This week A Conversations with… reaches out to an alumni from our 6th graduating class, Sean Bosshardt.
- Tell me about what you are doing now in the Games Industry
I am currently the Lead Combat Designer on WildStar Online at Carbine Studios.
- How has this changed since you graduated?
Since graduating from VFS, I have held a number of positions on a number of projects. I started out as a Content Designer on Warhammer Online. Once WAR launched, I became a Systems Designer and later the Lead Items Designer on the project, focusing on supporting the Live game. I then switched projects to work as a Systems Designer on Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes, the battle arena spin-off from WAR.
After 4 years at Mythic, I moved west to California where I worked as a Senior Systems Designer on Universal Monsters Online. From there, I moved to Carbine Studios as a Senior Systems Designer working on Creature Combat. I then started a brand new team and became the Lead Creature Combat Designer. Just recently, I became the Lead Combat Designer which includes both the Creature Combat team as well as the Class team.
- Can you describe a typical day in your office?
Typically, my day consists of a number of meetings. Beyond those, I work closely with my teams to ensure the work we are doing is what the game needs. Working on a Live project is a constant tug of war between fixing bugs, working on updates to the Live game for future patches as well as designing and implementing brand new features. Due to the number of things that my teams are juggling, a large portion of my time is spent figuring out priorities for the work that needs to be done. These priorities are based on what I feel the game needs based on player feedback and metrics as well as the views from the Directors on the project.
- What’s the most fun thing you get to do? What’s the most stressful/challenging?
The thing I find most fun is also the most challenging and stressful part of the job – working on a Live game! It can be extremely stressful if things are not going to plan with regards to a feature, but being able to solve the problem and get that solution out there to the players is extremely satisfying. Keeping a constant line of communication between the developer and the player is extremely important while working on a Live game. That being said, there is a fine line between what can be conveyed to players and what should be conveyed to them. As a designer, you should never promise that a feature is going to be fixed by ‘x’ date or patch. So many things can happen behind the scenes, it might be months before that feature or bug fix can make it into the Live build. By committing to the player that it will be fixed, you have set an expectation and could potentially lose a customer when that expectation is not met.
- What games are you playing right now, and what elements have impressed you?
I am of course playing WildStar, but I am also playing Hearthstone. I have always loved TCG games and I love the added features Blizzard is working on, especially Solo Adventures. It allows you to think about a specific “encounter” and build a deck specifically for the things that you know are going to be thrown at you. I’m also a major sucker for collecting things, both within games and outside of games
- What are some trends you see in upcoming games?
It seems that the subscription model is making its way back to the forefront of online gaming. Having said that, it is not the complete subscription that we were used to in the early 2000’s. I see more and more games implementing a hybrid model that includes subscription, MTX and even multiple subscription levels. It is fascinating to watch the ebb and flow of price models as game studios try to come up with new, inventive ways to fund their projects.
- What do you feel was the most valuable skill that you learned in the Game Design program at VFS?
Something that was exposed to us during our time at VFS was the fact that the industry is a very, very small place. You will constantly run into people that you know from your time at school, conventions, previous positions or even third party acquaintances. It is vitally important that you are friendly to everybody you meet and if you can help them out, do so! You never know when the favor will be returned.
- If you could give a current student in Game Design some advice, what would it be?
Iteration is necessary. Throughout my experience in this industry, young designers come in with grand ideas and large scoped plans for the game. Most of the time, they are fantastic ideas. With infinite time and resources they would definitely be something that we would want to do. That is almost never the case on a project, however, and learning not to get married to a design will greatly reduce stress and frustration. So many instances during my time in the industry I have designed a system, or a set of features, that inevitably get changed due to time constraints, technical limitations or the vision of my superiors. Being able to “roll with the punches” so to speak, will not only keep your own self confidence high, it will also go a long way with your superiors in conveying a level of maturity that is coveted when seeking talent.
Thanks for your time Sean, and best of luck on your current project
Dave Warfield is the Head of Game Design at VFS