Saturday, March 19, 2011


Job Description:  World Building

So I didn’t want to write about this until it was a bit more substantial, but that threshold has been crossed.  Last week at the Dance on Broadway release party, once everyone was nice and drunk, the Creative Director came up to me and we had a chat about my career options.  Since Dance on Broadway is complete we’re in pre-production for our next game (un-announced and therefore I can’t be too specific on any details).  During this period generally QA doesn’t have much to do.  I’ve been keeping myself busy implementing Agile software and other things, but a lot of it is busy-work.  One thing I’ve been doing is helping out with prototyping and giving design feedback and suggestions.

Apparently the Lead Designer had told the Creative Director that my feedback and suggestions had been really helpful.  The Creative Director and I had discussed this before, so he told him I eventually wanted to get in to Design.  So long story short, they decided to give me designer work until my QA tasks start ramping up again.  The next week I talked to the Lead Designer, and the Producer about my intentions to eventually make it to Design, and that I’d LOVE to take on the extra responsibilities to try to prove myself.  So they gave me my first design task, helping build our first playable prototype. 

Scripting in Kismet (Unreal Engine)

Back in Edmonton, after my first term at BioWare had ended, I had to take my 3 months off.  I went on EI since I’d been told I’d have a job waiting for me as soon as they could hire me back, and during those 3 months off I put myself on a strict schedule of learning the Unreal Engine.  By the time I went back to work I had learned the entire Unreal Engine and made several professional grade levels for Unreal Tournament 3.  It was an invaluable skill to learn because most engines out there share similar principles, and knowing one of the industry-standard engines means you have a solid foundation for learning other engines.

One of my Unreal levels:  Rooftops

This knowledge came in handy for my design tasks, especially the stuff I’d learnt in scripting.  So for the past week I’ve been doing designer work, and so far everyone I’ve dealt with has been very impressed.  I’ve heard more than once that they can’t believe how effortlessly I fill the role, and that I could already be a Designer.  Very exciting. 

I’ve known I wanted to get into Design for some time.  When I told my friend Tim the news he pointed out to me I’ve always been meant to get into Design.  When we were kids I used to draw Mario levels on paper and have him play through them.  And once we got a bit older and started playing modem games of Duke Nukem and Blood, I taught myself the Build engine and made entire episodes to play together online.

Building Duke Nukem levels in the Build Engine.

Even though I’ve wanted to get into Design for so long, a part of me always wondered what EXACTLY the job entailed.  Would I be able to do it?  Well now that I’ve been doing it for a week, working closely with programming and art, and getting positive feedback, I’m very confident this is the job for me.

It doesn’t mean I’ll be a Designer tomorrow though.  I’m still QA Lead, and those responsibilities will remain my priority as long as that’s my title.  But next time a Designer position opens up, I’ll be applying for it immediately, and hopefully by then I’ll have done enough Design work to have earned their confidence.  And from what I’ve heard so far, I am confident I will do so.

When I got into the industry I had a realization:  This is where I want to be.  This past week doing Design work I had another realization:  This is what I want to do.  It’s exciting.  Yes, it would be a pay increase, yes it would bring with it more industry respect, but honestly, I just want to do it because I LOVE doing it, and I believe I’m good at it.

It’s also good to have a tangible career goal again.  At BioWare my goal was always to get a permanent salary position.  Once I got it at Longtail and adjusted to the role, I was worried I’d start to become complacent.  Now that I’m working towards something again, the ambition is being fed.  It’s a very exciting time.


Cori said...

Design is awesome. I love my job; I know you'll be fantastic! The best QA are designers at heart, after all.

Dale Furutani said...

I've been hearing that a lot lately! Puts things into perspective!

Tim said...

Way to go man, be a hero of the next generation and design their equivalent of Poy Poy .. or better! :)

Dale Furutani said...

Holy crap, I forgot all about that game! Good times!