A Conversation with… Shadi Dadenji

This time A Conversation with… tracked down Shadi Dadenji, from our 9th graduating class, who just finished the Witcher 3.


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

I had just finished toiling away on The Witcher 3 in Warsaw before moving to Guerrilla Games in Amsterdam where I’m now a senior technical designer on Horizon: Zero Dawn (chances are you just saw the announcement at e3)

  • How has this changed since you graduated?

I’ve been following a pretty linear path in my career so far with the exception of a brief stint in the mobile/social scene that proved incompatible with my interests and experience at the time. I started off as a technical designer on Sleeping Dogs at UFG but soon after, the industry (and the economy as a whole) went through some major shifts and difficult times and further work was difficult to come by in Vancouver so I moved to Europe.


  • Can you describe a typical day in your office?

I’m still starting off at Guerrilla so my typical day includes asking a lot of questions, sticking tons of Post It’s all around, and familiarizing myself with the game and the people. But as a technical designer, my responsibilities lie in having a broad understanding of the game and tools in order to empower the various content designers who are building it.


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

Brainstorming and prototyping is usually the most fun and rewarding. You kick around a few ideas with your neighbors, then sit down to implement it, whine/complain/scream at your code for not doing what you thought you told it to do, recognize your mistake and let out a guilty sigh, and then hit the play button and show everyone the cool little thing you just made. High-fives all around!
Then you start nearing launch milestones and realize that the only way you’re going to make it is by somehow adding 4 hours to every 24-hour cycle. It’s no secret that crunch can be brutal in this industry and it’s very taxing to deal with while keeping a handle on your health and relationships.


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

I’m going through my Steam grocery list right now and I’m currently on Shadowrun: Dragonfall (kudos to GD alumni Kevin Maloney and Simon Cameron by the way). I’m really enjoying the narrative and customizing my character. And when I’m not on that, I’m replaying This War of Mine for the nth time (shout out to the talented people at 11bit back in Warsaw). That game hit the perfect balance between storytelling, gameplay, and emotions.


  • What are some trends you see in upcoming games?

Open-world! Open-world is the new cover system! Needs more open-world! I don’t know if it’s a good or a bad thing but I certainly won’t have time to play every game that I’m interested in simply because they’re all becoming 100+ hours open-world giants. Thank Yoda there are still some studios dedicated to your humble 8 hour linear adventure!


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

Time management, project management, and communication. There are things youtube tutorials will teach you. Those were not three of those things! Plan ahead and document it. Under-promise and over-deliver. And as the venerable Ivan Allan once told my class: “Keep it simple, stupid!”.


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

This is coming from a AAA developer to a AAA aspiring designer: find your strength and stick to it. Nurture it every way you can and market yourself as the best in it. AAA studios have grown so large and games have become so complicated that there’s a specialist for every little nook and cranny. Be the best specialist you can be while still retaining a shallow understanding of other departments and their work.

And if you’re an aspiring mobile designer, I don’t know…pick up an economics book or something!

That’s all!


Thanks for the update Shadi, best of luck with Horizon: Zero Dawn!