Game Designers that possess technical skills are in increasingly higher demand from game studios. In this blog post I explain why I encourage every Game Designer, including those seeking their first Game Design role, to develop their technical skills in order to...
- Be more valuable to your team
- Better understand the scope and limits of your designs and tools
- Communicate and prove your designs more effectively
- Stand out from the crowd
1. Its the best way to prove your designs!
Lots of designs sound great on paper but it is often tricky to know if your design is good enough without getting hands on with it.
Being able to prototype features/systems on your own or as part of a small team will...
- Save time by filtering out bad designs.
- Highlight the main risks with your designs early in development.
- Help you better communicate and sell your designs to a multi-discipline team.
- Make it easier to cost/scope the feature/system.
2. Your designs will be more thorough and considered!
The more knowledge you have about different disciplines, the better informed your designs can be. Understanding the basics for how a feature might be implemented by a programmer will help you...
- Be more thorough with your designs - You might consider more edge cases in your designs (and the solutions for them).
- Design to better fit your project scope - You will better consider the workload involved in developing your designs. This will help you concentrate your team's efforts into the most important development tasks.
- Be more confident in your designs - This is aided by being able to prototype a design before passing it off to be developed.
3. You will be more confident and approachable when communicating with other disciplines!
Communication between different disciplines can be greatly improved by having a better understanding of each other's work.
By having at least a basic knowledge of technical methodologies and jargon, you will find it much easier to talk to other disciplines about their work. But, equally as important, they may find it easier to communicate with YOU. This can make it easier for your team to discuss a design with you or raise issues and concerns they might have, without having to think too much about translating what they are trying to say.
You may also find it easier to empathize with people from other disciplines when creating your designs or listening to issues and feedback. Having more knowledge about the work that is involved from their perspective can help you keep your priorities and scope in check. This empathy can help make you more approachable to your team, since you are able to understand things better from their point of view.
As your technical skills grow and you use them more during development, you will gain more confidence in your ability. This confidence will become more visible to your team over time, which will increase the confidence they have in you and your ability. You will be much more approachable to other disciplines if they have confidence that you understand what they want to talk to you about.
4. You can tackle tricky designs!
Some of the more impactful features in a game are often the hardest to design. Consider the following features/systems and how technical skills can help you design them:
- Random world generation - If a game contains random worlds/levels, then it is often core to the game experience. For this reason, being able to prototype a design early in development is essential.
- Weapon / projectile design - Basic vector maths and physics knowledge will help you prototype weapon ideas. You will also have a better understanding of what variable values you might need exposing by your programmers when designing complex weapons.
- Progress / ranking systems - Being familiar with probability distributions and using spreadsheet software will greatly aid in designing such systems. These tools allow you to more easily visualize and iterate on your designs. They allow you to predict outcomes and calculate best and worst case scenarios.
5. You will stand out from the crowd (especially helpful for getting that first game design job)!
If you are coveting a job title such as "Game Designer" at an established studio, then this point is the most important! Most job postings will receive tens, if not hundreds, of applications. You have to find a way to stand out!
Having the technical skills to be able to create prototypes and games by yourself allows you to SHOW your skills to employers. By showing what you are capable of, you are reducing the risk that the employer would be taking on you, as a first-time game designer.
So what are you waiting for?
Game development has never been more accessible. Here are some useful links to help get you started with improving your technical game design skills:
Unity is an excellent game engine to help learn how to code (using C#). Unity's official website has lots of great tutorials to follow - https://unity3d.com/learn
Unreal Engine (UE4) is another great game engine. UE4 offers "Blueprint" visual scripting - a good way to get familiar with the basics of technical game development while not requiring you to learn the written syntax of a traditional programming language. - https://www.unrealengine.com/en-US/what-is-unreal-engine-4
Matthew Palaje - UE4 video tutorials - An amazing source of UE4 Blueprint tutorials! His "Lets Create..." series is especially good - teaching you how to recreate the game mechanics of popular games. Highlights include recreating the recall ability for the "Tracer" character in Overwatch and recreating the time manipulation mechanic of "Super Hot!" - https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLU5bW3o0bUgQDwayV-EnLRTUTiRVuyT9r
3Blue1Brown - Mathematic / Statistics video tutorials - This YouTube channel does an amazing job of breaking down various mathematic and statistical ideas. Get started with Vector maths - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNk_zzaMoSs