To help you learn all you need to know about Gaming we’ve caught up with Head of Game Design at SMG Studio, Patrick Cook.
Hey Patrick, firstly — What made you want to start a career in gaming?
Aside from the obvious of being a long-time gamer, I think it began when I first started experimenting with scripting and basic programming. I knew immediately that I could spend forever exploring gameplay, behaviours, rules, world building, dynamic systems… It’s just a huge amount of fun.
How have advancements in technology impacted game development and design in recent years?
The impact recently has been huge, most notably in middleware like Unity, GameMaker, Unreal, etc. The kind of quick-start accessibility to jump in and learn 3D/high-end game development with these tools was unheard of not long ago.
Can you tell us about the importance of creativity and storytelling in gaming?
You need to constantly think about the experience through the player’s eyes. What will they be feeling, thinking, and expecting. The story of the game could be thought of on any level, from traditionally delivered narrative to simply giving world-context through the flow of a level and placement of objects. It’s ok to go totally sans story too, but if you provide one it can be a lot more immersive for players, and a useful guiding force.
What do you feel is the most important aspect to consider when designing / building a game?
You should never try to make a game that is simply the sum of its parts. Think about every aspect of the game and whether that aspect supports the principals of what the experience should feel like. Don’t be afraid to cut things, and always try to fail early on an idea or system that’s uncertain, then learn, and reiterate.
Know the scope you can achieve. Focus on the important things.
What has been your favourite project you’ve worked on and why?
Hard to answer this because every game I’ve worked on has been entirely different from one another. The two that come to mind are Death Squared, as it allowed such a free and uninterrupted focus on puzzle design and engaging level mechanics, without really having to get caught up in much else. The other would be OTTTD because I have a tendency to massively nerd out on designing tactical skills, units, weapons, and enemies, and how they all combine together into a challenge that be solved multiple ways with the right strategies.
Finally, what advice would you give to people looking to begin learning game design?
Don’t get overwhelmed. It can feel like there’s a mountain of requisite knowledge, but every step along the way to learning can be an interesting task. Start small, think of fun ideas, and test them out. Like any creative field there’s a fluency that takes time to build. Just start! It’s probably easier than you think.
How does SMG work with Soap/Isobar?
We’re still a team within the team, we are in the same office as Soap and some occasional crossover of people on projects as needed.
I originally started at Soap in 2007, so I had a long run of doing games for clients for those 6 years prior to SMG forming.
Some of the client games I worked on prior to SMG:
- 20th Century Fox — Night at the Museum Flight Game
- Village Roadshow — Expendables II Tower Defense (and later Expendables III)
- Unilever — Lynx Lunar Racer / Pie Face / Lynx Primate
- Ubisoft — Call of Jurez minigame
- Inspire Foundation — Reachout — The Orb
- Seek — Space Rescue / Truffle Hunter / Xmas Cannon
At SMG I’ve lead the game design and development of four of our major titles — OTTTD, Thumb Drift, Death Squared, and our soon to be announced 2018 title. My position is Head of Game Design but I spend a large chunk of any given day on the tools, coding and prototyping.
SMG is a specialised team within Soap (still very much integrated physically, but working on its own projects, and generally no client work), and Soap is now within Isobar (though external to Sydney’s Isobar office, also working on its own projects/clients).
It’s worth noting also that Soap itself still has a game focus in its DNA and regularly does games on the client services side.