Nick Magnus (Game Design ’19) tells us about his experience interning at Edoki Academy during his semester in Montreal.
Over the course of this Fall semester, I interned as a Game Designer at a small company called Edoki Academy. Founded in 2010, Edoki Academy specializes in Educational Apps for children. The company has been releasing apps for the iPad since its release and has been supporting many of them with new updates periodically. There are less than 15 employees, so It is very easy to know everyone.
The company is housed in an office structure 10 minutes from the Mont-Royal station, which offers a variety of choices for morning coffee. The office space, which has just recently moved, consists of a single open space with 10 computers, with offices for the directors. My mentor, Léa Tabary, delegated most of my tasks to me as well as provided feedback on my work.
Edoki’s largest game is Montessori Preschool, a subscription-based app based off of the philosophies of Montessori learning. The game consists of a virtual preschool that offers many different games and lessons aimed at teaching children numbers, words, creative capacities, and life skills. Funnily enough, we can here schoolchildren next door to our office every morning.
My work was spread across various titles, some released and others still in progress. I also did a number of production tasks like translating, creating detailed PDF’s and adding subtitles to advertisements. Most of my design work involved conceptualizing, documenting, and presenting game ideas. The ideas ranged in scope from small activities for Montessori Preschool to standalone games that were currently in pre-production. The cycle started with a text outline of general ideas which would get a quick review before some were chosen and iterated on. Afterwards, I fleshed out all of the interactions and systems and created a presentation to describe them.
An example of this is a Nursery Rhyme activity being added to Montessori Preschool where I made a document detailing what is on screen and moving during an animation, and what happens on each of those screens when the player gives certain input. This is currently being used by an animator as a reference for syncing an animation to music that was previously recorded.
When making the presentations, I used a combination of Illustrator and Photoshop to make short animations and storyboards. I looked for a bit of feedback from Léa before presenting to the directors. After that presentation, there were a few things that could happen. If everything was approved, I started creating tasks for other members of the team to begin development. Otherwise, I received feedback, iterated, and presented again at a later date.
For the game that was in pre-production stages, I was also working on first drafts of balancing difficulty and rewards. This involved using spreadsheets and charts that can be used during development to guide the structure of the levels. Another part of my internship was Quality Assurance. This involved playing through the games that were receiving updates in search of bugs. If a bug was found I detailed the steps to reproduce, if possible, and sent that off to another developer. The small teams also made it easy to just get up and show them the bug, which usually made fixing them a breeze.
The internship has taught me tons of things about being a Game Designer and about overall development processes in a studio. My skills and efficiency in both photoshop and illustrator have improved immensely as I use those applications almost every day I work. This will allow me to be more efficient in describing concepts to both team members and faculty during production classes in the following semesters.
A large challenge that I have begun to overcome is the language barrier at my internship. Most of the employees are francophones and converse casually in French. It was a bit daunting at first when everyone was speaking a different language unless they were talking to me. Both my French classes and the daily SCRUM meetings, which were mostly in French, helped me to overcome this challenge. Being able to sit and listen and hear the recurring words every day help me understand a bit more each meeting. Thanks to the French classes, I can hold a fairly broken and blatantly uneducated conversation in French. That being said, it is a great feeling when others understand what you’re saying in another language. This helped a bit with work as I often had to translate small blurbs of French into English.
Another takeaway is increased presentation skills. The most difficult presentations I have done before my internship were to a group of peers. There is something a bit more unnerving about presenting to directors of a studio. Now, I have shown obvious improvements in my Game Theory class which involves many presentations, which I can attribute to the presentations done at work. Overall, my time at Edoki Academy has been filled with insights, challenges, and learning opportunities. From French-speaking to detailed design documents, I hope to apply my new skills to propel my career forward.