Who doesn’t dream of a job that does not only pay your bills but is also truly about your passion and sometimes feels more like a hobby? Many would say that this description goes very well with people who work as game designers for video games. But what does a game designer really do all day long? We shed some light on this question by following Sandbox Interactive Game Designer Emil „Empa“ Östlin around:
10:00am – Start of the Day
At Sandbox Interactive, we’re quite flexible with regards to when we start our working day. As a bit of a night owl, I usually arrive at around 10am to start off with organizing my tasks for the day and having my first „Club Mate“ from our rich drinks supply. With that in hand, I open our project management software JIRA and prioritize topics. Today, I am going to focus on combat balancing – the very core aspect of our game. Additionally, I will hopefully get to spend some time on a task I have started working on yesterday.
11:00am – Stand-up time
Every day, the entire production team assembles at 11am to give each other an update about the progress of the various development streams. Every person present summarizes in a few sentences what he or she has worked on the previous day and what the focus for the current day will be. Today, I will tell the rest of the team about the changes I did to the demon prince boss fight yesterday as well as the first concept mockups I created for the multi-character per account feature. And naturally, about the general idea behind the combat tweaks I’m going to try out.
11:30am – Combat Strike Team Meeting
After the end of the Summer Alpha, we have formed a team consisting of two artists, two game designers and one developer that is heavily focused on improving the combat experience of Albion Online. We usually meet once or twice per week to update each other on the progress of what we are working on respectively and discuss the next steps for the project. In today’s meeting, one of the artists presented one of the designs for the „Tank“ combat style built. It already looks quite cool, so that we could discuss the animation of some of the new tank items and spells. I was telling the rest about what kind of spells we will have for the main tank weapons and provide them with a list of the various items. As a next step, they will now work on the animation that I will then review and see if it matches the idea of e.g. the underlying sword attack.
01:30pm – Lunch time
After going through a few bug tickets and picking up the latest feedback from the Albion Online forum, it’s time to eat! Our offices are located in Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg, which means that we have lots of opportunities to find different styles of food in just a five minute radius. Today, I decided to go for Schnitzel with a few colleagues – although I’m Swedish myself, I already got a little „Germanized“ in that regard.
3:00pm – Multi-Character Login Screen
As already mentioned with the stand-up meeting, I have started working on a multi-character login screen (on which I’m sure you will get further updates soon). I have finished a few first mockups yesterday in Photoshop after having done some research of how successful other games are doing it and will now start working with one of our artists to make it prettier. Afterwards, one of our coders will implement some technical details into the design, so we can actually start running tests on it.
4:30pm – Combat Balancing
The main topic for today, however, is combat balancing. We will have a smaller internal test later, for which I will tweak some numbers. I go through our JIRA database again and check for the comments from our last test. I will then talk to Robin, our Lead Game Designer, discuss my proposed changes and get some feedback on them. Afterwards, I’ll load up the databases of our spells and skills and change a few values that have proven to be off (too low or too high) in the previous test. Those values will then be immediately put into the game and we’ll be able to test them internally and see if the changes I made were sufficient.
6:00pm – Internal Combat Test
Once those tweaked values are in the game, we will log into our testserver and do the actual testing. Today, we will do 2vs2 combat – Robin and me versus two of our Quality Assurance guys. We will check on the tweaks I’ve made earlier and try to determine if those skills and items are still over- or underpowered. For that, we will play in different class and equipment combinations. This will go on for quite a while and everybody makes notes on their impressions of how the skills and items performed.
8:00pm – Post test clean-up
After the test, I gather all the notes of the testers involved and start sorting and categorizing them. As usual, there‘s a lot of feedback I can factor into my next tweaks. So far, we’re generally happy with the results – even though you can nearly always improve or perfect certain aspects.
Now that that is done, I start gathering my things. The next pass on our combat balance will be in a few days, so I have some time to think on how to best remedy the identified problems with our skills. Tomorrow, I’ll be working on something different. A widely requested new feature that you will surely read more about soon.
Your Emil „Empa“ Östlin