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Working on Star Wars Battlefront II

It’s been more than a year than I’m working on the next Star Wars game. It’s a very big game – set across all trilogies, with single-player campaign, split screen co-op, multiplayer battles and space battles!

My goal is to lead the Criterion Design team in collaboration with DICE, Motive and Lucasfilm.

This involves:

  • Craft and drive the vision for Space Battles and Offline Co-op to inspire the team to execution
  • Communicate the vision to the team, project leaders and marketing to make sure everyone is aligned
  • Scope and adjust our vision to make sure we deliver high quality features on time and budget
  • Set up processes between our designers and our partners to deliver a consistent experience
  • Mentor designers to ensure all features are designed and implemented to a genre-leading standard

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1 mechanic, 1 prototype (Unreal 4)

You may have the best idea on paper, but software will show you if it is fun or not.

So I started a simple challenge a while ago: write one idea of a small game mechanic every day and prototype it. The goal was to push me to learn blueprint in Unreal 4, but this time with fast test scenarios rather than going to wide with complicated projects.

Some ideas were fun. Some were not. Here are two examples of prototypes: one fun, one not.

Air Hockey game

Push the puck and get it to the goal. Simple, but one rule: the more you touch it, the more your score goes down. Why? To push the player to throw it again the walls and make it bounce. It is fun and I started working anew mechanics on top of that (collectibles, bouncy walls…).

Runner with slomo

While following the Unreal 4 runner tutorials, I wanted to add a “SuperHot” feel to it: a very fast runner in which you can slomo to make better turns and avoid obstacles. It sounded interesting, but I quickly get the problem that the character was going too fast and it made it too hard, yet the character needed to go fast to make slomo useful.

One way to fix it was to take out the slomo and make it that the character can become invincible, but I thought that was really overdone in so many games.

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How I ended up on stage at the EADC to talk about rapid prototyping

Back in April 2014, I went to the EA Developper Conferences in Redwood shores and did a talk about how rapid prototpying using my horrible romantic french accent. The thing is that it mostly happened by accident!

A few weeks before going there, we received an email asking if we wanted to share quickly an idea or opinion for 1 to 2 minutes. So I decided to say something – at that time it was supposed to be a simple “pass the mic in the audience” thing. But about a week before the conferences, I received a powerpoint template asking to make it a real talk! I only had less than a week, finished it on the way there and did a few repetition. And I was getting even more nervous when I realized that it was going to be on a proper stage – not just a simple room that I’m used too!

But it all went well – I had some great feedbacks about the ideas and my presentation skills (people really like the “inception exemple”0. So, I guess the morale of the story is that you are never truly ready for thing, so you just need to use every opportunities to improve, especially when it is about stepping out the comfort zone.

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Be creative to test your ideas

Being creative is about being wrong: how many times you had a great idea and it didn’t work out? This is just part of the creative process – a big mess that you just need to embrace. The problem is that is is tiring and expensive.

Designers shouldn’t just throw ideas – everyone can do that: they should get ideas on how to communicate and test them quickly.

You have a simple game mechanic you want to explore? Try to prototype it. You can use Playmaker for unity to quickly get something without any scripting needed.

Too hard to get it software? Try to make a simple drawing, take screenshots and write over them, use Premiere to make a quick video… Just find any way to communicate your idea clearly and fast.

Making a game system? How about making a board game out of it. If you are making a city builder game, how about building the entire city with legos, and mix it with some cards to represent the player’s interactions. It will be faster and way more fun than spending all those long hours in Powerpoint.

Still too hard? How about using toys or even act it. That is what we did t another producer when we wanted to explain a new mechanic involving multiple vehicles. We could have spent days to illustrate it, but instead we pretended to be vehicles ourselves and acted it in front of the studio! Yes, everyone laughed and the message came across.

People will also remember those concepts more than any other documents you could have provide. Do you remember that powerpoint document? Probably not. But do you remember when I pretend to be an ATV? Yes, that was fun. Your team will be way more engaged in your design if there is some ways for them to interact.

No matter how good your idea can be – if you are not able to demonstrate it, communicate it and test it, then it will never happen. Don’t get stuck in the paper design: ideas are cheap and execution is what matters.