We were lucky enough last week to have been visited by Gary Napper, the lead game designer at The Creative Assembly, Sega who has recently worked on the extremely successful game Alien: Isolation. I made a lot of very scribbly notes because I wanted to take in as much of the industry advice as possible, so I'm going to attempt to translate that in to a half decent blog post.
The first point that Gary made was that when approaching people from industry for potential job opportunities, the best piece of advice he was ever given was to tell them you just want to learn and help out. The reason being for this is that if you try and present your own ideas for a game, it can come across as inexperienced; almost as if you're naive to the fact that there might be a whole company of people who have better ideas than you do. This does not however mean, not to keep having ideas, because one day, once you've been in the industry and gained some experience, you might just get the chance to pitch your idea.
Knowing what you want to do was the second point. This means knowing what you're good at, what you love and finding something that let's you do both. One thing I hadn't heard of before that was mentioned were game-jams, and how they are a great way to build up your portfolio and learn some new skills. I'll definitely be looking in to this in the future!
One of the main questions being asked was why do we make games? The answer being first and foremost to inspire. The reason Gary decided he definitely wanted to work on the Alien: Isolation series was that he was given a demo to play in which the game taught you how to use a flamethrower, and then right when you needed it most and could actually use it, the game takes it away from you and you die. This was an incredibly brave decision for a studio to make, and it was an exciting thing to know that people who could make these sorts of creative decisions were going to be working on something like Alien. We were given a lot of examples in a lot of depth of ways in which the studio was thinking whilst making the game and it was incredibly valuable. Here are a list of top tips from Gary Napper on working in the game industry:
1. Things go wrong.
2. Triple your estimates.
3. Help out with everything and learn new skills.
4. Good design means communicating the idea.
5. Prototype early, use whatever you can to do so.
6. Track and document your progression and learning.
7. Ideas come from everywhere and everyone.
8. Understand the impact your design has on all disciplines.
9. Listen... what are people actually saying?
10. Play as many bad games as you can to understand how you could have made it better.