Archived Rare Life Profile: Designer
Designer: GoldenEye, Perfect Dark
My no doubt controversial view of a designer's abilities includes:
Enthusiasm for Games
If you make them, play them. You don't necessarily have to be enthusiastic about all games, but if you have at least a favourite genre and own a games machine it's a good starting point. I never owned a Speccy but I had friends who did, and that's where my own love of games started, with the first brick I threw at a dog in Saboteur.*
Over the last six years this enthusiasm has found me throwing myself around while covered in reflective silver balls providing some of the motion capture animations for both GoldenEye and Perfect Dark. Uppermost in my mind was the thought "I'll be James Bond!", followed swiftly by the thoughts "I'd better get paid for this" and "no-one sees me in this outfit and lives". A fair proportion of the designers at Rare come from our own testing department, where they have shown ability, intelligence, and knowledge of exactly who to flatter and when.
Literacy and Communication Skills
Design is only a part of the job. Many adverts for game designers in magazines such as Edge request communication skills, and with good reason. You'll be doing a lot of communicating. If you apply successfully for a job as a game designer you'll be working with a team of people who will all need to know what the game is about. Once you have told them, you need to be certain they all heard the same thing, too. The programmers need to know what kind of gameplay they're going to support, the artists need to know what the layout of the levels is supposed to be, the musicians and sound technicians need to know what kind of atmosphere is required, and the more information you can get across to them the better it will be. You do it via drawing sketches of your ideas, typing them up in documents, talking to individuals or groups about them - as much as you can to get everything across.
Computer literacy has become more common, and that is a good thing - it is still important for anyone hoping to work in the industry. Wordprocessors are a boon with handwriting like mine, and a clear, concise level overview in ten point Tahoma looks a heck of a lot better than the equivalent inky scribble over four sides of A4.
Stop and take an objective look at what you've done. Casting a critical eye over your own work is never easy, but it will highlight areas that you need to do more work on. And they will be there. The trick is to examine your own work before someone else does it for you, rather than after. It's why a lot of gadgets from the series of Bond films didn't make it into the GoldenEye game... they were one-shot devices designed for a specific circumstance in a different film. To include them would have wasted everyone's time, and would not have furthered the game.
Lots of Ideas
Keep them coming. Write down as many as possible. The more you have, the better off you will be when one of them is rejected and you need to find a replacement. You don't have to fully develop all of them. Just a small sketch or a quick sentence describing the thought is enough until you need to look at it again. Each level in Perfect Dark needed objectives for Joanna to complete, so a long list of objectives for each level was provided which was whittled down to four or five. When they were whittled down to two or three we needed more ideas again.
Just as important as your ideas are other people's ideas. They will come up with things you'll wish you'd thought of, as well as things that make you think they were dropped on the head at birth. If it adds to the game, great. If it doesn't, file it for a time when it may be relevant. But don't ignore it, and don't throw it away.
[* I should point out that I don't endorse cruelty to animals in the real world, but they were trying to stop me putting the dummy cassette in the computer. Also, if I threw a brick at my dog, he'd eat it. After dribbling over it.]
Categories: Interviews, Rare