large publishers that have microtransactions and small DLC packets in their games.

Normally your regular developers at large studios don’t worry about money or costs – that’s the job of producers, upper management, and business people. Since monetization designers deal with revenue so much they usually have a business or marketing background and come from upper management rather than up through design.

Technical Designer

Usually qualified to be a software engineer or gameplay programmer, tech designers actually bridge the engineering and design departments. Sometimes this means they take the specs given to them by designers and work with the programming department to implement them. This can be full coding and the development of new features, or it can be using scripting languages to set up gameplay such as missions and then pass them to the designers to make modifications (depending on the studio’s needs and the tech designer’s skillset). You find this role at larger companies, open world studios, and few other places, but it’s not particularly common as a job title.

UI Designer

This person is usually part of the User Interface team, not part of the design team, but has a lot of crossover responsibilities so it’s not unheard of for them to be considered a designer. Their job is to organize and present information to the player in the form of HUDs and menus – any of the graphical elements that are displayed on screen for the player. These elements include health indicators, objective text, tutorials, button prompts, inventories, maps, and crafting interfaces.

Writer

Writers focus on the overall narrative of the game, which is informed by the creative director’s vision as well as the needs of individual designers (jn the case of a mission or level-focused game). They also write the text, descriptions, names, and dialogue throughout the entire game and work with (usually external) teams to localize this text into other languages.

Sometimes writers exist on the design team, since they work very closely with them, and sometimes narrative designers may take on writing duties.  At very small companies, there may be no on-staff writer and this position maybe filled by a designer. But typically if you want to write for games, you need to be good at writing not at designing.

Design Support

This role is a low-level design position that focuses mostly on implementing tedious grunt tasks, freeing up other designers to concentrate on bigger issues. They may go through and populate the world with crates or fish, or use scripting to trigger FX explosions as the player fights in a big battle. They may place volumes or clues around pieces of cover that tells the game how AI can interact with them, and then place those volumes throughout every combat scenario in the game.

I know this role exists at my studio and at least a couple other places, which is why I am including it (we technically call it QA Support, as they are all QA people we’ve brought into support roles to help designers). This role might be that of an Associate or Junior Designer, depending on the company, or fall into a more generalized “contract work” temporary hire.

 

NOT-DESIGNERS DESIGNERS

These are roles that have “design” in their name but are not traditionally considered part of the design team at a game development studio.

Graphic Designer

A term for an artist that specializes in 2D art such as UI buttons, forum icons, web design, logos, splash screens, and similar graphic elements. They do not typically create any in-game content unless they are part of the user interface team, at which point they are usually called a UI artist and not a graphic designer.

User Experience Designer

Also sometimes called UX Designers or Usability Professionals,  these people are usually not directly developing the game. Their job is to take the game in various forms – often demos or larger chunks – and put it in front of potential players in focus groups to test it. They’re concerned about whether players understand the game, are engaging with its mechanics,  and where communication is breaking down – and then passing that information on to the rest of the team. This kind of testing is not about identifying technical bugs, but about poor or misleading design.

UX Designers often work for publishers like EA or Activision, large developers like Blizzard, or hired on a freelance basis. Smaller studios will rely on their publisher to organize focus tests or usability tests for the game.

Sound Designer

Part of the audio department, a sound designer deals with the sound effects found throughout the game world (from the player’s footsteps, to the firing of a gun, to the ch-ching of money earned), in its user interface (button clicks, new objective dings), and the music that accompanies it. They may create their own sound effects, or choose effects from a sound library their company subscribes to and modify them to fit the needs of the game.

Software Designer

A software designer is one of many terms to describe the role of a programmer. Despite the name, this is not a design position.

Hardware Designer

This is a pretty specialized role that exists at companies that deal with hardware – console manufacturers such as Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Valve, for example. There are also companies that deal with peripherals, such as the belated RedOctane and upcoming Oculus Rift. You may also find these roles at toy companies that create electronics for kids, which may also use the terms Toy Designer and Product Designer.

Game Architect

Despite architecture and level design having a lot of shared elements, a “game architect” is actually a highly technical and senior role in the programming or engineering department.

 

EXCEPTIONS

Oh boy are there a lot of exceptions, but I think if you internalize this list you’ll be 90% of the way there. Remember that titles and roles usually share a lot of responsibilities. For example, on one project I was a level designer and mission designer for a one-hour chunk of gameplay, while also juggling systems design for skill trees/perks/leveling.

One of the big exceptions is that some companies still use different titles than the ones listed above, so there are still some weird cases out there that you might not recognize. For this article, I looked at a bunch of job posting at AAA companies and found titles like “Lead Gameplay Designer” and “motion designer” and an “industrial designer”. Some of these reflect unique jobs that don’t exist everywhere in the industry (ex: Valve), and others are just quirks of the studio’s organization, often reflecting specific gameplay experiences they deliver (ex: Bioware).

From Student to Designer: Part 2 – Portfolios

As usual, my advice is specific to design and to seeking a more traditional job in AAA development, as opposed to breaking in as an indie, but most of it can be applied elsewhere. This is just my personal advice, so I recommend getting others to review your work for second and third opinions, and ultimately make your own decisions.

Part 1: Websites & Resumes
> Part 2: Portfolios
Part 3: Cover Letters
Part 4: Design Tests
Part 5: Interviews
Part 6: Entry Level Design Jobs

“Your portfolio is only as good as your weakest project.”

-everyone I talked to

I see a lot of design portfolios from students – not as someone hiring them, but rather because I review a lot of them to give feedback before they are even sent out – but I think most of them are insufficient. A good portfolio from a student (or just someone aspiring to be a designer) is pretty rare and takes a lot of work to get together into a manageable shape. There also seems to be a big disconnect between the what the  industry needs (based on job descriptions and what designers do at their jobs) and what schools or advisers are telling people they need.

Good news: if you have a good portfolio, you will easily stand out – and that’s important because there are so many students looking for jobs, so competition is pretty fierce

Bad news: a good portfolio requires a lot of work, and you may already be graduating without any appropriate portfolio pieces, putting you at the starting line all over again. This can be really frustrating, especially since a lot of school sell you on their programs by promising jobs.

 

PURPOSE OF A PORTFOLIO

A portfolio proves that you have the skills, knowledge, and desire to work in game development in your desired role (designer, artists, programmer, etc.). Since this is a creative industry, a prerequisite to getting a job is almost always to create something – and a portfolio is where you show off what you have created.

For people already in the industry, your portfolio is usually your list of shipped games (and many of them skip making a portfolio once they’ve shipped games anyway). Until you’re in that position, your portfolio is the only proof you have that you can ship games. Of all the people I talked to for their advice and recommendations when writing this article, every single one said that your portfolio is the single most important thing for an entry-level designer.

Your portfolio should answer questions like:

  • Do they have the technical skills to work in AAA editors?
  • Have they done comparable design work similar to what they would do in the industry, such as level design or mission scripting that could fit into a shippable game?
  • Can they communicate about design clearly and intelligently, using industry terminology and common design concepts?
  • Is their work interesting, with good, clever gameplay, and maybe a bit ambitious?
  • Can they iterate on something with a high degree of polish? Can they finish something they started?
  • Do they understand the game development pipeline? Do they know the separate roles? Do they understand how one goes from paper designs, to graybox, to an iteration cycle that results in a polished game?

Back when I wrote about websites and resumes, I implied that your portfolio goes on your website. This is true… mostly. There’s design portfolios out there that exist in .PDF format and I think that’s fine. Just keep in mind that my advice assumes a website, but not everyone uses one.

 

WHAT GOES INTO A PORTFOLIO

In the process of answering the above questions, there’s the practical stuff – what you are actually showing off in your portfolio.

This article has been revised four times so far, each time to take into account feedback I’ve gotten from other designers. I do see a lot of portfolios, but that’s mostly because I volunteer time to review them before students send them out in the search for jobs. But my experience still pales in comparison to people who do spend their time hiring – they see a lot more. So I encourage you not to take my advice verbatim, but rather to get a few different opinions and maybe Google what other students are doing to see how your work compares to theirs.

What I Expect

Below is what I look for in every design portfolio I see and I usually point them out to students when they are missing.

  • 3-5 projects that show the breadth and depth of your design experience
  • At least one of your projects should be in a 3D toolset like Unity, Unreal, or similar. Unity, especially, has become a common tool for students to use since it’s similar to many AAA toolsets and it’s also used in a lot of mobile and indie development.
  • At least one project that displays iteration and polish work. The idea here is to show that you can bring something to completion.
  • Clear explanation of your role on the projects and key design elements
  • Video walkthroughs of your projects, although clearly annotated screenshots may be so long as you include downloadable files. Regardless of video, you should always have screenshots. I know video can be an absolute pain to make, but I get a much better feel for student projects by watching one than just looking at screenshots and reading about them.
  • Your projects do not have to look pretty. Designers are not (normally) responsible for art, so I understand it if your levels consist largely of well-organized gray boxes. A good-looking game can get eyeballs faster and can be an advantage, but ultimately you’ll be judged on your design skills, not your art skills.

What I’d Like

Outside of the major elements, there’s other stuff you can add to your portfolio that will improve it. Mind you, none of these can replace those core portfolio pieces mentioned above, but they can supplement them.

  • Programming work, clearly demonstrating your coding skills and technical knowledge. If you can code, you should show it, even if you are not applying for a programming position because ultimately games are pieces of software.
  • Group projects can show that you know how to work with people. Making a game as a team, such as a modding group or as a pair, is a lot harder than making one by yourself. Be careful about only showing group projects, since it can be hard to tell what you – personally – can accomplish.
  • Press coverage on your work from Kotaku, Polygon, RockPaperShotgun, or other media outlets. If gamers and games journalists can recognize your talent, I want to know.
  • Industry prizes or awards like being an IGF or Make Something Unreal finalist or featured in the AppStore. This is about the industry recognizing your talent.
  • In depth knowledge of a closely related field, such as computer science, usability or user experience design, architecture , and economics or mathematics. For example, using your architecture background to describe the decisions you made in a level you designed in Unreal is really cool and I’d love to see that kind of thing in a portfolio.

What I Don’t Want

Here’s some really common general mistakes I see on portfolios. I talk a bit more about what I’d consider problematic portfolio pieces later, but consider these my high-level guidelines:

  • Unfinished games or game jam games that did not get any iteration and polish work after your 48 hours were over. This would be like an artist putting up sketches as major portfolio pieces, instead of finished work.
  • Creative writing samples, unless you are applying as a narrative designer. I have seen: lore bibles, pen and paper campaigns, short stories, screenplays, and rough drafts of an epic fantasy trilogy. These are almost universally bad, which makes me wonder if your design work is equally bad. Writing is its own skill, and it’s a hard one to master.
  • Requiring me to purchase your game in order to evaluate it. Now, it’s okay if you’re selling a game and want that as a portfolio piece, but I think you need to give a potential employer enough information about it: video walkthroughs, trailers, screenshots, demos, sales numbers or accolades.
  • A lot of focus on non-gameplay projects: music compositions, 3D modelling or character design, textures, particle effects, lighting. Each of these are their own job on a AAA team and not the job of a designer, though the job roles get fuzzier at mobile and indie studios. The main red flag is if you avoid showing off gameplay.
  • Offensive work that insults or stereotypes a class of people (sexist, racist, homophobic, etc.). This includes stereotyping disadvantaged people like the disabled or the homeless, and overly sexualized women. I think the exception here is a game that was traditionally shipped that you were not sole designer of (Left Behind the video game, an adult game for Playboy, etc.). Sometimes artists can get away with some more eye-raising content, especially with female character designs (I’ve heard some complain more that it’s uncreative than insulting), but since you’re a designer you should be able to avoid this.

 

GOOD & BAD PORTFOLIO PIECES

Your projects are your games or the levels you’ve designed. Veteran game developers fill this with the games they’ve shipped professionally. As a student, though, it’s not likely you’ve “shipped” any games, so instead this is where you put your side projects, mods, and stand-alone games you’ve made by yourself or with a team.

Safe Projects

Here’s a list a projects that I propose as good portfolio pieces – they are safe, they show off a lot of technical skill, but sometimes they aren’t so great at displaying your creativity. Obviously this is not a comprehensive list! Consider these suggestions as the equivalent to writing prompts.

  • A Skyrim Mod with a new dungeon interior, and a quest line with heavy branching and multiple ways to complete your objectives. Make sure to include combat. The quest should feel like it belongs in the shipped game while still presenting something novel to the player.
  • A Team Fortress 2 multiplayer map that was highly rated by the community, with details on the mode and design considerations when building it. Provide a top-down 2D overhead map and mark out the critical path.
  • A Left 4 Dead 2 map that covers a 10-15 minute defense prior to helicopter evacuation, with clear explanation of the different waves of enemies, the entry and exit points, the main front lines, and how the level design can be used by different enemy types.
  • A game made in Unreal 3 or 4 that creates entirely new gameplay, such as a third-person puzzle-platformer, with at least 20 minutes of gameplay. The gameplay, art style, aesthetics, HUD, and similar elements should all be unified, but do not need to be all that pretty (designers are not responsible for art!)
  • A Portal 2 level that is about 30 minutes of gameplay, with video walkthrough, using one new mechanic you designed ((ex: time travel, light, malleable gravity) in combination with mechanics in the shipped game. This should look visually very close to the retail game and have a great deal of polish.
  • A 3D adventure game made in Unity, with intuitive puzzles, a clear story, good aesthetics (but do not need to be pretty remember)

You get the idea…

All of these are 3D engines – not a single 2D game in sight. That’s because there’s a different level of complexity in designing for a 3D game environment, and that’s what you’re expected to design for at most studios. Now, this comes down to a pretty predictable list of projects mostly in FPS engines for mainstream games, but those are also great engines to know and these projects will help make people comfortable with your technical skills. Consider this a baseline before you start throwing in curveballs or more unusual projects.

Get creative with these. Don’t just make more of the same, but rather make something that will stand out on its own. Focus on the gameplay, and how you can innovate within the constraints. I wouldn’t make, for example, a map for Team Fortress 2 that is largely indistinguishable from other maps by fans and hobbyists. Make sure something in that portfolio piece stands out as an interesting central focus.

Unusual Projects

Unusual projects can be good and make you stand out, and help you kind of define the type of designer you are. These are great opportunities to show off your creativity, just don’t forget that familiarity with certain tools is really important.

  • A 2D iOS game with interesting – and new! – mechanics. At GDC a student showed me a turn-based platformer… roguelike? Weird, but it took about 10 seconds for me to understand it and it was immediately obvious that the gameplay was unique and fun. It also had clean aesthetics and a professional presentation.
  • A board game or pen-and-paper game that you’ve exhibited at conventions, and iterated on extensively. Include a video of people playing it, or make it really easy for me to understand in a few quick glances how it plays out.
  • A piece of hardware, such as a new controller, with a game built for it. Another student at GDC showed me pictures of an interactive table device that he had set up at conventions that dealt out real-life quests and scavenger hunts. That was pretty cool. Mind you, there’s an entire industry devoted to hardware and toy design, and it’s separate from the mainstream games industry, but I think this still makes for a good project so long as you have other things on your portfolio.
  • A game that uses unusual control schemes or hardware, such as Kinect or Oculus Rift. Alternatively, I’ve seen a few 2D games that have used the guitar, dance pad, piano, the move controller, and similar peripherals. I’d be careful that these are actually interesting (and make me interested in them!) rather than gimmicks.
  • Any game that has been shown at industry events such as Indiecade, Indie Megabooth, the Experimental Gameplay Session at GDC, a finalist at IGF, or similar. This shows that you’ve had peer recognition for your design work and can make something that is marketable and/or interesting to other people.

What these projects have in common are that they are well-designed, immediately understood, and outside mainstream AAA games.

One of the problems I often see is that student portfolios only have ‘unusual projects’. That might be okay if you’re applying for, say, a job at Sifteo or at an indie incubator. But it doesn’t work all that well if the job description says you need to build missions for an open-world crime simulator, not make a game to be played on a piano. The latter can stand out though – especially if the game is good and not just a gimmick. Good design is pretty universal, so if you can show you have the design chops then people miiiiight let you slide a bit on the implementation side.

Still, so many 3D game-editing tools are free, so you don’t really have an excuse not to get some experience in one!

Projects to Avoid

There’s a bunch of projects that I think are too simple, not complex enough, don’t show off your skills or knowledge as a designer, or don’t present very well. These are the kinds of projects I would avoid because they will bring down the quality of your portfolio. There are exceptions, of course.

  • 2D platformers similar to Super Mario or Metroid. There are so, so many platformers, and they are so easy to make, that this is not going to stand out unless you have some special hook. In general, these come across as amateur projects. Though, obviously, if you made something the quality of Shovel Knight or FEZ then I want to hear about it.
  • A game that has too many rules and layers of gameplay that I cannot understand it. One of the reasons games like FEZ and Antichamber show really well, is that you can immediately ‘get’ the gameplay. If you find you need several paragraphs in order to explain the core gameplay, it will probably not show well. Usually a video fixes this, but if it doesn’t or if you cannot provide a video, I suggest skipping this. This can be really hard with tabletop games, so for ideas on how to show those off I recommend looking up successful kickstarters for boardgames – they are usually pretty good at communicating what is cool about the project.
  • Games that are entirely about environment art and ambience. Imagine your game is set in a graveyard and there’s no… gameplay, just a lot of art, moody music, custom effects, animating tree limbs. I am suspicious of these if there are no other games on your portfolio focused on gameplay mechanics. It makes me think you don’t know the difference between a designer and an environment artist.
  • Clones of games, like Tetris, Breakout, Pong, etc. These are first-year programming projects, and cloning games does not show off your design skills. These could be supplemental works on a section in your portfolio where you show off your programming skills as a designer, along with other scripting examples, but are not stand alone pieces. Of course, if you redesign an old games – and make something like Speed Chess – that could be a great portfolio piece as an “unusual” project.
  • Projects based on tutorials or classroom assignments. A lot of people do these tutorials. All your fellow classmates do the same classroom assignments. I don’t think these help you stand out. I’ve even seen a project based off of a tutorial I also went through myself, which unfairly made me compare my results to the student’s.
  • Prison or sewer levels. Okay, maybe it’s alright to include them, especially since every AAA video game has a prison or sewer level. But it’s kind of a joke I’ve heard from people in the industry, and the result is that your project already looks boring.

The exception to the rule on all of these is: if your game got recognition, I would put it in anyway. If you made a level that is all mood and environment art and no gameplay, and it’s called “Dear Esther”, you bet that I want to know about it. And if you’re REALLY proud of your 2D platformer or creative writing sample or prison level, go ahead and include it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, though…

How Many Portfolio Pieces?

I used to say to follow the 80/20 rule: if you have five projects, then four should be from the “safe” category and one from the “unusual” category.

Since writing this article initially, I’ve backed off quite a bit on that – largely from talking to others who have become designers and had portfolios that deviated a LOT from my suggestions. I found they made a couple really interesting “unusual” projects, had a relatively impressive resume (including internship experience), and – obviously – they are really good designers who even as students could talk intelligently about design. I think the hard part is getting that interview where you can demonstrate that knowledge.

Instead, my recommendation is to have at least one of those safe projects – detailed, polished work that you’ve iterated on a lot over time from a popular AAA engine like Unreal or Unity. After that, I still think your portfolio pieces should be substantial projects, and not quick game jams or weekend projects, but once you’ve shown off your technical aptitude then you have a lot more leeway to be creative with the rest of your portfolio.

I do like seeing at least three good, sizeable portfolio pieces that each stand out from one another where each is a different genre, or at least focuses on a different kind of gameplay. For example, a piece focused on combat, and another focused on puzzles, and a third that showcases your level design or scripting talents.

 

HOW TO SHOW OFF A PROJECT

So now that you’re done throwing out all your current portfolio pieces (I kid… don’t do anything drastic!), I want to talk briefly about how to show off a project.

Give me a single page with all the information about the project.

Clearly label it with the following information:

  • Engine it was created in (Unity? Unreal? Custom?)
  • Specify if there’s something unusual with the format (i.e. if this is a hardware project, or Oculus Rift game)
  • If you were the only person, or if you had help / it was a created by a team
  • Any downloadable files and instructions on how to use them, if necessary (note: if it’s a map or mod of an existing game, chances are no one will play it, but even then I’d like to see it as an option).

You can use bullet points, a table, sentences, whatever you want – just make sure it’s easy for me to scan the page and quickly find this information.

Next, you should summarize the piece and tell me why it’s important. This is a brief (1-2 sentence) explanation of the gameplay and highlighting one element – is it the complex scripting? The level of polish? The boss battle? The combat design? The puzzles? This summary should focus on the GAMEPLAY. I want to know what kind of design work it entailed.

Here’s some supplementary material that will give me details about the project:

  • Screenshots that show off the gameplay. Taking pictures of gameplay can be hard, but it’s important. Make each screenshot show off something different in the game, rather than several angles of the same thing.
  • A video walkthrough of the game or level. Make sure you use a simple format (like embedding it as a YouTube video), and that it is not auto-playing. Trailers for a game also work well, but the point of this is to show off gameplay, not sell a product.
  • Written details on the gameplay, how you implemented it, what your goals and challenges were. You should be specific, clear, and talk about one part of gameplay in depth rather than trying to explain all of it – this is where I get an idea of how you think and whether you understand good design and game development. Again, this doesn’t need to be long – a paragraph may be enough, depending on how much detail you want to go into.
  • Any 2D maps, or overhead screenshots with overlay diagrams, identifying key gameplay elements like the critical path or pickups or interactive elements.
  • Design documentation you’ve written for projects. These could be level design docs, quest designs, game design ‘bibles’, systems balancing excel sheets, flowcharts, or similar. Please do not include any giant 50-page beasts – no one is impressed by the length. Short, concise and actionable documentation is great to see, as are visualizations of game design flow. If all you have are giant unwieldy documents, then I would skip this.

Besides that, it’s a bit more free form depending on the project you’re showing off. A lot of designers I’ve talked to say they like to see how a project evolved over time to get an idea of how you think and iterate. This is where early documentation and before/after screenshots can help. I would definitely include any accolades or awards, or any special details that you think makes this project stand out, but remember that more is not necessarily better and you don’t want to drown someone with a ton of reading.

From Student to Designer: Part 1 – Websites & Resumes

It’s May and, as a friend pointed out, this is the month when students all over the country graduate from game design academic programs and look for jobs. So I am going to lay out my advice on game design portfolios.

This is so long I’ve split it up so I can post each part separately. I’ll update these with links as I roll them out.

> Part 1: Websites & Resumes
Part 2: Portfolios
Part 3: Cover Letters
Part 4: Design Tests
Part 5: Interviews
Part 6: Entry Level Design Jobs

A Note on my Advice

  • I’m giving advice on design, not art or programming or production or audio. I am a designer, so I can only really evaluate and comment about design.
  • Some of my advice assumes you’re interested in AAA, but I think it applies to most parts of the industry (mobile, indie, mid-sized studios, etc.).
  • I am assuming you are a student that has not worked at a professional game development studio, except as an internship.
  • You don’t actually have to follow my advice. That’s why it’s called “advice” and not “rules”. I don’t actually get any say in hiring anyone, so my advice is less useful than, you know, someone hiring you.
  • I use a lot of bullet points.

The Checklist

These are the basics. I really think you need to have all of these if you are a student, because you can’t point to a game on the shelf of Gamestop and say “I made that.” Once you’re in the game industry, it’s a lot easier and you don’t have to prove yourself as much. But until then, you are untested and a risky hire.

  • Website
  • Resume
  • 3-5 game design projects, showing breadth and depth of your experience
  • Videos, documents, demos, downloads, and/or supporting content

When I look at a student’s portfolio, I ask myself, “Could I hire this person and immediately put them to work? Do they have experience in the genre I am making? Do they have experience with our tools or tools very similar to ours?”

Sadly, the first question I have is not “Is this person a good designer?” That is the follow-up question and definitely needs to be answered. But when I go over someone’s portfolio and resume for them, I am usually looking for reasons to rule them out – and the fastest way to rule out a design application is to see if they have any relevant experience with the kinds of tools and content the studio actually uses.  You can be the best undiscovered board game designer, but if you know nothing about first-person shooters and have never made anything in a 3D level editor and you’re applying to work on the next Call of Duty, I think your chances are a bit slim.

YOUR WEBSITE

The purpose of your website is to showcase your skills and work related to the job you are applying for. It should be easy to use and navigate, and I should be able get to all the information I need in just a couple clicks, and not get bogged down or distracted by content unrelated to game development.

Generally, website design is its own beast and hard to get right. Unless you have experience, I really recommend trying to design a website from scratch. Grab a couple people to go use your website after you make it and give you feedback (much like you would when playtesting a game).  Below are a pile of mistakes/suggestions that I’ve seen come up, or questions people have asked me:

  • Try to purchase firstnamelastname.com or something very similar for your website url. Alternatively, if that is not an option, you could use something that is fun and easy to remember (example: tomtomtom.com). This is one of the few things that I think is worth spending money on.
  • Do not use a URL that is difficult to remember, misspell, is unprofessional, or can turn people off (xxxHardCoreCha0s.weebly.com is a no-no).
  • Use a simple WordPress theme or similar popular packaged template that is simple, clear, efficient, and easy to use and navigate. Check that it works on mobile, too, if you plan on going to GDC or another career fair
  • Do not try to make the website from scratch if you have no web design experience. Web design is hard, and a poorly designed website can turn some people off. I’m personally pretty picky about this because I used to do web design before I found games, though I know others will overlook it.
  • I should be able to reach your resume in just one click.
  • It should be clear from your home page what game development role you are looking for. I don’t want to be confused about whether you are a level designer, programmer, writer, or environment artist.
  • I should be able to quickly find all of your major portfolio work from your main page. I should have a good idea of how many portfolio pieces you have. Before navigating to one of your projects, I should have an idea of whether it’s 2D or 3D, and/or what engine it was created in.
  • Your design work should be the most important thing on your website. Don’t clutter it up by adding a whole bunch of unrelated or non-design work. I recommend using a separate page and dumping all this stuff there, but make sure it’s set aside and clearly labelled as separate from your design work.
  • Don’t rely on icons, thumbnails, or images with no text, especially if these are supposed to be links. I need more information before clicking them, and a lot of times I don’t even realize they are links so I never see the content behind them.
  • Don’t use a lot of flashy stuff like sliding image galleries. It makes it hard to find what I am looking for when images disappear moments after I see them. Sometimes I want to link someone directly to a page with an image on it and many of those plug-ins prevent that.
  • No auto-play videos or audio please.
  • Don’t use a contact form – just share your email address. Most people do not use or skip contact forms – it can be a turn off, and extra hassle. If you’re looking for a job, a contact form ends up being an extra barrier. Just post your email on your website for people to use.
  • If English is your second language, ask a native speaker to proofread your website for you. Misspellings and improper or unusual grammar give people an easy (and lazy) reason to dismiss you, which is totally not fair for non-native speakers. Find someone or ask twitter or facebook or reddit to proofread it for you.

YOUR RESUME

Think of your resume as a list of qualifications, rather than a complete history of your education and experience. You probably have details in your history that aren’t related to games (the so-called Starbucks barista job) that you can  skip because they aren’t really relevant to the job. A lot of advice I’ve read online says that you should tailor your resume for each and every job you apply for separately. I think that goes a bit overboard (I never did it), but a couple selective edits may be useful if there’s something in your history that is irrelevant to everyone except that ONE studio you are about to apply at.

Formatting:

  • I want to be able to read your resume on your website, AND download a .pdf or .docx (or both) copy to my desktop.
  • I should be able to easily print your resume without requiring color ink or text cut off because it bled too much into the margins. So try not to make the background black or add a ton of images. I think that sort of thing is better suited to graphic design jobs rather than game design jobs.
  • Don’t have a multi-page resume unless you’ve shipped games and worked professionally (paid) in the game industry. Students normally have to add more information than is really relevant in order to get to two pages. I think editing down a resume to one page almost always makes it stronger.
  • Try to pay attention to white space and avoid big blocks of text. Make sure your sections (Skills / Experience / Education / Etc.) are clearly separated. I want to be able to scan it and immediately pick out your education background, or your list of skills, with no effort.
  • If you are applying for a job internationally, learn the resume standards of the country you are applying at. In the US, you do not include your picture or your parent’s occupation. This is true vice-versa – if you are applying for a job in South Korea, you might need to include a photo with your resume.

The Basics of a Resume

I think most resumes for student designers should follow this general format – at the very least, it’s a good place to start.

  • Header with your name, contact info, website URL, and job title (“Designer” is fine)
  • Objective Statement (though honestly I always skip these)
  • Skills section that focuses on, in order of importance:
    • Game engines (Unreal, Unity, Hammer/Source, Skyrim/Fallout Creation Kit, and many other programs)
    • Design skills that you have done extensive work in (3D level design, combat design, first-person shooters, documentation, 2D level design, economy balancing, creative writing)
    • Scripting languages (Lua, Python, Kismet, Javascript, C#, C++, Java…)  should clearly identify what level of skill you have (basic scripting experience vs. programming knowledge).
    • Supplemental game development skills: (Maya / 3D modelling, Perforce). This section is optional and supplements – not replaces – other skills. I would only include skills that are relevant to the jobs you are applying for, and include any tools that are industry standard.
  • Games section that lists major game projects completed as a student or on the side. (Yes, side projects count as experience! I care that you’ve made games (or levels for games), no matter where you gained that experience.)
  • Education section that includes all degrees you’ve earned (or expected to earn). If you did not attend college, then I would include high school diploma / G.E.D. / other certifications, but if you’re a college grad I don’t think you really need it.
  • Previous Work Experience: I think this section is optional for students but your mileage will vary. It’s a good place to call out military service, substantial jobs (if you are switching careers, for example), game industry work like journalism, internships, related jobs like technical writing or a freelancer that made flash games for an advertising firm (that kind of thing).  I don’t think you should include working as a cashier at Gamestop or shelving books at your local library because they are not relevant to the job, but there’s no rule against it. I would include any jobs where you worked in design, art, or coding roles since those share a lot with the skills you need in games.

 Content

  • If you include an objective statement, be specific. Don’t go into how much you love games (that’s usually a given). If you include an objective, I’d keep it to one line. If you are a current student and sending out resumes with a specific start date in mind, then you can use this space to include the relevant info (“Looking for a full-time entry-level design position starting May 2014”). Like I said before, I honestly skip objective statements because I don’t think they are that important.
  • Skip references. I am pretty sure the standard in most industries is that if they want references, they will ask for them. Just make sure to have them on hand (and always ask your references ahead of time if they are okay with it!)
  • Avoid listing basic computer skills or experience with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or Excel.
  • Avoid hobbies. I would not include things like being on varsity sports teams, earning awards for debating, being president of the anime club, or similar supplementary experience. I don’t think they add anything since they don’t qualify you for the job, but, then again, if you played football and the person looking at your resume used to play football, that could be a good opener. I usually leave that informal stuff to bring up in interviews.
  • If you have hobbies that are relevant to specific companies (ex: you play soccer in college and are applying for a job on the next FIFA), you should totally selectively edit your resume for those companies, or include it in your cover letter. Actually, you should definitely include stuff like this in your cover letter, but I’ll get to that later.
  • You can include really important game-related activities and achievements on your resume. If you are a competitive gamer who’s played ranked matches (League of Legends, Street Fighter, Starcraft, DOTA, Magic: The Gathering, and more), I’d love to know about it on your resume. If you’ve done Let’s Plays, video game podcasts, contributed to games journalism, or taught games at a kid’s summer camp, let me know.  I don’t think being a guild leader in World of Warcraft or starting a gaming club at school is not that interesting or unique, so be judicious about what experience you include.
  • Do not list C++ as a skill unless you can really code. A single class on C++ does not count. I would list these as “some experience with” as a qualifier, and lump them together as scripting languages, or skip it. Remember that a lot of designers have programming backgrounds, and a lot of entry level jobs also have programming tasks, so try not to misrepresent yourself here.
  • You should have experience with a 3D level editor! Top picks are Unreal and Unity – other people in the industry I talk to universally pick those as examples. There are lots more out there, and some studios have favorites (for example, Blizzard often suggests making Starcraft maps on their job positions).
  • Experience with Maya is good to have, but not necessary. You probably don’t need to mention specifically that you can model, unwrap, and texture art assets – designers don’t usually do this work these days, though that changes with smaller studios, mobile, and indie startups. You can just say you have experience with Maya (or another 3D modelling tool) and leave it at that.
  • You don’t need to include every project you’ve worked on. I would only include large undertakings that required a lot of work – things you would consider major milestones. I suggest that any projects or games you list in your resume should also be in your portfolio somewhere if I want more information.
  • Game jams, prototypes, unfinished projects, and short school assignments do not belong on your resume. If you picked up skills from these projects, I’d expect to see them in your “Skills” section, but they are usually too small and not polished enough to really act as a substantial project. (I’ll get into better definitions of what unfinished or prototype means later).
  • Do include any shipped game you’ve worked on. Shipping a game, or working on a game for an internship, makes a student’s resume stand out from the rest.
  • Clearly label your game projects so I know what tools you used, what genre it is, when you created it, and how much time you spent creating it (3 months, 6 months, 2 years, etc.). I like this because I can get a better feel for your experience.
  • Don’t list student projects as though they are industry experience  (ex: “lead designer on Tales of Nartharathia at DarkDev Inc.”) unless this was your professional job title and a real business. This is another one of my pet peeves, and I’ve spoken to a few other designers who get annoyed by this. It certainly won’t tank your resume but it’s pretty transparent.
  • Do list student projects clearly labeled as student work, and include your role, highlighting any leadership experience (ex: “lead designer on student game, Tales of Nartharathia”). Make sure the game was finished, and that you put it on your portfolio when I want to see more information.
  • You do not need to list every single thing you did on a student project – that can get long and unwieldy. Go with the 80-20 rule: 80% of your details should be core design skills, but 20% can be supplemental skills (sound design, art, writing).
  • If you can code, I want to know. Like, really code. Video games are still software development, so while you do not need to know how to program to be a designer, it’s a huge boon – especially for students.
  • You should be general enough about your responsibilities/experience so that if I never heard of your game I can still get an idea of what you did. If you say “Created level 3, Into the Ice King’s Lair” I actually don’t know what that means. I’d prefer seeing something like, “Level design, documentation, & puzzle design for 10 minutes of gameplay”.
  • “Shipped” is a really nebulous term these days. In my opinion, you shipped a game if the game was sold for money at a retail outlet or online game store. If you put a game on the AppStore or sold it for Android or got it on Steam, I would consider it shipped, but I can’t really speak for others. Some sites are still pretty new – like itch.io and gumroad – and most developers will not have heard of them, so they fall into questionable territory. The important thing, though, is that you do not seem like you are intentionally misleading employers.
  • You can list additional coursework under education even if it did not grant a degree (ex: additional coursework in economics, playwriting, film, and Japanese language studies). I like seeing this, but then again I have a pretty high esteem of academia. I would only list coursework that is relevant- no one cares that I did additional coursework in Spanish or Social Work when I was in college.

So that’s my advice. Some of this came from others when I asked what they thought were common mistakes, and others are just things I’ve seen when I volunteered time to review resumes for students. Obviously, you’ll run into some conflicting ideas – I think the most contentious part is which games/projects to include, how to label them (work experience? student projects?), and exactly how to describe your role for each. That is something I leave students to figure out on their own. Like always, I recommend getting a few different people to look over your resume and website before you send it out to get different opinions. Think of it like “playtesting”.

“The Door Problem”

“So what does a game designer do? Are you an artist? Do you design characters and write the story? Or no, wait, you’re a programmer?”

Game design is one of those nebulous terms to people outside the game industry that’s about as clear as the “astrophysicist” job title is to me. It’s also my job, so I find myself explaining what game design means to a lot of people from different backgrounds, some of whom don’t know anything about games.

The Door Problem

I like to describe my job in terms of “The Door Problem”.

Premise: You are making a game.

  • Are there doors in your game?
  • Can the player open them?
  • Can the player open every door in the game?
  • Or are some doors for decoration?
  • How does the player know the difference?
  • Are doors you can open green and ones you can’t red? Is there trash piled up in front of doors you can’t use? Did you just remove the doorknobs and call it a day?
  • Can doors be locked and unlocked?
  • What tells a player a door is locked and will open, as opposed to a door that they will never open?
  • Does a player know how to unlock a door? Do they need a key? To hack a console? To solve a puzzle? To wait until a story moment passes?
  • Are there doors that can open but the player can never enter them?
  • Where do enemies come from? Do they run in from doors? Do those doors lock afterwards?
  • How does the player open a door? Do they just walk up to it and it slides open? Does it swing open? Does the player have to press a button to open it?
  • Do doors lock behind the player?
  • What happens if there are two players? Does it only lock after both players pass through the door?
  • What if the level is REALLY BIG and can’t all exist at the same time? If one player stays behind, the floor might disappear from under them. What do you do?
  • Do you stop one player from progressing any further until both are together in the same room?
  • Do you teleport the player that stayed behind?
  • What size is a door?
  • Does it have to be big enough for a player to get through?
  • What about co-op players? What if player 1 is standing in the doorway – does that block player 2?
  • What about allies following you? How many of them need to get through the door without getting stuck?
  • What about enemies? Do mini-bosses that are larger than a person also need to fit through the door?

It’s a pretty classic design problem. SOMEONE has to solve The Door Problem, and that someone is a designer.

The Other Door Problems

To help people understand the role breakdowns at a big company, I sometimes go into how other people deal with doors.

  • Creative Director: “Yes, we definitely need doors in this game.”
  • Project Manager: “I’ll put time on the schedule for people to make doors.”
  • Designer: “I wrote a doc explaining what we need doors to do.”
  • Concept Artist: “I made some gorgeous paintings of doors.”
  • Art Director: “This third painting is exactly the style of doors we need.”
  • Environment Artist: “I took this painting of a door and made it into an object in the game.”
  • Animator: “I made the door open and close.”
  • Sound Designer: “I made the sounds the door creates when it opens and closes.”
  • Audio Engineer: “The sound of the door opening and closing will change based on where the player is and what direction they are facing.”
  • Composer: “I created a theme song for the door.”
  • FX Artist: “I added some cool sparks to the door when it opens.”
  • Writer: “When the door opens, the player will say, ‘Hey look! The door opened!’ “
  • Lighter: “There is a bright red light over the door when it’s locked, and a green one when it’s opened.”
  • Legal: “The environment artist put a Starbucks logo on the door. You need to remove that if you don’t want to be sued.”
  • Character Artist: “I don’t really care about this door until it can start wearing hats.”
  • Gameplay Programmer: “This door asset now opens and closes based on proximity to the player. It can also be locked and unlocked through script.”
  • AI Programmer: “Enemies and allies now know if a door is there and whether they can go through it.”
  • Network Programmer: “Do all the players need to see the door open at the same time?”
  • Release Engineer: “You need to get your doors in by 3pm if you want them on the disk.”
  • Core Engine Programmer: “I have optimized the code to allow up to 1024 doors in the game.”
  • Tools Programmer: “I made it even easier for you to place doors.”
  • Level Designer: “I put the door in my level and locked it. After an event, I unlocked it.”
  • UI Designer: “There’s now an objective marker on the door, and it has its own icon on the map.”
  • Combat Designer: “Enemies will spawn behind doors, and lay cover fire as their allies enter the room. Unless the player is looking inside the door in which case they will spawn behind a different door.”
  • Systems Designer: “A level 4 player earns 148xp for opening this door at the cost of 3 gold.”
  • Monetization Designer: “We could charge the player $.99 to open the door now, or wait 24 hours for it to open automatically.”
  • QA Tester: “I walked to the door. I ran to the door. I jumped at the door. I stood in the doorway until it closed. I saved and reloaded and walked to the door. I died and reloaded then walked to the door. I threw grenades at the door.”
  • UX / Usability Researcher: “I found some people on Craigslist to go through the door so we could see what problems crop up.”
  •  Localization: “Door. Puerta. Porta. Porte. Tür. Dør. Deur. Drzwi. Drws. 문”
  • Producer: “Do we need to give everyone those doors or can we save them for a pre-order bonus?”
  • Publisher: “Those doors are really going to help this game stand out during the fall line-up.”
  • CEO: “I want you all to know how much I appreciate the time and effort put into making those doors.”
  • PR: “To all our fans, you’re going to go crazy over our next reveal #gamedev #doors #nextgen #retweet”
  • Community Manager: “I let the fans know that their concerns about doors will be addressed in the upcoming patch.”
  • Customer Support: “A player contacted us, confused about doors. I gave them detailed instructions on how to use them.”
  • Player: “I totally didn’t even notice a door there.”

One of the reasons I like this example is because it’s so mundane. There’s an impression that game design is flashy and cool and about crazy ideas and fun all the time. But when I start off with, “Let me tell you about doors…” it cuts straight to the everyday practical considerations.

Recent edits: Added localization, character artist, system designer, combat designer, composer, audio engineer, monetization designer, and I think that’ll be it for now.