As contract galactic Salvagers for SalvaCo, an intergalactic mining corporation, you must swiftly gather as many of the resources SalvaCo requests as possible. The period to acquire the assets is short and competitive. Contractors for SalvaCo have been known to clash against each other and even fight for the bounty that is ripe for the picking in the zero gravity deep space salvage zones. The race is on to earn fortunes and glory amongst the infinite amounts of resource rich asteroids lining the galaxies.
The best thing about being a game designer is the fact that it’s like when we were kids and everyone just sat and used their imaginations to think of exciting adventures as knights or flying around in spaceships. As a Game Designer, I need to channel my inner child to find neat ideas and to see if my concept is exciting and entertaining. As a kid, I loved coming up with cool ideas and adventures my favorite toys would go on and before I knew it, I had a composition book filled with drawings of my own characters and props. I think that is why I love doing game development so much, because I still have the imagination my kid self had and I now have the skills to take a simple drawing and turn it into something extraordinary.
Many people don’t understand or appreciate how much work is put into the development of a video game. So many people think that game designers are paid to play games all day, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Every item and component must be created by someone, each asteroid or piece of scrap metal and the function of a futuristic tool is time put into the dev process. Video games have overtaken movies and TV in many ways due to the amount of content and time that can be spent playing and enjoying them. In the future, I believe video games will be the ultimate form of entertainment media as technology is constantly improving. It is what makes my career so exciting.
Developing Salvo has been fantastic because we conjured up such a different type of gameplay than I have experienced in my 27 years as a hardcore gamer. The zero gravity environment is perfect for great moments of action and in Salvo’s case, a place where all kinds of wacky events can happen. I really think this game is going to be fun because of the humor and just the unique circumstances that can transpire with the type of randomized environments we have. An asteroid can blow up and sling another asteroid into the player and splatter them like a fly.
In my opinion, the greatest tool that a good game designer needs is something to catch the constant ideas in writing, in my case Google Drive with Google Docs due to its convenience. Being able to access the necessary documents on the fly via computer, tablet or phone is awesome for when I may have a sudden great idea that I need to document before it slips away. The first cycle of the base concept for me is sitting in front of an empty document and just writing for an hour or so until a high concept emerges as the foundation for the game design document. The game doc is constantly changing and evolving. The game doc is extremely important so that the rest of my team can understand what I have in my mind. Overall my workload consists of 70% Game Design, 20% Narrative Writing and 10% 3D Modeling and texturing. Having multiple hats to wear is good when working with such a small team.
Most of my work is done in a hand full of programs. Unity is our game engine, so my head is constantly buried within it to test my design ideas and to refine every segment of the game that I can. Adobe Photoshop is a tool that I love to use due to its variety of functions. I can draw up levels in multiple layers, edit textures for a model or even mock up a user interface window. When I do put on the modeling hat, I prefer ZBrush and Blender to create assets for the game for the level and Substance Painter for creating the textures.
The greatest part of being on a small team is being able to look over my shoulder and talk to the environment, programming and animation teams in real time without needing to look for someone that may be in another office on the other side of the building. The entire team within one office makes developing simpler and team communication easy. Input from the rest of the team is crucial so that ideas can be refined and possible problems can be discovered in the game design that I may miss. One of the biggest struggles with creative individuals; including myself, is dealing with all the concepts and ideas that arise. Ambition is key as a designer, but a designer must also be careful to not let ambition drive the game. The game must stay in scope or before you know it, the entire game has run off the rails and the project falls behind. An idea must always be ready to be saved in the backlog or just cut to ensure the core features of the game are absolutely solid.
Salvo is a different game from any that I have seen and making it possible is hard work but incredibly fun. Knowing that my designs, level concepts, and my creative writing will be the skeleton of a game that thousands of players will be playing is the most exciting thought ever and it builds a sense of accomplishment that is extremely hard to find anywhere else.
Environment modeler, Athen Jakusz, describes his passion for 3D modeling.
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