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In this chapter, you’ve learned how to take your original game concept from the prototype to a full design document. You’ve created detailed flowcharts and wireframes for every area of your game.
You’ve worked with your team, if you have one, to flesh out both the technical and creative tasks that will need to be accomplished to make your game a reality.
Writing and updating your design document is a monumental and sometimes tedious responsibility. The design document can be a useful tool, or a millstone around the designer’s neck. Always remember that the purpose of your design document is communication and articulation. A designer huddled in a cubicle writing in isolation for weeks on end will produce a document that is far less valuable than a designer who engages the team, includes them in the process, and works with them to build out each section.
By working with the team, a designer will not only wind up with a better design document but will also help focus the team on the project at hand. This is how living design documents are created, and when you have a living document, in which everyone is an acting co-author, it becomes a force in and of itself, which serves to unite the team and give them a common platform from which to understand the game as it evolves.
Chris Rubyor is a seasoned game professional who recently earned the title “Game Designer” at Electronic Arts.
Game Designer, Electronic Arts, Los Angeles
Command & Conquer: Generals Zero Hour (2003): Game Designer
Command & Conquer: Generals (2003): Community Manager
Command & Conquer: Renegade (2002): Community Manager
Command & Conquer: Yuri’s Revenge (2001): Community Manager
Emperor: Battle for Dune (2001): Community Manager
Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 (2000): Community Manager
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun: Firestorm (2000): Public Relations
Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun (1999): Public Relations
Nox (2000): Public Relations
Lands of Lore III (1999): Public Relations
Recoil (1999): Public Relations
Dune 2000: Long Live the Fighters! (1998): Public Relations
Blade Runner (1997): Public Relations
Games People Play: Hearts, Spades, and Euchre (1997): Public Relations
Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny (1997): Public Relations
Command & Conquer: Red Alert (1996): QA Analyst
Command & Conquer: The Covert Operations (1996): QA Analyst
Command & Conquer (1995): QA Analyst
Monopoly (1995): QA Analyst
Lion King (1994) (Nintendo, Sega): QA Analyst
The Legend of Kyrandia: Malcolm’s Revenge (1994): QA Analyst
How did you get into the game industry?
Well, I was fortunate enough to know someone who worked in the industry. At the time (1994), I was working at a computer store selling games and hardware. One day my old boss called the store and asked if I was interested in working as a QA analyst for the company that created Dune II (Westwood Studios). Being a big fan of Dune II and The Legend of Kyrandia, I couldn’t refuse.
What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened on the job?
During the project it was very inspiring when the team would put in long hours to get features into the game, that otherwise, might not have made it into the final version. We would often find ourselves at the studio until 1:30 a.m. fine tuning and polishing missions to make them that much better for our fans. It’s a great feeling when you have a team that dedicated to making great games.
What experiences have taught you the most about game design?
For every designer it’s different. I knew from the day I started working at Westwood Studios that I wanted to be a game designer. Unlike most, I made a conscious decision to learn more about the industry, thus my foray into marketing and community support.
From 1997 through 2000 I worked as a PR manager for Westwood Studios under Laura Miele (VP of Marketing) at the time. This position gave me the opportunity to learn about marketing products to our consumers and the importance of PR and how it related to gaming. I traveled to various trade shows, worked with some of the top gaming magazines from around the world, and helped set up events to promote Westwood’s games. It was great experience that I look back on with fond memories.
Starting June 2000, I made the decision to take on a new community manager (Command & Conquer) position at Westwood Studios. It was something new to the company and dealt exclusively with the fans. For the next year I worked very closely with Brett Sperry, the company’s co-founder and visionary behind the Command & Conquer series, and Ted Morris, the web development director, to carve out the role. Working with these two individuals gave me the chance to learn a great deal about web design and the importance of an online community for a multiplayer product.
Over the next three years I did everything from helping design web sites and managing message boards to creating six-month community plans layered with events for both pre- and post–launch of a product. I also put on the PR hat at times and set up online chat events, contests, and fan site events at the main studio to help excite and promote growth of our community. From this I walked away with a wealth of knowledge about online gaming, community integration, and a realization that multiplayer gaming is my passion.
In July of 2003 I made the decision to begin working my way into a design position. Westwood Studios was just beginning work on a new project and the team was limited to only a few developers. So, after hours I began working with the creative director on concepts and big ideas. We also talked a lot about multiplayer gaming and what we should try for our next game. After about six months an assistant design position became available and I gladly took on the role.
Now I’m working as a full-time game designer at Electronic Arts in the RTS division. I credit the choices I made and people I met for my smooth transition into my dream job.
Where do you hope to be in five years?
I plan on to continuing my pursuit of creating great games, wherever that my take me.
What words of advice would you give to a person trying to get into the industry today?
Don’t be afraid to take chances; it would be a shame for gamers to miss out on the next killer game experience.
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