I worked at Tuque Games, a small game development studio situated in Montreal. Tuque is just coming off the heels of releasing their first original game, Livelock back in 2016. With the success of Livelock, the team has decided to amp up production and dive into a much more ambitious and exciting new unannounced project.
During my time with Tuque I worked under the Lead Designer Kevin Neibert and the rest of the design team on their latest unannounced project. The majority of the work I did for the team dealt primarily with player experience. In the early days of my internship I was mostly on bug testing duty while I familiarized myself with the game and its mechanics. Over time my role shifted away from specifically bug testing and more toward player experience design (though with a bit of bug testing).
My job consisted of making sure all the elements of the game match up and pair with the overall play experience and design intention. Most of my work, ideally, will go completely unnoticed by the player. I was in charge of tuning the time stamps at which an enemy or a player’s attack will register during the player animation, and when the outline around an enemy will appear and disappear, signalling an incoming attack to the player. In addition to this, I was tasked with hooking up enemies with proper reaction animations, getting hit, stunned, blinded, confused, etc.. Similarly, I was tasked with giving enemies certain attack movesets that they can use to attack the player with. The hope for these changes was to streamline player experience to feel real, like the player and the world they were put into felt realistic and alive.
In addition to the previously mentioned tasks, I was also charged with general game and loot balance. It was my job in part to make sure that the balance between player health, player damage, enemy health, and enemy damage felt good, and more importantly, felt fair. In addition to this, I was responsible for tracking and tuning loot drop frequency and rarity. I would often do “loot audits” where I would play through the game and track how much of each type of loot I got, how many of those loot items were upgrades, of equal quality, or were downgrades, and what percentage all of these numbers were of the total number of dropped loot items. With this information we would edit either rarity values or frequency values of the items dropped in order to make the player feel rewarded and powerful. A few times, we had noticed an inconsistency with drop rates so I was tasked with creating and implementing weapon and armor loot drops to even out the drop pool. These changes are also very likely (and hopefully) going to go unnoticed by the player if things feel natural in terms of progression and fairness.
The edits I made in the game that players likely will notice however are a bit less subtle. In terms of in-world events and interactions, I helped redesign the final boss fight to be a more engaging and threatening version of what it was originally, and designed quest path NPC’s and rewards. In terms of changes to the players themselves, I helped in the tuning of experience gain and when players unlock certain abilities. On top of this, I helped in the designing of new, additional player abilities in order to increase player engagement. These changes helped to directly improve player “feel” as the player the game.
Overall, my time at Tuque was a very eye opening and interesting experience for me. I received quite a bit of exposure as to how professional companies deal with task management, cuts, scope, redesigns, conceptualizing, workflow management, prototyping, and more. Some of the biggest takeaways from this experience were methods of managing workflow and priorities in a team using spreadsheets and holding build review/grievance discussion sessions and so on. As for my own personal gain, I learned to be more vocal about concerns I had with the game, even if said concern seemed too vague and difficult to concisely and easily explain. Essentially I have learned tips and tricks for opening up an impromptu discussion and brainstorming session in order to suss out an underlying issue and come up with potential solutions. In addition to this, when I compare my experience working in a professional environment like at Tuque, with other game production experiences I have had in school, I am better able to equip my team with tools, work practices, and task management in order to maximize the production value of our small team sizes. My time at Tuque was an overall fantastic experience for me, exposing me to a very efficient team and very hands on tasks from which I will be able to take what I have learned and apply it to my future projects and teams.