Today with us Maxim Lakomsky - senior game designer and project manager of Deck of Ashes. He is responsible for all your favorite in-game mechanics, powerful card combinations, unique character style, monster mechanics and much more.
Hello, fellow! Tell me about your profession, what do you do? Who's a game designer?
Hey, Sly! A game-designer is a person who creates a general concept of the game and thinks through all its details, all its sides. A game designer creates so-called design documents and technical tasks for the whole dev team. From the basic idea of the game, the story tie, and the basic mechanic, to a detailed description of each individual monster - how it's skils will work for the programmer, how it will look for the artist, how it will sound for the composer and how the game will be presented in the advert materials. In other words, the whole game is in the head of the game designer, and the team embodies his vision through the documentation prescribed by him.
How long have you been in the team? What did you do when you first joined the guys?
I joined the team 3 months before the release of the game in early access. In fact, I was hired to make this release happen. There was a wide range of tasks and it was necessary to bring the project to a playable form. A lot of work has already been done at that time: if I am not mistaken, a tutorial was created right before I got hired. When I joined the team, the first thing I started doing was bosses. Then I started working on monsters' skills and concepts. All the artworks had already been done by that time. I also did a lot more than that. There were a million smaller tasks. And creating a demo version for closed-door shows of the game, of course. It was a very important stage.
What's the hardest part about work for you?
You! *Laughing* Actually, it was Sly's creation phase that was very hard for me, but not the most difficult one. The hardest part was combining several tasks at once. You're afraid to forget something, to miss something, because of that you come back to check tasks several times, and in the end, you spend a lot of time and even less of it remains for the next tasks. A game designer needs to be just an equilibrist of time management. Without that, you can't do anything.
I know that bloodthirsty jester Magnus is your doing. What makes this character so different from the others?
The number of Magnus' unique skills and, in particular, the ability to control the mind of opponents. I came up with this almost as soon as I started working on the game at first. And I waited a long time to finally get to the point where we could bring all my ideas to life. At one point, we decided it was worth making Magnus as powerful as possible and gave him a second important skill, the ability to summon the Phantom. That was a tough technical challenge for our programmer because the mechanics of the game that had already been created didn't include the possibility of creating summoned creatures on the player's side. It was... really exciting!
What are you playing yourself? What games have helped you better understand the direction chosen for Deck of Ashes?
I've played thousands of PC games, no exaggeration, seriously. Many hundreds of games I played to the end, some even a few times. From early childhood, I've played many genres - shooters, strategies, RPGs... To a lesser extent, some kinds of sports, like racing. But I personally associate Deck of Ashes, in many ways, with the Heroes of Might and Magic III. And I don't consider more obvious comparisons - everyone already knows them. But I tried to make sure that the players get at least a fraction of the feelings that I myself once felt, sitting for another mission in HOMM3 - that atmosphere of the gameplay cant be conveyed by words, it must be felt.
Guys who are just beginning their game-designing journey. What would you suggest to them?
Pump up your mind and understand the industry. Just wanting to create a game does not make you a game designer. But the desire plus knowledge of what hundreds of games are made of, how does it work, and how to organize the workflow for yourself. That's what makes you a game designer. But how successful you become depends only on you and your personal qualities. Don't just stand there, pump up!
And finally: blitz! Lovecraft or Steven King? Why a game design? What is the power of a game designer?
1) Lovecraft, definitely. I even read it in the original, I love it. 2) Because I can. 3) The power of a game designer in the imagination and the ability to stand in the place of each team member. A good game designer should be able to at least a little understanding of everything that entrusts the others to do - an art, a code, marketing, all at once.
Thank you for your guidance and detailed answers. It was interesting!