1: OK who are you and what are you known for?
Hi there, my name is Stéphane and I’m a game designer at Tuque Games, an indie studio in Montreal which released its first title last year called Livelock in association with Perfect World Entertainment.
2: How did you get your break into games?
It was actually pretty fluid; after 5 years of industrial and game design studies at university, I got my first job the following summer break as QA on a little indie title called Jotun.
3: How did you find your transition from QA into design? And do you have any tips for anyone else in QA looking to move into other disciplines?
It definitively felt good to start creating and do what I had studied for. If you’re looking to switch to a design role, I think the most important thing is to respect the process: be a listener, understand the what and why of the issue, don’t jump to preconceptions, give your creative process it’s due diligence. In the end, not only you might come up with better solutions but these solutions will be tailored to your game. The ability to scale your designs is also important; how will your system work for 1 player? For 100, 1000 players? You are the person with the answers.
On a more day-to-day note, prove your worth, pitch suggestions, show that you care about the game and convey realistic ideas that you think would improve the game. If your ideas don’t resonate with the team, see which ones do and why.
4: You have worked on UI systems and now more core mechanics. What has been the biggest difficulty you have faced during a project? And how has transitioning from one area of design to another affected you?
I wouldn’t call that transition difficult but rather simply having to answer to a different set of questions. Instead of focusing on things such as readability, input schemes, player intuition, visual design, you migrate to more subtle concepts such as fun, fairness, flow, etc. The “how” becomes the “what”. I still hop on to UI design every now and again though.
I think my biggest difficulty to this date has been to design multiple things simultaneously. On very young projects a lot of blanks need to be filled ASAP, in an indie studio you often end up being spread thin across a lot of tasks and aspects. This can give you some valuable time and headspace to reflect on your designs while you’re doing something else, or on the contrary force you into a schedule where you simply cannot get into the best creative mind flow. And no designer likes to sacrifice quality.
5: Is there is any current or past games that you would have loved to been involved with? How would you have changed them if you could?
I have been playing World of Warcraft since 2005 and would have enjoyed seeing this baby mature to what it is today from a development standpoint. Also, I would have probably fought for a better way to implement legendary weapons instead of the heavy RNG system they use now.
6: Working in the Montreal area of Canada, can you give us a bit of a over view for the game dev scene is?
Montreal is pretty huge for game dev, there are multiple big companies in town such as Ubisoft and Warner Brothers, but also a booming indie sector with more than a hundred studios last I checked. People from all over the world move to work here and most local colleges and universities pump out new devs every year. The government also helps fund a lot of projects which definitely helps this growth.
So if you’re a dev who doesn’t mind having snow 8 months a year, come on up.
7: What’s the biggest misunderstanding by players of one of your game mechanics?
For now I’ve been doing my homework and “misunderstanding” is not a word that has yet come back to bite me, but I’m still young in the industry. I can’t say the same for “scope” though, which is something I’ve been actively working on.
8: Best and worst 30 second game design segment or level?
In an attempt to make up for my horrible memory I’ll point out games that have the most impacted me recently. I would say the Titanfall 2 campaign is the most harmonious blend I’ve seen of FPS game design and level design (timewarp and flipped levels in mind), backed up by that AAA budget.
In indie, I have loved getting my heart broken in Darkest Dungeon by the Affliction system and their ability to foster player attachment towards your band’s NPCs (at least for the first couple ones that die).
To finish, Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system is also something I think is pure genius in the sense of procedural rivalries and anecdotes.
9: VR hardware and gaming, a fad or here to stay?
I’d be surprised if it ever takes the center spotlight, but I realistically see it endure as a niche market for immersion-centric games, education and unique experiences such as museums, theme parks, simulations.
Thanks Stéphane, for a great insight towards design and the Montreal game dev scene!
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