Millie’s Guide to Game Design Degree
Article written and edited by Adi Sareen and Nadya Soetomo.
If you think video games are an active medium of storytelling, you might be interested in learning game design!
The world of game design is not as simple as playing them makes it out to be. As a collaborative discipline, there are many factors that go into making a successful video game. For this post, we’ll be discussing the art of game design with Adi Sareen, a Technical Associate at Ubisoft who worked on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake — based on a recent Millie’s Guide webinar.
What is game design?
Game design is the art of projecting design and aesthetics to build video games, but its practice is more than just making games. Games are designed based on significant purposes, even in the educational aspect; you can develop a game that teaches children about coding for them to better understand technology development.
“The practice of game design is more than just making games.”
What does a game designer mainly do?
In a nutshell, your role as a game designer includes generating innovative ideas, developing a game’s concept, prototyping a game’s mechanics (actions that happen in a game), and monitoring the quality of work.
As an example, you can make a game based on the idea of mechanical telekinesis (controlling objects through one’s mind), which we can see in Control. You can also develop an idea as a game’s world setting, like the Wild West era setting in Red Dead Redemption.
After deciding on an idea, you will work with a team to determine the story, gameplay, art, and audio to build a cohesive game. That’s why games cannot be made by designers alone, but must be able to work with game engineers, artists, animators, and sound designers in order to create bridges between those four main aspects.
What specializations are possible in game design?
As a game designer, you are expected to specialize as soon as possible in one field and optimize your skills — here’s a snapshot of fields to consider:
- Level design
Taking aesthetic components made by artists to create levels — available areas that characters will exist and play in during a game (ie. arranging barns and fields to design a countryside level in a farming game).
- Narrative / systems design
Designing the game’s storyline, mechanics, and dialogues that players experience (ie. constructing dialogues when a character finishes a mission). You will also design how players experience character progression from one level to another (ie. designing save points for players to have second chances after failing a boss battle).
- Technical design
Prototyping a game’s mechanics and how players experience it (ie. how a character jumps and lands on ground). Based on the prototype you’ve made, you are responsible for deciding the continuity of a game’s production — whether it should stop or not — in order to save the time and effort your production team will make.
“Contribute to the team you’re working with!”
Expectations when studying game design
Many people think that studying game design at university means you’ll just play video games all day, but this isn’t the case. As one of the biggest gaming industries in the world, the UK has its top five game design related courses with (typical) examples of modules! Nevertheless, there are still some things you should keep in mind when pursuing a degree in game design:
- You will not be playing games 24/7
Students are expected to play games in their own time to find inspiration for their own work, but there are other relevant courses such as computer graphics, which don’t necessarily require actual game playing.
- Basic coding and art classes are vital
Even if you’re going to work with game engineers and artists, it’s still important to understand the mechanical and artistic underpinnings of video games. This way, you’d know how to adapt your game design to match their requirements.
- Have patience with yourself
Your very first design will probably look nothing like the games you enjoy playing — and that’s ok! Although it might be frustrating, starting from the basics is necessary to hone your skills. With time and effort, you will be able to produce games at the same level as those you enjoy.
- There’s no such thing as only ‘designing’
The best game designers are actively involved in the entire process of translating an idea into a reality. Contribute to the team you’re working with!
- Broaden your horizon
Explore mediums other than video games! Doing so will help you draw inspiration from diverse areas — you can draw something out of films or screenplays to create your game.
- Familiarize yourself with different game engines
Most people start out with using Unity, a free downloadable game engine that’s user-friendly. However, if you want to take it to the next level, a better option is Unreal, an industrial-standard software that’s more complicated to use if compared to Unity.
For details about specializing in game-making and personal advice from Adi, check our webinar on Millie's Guide to Game Design!