EXCLUSIVE: Gregg Mayles Discusses Game Design

EDITOR’S NOTE: This brief discussion with Gregg Mayles on Game Design was held in November of 2007. Things at Rare have obviously changed since then and this is not necessarily a representation of Rare’s current hiring process.

RareFanDaBase: For someone to apply for a Game Designer job what do they have to showon their resume for a company to give them a chance?

Gregg Mayles: Getting a job in design is probably the hardest discipline to get into. EVERYONE likes to think they are a game designer and to an extent this is true. Everyone has opinions on the games they play and the games they would like to play, so just by thinking like this you are thinking like a designer has to. But not everyone makes a good designer! It’s easy to copy what has been done before but extremely difficult to innovate.

RFDB: Does every game related job start off as a tester? Are there any internships or beta testing opportunities?

GM: Not every game related job starts off as a tester. Rare’s testing department in the past has produced people that have done on to be (mostly) designers, but also a few artists, programmers and audio roles too. I was Rare’s first person who moved from testing into a development role. For many years I was able to evaluate the people we had in our testing department and give those with potential a foot onto the ladder of design. Some of these people have gone on to lead games of their own.

But Rare now uses temporary staff from an agency to test our games so this option is no longer as prominent. Although we do not currently offer internships in design (we do for programming and art) I think it is only a matter of time before we do. Getting a job working for a testing agency may be a ‘way’ into the industry, as it allows you to experience different games in different companies. It’s not as glamorous or as well paid as you might think but it’s a foot in the door.

Be persistent and make yourself stand out is probably the best advice I can give you. We had one guy who sent us a letter a day until we gave him an interview! (he got the job in testing and I recently worked with him as a designer on VP). Once you have a foot in the door (wherever that may be) make yourself noticed. Being able to test a game and point out bugs is relatively easy, but being able to point out why a game is not as good as it can be is much harder. Look at the best games in each genre and work out what is wrong with them? How would you make a game in that genre that surpasses the best currently on offer? How would you make a FPS better than Halo? Or a platformer better than Mario Galaxy? These are the people that I would be looking for – if they know what makes a game great then they are probably capable of making a great game themselves!