Sperasoft’s Steven Thornton: “The strongest game design portfolio is one with playable content, even if the art is all sticks and spheres”
Chief Game Designer at Sperasoft Steven Thornton, who has worked on Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Rainbow Six Siege, and over ten Lego games, explains how quality assurance is always a path to game design and what he’s looking for. among candidates.
What is your mission and how would you describe your typical day at work?
I am currently Chief Game Designer at Sperasoft, a keyword studio located in St. Petersburg, Russia. People say that the role of “idea person” doesn’t exist in developing triple A games, but that’s kind of what I do. The chief game designer sets the game’s functionality to a high level and then delegates the “details” to his game design team. During production, you will constantly review and approve “in progress” content, answer questions, resolve conflicts and resolve issues; it all means a lot of time in meeting rooms. This is a full time managerial job and you will probably never touch the engine or contribute a single piece or line of code in the game yourself.
A typical workday begins with the morning stand-up meeting to check the status of all open tasks and identify blockers preventing a task from moving forward. While there is already a plan, every day is guaranteed to raise new questions, and every decision has ripple effects that must be pursued and communicated. The rest of the time is usually based on reviewing the content. A triple-A development team will be producing assets and performing tasks all the time and they’ll all go through the chief game designer for a seal of approval.
What qualifications or experience do you need to land this job?
I took the university route and got my first design job at Traveller’s Tales through a series of summer internships thanks to my tutors. I was able to prove myself on the job, which is unfortunately a rare opportunity.
My advice to aspiring game designers with no formal experience is to find ways to show rather than tell. The most powerful game design portfolio is the one with playable content, even though the art is made up of sticks and spheres. There are many tools available now, don’t be afraid to do something about it. Another common path in design is always through the QA department. It’s a stereotype, but QA tends to work closely with designers, giving them the opportunity to demonstrate aptitudes for the studio-specific desktop environment and games. They can even catch simple design tasks during the busy schedule.
If you were interviewing someone for your team, what would you be looking for?
I am looking for enthusiasm and confidence tempered by maturity and diplomacy. No matter how long you have been on a design team, all designers are managers and morale captains. We set the tone for the project, we generate and explain the tasks, we provide the feedback that can change (or lose) someone else’s working hours, so even at a junior level I’m looking for strong non techniques and self-awareness. General non-constructive statements that entire franchises or studios are “bad” or similar sound clips on forums are red flags, as are bragging about a poor work / life balance, as it suggests that ‘they would expect the same from any team you associate them with.
There is also a risk that junior designers will feel pressured to prove themselves by coming up with big ideas, but in fact the main things I want to see at the start are consistency and reliability. Usually, studios don’t hire new blood to “fix” things, they want help to finish what they’ve already started. If you enthusiastically approach the industry to contribute and collaborate, you will soon have the chance to make your mark.
What are the career development opportunities?
In a large studio, you might have the option of becoming a Creative Director or Head of the Design Department, which will give you influence or veto power over multiple projects. However, it is true for all departments that the higher you move up the ranks, the further away you will be from practical work. Finding a balance between influencing the big picture and focusing on the details is a personal matter, and something you must feel once you get there.
Want to talk about your career and inspire people to follow the same path? Contact Marie Dealessandri at firstname.lastname@example.org