This time A Conversation with… crossed the border and found Lawrence Metten at 343 Industries in Seattle, Lawrence is from our 13th graduating class.
- Tell me about what you are doing now in the Games Industry
I’m a Senior Multiplayer Designer at 343 Industries currently working on Halo 5: Guardians. In this role I’ve helped create competitive game modes and designed features and systems for use across all of multiplayer. The majority of my work at 343 has been on Warzone, our ambitious new 12v12 mode that we recently announced at E3. It’s been rewarding developing this new mode from a pitch into a prototype and now into something that we’re only a couple months from releasing on Oct. 27.
- How has this changed since you graduated?
My first game gig was a design role at BigPark Studios in Vancouver. At BigPark I cut my teeth designing modes on a pair of Kinect releases (Kinect Joy Ride and Kinect Sports: Season Two). After wrapping up the Kinect projects, I was rolled onto BigPark’s incubation team and started helping design and prototype internal pitches of new games. It was in this role that I started building confidence as a designer as I was given the opportunity to lead design on a handful of projects. Our development teams were small and I learned multiple aspects of design over a brief time period. Unfortunately, none of these pitches made it out of pre-production.
When BigPark transitioned away from games in the summer of 2013 I reached out to 343 Industries and was fortunate to land a position on their multiplayer team. I jumped at the opportunity and moved to Seattle as fast as my visa application would permit.
- Can you describe a typical day in your office?
Currently, we’re busy wrapping up Halo 5: Guardians. Our multiplayer team is bug fixing, playtesting as often as possible, and making necessary adjustments before we release in October.
My workday usually starts with a build review in our playlab. During this hour we’ll check progress as well as generate bugs and work items. The issues we log get distributed amongst our multiplayer team and often serve as fuel for the workday, giving our designers and developers tasks to focus on as we push through the afternoon. At 4pm we’re back in the playlab, this time to focus on balance and fun. I’ll watch or play as we run a couple games of Warzone and will then spend some time talking to players to listen to feedback and gauge reactions. After playtest it’s back to the desk for a couple of hours before I call it day.
- What’s the most fun thing you get to do? What’s the most stressful/challenging?
Playtesting is the answer to both of those questions and something we do as often as possible at 343. In playtest we’ll load up a new build and spend an hour or two tearing it apart. We’ll play match after match as people in the room shout out bugs, feedback, suggestions, and trash talk. Design changes live or die in playtest. We may think we have a solid pass at something but if a room full of players don’t agree, or don’t get it, we know we’re going back to the drawing board. Playtest can be tough when things don’t work, but nothing is more rewarding than a playlab erupting in cheers when they do.
- What games are you playing right now, and what elements have impressed you?
I’m not playing that often right now as we’re busy wrapping up Halo 5. When I do get time to play I’m usually playing Counter-Strike, keeping in touch with friends in Vancouver over games of Halo or NHL, or lying in Fibbage over drinks. I’ll play any game experience I can share with friends. This year I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on Rainbow 6: Siege, Star Wars: Battlefront, and Rockband 4.
- What are some trends you see in upcoming games?
It might be my job title talking but more games seem to be investing big in multiplayer experiences. League of Legends, Hearthstone, and Counter-Strike dominate Twitch, big AAA titles like Titanfall and Battlefront are releasing as multiplayer-only products, and we at 343 Industries are putting forward a bigger multiplayer experience than we’ve ever released in a Halo title. Gamers in 2015 are savvier than ever and want online experiences that they can pour hundreds, if not thousands, of hours into. I’m looking forward to seeing how both social and competitive multiplayer spaces continue to evolve.
- What do you feel was the most valuable skill that you learned in the Game Design program at VFS?
Learning how to use development software was probably the most valuable skill I picked up at VFS. Going in to the year I had ideas for games but I was clueless when it came to knowing what I’d need to do to develop them. Being taught how to use Flash, Unreal, and Maya gave me the tools I needed to start turning my ideas into playable games. Many of these tools are the same or similar to what I’ve used since being hired as a designer.
- If you could give a current student in Game Design some advice, what would it be?
Game design is a collaborative process and you rarely end up with a result that fits your original vision exactly. You may be credited as the designer on your project but what you create is the sum of all developers on your team. Drive your vision but be open to ideas and solutions from everyone, regardless of their discipline. Your game and your team’s work dynamic will be better because of it.
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Thanks Lawrence, and best of luck with Halo 5: Guardians!