This time A Conversation with… tracked down Daniel Bittencourt at his own company ‘Digi Ten’ in Brazil, Daniel was from our 8th graduating class.
Tell me about what you are doing now in the Games Industry
I currently run a small indie Studio with another VFS grad, and GD08 classmate of mine, Davi Costa. We founded Digi Ten just over 2 years ago when I moved back to Brazil from Vancouver.
As a game developer, I was responsible for all the programming; Davi produced all the final art assets. The rest of the work: concept art and art direction, design and level design, outsourcing and project management was split between Davi and I.
As a business owner, we’ve had to learn and handle just about everything else – dealing with taxes, drafting contracts, outsourcing work, managing cash flow, participating in events, building partnerships, and much more.
How has this changed since you graduated?
The biggest change since graduation really comes down to running a business.
From a development point of view, I have always enjoyed working in a variety of disciplines. After VFS, I worked at BigPark / Mircrosoft BigPark as an ‘artist/designer’, functioning as a 3d artist, technical artist, game designer, and FX artist over the years.
However, there are so many things involved outside of hands-on development, most of which I had very little previous experience. It can be quite challenging knowing that you are responsible for just about everything involved on the road to success – you definitely get less free weekends.
Can you describe a typical day in your office?
We usually start the day off around 9:00 with a quick scrum to get aligned, answer emails, and then tackle the day’s work. The tasks themselves change naturally over the project’s lifecyle. We also learned to reserve at least an hour every few days to talk and plan things for the studio, because as developers, it’s very easy to keep focused on the product and forget to plan and monitor your higher-level goals.
What’s the most fun thing you get to do? What’s the most stressful/challenging?
To me personally, the most fun thing is just being involved in the entire process, from pre-production and planning, to development, iteration, QA. I’m fascinated by the process of developing a creative vision and then materializing it into a final product, and I feel like I’m learning something new all the time.
I think the hardest and most stressful part is juggling development desires with resource management. There are so many things we’d like to do, that we know would work, but require time or money. There definitely are situations where I, as a manager/administration, need to make decisions that are tough for myself as a developer.
What games are you playing right now, and what elements have impressed you?
Bloodborne impressed me with its high level of detail in the world and creatures – definitely created a one of a kind mood that has me exploring with curiosity.
On mobile, I spend a lot of time looking at games for inspiration or research, and occasionally going back to a classic that’s been ported to mobile – recently I was replaying Baldur’s Gate.
Finally, I’ve been playing Moba’s since the beginning, and I continue to be impressed at how League of Legends and Dota are constantly updating the game and reinventing the genre. I have not had a chance yet, but I’m very excited to see what innovations Heroes of the Storm has to offer.
What are some trends you see in upcoming games?
I think that as tools and middleware continue to mature and lower their costs to entry, we should see a steady increase in the number of devs/games and the overall quality bar. As we’ve seen in mobile, I believe platform curation will become a huge factor to success, and visibility will become a greater issue on desktop and consoles as well. I think successful developers must either foster strong partnerships with the platform holders, or be well aligned with opportunity spaces in the market.
As far as gameplay / design trends, I’m a huge fan of what the Souls games have tried to bring back, which is a minimalist / exploratory direction to story-telling, and a more core, high-stakes approach to difficulty.
I’m also really enjoying the impact that the roguelike genre has had on games recently, and I hope to continue seeing this focus on replayability and procedural content.
What do you feel was the most valuable skill that you learned in the Game Design program at VFS?
The most valuable skill VFS taught us was how to think critically about game design. I’m pretty sure a lot of us went into the course having tinkered with games in some capacity, but usually as a hobby or personal interest. VFS taught us a vocabulary that allowed us to structure our understanding, critically analyze game design problems, use frameworks to better understand design issues, etc..
However, I believe that just surviving the program is a crucial experience to have in order to enter the industry. The classes at VFS gave us an overview of each of the disciplines, and then allowed us to naturally transition into industry roles during our group projects. These projects followed deadlines, reviews and demands, and allowed us to practice the types of jobs we wanted to get in the industry.
If you could give a current student in Game Design some advice, what would it be?
My advice for students in Game Design at VFS is this:
1. Take full advantage of the opportunity you currently have. Every second of dedication, work, and studying that you put in right now will pay-off later. Go above and beyond the required.
2. Be excited about projects and work outside your comfort zones – these are usually the ones where we learn the most. Furthermore, as designers, it is extremely important to develop a very broad understanding and experience in games from which to draw inspiration and best practices.
3. And most important! As a designer, it is our responsibility to enable good ideas, not to come up with them all. This means involving the team, asking for ideas, asking for feedback, accepting criticism, and learning when to stand your ground and when to reconsider something. Make the most out of all the smart, passionate people around you! This will not only result in a better product, but also a happier team.
And please, checkout Dig a Way, our studio’s first game launched on iOS this part March. We’re currently revamping the game, as well as preparing to launch on other platforms.
Thanks Daniel, and best of luck to you and Davi with Dig a Way!