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BashersBashers is a Dutch gaming website, but with a more critical attitude and more background articles than most mainstream gaming websites. Posts you find here are direct translations of my Dutch articles written for Bashers.

Developer: A year and a half as Game Designer at W!Games

February 23, 2010 | Bashers

Nikki Kuppens is Game Designer at W!Games. In his monthly column, he writes about the adventures of a game developer.

I’ve been working for W!Games for close to a year and a half now. Full time, that is, because during my last year in school I could already act like an assistant producer there for a day a week. And now Greed Corp, the first game I’ve worked on as a game designer at this company, is on the brink of being published. Time went by fast, but a lot happened as well.

Horses

Right after graduating, I was asked to come work at W!Games full time as a designer. An offer I couldn’t refuse. As assistant producer, I just cought the final stages of My Horse and Me,¬†the first game of the studio, for which I supported the marketing activities, among other things. Many people laugh when they here what the only game published by W! until now is, but it didn’t keep me from working there.

First of all, no matter how you look at it, it was a full-fledged game for a recent console, developed by a professional studio with potential. There was a slight chance I would have to work on a second horse game, but secondly I was already informed about other possible projects – on which I’m indeed currently working. Third of all, it appealed to me that I wouldn’t just be doing game design, but would also be involved in marketing, PR and community. Some nice variation.

Assistant producer

During school I gained experience as game journalist. Not only did I keep up with the games that came out, but also with what was happening on the market and within companies. That’s why the management regularly asked my opinion on a wide range of topics, with the occasional request to research something a bit more and present that to them.

I kept some of my assistant producer tasks, including maintaining the company website and organizing play tests with external testers. I also get regular requests to create or edit official documentation. That may not sound very interesting, but that also includes material used to pitch a product to a platform holder. In that way, you learn a lot about the procedures required to get a game onto a console, while making useful connections with multiple publishers.

Next to that, I work closely with the marketing manager to create and execute an effective marketing campaign. In this area, I’m mainly responsible for the online prescence and promotion. For this I founded the community website (with blogs, media and news) and social media prescense (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube).

Designer

As a designer, I’ve also been working on a wide range of parts of our turn-based strategy game Greed Corp. That’s the benefit of working on relatively small projects with a relatively small team. The game had two main designers, including me, and two others who joined the project at the start and the end of the project respectively. It means that you can design a lot and have more influence on the product, instead of working years on this little mechanic, which might be the case at bigger studios.

Unfortunately I had to miss the very start of Greed Corp, but when I joined there was still a lot to do. I got the opportunity to really leave my mark on the product. Some tasks I was able to complete with my colleague Harry, including the general game design: what are the core mechanics? What is the goal of the game? How do we keep it understandable but deep at the same time? How do that harvester and cannon work exactly?

We were able to divide other main parts of the game quite well. While Harry was working on the interface and controls, among other things, I took responsibility for almost the entire level design and all in-game texts. As the W! employee with the highest Gamerscore, it only seemed logical to also leave the Achievements/Trophies to me. I already look forward to unlocking my own Achievements. Hopefully quicker than my colleagues, but I’m sure some enthousiastic buyer will beat me to it.

Communication

Now that the release is drawing closer, communication with the press also increases. The highlight until now were both press tours, in England and the United States. Due to my involvement in marketing and my in-depth knowledge of the game, I was already appointed to present the game at Gamescom in Cologne. That went perfectly, so I could also go and represent the studio and game during both mentioned tours. To some people those might seem like a jaunt or vacation, but I can tell you that it’s hard work. I demoed the game so many times, I was still repeating it in my head while trying to sleep at night.

But you won’t hear me complaining. They’re not only good experiences for your resum√©, it also helps build your name as a designer within the industry and with people that will eventually play your game. And it’s very cool to meet influential journalists at big outlets as IGN, Giant Bomb and GameTrailers and to watch myself later the way I watch other developers. Especially when the game is well received, it feels extremely motivating. Both the game and the overarching world of Mistbound got a positive reception, just like the studio strategy towards downloadable games. The recent switch of Playlogic just shows that we’re not the only ones.

Now that Greed Corp is almost out and the press tours are done, I’m now officially transfered to the next project. I’m sure I’ll be able to report on new experiences and interests during its development, both about this new game and about the industry. I’m looking forward to it!

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