This time A Conversation with… checked out another one of our local developers and caught up with Kristina Wiik from our 28th graduating class.
Tell me about what you are doing now in the Games Industry
I am now working as a game designer for United Front Games. This is a bit of a catch-all for me; I do a bit of everything within design and writing.
How has this changed since you graduated?
I started out in QA on Tomb Raider and put in about 8 months total as QA. During my time in QA I met periodically with the design director at UFG and showed some designs and some writing. He took the initiative and moved me into design last year. Since then I’ve been doing various things such as character writing and dialog, as well as gameplay design and metagame designs.
Can you describe a typical day in your office?
It usually starts with a stand-up where we go through our ETAs for tasks. Following that are usually some morning meetings or sync-ups. After that I’m able to put my head down and get to work. This work varies from paper planning, fiction writing or in-editor work. Usually I will meet with other designers during the day and brainstorm or ask for input. I am currently the most junior designer on my team so I am able to learn a lot from the people around me on a daily basis.
What’s the most fun thing you get to do? What’s the most stressful/challenging?
I get to design characters from scratch. I love coming up with abilities, names and bios that tie together the character as a whole. Writing has always been a passion so getting to do this professionally on a daily basis is very rewarding.
The most stressful or challenging bits usually come around at the end of a milestone where the tech team has spent weeks cranking out a new system and it comes time for designers to implement the designs on top of the tech. This usually means we have to work fast yet safe to reach our goals. It can be a bit stressful but it’s still rewarding when you see it all come together.
What games are you playing right now, and what elements have impressed you?
I am in a hefty boardgame phase right now. I am currently in the midst of DMing my first Pathfinder game. This has been an immensely great learning experience for me. Getting to see first-hand what players want to do and facilitating this to the best of my abilities is always a challenge, but a welcome one that I can take away and learn from. I love creating a world and characters and seeing people interact with that. It’s a very rewarding thing for someone who likes to write and design. I recommend this to all future and current designers and writers!
I don’t get as much time to play videogames as I used to – I tend to replay my favorites. I recently replayed the Spyro games and Red Dead Redemption.
What are some trends you see in upcoming games?
I think the user as the designer is one of the niftiest things we’ll see more of. Not only are people offered creative opportunities from backing kickstarters but the regular user can also start creating their own worlds in existing games through map creation tools and such. I even remember seeing a few examples at E3 which puts the user in the driver’s seat so to speak: the user is the creator of their level and they can share that with others. While we’ve seen this before I think it’ll become more accessible to users by the very fact that it’ll become integrated into more projects. This feature will undoubtedly force more creativity and collaboration into the industry and that’s fantastic!
What do you feel was the most valuable skill that you learned in the Game Design program at VFS?
Aside from getting to work in multiple engines and learning them top to bottom, I’d have to say getting to work in teams was incredibly valuable. Since you cannot ever choose your team in the industry it helps that you’re thrown into that situation in school. Learning to work with others and learning to compromise and share ideas was invaluable to me.
If you could give a current student in Game Design some advice, what would it be?
Starting out in QA is a huge advantage, there’s no reason to consider this a lesser position. In fact, it’s one of the toughest positions to be in if you’re on the dev-side of things. It lets you get a first-hand look at what it’s like to go through a dev cycle, it forces people to communicate with you so you’ll get to know everyone whether they want to or not. Essentially it gives you a network of people that you can learn from – most people are super friendly so always ask questions.
Take whatever chance you are given and prove that above all you want to be there – don’t lobby for a change in position immediately; show that you’re hard-working and willing to go the extra mile and people are very likely to notice you. Chances are you’ll get where you want to be.
Thanks Kristina, and best of luck with your next project at UFG!