as Co-Founder & Developer
for 10 months
in 2016 - 2017
on PC & Mobile
MOBA prototype for PC, later converted into a mobile ARPG for the Chinese market
Symbiotic was a group of 12 ex-colleagues from Riot and Crytek building a US-based game company and working together remotely. We initially worked on a MOBA game (with a major gameplay twist) for PC and developed a demo in about 3 months.
I built the main arena and testmaps, implemented part of the required gameplay systems and tools (camera, markup, contextual navigation, HUD, audio) and dealt with audio outsourcers.
We found Chinese investors interested in the project, but they encouraged us to switch our efforts to mobile platforms, way more popular in Asia. We adjusted our designs from MOBA to action RPG as the asian mobile market was already saturated with MOBAs.
Our resources were limited but the goal was to provide as much content as other high-profile ARPGs, so I worked closely with the narrative designer on generating a lot of content out of a very limited set of levels -- revisiting the same locations with different conflicts at different points in the universe's timeline -- and with the art director on creating modular tilesets to support that.
Mobile monster-collection RPG demo
After more market research and back-and-forths with investors, we finally pivoted towards a sci-fantasy monster-collection RPG, akin to Summoners War. I was in charge of leading and building a new investor demo: leading 3 remote artists in USA/Europe and 2 game engineers in China, drafting out the design and technical implementation of all game systems (character skills, stats, animations, FX, audio, battles, camera, markup, HUD...) and designing demo character kits.
Start-up experience and responsibilities
The company eventually collapsed when the art director quit the group, causing investors to withdraw, but overall it was a great experience in building a company and project from the ground up: paperwork and legal matters, company values, accountability, market research, pitches and demos...
I got to apply a lot of my technical and design knowledge to fields outside of level-design (game design, code, audio, UI). I learned a lot about emotional intelligence by having to lead others, and most problems and worries were exacerbated by the remote nature of the company -- keeping the team focused, happy and communicating over 3 continents was a constant effort.
at CIG Foundry 42
as Senior Level Designer
for 15 months
in 2015 - 2016
Ambitious persistent space simulation MMO, with FPS components and a story-driven campaign
I was the 2nd Level Designer recruited at the Frankfurt studio, and initially worked on a single-player mission for Squadron 42 remotely with the UK team. That level had been previously scoped down till almost nothing remained, and I had to keep the art workload to a minimum (one spaceship) while managing to make it a good experience.
The Frankfurt studio then took ownership of the MMO component, and I started creating hubs for players to shop, meet, trade… Designing locations without concrete gameplay in mind is an interesting challenge, more akin to architecture. I built the first pirate base of the game (called Grim Hex), and split it into tiers that could be built incrementally over multiple live releases.
Levski is an asteroid base that had been designed for an earlier demo and I took it over, adding new underground landing pads, functional elevators, sleeping quarters, new routes to drive to the base and garages/parking, and fixed a lot of the collisions and markup. I was in charge of scripting part of the Gamescom 2016 live demo that took place at this location.
Modularity & environmental mechanics
Creating enough content to fill a universe was going to require a robust modular building set, so I pushed for and designed multiple iterations of it, some of which can be seen in the modular space stations being released since.
It also wasn’t clear what players would be able to do to the environment and how we’d ensure consistency throughout the game, so I took it upon myself to drive conversations, prototype and document such mechanics (power distribution, security, access, hacking, destruction, atmosphere…), as well as drafting a proposal for the mission system. It was important to spearhead those designs early on, as they would greatly affect how we developed new locations.
as Level Designer
for 2 years
in 2011 - 2013
on Xbox One & PC
3rd-Person hack & slash Xbox One launch title set in the Roman era
Just after my promotion to Junior Level Designer, I was put in charge of the Vertical Slice level used to convince Microsoft Studios to greenlight the game.
This involved integrating a lot of new features and working with all disciplines to get the demo done in about 2 months.
York / Pax Romana
I designed the 6th level of the single-player campaign, York (labelled Pax Romana), from beginning to end. This involved the usual documentation, block-out, asset placement, AI scripting, scripted events, mark-up, bug-fixing, optimization, balancing, etc.
City overview concept by Jason Hickey
My modding experience with CryEngine meant I was one of the most technical level designers on the team. During pre-production, I prototyped Kinect control schemes, player interactions, 3rd-person camera setups, combat systems, contextual navigation and missions.
For the rest of production I became the owner of the LD scripting tools: creation of flowgraph modules, technical requirements and requests for tools, maintenance of the editor…
My most challenging undertaking was scripting the wall defense section of York. It is a complex combination of many events (catapults, turrets, attackers, defenders, siege ladders, siege towers…), all manually scripted. The player makes choices and gives commands to his soldiers which have consequences on the next phases of the battle, such as having to destroy siege towers that reach the wall. I believe it ended up being a pretty unique scene in the game.
After the game shipped, I stayed on to handle bug-fixing for all DLC 3 and 4 levels, and built a co-op level for the last DLC... with lava!