This time A Conversation with… tracked down Kyle Jensen who is working at United Front Games, Kyle was also from our 9th graduating class.
Tell me about what you are doing now in the Games Industry
I am currently a Game Designer at United Front Games in Vancouver. I’ve worked on Sleeping Dogs, Sleeping Dogs DLC, and currently working on an unannounced title with Nexon. On the Sleeping Dogs projects, I was mainly a combat designer where I helped design and implement combat gameplay. More recently, I’ve had my hand in level design and ability design. Overall, I am much more of a technical designer these days, where I am able to rapidly prototype features to help get my designs across to the rest of the team.
How has this changed since you graduated?
I started my career in QA for a collective amount of 10 months, then worked my way into a design role. I’ve been working in design since 2010. I’ve been pretty lucky so far to get in with a good studio and be able to stick around through some tough times in the industry (especially in Vancouver).
Can you describe a typical day in your office?
My day typically starts between 9 and 10, where I will often check up on email and get started with a team wide playtest. After that, I will usually continue with any features or designs I was working on yesterday. I’ll often be pulled into informal design discussions about the best way to implement a feature, or into meetings where I work with other designers to flesh out gameplay designs that may be lacking.
What’s the most fun thing you get to do? What’s the most stressful/challenging?
Prototyping for me is the ultimate. I really enjoy being able to get my ideas into a working state. Being able to showcase your little prototypes and have others think it was cool or fun is rewarding to me. I find that last minute requests before a milestone is supposed to be shipped really stresses me out and is challenging to work with. Oftentimes you have to make sacrifices just to ‘get something in’. It’s definitely not ideal but it sometimes is necessary.
What games are you playing right now, and what elements have impressed you?
Invisible Inc., The Old Republic, Darkest Dungeon, TF2, and Prison Architect are what I’m playing at the moment. Klei always impresses me with their games — they are short, polished, and super fun. Darkest Dungeon is another one that I’ve played a bit, but meaning to get back to as well. Both have this sense of bleakness and struggle, and both are mechanically very fun to play.
What are some trends you see in upcoming games?
Like many, I think VR is a huge one that I don’t really need to elaborate on. I do think that we will continue to see a huge variety of types of games — we will still have the huge open-world, 60+ hour experiences. Yet I do see smaller, more focused games continuing to grow in popularity. FTL, Mark of the Ninja, or Rogue Legacy are the types of games I think we will see more of too.
What do you feel was the most valuable skill that you learned in the Game Design program at VFS?
Communication and networking. Good communication is so vital to every project. Learn how to communicate your designs better; learn how to be diplomatic; learn how to compromise. All those things are super useful out in the creative world. Networking is also a big one. Brian Vidovic from GD07 helped me get my first job at Radical Entertainment, which definitely kickstarted my career. Talk to others and be yourself! This is quite a small industry so ‘who you know’ is actually very important.
If you could give a current student in Game Design some advice, what would it be?
Besides the ranting from the previous question, it would be ‘get your foot in the door and work hard’. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. Getting in the industry as a tester is not a failure and in fact, it made me a better designer in the long run once I got there. If you communicate well, ask questions, and work hard, you can get noticed for bigger things.
Thanks Kyle, and best of luck on your unannounced project!