Introducing a new blog series showcasing the key pieces of Lightneer - our professionals.

At Lightneer, we employ around twenty professionals in their respective fields, from game designers to HR professionals. Since people are at the core of our values – it’s time for the blog to introduce them also and, above all, to delve into the professions and the crazy skills they possess.

We have 3 Game Designers working for us and for this blog we sat down with Atilla and Sofia. You may have already bumped into Atilla on our social media accounts during Lightneer’s #MeetTheTeam introductions. This Turkish superforce for Finland arrived at Lightneer just under a year ago and in their own words, have enjoyed every moment.

Director to a movie

Director to a movie or an architect for metrics. This is how poetically Atilla sums up his job as a Game Designer. Game Designers define the game’s vision of its world, by building the world like an architect and setting its rules. Atilla continues: “We answer millions of questions like how and when it will be done, and in which condition it will be done, and just basically setting the rules and variables. Our job is to find The Fun Factor and balance it for the players”. So, the main goal is for the players to enjoy the games we make for them. 

The Game Designer’s job is more about the technical side, what the game does and what happens in it. 3D artists are the ones usually responsible for the visual side. Of course, the Game Designer can also give their two cents on the visuals; “What should the enemy look like, is there anger or even fear on their face? Because all of these details create emotions for players and a big part of our job is creating emotions for them and even affect those emotions.”

How does creating games with Lightneer work in practice? We currently have three three teams and one game designer in each. Every team is independent and operates as such. Each team chooses its own projects, and in the past before the strategy change, had discussions with the publishers about the ideas and hopes for the game and basically started from there.

New strategy – New way of working?

A while ago we announced a new direction in our strategy, moving from hyper casual games to hybrid casual games and towards self-publishing. How does this affect Atillas work as a Game Designer? “I think Lightneer did a really good job from transitioning themselves early on from hyper casual to hybrid casuals, because we can embrace the new genre and be ahead of our competitors. We can also learn more, so to sum up it was an excellent move for us as a company.” The change has brought big changes to Game Designers daily lives, as hybrid casual games have very different dynamics compared to hyper casuals, like Atilla puts it. Game Designers must also be able to adapt to new situations, changes and activate a new way of thinking in their work. “New rules, new things”. Biggest change? “Depths and mechanics of the game. You need to think about the game’s economy, its variables, its currencies, player onboarding, game balancing, and so on. Lots of new things added to my life and I love the challenge!”

Game balancing plays a major role in the production of new games from a Game Designer’s point of view. This balance means, for example, how the economy works, how much money in the game you gain, it relates to the number of lives a player or enemy has and the damage, the momentum. All the really cool stuff! 

Finally, the best part of the game designing process for Atilla: “Creating the design documents. Because that is the part that challenges you a lot, you must think about every aspect of the game and you need to document so clearly that everyone can read and understand what is going on, and the fact that we can always refer to the documentation later.” Sounds like challenge is really the key for Game Designers enjoyment. “That’s true, my motto is, if you don’t challenge yourself you can’t grow.” Also, an important aspect in any process – mistakes. During his three-and-a-half-year career as a Game Designer, Atilla says he has made many mistakes, but the key point is that you learn from them. Because if you don’t make mistakes “you’re doing something wrong”. Sometimes you must make mistakes to see exactly what doesn’t work and understand what is working. Here’s proof; once everything was perfect on paper, but things didn’t  go as planned… lesson learned.

Want to become a Game Designer – follow the lead!

How can one become a Game Designer? There are many routes to becoming a Game Designer, the most popular of which is certainly through the school bench. However, it is not the only option. If there is a will there’s a way – right Atilla? “If you find it interesting, go for it! I’ve always been interested in playing games, and I’m self-taught. I studied German language and literature at the university, and self-taught myself on game design fundamentals. With studying literature, I learned to deconstruct and reconstruct so my learning from my field is helping me on the job now as a Game Designer. The best thing about the games industry is that it’s open to everyone!”

Design Lead as a mentor for Game Design Teams

Who’s pulling the designer bandwagon then? Meet Sofia, Lightneers Design Lead who started as an intern in 2017 and has since made her way to the top designing position. While studying, Sofia took part in an event organized by the school, which turned out to be a stroke of luck as “I was tipped off at the event by a Rovio representative that a company called Lightneer was looking for interns for levels. After a 2am Google search, I sent in my application, got a call in the morning and was soon sitting for an interview. Three hours later I got a call saying “welcome”, it was a crazy feeling.” Sofia has progressed from intern to Junior Game Designer and from to her current role, where she spends half her time as Senior Designer and half as Design Lead.

The key word here is “lead”. To be a boss in the old-fashioned sense of the word is so last season, “I want to be involved in supporting teams to give them the tools to perform at their best. Offering advice, not telling them what to do, and asking the necessary questions.”

Creating a productive space in the midst of change

In short, her responsibilities include the development of design and its quality and maintenance, product quality control and, above all, the human aspect of creating a space where people come together; “it’s especially important as we want to unify our work so we all get to learn as much as possible from everyone’s experiences!”

So, we have to ask, change from hyper casual games to hybrid casuals. This change is also reflected in a positive way in the work of the Design Lead. The core business remains the same. The biggest changes are in the way the goals are changed and how the potential for growth is enabled. “The biggest change is to create design with more depth and expanding opportunities. It’s important to enable the game to have growth potential rather than just creating quick experiences, it’s all about relevance.” Development and learning are extremely important in both game design and teamwork. “You learn things just by talking, it’s important to look back at projects and think about what could have been done differently. Something new always comes up.”

Best bits at being in a game industry for Sofia? “Globalism, endless possibilities, collaborative results, adventure and a certain hecticness.” She explains that just a few days ago they were analyzing where Bazooka Boy was being played. “All over the world! It’s incredible to think that someone, or actually in this case million players at the same time, on the other side of the globe are enjoying something that the team has created.”

Soon we will be able to enjoy the new winds of change that the strategy change will bring in the form of hybrid casual games.