在致力于《Enhanced Wars》的创造前，我是BioWare旧金山工作室的制作人和经理。我在BioWare的大多数时间都是引导着《龙腾世纪传奇》的游戏团队（扮演着制作人的角色）。 在最忙碌的时期，我甚至带领过一个由25人组成的团队，并且其中19人是由我直接管理。适当的雇佣真的能够有效引导一个团队走向正确的道路（我也很幸运的在艺电拥有一支很 强大的队伍，不管是在HR部门还是BioWare的同事），但是我在那时的一大职责是作为游戏设计，艺术和工程等多个职位的人事部经理。
当我离开BioWare后，我开始参加各种社区活动，如Reddit以及其它论坛，并在此填补我的生活空洞。因为在《Enhanced Wars》项目中的其他2位合作者是处在不同时区，所以我不 能与他们进行有效地交谈。如此我只能徘徊于各种论坛，希望能够通过与当下或未来的游戏开发者分享我的建议而提升价值。
2012年，我最喜欢的作者之一Niel Gaiman在费城艺术大学里发表了开学典礼演讲。其中包含了许多很棒的建议能够引导着学生们去制定自己的职业规划。而从演讲中我们知道，任 何想成为游戏设计师的人需要迈出的第一步是：
这一列表并不是在定义所有的游戏设计元素。甚至比任务更重要的应该是你想要创造的游戏类型和平台。例如，如果《Enhanced Wars》失败了，而我想要找一份全职工作的话，我 便会自信地申请手机游戏盈利设计这份工作。但是如果我决定是时候在PS4和Xbone上为AAA级游戏创建3D关卡的话，我便会在有足够自信申请那份工作前至少投入6个月的准备时间 。
在你的整个职业生涯中，那座山将会发生多次改变。新的机遇将会出现，新的平台将会形成，新的类型也会诞生。但是最重要的是你需要尽早敲定目标。因为申请《Tom Clancy’s The Division》的关卡设计工作与申请《战地4》的UX设计工作，或者一家小型手机初创公司的多方位设计师都是完全不同的。
尽管现在作为独立开发者（致力于《Enhanced Wars》），我并未像在BioWare的旧金山工作室工作那样需要浏览许多简历，不过我还是会阅读一些较为奇特的简历，即来自Reddit 或其它论坛的内容。而我对此所作出的反馈通常都是一样的，即：“你需要致力于文件夹网站。”
对我来说，在短短时间里阅读50份简历并挑选出适合我们团队的成员这一工作是再平常不过的事了。不管我是在浏览许多实习生候选人的简历还是阅读一份全职应聘者的简历，我 的过程都是一样的。即打开简历，快速浏览1分钟而找到亮点。打开文件夹网站链接并花费大量时间进行浏览（如果可能的话）。如果应聘者的文件夹非常出色，我便会提出电话面 试。我已经多次遇到因为对方文件夹太优秀而迫不及待地拨打了电话，以防他被其它工作室请走。可以说高质量的文件夹是决定电话面试的最大因素。
很多人都不知道该往设计文件夹里添加哪些内容，并且关于一份优秀的设计文件或如何设置游戏经济也不存在任何标准。你最应该放入文件夹的便是自己创造并发行的游戏。基于 像Unity和Game Maker Studio等工具以及自我发行的便利，我会建议那些想要成为游戏设计师的学生们应该在上学的时候每年面向应用商店推出一款游戏。没有什么比以下内容更 能证明你是一名有能力的设计师了：
创造一个优秀的文件夹需要花费几个月的时间，甚至是几年。在大学里，我多次尝试着组建一个团队去创造游戏。我被那些想要谈论游戏和合作的程序员和美术人员们所吸引着， 但是当是时候开始致力于游戏时，他们却并未能做到像说的那么好。除非你拥有一个自己所信赖的团队，要不我会建议你先开始创造一些小游戏，独立完成并完善它。如果你不知 道如何编写代码，那就开始学起！
文件夹的内容是取决于你之前所明确的目标山。不管你的设计工作类型是什么，你都需要添加能够证明你可以高质量完成设计工作的工具。如果你的目标是创造开放世界RPG，那就 去研究《龙腾世纪》或《天际》的mod工具并进行探索。如果你想要致力于多人FPS，那么深入研究Unreal Engine 3或Hammer，并面向世界发行一些关卡。如果你想要创造多人竞技 游戏（MOBA），那么就去熟悉《魔兽争霸3》或《星际争霸2》的编辑器，并创造一个新的MOBA类型的游戏模式。
现在你已经创造了一个包含有形设计作品的强大游戏组合了，你便会想着是时间开始编写简历并申请工作了。但是同样地，当我在为《Enhanced Wars》设计功能时，我总是会在编 写实际规格前设置一个设计目标，所以你需要在编写简历前基于某一基础去明确自己想从中获得什么。
我之所以解释这些内容是为了帮助你们理解雇佣过程的另一面。HR同事将会把附带着网上帖子的简历递交给人事部经理，同时他们也会花时间在网络上寻找着合适的应聘者（游戏 邦注：主要是在LinkedIn上）。如果发现了符合要求的人，他们便会把这个人的信息发送给人事部经理询问该应聘者是否值得联系。一般情况下，招聘者通常都会在你的简历中寻 找相关经历，这是帮助他们决定是否联系你的关键。所以为了帮助自己越过第一道门槛，你就需要清楚如何更好地推销自己。
创造一个广泛的游戏组合的部分原因便是让你有足够的设计经历能够与招聘者分享。你需要仔细思考这些经历，并明确自己作为设计师有何独特的“卖点”。每个申请游戏设计工 作的人都是充满激情的，所以利用热情去突显自己并没有多大帮助。千万别利用一些不相干的技能或活动去推销自己。你需要做的便是明确，当接到人事经理的面试时你该说些什 么。也就是你需要找出自己的英雄事迹。
“我们是先规划出设计目标而开始创建《Enhanced Wars》的原型。这里有一列点句，先是‘当**，我们便知道自己完成了《Enhanced Wars》的原型创建’，然后列出像‘我们拥 有没有困境的游戏’以及‘我们至少玩过3款带有最终规则的完整游戏’。我与同事在24小时内对于《Enhanced Wars》进行了22次迭代。深夜的时候，当我们进行到第16次迭代时 ，我们知道已经拥有了魔法架构，并在当下结束了那天的工作。早上，我们是通过阅读设计目标开始了全新一天的工作。而当我们再次去核实魔法架构时却发现设计中存在着一些 漏洞，所以我们便继续进行迭代，直到在第22次迭代时创造出了符合我们所有要求的版本。”
关于申请一份工作的另一大重要元素便是呈现你从过去经历中所学到的。为了通过反省以及承认自己过去的错误而推销自己，我会建议你编写一份失败简历。这是我在Tina Seelig （游戏邦注：Stanford Technologies Venture Program的执行总监）的演讲中所学到的。
“在PlayFirst，我是在参与第二款游戏《神秘鲨鱼岛》时获得了首席设计师的职位。尽管我拥有生疏的设计技能去执行该工作，但是我却是在好几年后才意识到这点，即在刚刚大 学毕业后我没有成熟的能力去领导一个游戏设计团队。我面对的最大难度便是听取来自公司高管们的反馈—-我经常会因为僵硬的肢体语言和紧张的语调而让对方觉得自己在忽视他 们的理念。这种消极的循环意味着人们将不喜欢与你共事。从我的角度看来，如果其他人不能理解我的想法，我不得不以牺牲某些乐趣而做出妥协的话，那么游戏就算失败了。
几年后，我学会了‘如何找到事情的背后原因。’当我致力于《龙腾世纪传奇》并获得来自公司高层的反馈时，我便意识到了这点。此外我还学到了一点，即没有一个人能够比你 更了解自己的项目。你清楚所有细节，所以你能够明确地判断为什么别人的理念不适合游戏。但是当公司的CEO愿意花时间去尝试你的游戏时，你便不能直接地跟他说，你错了。实 际上他并没错，他只是不像你那样了解该项目。所以你需要做的便是认真听取别人的反馈然后尝试着去找出游戏不符合特定功能要求的原因。所以有人说‘我想要功能X’时，我便 会回复‘我想你会建议这一功能是因为你在使用功能Y时出了错，对吧？’现在我们会对游戏团队能够解决的一些根本原因和动机展开讨论，而不是仍停留在某一特定功能的优劣上 。”
面试主要涉及三个内容。团队将评估你是否有完成工作要求的能力，所以你必须清楚地呈现出自己的技能和经验。除了技能，团队也会通过你的性格和文化去考察你 是否适合这份 工作，所以你必须将自己当成是他们的同事。最后，如果该团队只是你的众多选择之一，他们便会想办法推销自己，并向你保证这份工作能够为你今后 几年的生活带来巨大帮助。
举个例子来说吧，如果你想要和我一起设计《Enhanced Wars》，那么作为面试官的我会准备一系列问题（也有可能是一些笔试内容）去测试你的各种能力，不只是关于多人游戏的 平衡和功能设计，还会包含UI/UX与参数的使用，以及基于玩家反馈的游戏迭代等。同时我也会考察你是否足够自主，能够激励自己在一个虚拟团队中有效工作。如果我真的喜欢你 ，我便会开始与你谈论在一个小型且虚拟的团队中工作的好处，以及在早期阶段加入一个全新工作室将如何提升你自己的潜能等等。
但Quarter Spiral只是一个团队。你所申请的每个工作室或游戏团队都具有自己独特的要求和文化，所以他们想从应聘者身上看到的能力也不同。如果你已经走到了这一步，即创 造了自己的游戏组合，编写了一份优秀的简历，那么你接下来需要做的便是为面试做准备。
这点很明显。但是很多时候当我通过电话对那些想要加入《龙腾世纪传奇》的应聘者进行面试时，却惊讶地发现他们从未玩过这款游戏。或者在与那些申请我们工作室不同部门的 应聘者接触时发现他们从未玩过我们的网页游戏。大多时候，只要遇到这种情况该应聘者就会被取消资格。因为如果他们未曾认真玩过我们注入了许多心血所创造出来的游戏，我 们该如何相信这些人会愿意为游戏创造做贡献呢？
十有八九，你都会知道给你面试的人的名字。如果你未获得相关信息，请直接向HR要份信息，并在上面寻找相关人员，并仔细阅读他们的相关信息。检查LinkedIn上的资料，并寻 找他们的博客或社交网页。你不一定都能找到相关信息，但大多数情况下你都能够找到一些帮助你了解对方团队或人员的资料。也许这种准备工作不一定能在面试过程中发挥作用 ，但是却能够让你进一步了解该工作室及其文化，从而明确这份工作是否真的适合自己。
基于你的工作描述准备一系列问题，并且是围绕着你对于该工作室的了解。但是你也必须清楚所提出的问题将表露出自己的种种心态。举个例子来说吧，假设你正在申请 《Enhanced Wars》的一个初级设计职位，但是你的问题却是关于你是否能够快速成为首席设计师。这时候我便会判断你对于这份工作带有不现实的期许，即比起实际工作你更加看 重头衔和权利，而如果我让你反复做一些单调的游戏设计工作，你便有可能憎恨我。这时候，除非你拥有极端出色的游戏组合和简历，否则我便会因为这一问题直接将你淘汰掉。
如果你已经走到了本文中的这一步，接下来你就需要开始准备游戏设计的申请工作了。我知道，从字面看起来这很简单，但实际上申请与面试却是件很残忍的事。因为你可能会面 对各种形式的拒绝。你会觉得自己把简历丢到了无底洞中。你可能会因为搞糟了一次电话面试而与该工作室失之交臂。你可能会问一些不适当的问题。你可能本来以为该团队对你 很满意，但是最终却遭到了拒绝。可能对方口头答应你的申请，但是隔天却告知该职位已经有内定人选了。这都是就业市场上会出现的各种不幸。
Breaking into game design: Step 1 – find your mountain
by Ethan Levy
Before I left to work on Enhanced Wars, I was a producer and manager at BioWare’s San Francisco office. The majority of my time at BioWare was spent as a producer leading the Dragon Age Legends game team. During my most crunched state I had a team of 25, 19 of whom I managed directly. Hiring truly takes a team to do right (and I was lucky to have a strong team at EA between the fantastic HR department and my colleagues at BioWare) but one of my primary responsibilities during that time was to serve as hiring manager for a number of positions across game design, art and engineering.
Since I left BioWare, I have turned to community participation on Reddit and forums to fill the hole in my life where co-workers used to be. Since my two partners in crime on Enhanced Wars are in different time zones I don’t have a lot of water cooler conversation. So, I hang out on threads trying to add value by lending my advice to current and prospective game developers.
I find myself repeating a few pieces of advice over and over again about how to break into the industry as a game designer. I thought it would be valuable to take my perspective as a hiring manager and turn it into a series of articles about how to position yourself best to land that first gig.
A big caveat – I am just one hiring manager with one perspective. Each company you are trying to work for and person you are trying to impress is different. These tactics would definitely work if you were trying to land a job on my team. Personal mileage may vary.
Step 1 – find your mountain
In 2012 one of my favorite authors, Niel Gaiman, gave a commencement speech at The University of Arts in Philadelphia. It was filled with incredible advice for guiding your creative career. The first step in any game designers journey can taken directly from that speech:
“Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be … was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.
And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.”
This is important because game design is a broad profession. In any given day I might write a design document. I might wireframe some UI or spec out a UX flow. I might tweak tuning values in a spreadsheet all day long or lay out levels. I might do narrative work or write copy for menu screens. I might spend all day fixing bugs in scripting files. I might plan out a monetization strategy.
This list doesn’t come close to defining all that goes into the bucket of game design. Even more important than tasks is genre and platform of game you want to work on. For instance, if Enhanced Wars folded and I wanted to get a full time job, I would feel confident applying for monetization design jobs on mobile games tomorrow. But if I decided it was time to build 3D levels for AAA games on the PS4 and Xbone, I would need to spend a minimum of 6 months preparing
before I could apply for that job from a space of confidence.
Your mountain will change many times over the course of your career. New opportunities will arise, new platforms will take shape and new genres will be invented. But it is important to pick an early goal. Because applying for a level design job on Tom Clancy’s The Division is fundamentally different from applying for a UX design job on Battlefield 4 is fundamentally different from applying as a generalist designer with a small mobile startup company.
Do your research and figure out what sort of job you will want to pursue as a designer. My best advice – look at job postings on Gamasutra and the websites of companies you admire. Read about the actual requirements, roles and responsibilities for real design jobs. Invariably you will find yourself saying “that sounds like a lot of fun” or “I would hate to do that every day for the next 3 years.”
And a word of advice, don’t set your mountain as Creative Director. Not at first. I know it is everyone’s dream to be The Guy or The Gal leading a game’s creative vision. But if you find that the only jobs that appeal to you are those with a fancy title and 10+ years of experience required, you are in for a rude awakening. If the years of backbreaking work it will take to climb the mountain are not inherently rewarding, you will never never make it to the top.
Once you have found your mountain, you will be ready to start building your design portfolio, which I will cover in the next article in this series.
Breaking into game design: Part 2 – build your portfolio
by Ethan Levy
Although I do not review as many resumes now that I’m an indie developer working on Enhanced Wars as I did when I was at BioWare San Francisco, I still review the odd resume here or there as a result of a Reddit or forum post. When I do, my top line feedback is almost always the same: “You need to work on your portfolio website.”
At BioWare San Francisco, we had a strong affinity for interns and co-op students (who would work a full semester at the studio for credit). In a very real sense, we would not have launched Dragon Age Legends on time without the contributions from our co-op team members. As such, one of my favorite times of the year was when the fantastic university relations team at EA would deliver the resumes of potential interns they were bringing to campus for interviews.
It was not unusual for me to review 50 resumes in one marathon session to pick out the prospects that I thought would fit a need on my team. Whether I was reviewing a stack of resumes for intern candidates or a single resume from a recruiter for a full time position, my process was almost always the same. Open a resume and scan it for about a minute to look for highlights. Open the portfolio website link and spend a significant amount of time reviewing (if possible). If a portfolio was great, I would request a phone interview. On more than one occasion, I called someone instantly because the portfolio was so good I didn’t want to waste any time lest the candidate be snatched up by another studio. Sometimes the candidate already had. A high quality portfolio was the single biggest factor in landing a phone interview.
If your professional experience is minimal or non-existant, the challenge you face is that you have no credibility that you will be capable of fulfilling the job requirements. When I’m looking to fill a job, I don’t care about your mission statement, your extra curricular activities or your summer job in a completely unrelated industry. I only care about proof of your design abilities.
It can be difficult to know what to put in a design portfolio, as there are no standards for what a good design document is or how a game economy should be laid out. The best possible thing to have in your portfolio is shipped games. With tools like Unity and Game Maker Studio and the ease of self publishing, it is my opinion that a prospective game designer should exit college with one game on the app store for each year in school. There is no stronger proof that you are a capable designer than being able to show that:
1.You know how to finish a game and release it to the world
2.You took the time to listen to your players, either throughmetrics, comments, reviews or other feedback
3.You can tell a meaningful story about how you improved your game based on player feedback
Being able to tell me that story in the initial phone interview is an instant ticket to a full team interview.
Building a proper portfolio will take months, if not years. In college, I tried on multiple occasions to assemble a team to make a game. I got plenty of interest from programmers or artists who wished to talk about a game and collaborate, but when it came time to start working on the game they did not deliver. Unless you have a team you truly trust, my advice is to start out by making small but completed and polished games that you can build on your own. If you don’t know how to code, it’s time to learn!
Feature portfolio material
What you build for your portfolio is highly dependent on your mountain. No matter what type of design job you have, the tools exist to prove you are capable of doing high quality design work. If your mountain is to work on open world RPGs, then dive into the Dragon Age or Skyrim mod tools and make quests. If you want to work on multiplayer FPS, then dig into Unreal Engine 3 or Hammer and release levels to the world. If you want to work on a MOBA, then get cozy with
the WarCraft III or Starcraft II editor and prototype a new MOBA style gameplay mode.
No matter what your mountain is, you cannot wait till you “land that gig” before you start learning how to design content. Only by proving you can finish content, release it to players, listen to their feedback and improve your content based on feedback will you be able to land that first professional gig. And if your goal is as targeted as working on a specific game or at a specific company, if they have publicly available tools you better invest time in mastering them.
Other portfolio material
A designer’s job is much more dynamic than simply creating levels or quests. There are a number of other documents or types of content you can create and share as part of a portfolio. Here are some suggestions based off the varied types of work I do on Enhanced Wars and other projects:
Game Treatment – no one is going to read a 75+ page game design document when evaluating you for a position. But they will scan a 5-7 page game treatment that outlines a game, its market and its core features at a high level.
Feature Brief – a detailed document that explains the full implementation of a single feature for a game, including UI wireframes and flow, goes a long way to impress. Design a new feature for an existing and well known game in the genre you wish to get hired in. Make sure that in the early part of the brief, you have a section explaining why this feature needs to be added to this game.
Game balance evaluation – much of a designer’s job is tuning and balancing game variables. Pick a game and write a report evaluating balance of a particular system or economy. Take detailed notes on multiple play sessions, compile and summarize fan and review feedback and come up with a series of recommendations on how this system’s balance can be improved.
UI/UX redesign – most of my work in mobile/tablet games involves designing or evaluating UI. Designing UI is a difficult task, especially if you’ve never done it before, but it is critical to a modern game’s success. Pick a screen or flow from a popular game that you think is broken or unintuitive, and propose a detailed redesign.
System balance spreadsheet – most of my time as a designer is spent in spreadsheets or JSON files tweaking values. If you have followed the earlier advice and built some games, you will likely have a system values spreadsheet to share. Clean it up and add annotations so that another human can read it.
Pen & Paper prototype – many games start as simple ideas prototyped on pen & paper. Although you cannot easily share the results, you can share your process. Fully document with text and pictures the process of building a pen & paper prototype complete with your final rule set. Explain the design problem you are trying to solve and show the steps you took to solve it, pointing out what does and does not work.
These are just a few examples based off my experience. If you’ve done your homework and spent time identifying job postings you would like to apply to, you may have other design deliverables you would want to build to prove one requirement or another.
People are busy
The hiring managers who will be evaluating your portfolio are likely to be some of the busiest people on the game team. They will not have a lot of time to review all the materials that you have spent months or years preparing. They will probably not install your game. They will probably not read your full document. They will probably not open your spreadsheet.
If you really want to shine, then for each piece in your portfolio you should create a 90 second or less video on youTube. In this video, show the piece of work, whether it is a level, design document or UI flow. Talk about the process of designing the work. What were your design goals? How did you achieve them? What feedback have you gotten from players or peers and how have you reacted to that feedback?
So, why go through all the effort to make materials that will likely only be glanced at? This will all be explained in the next part of the series about how to sell yourself.
Now that you’ve built a strong portfolio filled with tangible design works, you may think it is time to write your resume and start applying for jobs. But the same way that when designing features on Enhanced Wars I always set a design goal before writing the actual spec, there is groundwork you need to do to figure out what you want to achieve with your resume before you start writing it.
When I was deeply involved in the hiring process at BioWare San Francisco, I spent a lot of time working with our HR partners on identifying candidates. Although I would spend time on LinkedIn searching for candidates, this may be one hour or less a day because I had responsibilities on my game team. The majority of the searching was done by HR.
It is hard to explain to someone who does not have hands on experience developing a game the difference between a content designer and a systems designer. Or to explain that you need a systems engineer who may have previous jobs listed as a system administrator, but you don’t want anyone with traditional sysadmin experience you only need someone who works with cloud services like AWS. These are very complex, specialized requirements and there are no standards or guidelines around job titles and seniority levels in our industry.
So you end up telling the HR partner about the types of experiences you are looking for. You may write a list of studios to look at, job titles to search for or explain a number of tasks you want to see on a resume. “I need a designer with experience creating quests and scripting levels on an RPG. But he or she has to be well rounded. Ideally the candidate has experience creating user experience flows and designing new features on a live game.”
I explain all this to help you understand what is happening on the other side of the hiring process. HR partners will forward the hiring manager resumes that come in through online postings, but will also spend time crawling the internet looking for candidates (mostly on LinkedIn). If they find someone that they think fits the requirements, they will send that person on to the hiring manager to ask if this is a candidate worth reaching out to. In general people on the hiring side are looking for key experiences on your resume that will convince them you are worth reaching out to for a phone screening. In order to prepare yourself to pass through this first hurdle, you must figure out how to sell yourself.
Part of the reason to build an extensive portfolio is to gain a number of design experiences to talk about. You need to think through those experiences and figure out what your unique selling points are as a designer. Everyone applying for a game design job is passionate, so don’t try and sell yourself on passion. Don’t sell yourself with unrelated skills or activities. You need to figure out what ae the things you want to talk about when you get that hiring manager on the phone. You need to find your hero stories.
Hero stories are the stories of a real world experience you had that highlights why you are uniquely qualified for this job. The conversations you will have with people looking to hire you will be driven by the content of your resume, so you need to seed that resume with lead ins to your most heroic deeds as a designer.
For instance, let us imagine that I am applying for a lead design position on a mobile team. I would want to prove that I am capable of taking an idea from initial idea all the way through the process to execution and launch. I think that pen and paper prototyping is one of my core skills as a designer so I want to make sure I highlight it with a hero story:
“We started prototyping Enhanced Wars by first laying out our design goals. These were a list of bullet points that started with ‘We will know we are done prototyping Enhanced Wars when…’ then listed out things like ‘we have a game with no stalemating’ and ‘we have played at least 3 full games with the final rule set’. My colleague and I did 22 iterations of Enhanced Wars within 24 hours. Quite late at night, around iteration 16 we thought we had the magic build and called it a night. In the morning, we started the day by reading our design goals. When we tried to verify our magic build, we discovered gaping holes in the design and kept prototyping until we finally had a version that fit all our requirements with iteration 22.”
Now, I don’t expect you to actually fully write out all your stories like this; I certainly never have. But what I do expect is that you think about the many design experiences you have had and put together a list of bullet points for your hero stories. Figure out how you want to sell yourself to fit the position.
Write your failure resume
Another important aspect of interviewing for a job will be showing how you have learned and grown from past experiences. In order to sell yourself with a level of introspection and acknowledgement of past mistakes, I suggest you write a failure resume. This is an idea I learned listening to a lecture from Tina Seelig, the Executive Director of the Stanford Technologies Venture Program.
The failure resume is a summary of all your biggest screw ups and the lesson you learned from those mistakes. These stories will be just as powerful as your hero stories, if not more so, when you are selling yourself as a candidate for a job. For example:
“At PlayFirst, I was given the role of Lead Designer on my second game at the company, Mystery of Shark Island. Although I may have had the raw design skill to do the job, I did not realize till many years later that I simply did not have the maturity level to lead the design of the game when I was so fresh out of college. One of the biggest areas of difficulty I had was in listening to feedback from the senior people in the company – I would often shut down their
ideas (with poor body language and tone of voice) and make them feel like I thought their ideas where stupid. This negative cycle meant people did not like to work with me. From my perspective, I felt like the game was failing because other people did not understand my vision and I had to compromise it past the point of fun.
Years later, I learned to ‘find the why behind the what.’ This realization came to me when working on Dragon Age Legends and getting feedback from literally the top people in the company. What I learned then that I wish I had known at PlayFirst is that other people are not as close to your project as you are. You know every intimate detail so it is easy for you to instantly see why other people’s ideas will not work within the framework of the game. But when the CEO has taken time out to sit at your desk because he enjoys playing your game, you can’t tell him he’s wrong. And in fact he’s not wrong, he just doesn’t know the project as intimately as you do. So what I did was to listen to feedback then try and identify the reason why the game was failing to deliver that led to a specific feature request. So, if someone would say ‘I want feature X’ I would reply ‘I think you are suggesting this feature because you are having problem Y, is that correct?’ Now we’re having a discussion about root cause and motivation that the game team can solve, instead of talking
about the merits of a specific feature.”
By writing your failure resume, you will be able to sell yourself at a much deeper level. When you get difficult questions or are asked about past failures, you will know how to take a story about a negative experience and turn it into a positive experience.
Now that you’ve identified all the stories you wish to use to sell yourself, you are prepared to write your resume, which I will cover in the next article in the series.
If you’ve followed the series of articles up till now, then you’ve sent your resume and portfolio out to the world and are landing some interviews. The previous article on writing your resume covered the general process of phone and in person interviews that you can expect, so I will not reiterate. Suffice to say that if you’ve made it this far you will likely have to pass through a gauntlet of interviews to land that job.
An interview is about three things. The team is assessing if you have the skills to complete the job requirements, so you must sell your skills and experience. Beyond just skills, the team will also try to determine if you are a good fit in terms of personality and culture, so you must sell yourself as a colleague. Finally, if you are a candidate the team would want to hire you probably have some options, so the team will be selling themselves to you as the ideal place invest the next few years of your life.
For instance, if you were applying to join me in designing Enhanced Wars, as an interviewer I would prepare a series of questions (and probably some written tests) to get a feel for your skills in not only multiplayer balancing and feature design, but also UI/UX work and using metrics and player feedback to iterate on a live game. Personality wise, I would need to make sure you are self-directed and motivated enough to work on a virtual team and I would not constantly question if you will complete your tasks or are too busy watching Hulu in your pajamas. If I liked you, I would prepare to talk about the virtues and autonomy of working on a small, virtual team as well as the incredible growth potential of joining a new studio at such an early stage.
But Quarter Spiral is just one team. Each studio or game team you will be applying to will have unique requirements and culture, so they will be looking for different qualities in prospective candidates. If you have made it this far, have built your portfolio, written a killer resume and landed that all day interview session for your dream job, then you need to make sure to go that extra mile and prepare properly for your interview.
Play the games
This should be obvious, I know. But I was surprised by the number of times I would get on the phone with a candidate about a design position on Dragon Age Legends (which was live at the time) only to discover that they had not played the game, or in fact many free to play games. Or to talk with someone applying for jobs in different departments in our studio who had not played any of our live web games. In most instances, this would instantly disqualify someone in my mind. If they did not make an effort to play the games we had poured our blood, sweat and tears into, how could we trust that they would devote themselves to our games?
If you are interviewing with a studio, play any games they have made for at least 20 minutes (hopefully more). Do some research on the team and find out what games people you are interviewing with have worked on in the past. The importance of being knowledgeable about the work of the people you are trying to impress cannot be overstated.
Do your homework
In all likelihood, you will know the names of the people who will be interviewing you. If you have not been given a list, it does not hurt to ask your HR contact for one. Research anyone on the list. Read any interviews by members of the team (even if they were related to past games or studios). Check LinkedIn profiles and look for any blogs or social presences. You may not always find material, but in most instances you will be able to find something that will give you insight into the team and potential colleagues you are interviewing with. This preparation work may or may not come into play during the interview, but it can give you a reasonable first impression of the studio and its culture to determine if this a place you will truly fit in professionally.
Most interviewers will end by asking if you have questions for them. Sometimes this is just to fill time in the schedule (as I said previously, interviewers do not always do a lot of preparation work before getting in the room with you). But your questions can also help a team get a feel for your personality, preparedness and overall ambitions.
Prepare a decent list of questions based on the job description, anything you know about the studio and anything that is extremely important to you. But also be cognizant of what the questions you ask say about you. For instance, let us imagine you are applying to a junior design position on Enhanced Wars but all your questions are, at their core, about how quickly you can become a lead designer. I would intuit you have unrealistic expectations about the work you will
be doing, that you are more interested in title and control than the actual work, and you will generally be resentful of being asked to do the many unglamorous parts of game design. Unless your portfolio and resume where at a true rock star level, this line of questions would be a major red flag.
Also, during the course of a day of interviews you may feel like you have run through your full list and have nothing left to ask. There is no harm in asking the same questions to different people. You may get different answers that reveal new things about the game team and its culture.
If you’ve made it this far into the article series, then you should be fully prepared to start applying for a job in game design. I know it all sounds so easy on paper, but the realities of applying and interviewing for jobs are brutal. You will face rejection in all its forms. You will feel like you are throwing your resume down an endless series of bottomless pits. You will nail a phone interview only to never hear from a recruiter or studio again. You will flub questions. You will make it through the gauntlet of in person interviews feeling like the team loves you only to get turned down. You will be told verbally you have the job only to wake up the next day to an email stating it has been given to an internal candidate. These are the unfortunate realities of the job market.
All the preparation I have outlined in these five articles will only get you so far. Landing a job is equal parts luck, skill, experience and random circumstance. Don’t take the rejections personally, learn from any application mistakes you make and persevere in the face of the many setbacks you will undoubtedly face. Before long you’ll be emailing me with a link to a launched game asking for feedback