A Conversation with… Nick Yonge

After watching the CVA awards show, A Conversation with… tracked down Nick Yonge of krangGAMES from our 16th graduating class.

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

Currently I’m self-employed at my own independent games company, krangGAMES. I’m developing downloadable games for home computer and consoles, like my Kickstarter-funded main project, Emerald.

  • How has this changed since you graduated?

It hasn’t, really. At least my job hasn’t changed – I founded my company within months of graduating. However, my skills as a designer have vastly improved from real-world experience, and I’ve taken on a handful of contract jobs (including a mentor at VFS!) during my professional years. For the most part, though, I still work on my own projects in my home office.

  • Tell me about your game that was nominated at the CVA Awards show

i saw her across the world is the third game in my i saw her standing there series of web games. It’s about two zombies who’ve fallen in love and travel the world. It’s an action platformer with a minimalist aesthetic and cute, goofy story. Uniquely, it allows player to customize their characters, including the gender of both lovers, and is not limited to he/she pronouns – it accommodates non-binary gender pronouns such as “they”, and players can even custom-define their own pronouns if they want.

  • Can you describe a typical day in your office?

Since my “office” is at home, it’s pretty casual. A typical day will include getting refreshed with tech and games via social media, and then primarily game development for the rest of the day, punctuated with trips outside, meeting friends, or playing games (not ones I’ve made). The work itself varies widely since I’m a solo independent, most often simply programming but frequently design, project management (working with contractors requires co-ordination), marketing, and business development.

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

I make games! I think my favorite part of my job is prototyping new ideas, and early gameplay programming. Getting gameplay to feel fun, experimenting with concepts, seeing what does and doesn’t work. A close second would be all design work, game design, level design, thinking out the ideas and mechanics that make games work.

The most stressful and challenging parts are management of projects and business. When working with contractors and content providers, and even moreso with publishers, funds, accountants, and lawyers, it can be exceedingly time consuming to manage the business of games. I still find it fun in its own way, but not nearly as exciting as game development itself.

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

Recently I’ve been playing a lot of Kerbal Space Program, Destiny, and Crypt Of The NecroDancer. They’re all fantastic in their own way. KSP excels at risk and reward management and physics-based gameplay – putting a Kerbal on the Mun is a herculean feat, one that leaves an emotional impact. Destiny has a number of flaws, not least including its labyrinthian storyline, but the gameplay – and notably the game feel - are exceedingly satisfying. And Crypt of the NecroDancer is tough, simple, and unbelievably fun (not to mention its fantastic soundtrack).

  • What are some trends you see in upcoming games?

Many publishers are becoming much more interested in independent games, so I think we’ll see far more indie games on major console platforms. As for the games themselves, we’re starting to see more interesting blends of genres in unique ways – Crypt of the NecroDancer is a good example of this. Games as a whole are maturing, too, so I think the stories and worlds we explore in them will become much more interesting, in a lot of ways.

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

Programming! Learn to code, learn to code well, and you can create anything you want. Though if coding isn’t your forte (say if you’re an artist or sound designer), learning about all the separate jobs required to make a game is important for effective communication. Even if you’re just a programmer, artist, manager, whatever, it’s valuable to know a bit about how every aspect of development works.

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

Pick your focus, and build your team around that. Find out what you enjoy doing most and get good at it. Don’t stress about being a master of everything. Then find teammates you work well with who complement your skill set with their own.

Also, for the love of god, keep your scope small. Have a finished and fun small game, rather than a big unfinished idea.

Thanks for the update Nick, Congratulations on your Best Social/Casual Game win at the CVA’s, and we look forward to seeing your next game!