Welcome to Dev Game Club, where this week we welcome another interview, this time with industry veteran and current VP of Design at Schell Games, Harley Baldwin. Harley talks about her path through the industry and about her time especially at LucasArts and Republic Commando, on which she served as a level designer. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.
Issues covered: how Harley got her start, planning to get into photographic printing, crashing a friend's interview, knowing a tuck-in top from a hang-over top, figuring out technical art challenges, getting a programmer to do some interpolation, emergence of digital cameras, the unsung heroism of technical art, making one kind of data into another kind of data, overlapping art and engineering, figuring out how to blend animations for locomotion, learning from designers via over-the-shoulder watching, the three-point slice, trying to figure out how to build stuff, moving to design, not having to worry about both the architecture and the gameplay at the same time, getting designers to play and talk, becoming a lead systems designer, communicating the use of systems, advocating for designs, VR and location-based entertainment, hard and interesting problems, encouraging design skill overlap, getting the design document on day one, LucasArts using proprietary technology and the internal controversy, believing you need the author of the engine in-house, the conversations between level designers, talking about how to make the bridge moment, building momentum, speaking level designers' language, coming on late and fixing cover bugs and optimizing spaces, figuring out how and whether to do jungle, arguing over the spotlights, trying to find solutions together, level ownership, getting enough distance to see what needs to be real or what needs to be smoke and mirrors, the creepiness of the Prosecutor, giving the designer you once were a talking to, getting stuck on Troy's level, designing to the peak experience, the story of what a designer is trying to say, finishing your own level on hard... over a few hours, QA beating it eventually, lacking storytelling tools and using design tools like difficulty, door breaches and hints, the "doors and hallways engine," how to tackle a dwarf spider droid, still figuring things out as you ship, building to a character moment, being in the perfect spot, the old home tour of enemies, "hey player, you can handle this now," "Brett's favorite room," the energy and communication of that team, "Nobody reads your docs," designers and difficulty, "when do you turn off god mode," watching people play, your applicant pool of user testing players, three things you'd change about project/process, fumbling towards scrum/agile, how seeing where the squad was going changed the game dramatically, VR and its problems to solve, meeting Harley for the first time, the Starfighter pie meeting, Pi Day, Tim delivers a pie to Brett's apartment, "I might worry about a random pie," East Coast geography, the team helping get you through the making of the game, the special atmosphere of LucasArts, good people working with good people, defending Tim's honor, difficulty and Constraint Satisfaction Problems, Boss Keys series, Longo Calrisian, positioning and leadership, lowering ammo and tuning towards the focus fire mechanic, the hot targets, differences between PC and Xbox, difficulty codes, marketing, Starfighter III: Jedi Starfighter II: Starfighter Outcast or Reti Player One, a plea for orbital strikes in more video games.
Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussed: American Laser Games/Her Interactive, LucasArts, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, Starfighter (series), RTX Red Rock, Crystal Dynamics, Tomb Raider (series), Demiurge, Nihilistic Software, Rock Band, Resistance, Call of Duty, Schell Games, PhotoStyler, McKenzie & Company, Mad Dog McCree, Drug Wars, 3D0, Vampire Diaries, Nancy Drew (series), Debabelizer, Jedi Knight, Reed Knight, X-COM: The Bureau, Jesse Schell, Disney VR, Unreal, Galactic Battlegrounds, Age of Empires, Outlaws, Troy Mashburn, Pat Sirk, Jesse Moore, Juli Logemann, Uncharted, Kevin "Schmitty" Schmitt, Xbox, Microsoft, Jeffrey "Pinecone" Sondin-Kung, I Expect You to Die, Until You Fall, PlayStation VR, GDC, David Collins, Blarg42, Anachronox, Violet B. Trudel, Pokemon, Oliver Uvman, Sokoban, Super Mario Bros 3, Stephen's Sausage Roll, Final Fantasy XIII-2, King's Quest, Gothic Chocobo, Game Maker's Toolkit, Mark Brown, Zelda (series), Leon Buckel, Greg Knight, Sam Thomas, June, Jocko Willink, Leif Babin, Dark Forces, GameSpot, Billy/The2ndQuest, Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, Forza, Tetris99, Animal Crossing, Charlie Rocket, Kirby's Epic Yarn, Epic Mickey, Final Fantasy VI, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Kirk Hamilton, Aaron Evers.
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