A Conversation with… Alex Weatherston

This time A Conversation with… headed overseas to find a grad from our 9th class of Game Design, Alex Weatherston is working at Massive Entertainment in Sweden.

 

  • Tell me about what you are doing now in the Games Industry

I’m currently working as a UI Designer at Massive Entertainment in Malmo, Sweden on Tom Clancy’s The Division. The title of UI Designer is a bit deceptive as I tend to end up creating designs across the entire project that don’t neatly fit into just “UI” like the seamless online sections.

  • How has this changed since you graduated?

I started off as a Game Designer at Action Pants Inc. which was later bought by Ubisoft and turned into Ubisoft Vancouver. I worked there for several years on a few different projects, usually on systems and UI, before the studio closed. I then went to work at Microsoft in Redmond on Hololens where the day to day was much more about rapid prototyping. After I saw the E3 trailer for The Division I said to myself “That’d be a cool project to work on” and now I’m in Sweden!

 

  • Can you describe a typical day in your office?

A typical day at the office usually includes scrums and sync meetings with the larger parts of the project I’m involved with. This is usually followed by reviewing emails and lots of meetings where design implementations are checked and work is reviewed. If I’m not booked in meetings all day I’m usually running around advising on design for the areas I’m responsible in or writing documentation / updating excels / updating our task tracking software with progress and estimates. Playing the game is also heavily encouraged at Massive so we always have a build running close by and we also playtest frequently.

 

  • What’s the most fun thing you get to do? What’s the most stressful/challenging?

Two of the most fun things are blue sky designing and actually implementing features. When you are able to come up with unrestricted ideas on how game features will work it’s a great experience and usually a lot of fun. When a feature you designed finally gets in the game then that’s a great feeling too. On the flip side this can also be stressful and challenging when you need to design something that might be complex to communicate to the player or has many moving parts that require you to design around while they are finalized. As an example, it’s quite challenging to make a menu for a mechanic that is continually redesigned yet you must still show functionality to executives.

 

  • What games are you playing right now, and what elements have impressed you?

Some of the games I’ve been working my way through recently are Witcher 3 which has great side stories and characters and a really nice world to explore. I’ve also sunk more time than I’d like to admit into Agar.Io which is so simple yet deceivingly hard. I platinum’d Bloodborne which hits several gameplay systems perfectly and I still need to finish Dragon Age: Inquisition. Looking forward to more time with Splatoon and Batman: Arkham Knight.

 

  • What are some trends you see in upcoming games?

As someone who has worked with augmented reality hardware I’d say that AR/VR are definitely upcoming trends. I do recognize that there are some areas that will pose challenges but there is so much potential that awaits developers in the future so I’m really looking forward to it.

I’m also keeping my eye on mobile gaming as it continues to generate insane amounts of money. I do believe that console and pc gaming will always be around you can’t ignore the numbers: Supercell is worth 5.5 billion (Clash of Clans). Ubisoft (All the Assassins, Tom Clancy, Just dance etc etc) 1.7 billion. With mobile devices becoming increasingly more powerful I also see the potential quality of mobile games improving more and more over the coming years.

 

  • What do you feel was the most valuable skill that you learned in the Game Design program at VFS?

I think the most valuable skill I learned at VFS was to be like a sponge and absorb info from a wide variety of sources. You never know when something you learn in a different discipline will aid you in your work on something else. Even understanding the basics of a different field such as programming or modelling can help a great deal when creating designs.

 

  • If you could give a current student in Game Design some advice, what would it be?

I’d give the advice I would most likely want to give myself and that is to keep things simple and try to execute simple designs well. There is always a danger of being over-ambitious, even when you get out in the world and start working. Scope your designs so they’re realistic to your project and its deadlines and if you wind up with extra time use that to polish not add more features.

 

 Thanks Alex, and best of luck with Tom Clancy’s The Division!