Our summer saga continues! Last time you got to meet Adam our lead tester who plays gobbowl ball like no other!
And this week we’ll lift the veil of mystery on the Game-Designer profession! Meet Tonio and Zeorus in our new ‘Spotlight’ interview!
Zeorus has been our official candy distributor since 2008!
(As you can see, the boxes empty out pretty quickly!)
Hi Guys! Why don’t you introduce yourself to the community?
Hello, my name is Zeorus, I’m 24 years old, and I’ve been working on Wakfu for just over 2 years now.
Well, my name’s Tonio. Some people might already know me from the forum or from the last convention. To say a little bit about me, I’m just a normal young man and have been really into computer games since I was a kid. So it was pretty logical for me to combine work and pleasure, which is what I’ve been doing for a while now.
Could you sum up your job for us in one sentence?
Zeorus : Hmm… that’s pretty tough… My job consists of everything that touches gameplay, rules and balancing the game.
Tonio : Come up with the essence of the game and define the game experience for players. I kind of ensure that the game’s going to be fun
What career route did you follow (school, university, work experience etc.)?
Zeorus : I have a ‘BAC’ in science, equivalent to a high school diploma. I did a few years of higher studies, went from art to communications, but nothing seemed stick and hold much interest. I was aiming to go back in a different field but got a job at Ankama, almost perchance, thanks to the experience I had acquired through my hobbies.
Tonio : I did a Bac ES, then got a degree from Supinfogame, a college in Valenciennes where you can train to become a Game Designer. Moreover, I’d recommend anyone who’s interested in working in video games one day to take a look at this course. It’s not the only way to get your foot in the door, but it is still very worthwhile because the education you’ll get there is of the highest quality.
What experience of video games do you have, both personal and professional?
Zeorus : My experience was essentially personal before I started working here. I did do a 3 month internship as a tester for mobile games, but as much as that was a good learning experience, it wasn’t really linked to what I do now - which is simply to create. I did on the other hand create a lot of multi-player modules for NWN2 and that’s what I was able to present to Ankama. I’ve always been well into games, and I think that knowledge is what helped me most in doing the job I do today.
Tonio : I’ve always been a really keen gamer. I worked briefly at a few game studios before settling at Ankama. I’ve worked as a Tester, Level Designer, Game Designer and an Assistant Producer. So I’ve seen the conception of a game from quite a few different angles, from the point of view of both the developers and the editors.
Why did you want to work in the video games industry and, more precisely, why this job?
Zeorus : Video games have always been my passion. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after high school, but I figured that turning my passion into my work was a good idea. And since I’ve always wanted to work in a creative field, and I knew that I loved that from my previous amateur experience, I aimed at being a game-designer.
Tonio : It was a combination of wanting to create something that I was passionate about and the desire to leave my own mark on the video game world.
I’ve been playing video-games ever since I was a child. It’s always been a passion of mine. I started creating small tabletop games early on. Well, you could say the end-result was a bit lacking, and the balancing was really out there, but I had a lot of fun with it. Then I moved on to modding pc games with editors like the one for Warcraft II. I realised pretty early that creating games was what I wanted to do, and looked up the possible studies I could do in that respect, and that’s how I found out about supinfogame. The role of Game Designer seemed to fit perfectly with what I wanted to do – create something that would make for a fun and original experience. And so it’s very naturally that I turned myself to that profession.
Can you tell us exactly what your profession entails?
Zeorus : My job has many facets that are all very different and unique. Game-design is basically a mix of a lot of different things. Personally, this is what I take care of on Wakfu:
I also get to do, together with a collegue, all of the documents linked to the game, like for example, documents on politics, professions, the Wakfu/stasis system, the climate, etc. All of those examples we’ve already had to work on and finish, but as with everything in a game, there’s also a constant evolution.
What sort of qualities and knowledge do you need to do this job?
Tonio : You have to be creative, constantly questioning yourself, be very open-minded and have a generally good cultural background. In my opinion, curiosity is the most essential thing. Creation is born out of inspiration. Apart from that, you have to know how to communicate your ideas to a team: the social aspect is of utmost importance.
Zeorus : Having a good imagination and in depth knowledge of video games in general is essential to find the inspiration and ideas needed to create new things, whether it's spells, monsters or even gameplay additions. It’s also important to have a critical mind concerning your own work and the ideas of others. You also need to be a good team player. Knowing how to make compromises between technical/artistic obligations and playability is also key.
Could you describe a typical day for us?
Zeorus : That really depends on what I have to do that day. But my days can be filled with the following:
What tools (IT and otherwise) do you normally use?
Zeorus : I mainly use what we call the AGT (Ankama Games Toolkit). It’s a game editor that was developed internally to enter all of the game data (spells, monsters, items, etc). But I also use, good old Word and Excel to write documents and make balancing tables and the likes.
Tonio : Well, off the top of my head: my brain, lots of notebooks to be writing ideas down constantly. In terms of IT, mainly I use the Microsoft Office Suite, so: Word for documents, Excel for listing and organising, then Visio for diagrams.
How many people work on your team? What organization is there and what is each person’s role?
Zeorus : The game design pole of Wakfu is made of two people. Tonio takes care mainly of all that is ecosystem, crafts, creating items and interface prototypes or ingame systems. As for me, I take care of all that has to do with combat, like I stated earlier. We brainstorm together though and write the documents together. And even if we have our respective fields, we both intervene on the other’s work when necessary, if only to proofread, test or give our opinion.
How many projects are you working on?
Together : Just the one: Wakfu!
Zeorus : and that’s more than enough, I don’t even have enough time to do all that I’d like to do to balance the game for example.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into this job?
Zeorus : Don’t hesitate to do it on a personal level. In creative fields, you need both the practice and the experience, in order to present a good portfolio. It’s as important as studies can be.
Tonio : Start familiarizing yourself with ‘simple’ video game creation tools as soon as possible. Simple editors on the same sort of level as those of Little Big Planet or Trackmania are good ones for beginners, I think. Once you’ve mastered those, you can use flash to make games, which doesn’t require much money or special knowledge.
“Après Internet” is a tremendous source for learning how to make games, but you must know where to look and above all be able to read English, as most of the reference sites are English language (like www.gamasutra.com for example).
Then, there are two ways to get involved: either training (ENJMIN, Supinfogame, etc.) or create a self-taught game and use it to get yourself known.
Could you share an embarrassing story about yourself, related to your work?
Zeorus : With the amount of numbers and data I have to write down in a single days, it happens that I get lost in it a bit because of fatigue and stress. I’ve had improbable bugs happen more than once, that I couldn’t figure out, that I looked and looked, went to see the developers with, only to find out I had entered something wrong to start with. After a while it becomes almost like a motor habit, and sometimes you’re convinced that you thought of everything but you haven’t. And when that happens, it’s really innerving to have spent so much time on a problem where the solution was obvious. But that’s all part of the game.
Do you still play video games when you get home?
Tonio : Ah, I have to confess that I’m still a big player, although I’ve become less "extreme" since I got involved in the industry. Maybe one day I’ll get tired of it but not for now.
Zeorus : Two weeks ago I would’ve answer “yeah all the time” and not only play but create also, but now certain elements in my personal life have made me take a step back.
Do you play the game that you produce?
Tonio : Of course! Either locally to test new features or online to get an idea of how the community is feeling. When I do that, I change my nickname so that I can pass unnoticed
Zeorus : Testing is really important in my line of work. It is crucial that I test out all that I create, monsters spells and other gameplay features that I have participated in making. So yes, I test a lot internally, and occasional go online from time to time.
What’s your favourite game?
Zeorus : Never Winter Nights 2 (an adaptation of the tabletop D&D role-playing game)… Deep down, I’m a role-player and adding the dimension of a mutli-player game module to a RP medieval fantastic universe, makes it so that I’ve never gotten weary of it. It is by fr the game that I have played most often and on which I’ve had the most fun. Oh, I also have a soft spot for the Final Fantasy series.
Tonio : Oh, it's too hard! There are several so here's a sample: Super Mario Bros.(NES), Street Fighter II (Arcade), Pac Man (Arcade), Star Wars Galaxies - The Beginning (PC) Final Fantasy VI (SNES), Metal Gear Solid (Playstation), Passage (PC), etc.
We always here people talking about balancing. Could you explain how you procede?
Zeorus : For balacing, my first source of feedback is actually the players. They are the first users of the game and also those who play it the most, also usually their criticism is quite constructive. Obviously, it is not humanely possible for me to test all te combos, builds and possibilities. Also, when you have all of your attention on something, sometime you can miss what’s right under your nose. We don’t always have the time to move back from it to see things clearly. Also, players are often best to find bugs with spell combinations that were not visible at first glance. Also, some spells might look interesting on paper, but aren’t really when implemented. Once again, the players feedback lets us know if the spells are useless or poorly balanced.
The process is pretty simple really, once a class has been out for a while (and I have time available, which is rarely the case) I go read the forums to see what the players thing of it. I then analyse it and compare it with my own notes and opinions and do ajustements if I deem them necessary.
Have any of the players’ suggestions on the forum already inspired features in the game?
Zeorus : Of course, usually about features, ideas on spell modifications and on spell effect....
Tonio : The laws, Wakfu, or the creation of Kamas by the players. Quite often we’d already had a similar idea but to see the players suggesting them too is great to see and to see their discussions highlights concerns that we might not have thought of, which is extremely important to us!
MMOs aside, what kind of games would you like to work on?
Zeorus : My favourite games are RPG so I’d enjoy working on a medieval fantastic RPG. I’d like to work on a game like Dragon Age or something equivalent.
Tonio : I am a huge fan of 2D platform games. I would love to revive the genre by adding a musical touch, I also have ideas for a 2D platformer crossed with GTA but don’t tell anyone!
We know that the GDs are the game’s celebrities (just behind the animators). Do you lose a lot of clothes at the conventions?
Zeorus : ‘Celebrity’ might be pushing it a little! Most people, starting with players, hardly know what game-designers really do. Some believe that we are graphic artists or animators, while others think that we are developers. Some people even think that our job is useless.
Tonio : Ha ha! No, for the moment, it’s ok, I’m just bombarded with questions about GD by forum members! But all that’s far from the excitement generated by stars like Xav or Sephy. And that's not necessarily a bad thing: I like my clothes!
Honestly, GD is a cushy number! You spend your days playing competitors’ products under the pretext of studying the market and then you nick all their ideas!
Tonio : It’s part of the benefits of the job! Seriously though, I play competitors’ games of course but mainly in my spare time. I'm still an inveterate gamer after all.