A Day in the Life - Zhenya, Game Designer at Elephant Games

Hi! My name is Zhenya, I’m a game designer, and I’d like to share my work routine at Elephant Games with you!

The morning begins… Not with coffee. My dog Lutik demands to walk him with dogged persistence. When your work implies a “flexible morning”, owls like me often spend most of it in the bed.

After taking a walk with the dog and having breakfast, it’s time to commute to work… Well, in my case it’s just sitting down at the table with the laptop - like most people in our team, I work remotely from home.

Let’s see what I have to do today. How could I forget! Today is the day when I need to present the ideas for a new product (we call them pitches). All that needs to be done is to describe what the game is going to be about briefly. As briefly as possible so that it could be told while the elevator goes up from the first floor of a tall building to the top floor (By the way, did you know that this is how the game called Downwell was presented, and it became one of the indie hits of 2015? Well, now you know!)

Luckily, I’m an expert of improvizing, so I came up with the pitch ideas in about 20 minutes. What kind of game will it be? May it remain a secret for now, but I can hint that it’ll feature a lot of rain, books and one fluffy black kitten…

What’s next? The next item is making adjustments in a draft document. It’s a pitch in nature as well, but it’s described on several pages. Here is where the characters get their names, the main villain elaborates their eerie shenanigans, and the action is moved from the “vacuum” into the quite certain game locations. Personally I like to work with my own projects mostly, but quite often it’s required to take a fresh look and give a second opinion to the colleagues for making the adjustments. This is what I do before lunch break.

Lunch is “sacred” for me. During the lunch break, I manage not only to eat, but also watch a show or play the games of other companies. You never know where the fresh ideas for the new games might come from. Half the work day is depleted, what’s left to be done today?

What’s left is what most new game designers fear. Game logic! In simple words, it’s the description of where to place the items on the level, how the players progress through the level and what happens in this level. The description is quite structured, this is why sometimes it’s associated with the work of programmers, but once you figure it out, there’s nothing scary in the technical sense here (even for me as a non-technical person to the bone). The hardest thing at working with the game logic is perhaps to imagine all of the improbable interaction options that the player might try out and try to prevent them. Why can we cut the rope only with a knife, although there’s an axe in our inventory? In how many pieces to break a mystic talisman and in what order do we find them? I have to find the answer to these and other questions in this document so that the artists and programmers could create content based on it. While you, our players, have to untangle the detective story in chronological order, currently I’m trying to tangle this knot as tightly as I can, which gets harder over time as the players get better and better at solving the mysteries…

…It’s evening, and it seems that it’s time to switch off the laptop and… But no, this is when the emails with feedback documents and suggestions from the publisher come in. I can hardly be called a workaholic, but the sight of an email without a reply causes a feeling of unease, and I can’t step back. As a rule (if my work is done well) the adjustments are tiny and are mostly done to increase the quality of user experience. A text or a button needs to be enlarged here and there, and sometimes it’s required to describe the motivation of the main villain better (what if the player doesn’t fully comprehend their cunning plan?).

My dog distracts me again, from work this time - he doesn’t understand why the human is busy with stupid things again instead of walking him. I can’t say no to my furry pal, especially with the clock and the production calendar on his side. I close the laptop and leave you with a light sense of incomplete story. In the end, the work of a game designer, like any creative job, should always have a pinch of mystery in it.