It’s been about a year since the seventh class of Game Design students at VFS graduated. One of the teams from that class created a third-person action-strategy game called Bloom, which would end up helping the five teammates – Mike Wilson, Guilherme Ramos, Brennan Massicotte, Adrian Audet, and Brian Vidovic – begin their professional careers.
One year later, we asked them to reflect on their experiences at VFS and to discuss careers: 5 grads in 5 different roles at 5 different game companies.
This is the second part of five in a series of interviews we’ll be running all week. Read Part 1 (Relic Narrative Designer Mike Wilson) here.
Then: Bloom‘s Technical Director
Now: Cinematic Designer at BioWare
What does “Cinematic Designer” actually mean at BioWare?
Cinematic Designer is a role that I believe started at BioWare. Other companies might have similar positions, but they have other names.
It came from the necessity of telling a very complex storyline in a game, using dialogue and cutscenes. Now that we have advanced graphics, with high-fidelity facial expressions and lifelike characters, it’s not as easy as it was with older, mostly text-based RPG games – Baldur’s Gate, etc.
So when BioWare was making Mass Effect, they created a new category of designers. There are the technical designers, responsible for making the game mechanics work, by populating the levels, scripting the events and plots. And there are the cinematic designers, responsible for supporting the story, by adding animations, gestures, camera cuts and so on to the dialogue.
This way, we hope that players can experience not only the fun aspects of the game but the emotional ties that the story creates.
What did you think you got out of being part of the Bloom team, in the end?
Learning to work on a team was probably what I mostly got out of it.
Since I used to do freelance work, working by myself at home, it was an interesting experience. Especially since it was a collective work – how to explain and have people embrace your ideas.
I also got an awesome and professional game out of it, which is not something easy to do.
You were Bloom‘s Technical Director – has that role informed your current one?
In part, yes. A Cinematic Designer uses a lot of different tools every day, so it helps a lot having a technical background. But at the same time, you need the artistic sensibility of a movie director.
But I really believe that any experience in the game industry is good experience. If you understand a bit of programming, even if you are an artist, it helps in communicating with them and understanding the limitations and possibilities.
What advice would you give somebody just now entering the Game Design program at VFS?
For someone that just started I would have to say to really embrace the course. Don’t just do the bare minimum to get acceptable grades… Use your personal time to learn and improve your work. They can show you the path, but no one is going to hold your hand and walk you through it.
What about someone just graduating?
I think it’s important to know that it’s hard to get a job as a game designer right out of school. You won’t be creating your own games any time soon, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t influence a game you’re working on.
Because of this, it’s more important to get into the industry than to keep waiting for the perfect designer job. A lot of the designers from BioWare started at QA, for instance.
Quite a few VFS grads – from Game Design and other programs – also work at BioWare. Do you work closely with any of them?
I used to work with Armando Troisi, and I learned a lot from him. But I recently moved to the Dragon Age team, so now I’m on the same project as Mark Barazzuol, who was a couple classes before me at VFS.
VFS Game Design Senior Instructor Andrew Laing on Guilherme:
His cinematic background was known to me from earlier in the program, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him take on a technical role so successfully as the programmer for the team. It was great to see Gui get hired at his dream company.