Heyo! I'm Bill Gardner, Director of Perception from my new studio The Deep End Games.

Perception is an indie narrative horror game where you play as a blind woman who uses echolocation to solve the mysteries of a haunted mansion.

Previously, I was Lead Level Designer on BioShock and Design Director on BioShock Infinite.

I'd love to chat about Perception, starting an indie studio, the BioShock games, getting a start in the industry, or anything game related really. Fire away!

More on Perception, which comes out May 30 on PC, PS4, XB1 for $19.99

http://store.steampowered.com/app/426310/Perception/

proof: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_71a6t6xJhlZ2NiTGVNNVg5MVk/view?usp=sharing

Comments: 144 • Responses: 61  • Date: 

JavierLoustaunau17 karma

How does one go from Gamestop Employee to working in the industry? One would assume THAT is where creating an indie game would have come in handy...

TheDeepEndGames12 karma

There is no real set path. I happened to be in the right place and the right time where...get this...I met Ken Levine (BioShock's Creative Director) at my store!

Now, obviously, everyone can't do that same thing. However, there are so many more opportunities out there.

The best path, it seems to me, is to just pick up an engine. Download Unreal and start messing around. It's amazingly intuitive and there are COUNTLESS tutorials out there. That seems daunting, I know, but it will give you a good sense for if you even like the line of work. :)

Networking is also key. Meet people at a PAX, or offer to beta test on an upcoming indie game. Just get out there and make stuff.

Happy to chat more if you ever want to hit me on Twitter @GameOnGardner

SchoolBotQ6 karma

This is the best advice. I changed career paths to move into journalism, and I was lucky enough to have one of my favorite writers reach out to me and meet me for coffee to help me transition.

His advice was basically the same. "Pick a topic and cover it relentlessly. Build a portfolio, then start applying. Your work will speak for itself."

Since then I've come very close to getting a full-time position in journalism, and I did the same thing with illustration.

It's hard, and it takes a LOT of time, but if your heart's in it, it's worth it. Nothing feels better than that breakthrough moment where you realize the quality of your work is up there with your idols.

TheDeepEndGames4 karma

I like your style School!

[deleted]-9 karma

wow man great advice.... fuckin idiot

TheDeepEndGames7 karma

I am a complete idiot.

pcells8 karma

What is your highest score on MonacoGP?

TheDeepEndGames9 karma

I am hurt you bring that here, Greg.

TheDeepEndGames3 karma

This summer, you are going down for good.

Litng3 karma

How did you manage to work at GameStop without feeling dirty and evil?

TheDeepEndGames4 karma

Be nice. :p I happen to love Gamestop. The people there are usually awesome.

SwiggoMortensen3 karma

What is it like to have been a part of such an influential series like Bioshock?

TheDeepEndGames8 karma

A complete dream. So much frickin talent on that team. Needless to say, I learned A TON.

It had a profound impact on my career, but also on my life. I feel I had an impact on the series, and hope that you can feel some of that in Perception.

nuckingfuts733 karma

Hey Bill! I've been playing games for almost 30 years and I have to say I don't think I've ever played a game that immersed me into its world more than the Bioshock series, so I'm a huge fan of the work you do. I'm excited to play Perception and I'll ask a really generic question, but I am honestly curious as to where the inspiration for the game came from?

TheDeepEndGames4 karma

First off, THANKS!

We had a team of hugely talented folks, so we drew from all over. Ken was obviously the driving force behind most of the inspiration, but he was one of the most open CDs I've ever met. He always liked to be challenged and introduced to new ideas.

I think one of the keys though was that the series drew from so many different wells. There's the Cohen brother films, art deco, etc. We were all over the map and I think it showed.

It was always amazing to come into work and have people sharing new references. I distinctly remember JP, one of our designers coming in one day with some photos from Alcatraz. They were inmate booking photos of men who had clearly had a rough go making their way to prison. These helped inspire some of the feeling that went into creating the splicers for example.

hunnidew19783 karma

Roscoe McQueen: Firefighter Extreme. Great game? Or greatest game?

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

I don't really consider it a game...I consider it a way of life.

thesurvivalproject2 karma

Do you consider hotdogs a sandwich?

TheDeepEndGames5 karma

Absolutely not. Get that out of here right now.

Also, have you downloaded Jin Yang's Not Hotdog App?

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

What I wouldn't give for him to get a spinoff series.

TheChaseFace2 karma

What strengths have you discovered you have through developing games?

Similarly, have you discovered any creative weaknesses?

This is not an interview question, no pressure. :)

TheDeepEndGames3 karma

I have found I am really effective at identifying problems and solving them. Sounds kind of simple, but so much of development is about putting out fires in the right way.

Of course! I am a oral processor, which means I tend to have to say stuff out loud to figure out where I stand on something. This can mean that sometimes in meetings, I will go on this journey where I am walking through my thought process and leave people confused. It's fine for people who know me, like Amanda, Perception's writer (who also happens to be my wife).

Over the years, I've learned when to say "let me get back to you on that" so I can sort through stuff on my own first.

coryrenton2 karma

what is the strangest tax write-off you've expensed in forming or running an indie studio?

TheDeepEndGames3 karma

Haha. Hey, it feels weird to expense games in the first place.

coryrenton2 karma

oculus grift?

TheDeepEndGames3 karma

savage

ObjectionAce1 karma

Aside from the games you have worked on, what's your favorite game of all time?

TheDeepEndGames3 karma

Tough call, but I would probably say either Zelda A Link to the Past or Super Metroid.

You?

ObjectionAce2 karma

There's a lot of great games out there, but my overall favorite is Banjo-Kazooie.

TheDeepEndGames3 karma

I have very fond memories of BK. It came out over the summer and I was doing landscape design. At one of the houses I worked at, the kid was playing that game pretty much all week. I remember being able to tell what part of the world the player was in based on the music. That stuck with me. Probably inspired Perception to an extent. I have always felt that sound doesn't play as big a role in games as it should. Well, thankfully I am working with the uber talented Jim Bonney on Perception.

haXona1 karma

Hey Bill! Backer asking a question here.

I am writing a thesis on soundscape interaction in games right now and it's been fun to do this based on Rayman Legends. If I ever were to make a follow-up thesis it would probably involve perception since it's so sound focused.

So the question is, what made you choose this direction of your game when you were brainstorming ideas?

Looking forward to the end of this journey and hope for a nice successful launch :)

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

That is a thesis I would love to read.

Rayman Legends blew my mind with some of those musical levels (Black Betty in particular).

The idea to create a game where you play as a blind woman hit me after grad school class one night when my professor said to the class, "by the time you get to your cars tonight, you're going to think of a brilliant idea."

I ran through a bunch of game ideas Amanda and I had kicked around, and focused on horror. It was a dark night, and one of the lights in the parking lot was out, so I thought "what if you played as a blind person."

Immediately called Amanda and started researching echolocation and prototyping.

One of the things I want to always do with every game we make at The Deep End is to always have a core concept that makes you kind of do a double take. But then something clicks. I think Perception represents that perfectly. When I pitch it sometimes, people are like "wait, you are blind?" But then when they see it or you describe it further, they have this epiphany.

Those reasons, and I really wanted to work with Jim Bonney again, and think that audio in games is often not given the attention it deserves.

haXona1 karma

Ahh brilliant, always fun to know the why of a creation 😄

want to always do with every game we make at The Deep End

Okay so if everything goes well with Perception marketing wise, we will see more of you guys in the future? That's my interpretation :P

Also my thesis will be in Swedish so sadly you are out of luck, however if I ever write a follow-up it will probably be about Perception and in English :)

So looking forward to playing the game when I am done writing!

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

That's the plan, so spread the word!

I am guessing google translate would not do your thesis justice :p

Thanks!

HadTo871 karma

Hey there,

Congrats on your evolution through the industry.

Do games like League of Legends appeal to you? And if so, in what way? If they don't appeal to you in a fundamentally pleasing way, why not?

Crysis or Halo?

And, what would you say is the name for a position whose role on the team is to just throw creative ideas out for characters and story line? I'm interested in a position like this. :D

Take care

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Every type of video game appeals to me. Games have always and will always be miraculous to me.

I really appreciate LoL, but never really got that into it. Mostly just a function of time.

I do like Crysis a lot, particularly Crysis 2, which I think is exceptional and one of the best shooters last generation, but for me, Halo all the way. Particularly Halo 1 and 3. Both MP and SP.

Unfortunately, I know of no such positions. :p In my experience, you have to get in the trenches to a degree.

HadTo871 karma

Thank you X 4. :)

By the way, I really enjoyed your IAma. You're considerate, thoughtful, and your personality is vibrant.

Take care

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Daw. Thank you! This is a ton of fun. Just love talking games!

HadTo872 karma

Hey, and apparently talking as well! It's one thing to be competent in your field, and another to be that and conversationally adept! Not to mention probably a well rounded person. Have you ever watched Numberphile on youtube? Case in point: Some mathematicians social prowess is severely disproportionate to their mathematical ability. It's almost painful. Then you have Cedric Villani. He's got the best of both worlds and genuinely interesting.

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

I have never heard of Numberphile or Cedric Villani.

I am a firm believer in "multiple intelligence" theory made popular by Howard Gardner. The mind is far too complex to be pinned down to one particular axis. I haven't checked in on his theories in a long time, so for all I know they've been shot down completely by now. But they do make a lot of sense to me.

I am definitely going to check out Numberphile. My math skills are not the strongest, but I have a deep appreciation for those who can master mathematics. I am also fascinated by statistics of any sort, so if they touch upon anything there, it's in my wheelhouse.

frauenarzZzt1 karma

How has the independent development market changed since the fold of Irrational to founding The Deep End Games to publishing? What tools have you found important, and what tricks have you found useful in standing out in an increasingly saturated marketspace?

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Interesting. The landscape is always changing. I think we are going through a period where change is the norm and I don't believe anyone really has a grasp for where things are headed.

The recurring themes are always about creating outstanding, original content making all the difference. The competition is fierce out there so you really need to find a way to stand out. For Perception, I think our original take on narrative and horror will go a long way. That's the hope anyway. :)

It is also really important to find people to lean on. We've been very lucky to find partners like Feardemic to help us bring the game to consoles and push us to the finish line.

You have to plan for things to change and be flexible. Nothing is going to go as planned - it's just the nature of the beast.

As usual, it's all relative to the scope of your project, your vision, etc. The biggest mistake I see indie's make is think they have it all figured out. If you feel this way, proceed with caution. There is nothing wrong with admitting you need help.

frauenarzZzt1 karma

It is also really important to find people to lean on.

Yeah it's awesome how you've had so much amazing support from the extremely handsome men in the Boston UE4 community. They are definitely the best. Especially that one guy.

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

There is always "that one guy" at these events. ;)

Mathiasb4u1 karma

After working for gamestop do you understand why people hate going in there? Did they make you life your shirt and frisk you?

TheDeepEndGames3 karma

I love going to Gamestop. I wish they still sold retro games like when I used to work there, but still, I love talking with the people who work there.

Mugen5931 karma

Hey Bill,
I just wanted to say Perception looks awesome. I saw a clip of a trailer online when I was looking up new horror games with my wife and we were both like "This is such an awesome idea, playing a blind protagonist using echolocation, I can't believe it hasn't been done before."

The graphics are impressive and the gameplay sounds really fun. Are there any plans for VR support? I recently upgraded to a 1070 and I have this game on my wish list. I plan on getting a HTC Vive. VR won't make or break my purchase decision because this looks so fun and unique I'm itching to jump into it.

Good luck with this! I hope it's a hit! We need more innovative ideas like this in the gaming industry.

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

Thanks a million for the support and kind words!

No plans currently for VR, but I do own headsets and love immersing myself with them.

We may one day support VR, but I think it all depends on how Perception does. If there is enough demand, I would certainly love to make it happen!

d_GAMEMASTER1 karma

From what I heard, there seems to be a switch version of the game in the works. Any updates on that?

Also, thank you for your contributions to the indie scene.

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Nothing to announce right now. We'll let you know if anything changes!

Thanks for the kind words! Hope to make a big splash with Perception!

TheHunterTraveler1 karma

One day I got money around the time Bioshock Infinite was released so I decided to pick up each of the games and play them in order and I got to say amazing games!

Anyway,my question is : Where would you rather live, Rapture or Columbia?

TheDeepEndGames3 karma

I am terrified of both the deep sea and heights, so can I say the Mushroom Kingdom? Please?

We should start a poll. And by "we" I mean "you." I would do it myself if I wasn't a complete tech bozo.

Kaladinar0 karma

As Design Director, what do you think went wrong with Bioshock Infinite? I mean, it's still a fine game, but I believe the first one was significantly better.

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Huh? It was perfect! What do you mean WRONG? In all seriousness, I think it's important to criticize your own work.

I don't think there's much that I would call "wrong" but I do see feedback that people wish there was more combat that was open and improvisational like BioShock 1. I totally get that. Our focus was mostly on the world, Elizabeth, the atmosphere, etc. Looking back, there are definitely some things I'd want to tweak, but I am incredibly proud of the game and the team.

What would YOU have liked to see done differently? Genuinely curious.

JONofWAR0 karma

What advice would you give to a web developer looking to transition to working in the gaming field?

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Hmmm...it really all depends on what aspect of web development you do. What's your specialty?

JONofWAR0 karma

Most of my programming has been in the C family (currently using C# and SQL at work with some VB6 thrown in for conversion tasks). I've played around some with Unreal but nothing worth bragging about.

Also: looking forward to the game. My wife has been screening the update emails for spoilers :)

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Sounds like you have a great foundation.

First off, don't be shy about whatever you create. Even if it's terrible, be proud that you created something.

With an understanding of C, I would recommend picking some small projects and running with them. They do not have to be entire games, mind you. You could go to the forums and see what kind of challenges developers are facing. What kinds of problems are people having? Then, you might be able to create a package to make available on, say, the Unreal marketplace. There are a ton of fantastic tools that were created by programmers like yourself.

This way, you can dig into the engine, solve real problems, and possibly make connections to get your foot in the door at a studio.

JONofWAR0 karma

Awesome, thanks! I guess I'm just intimidated by all the "must have X launched AAA titles" in job requirements.

Cheers!

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

I feel for you. Ultimately, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter at company X. They are probably faced with countless resumes (I've been there) and it's one of the few tools they have to make their job easier.

Some (most?) companies probably don't have this as a 100% set in stone rule. If you had a killer portfolio that you can get in front of them as easily as possible, chance are they're not going to ignore you. I would take someone with a great portfolio and zero shipped titles over someone with nothing to show for THEMSELVES and 10 shipped titles.

One of the most talented people I've ever worked with basically had no real experience when we hired them for BioShock.

JONofWAR1 karma

I can only imagine how many resumes they get (I've sent mine in several times to the same company lol). Thanks for taking the time, it's been encourage :)

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

I can imagine that being frustrating. Might want to "rebrand" before you reapply to that one place.

JONofWAR1 karma

The place had a couple openings in the span of a year and I applied for each one. Not nearly as stalkerish as I made it sound :)

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Haha. OK.

Definitely helps to show how you've grown and what you've been up to in the interim.

kajnbagoat0 karma

What's your top 5 games of all time?

What future genre are you going to make in any upcoming games you have planned?

What is the biggest problem you feel it is for an indie game developer?

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

Depends what day you ask me. :p

It would likely include: Zelda: LttP Super Metroid WoW System Shock 2 Super Mario World

It kills me to write that as it doesn't include Deus Ex, Mario Kart 64, Breath of the Wild, Tenchu, etc, etc. Aaaaaaaah!!!!

What are yours?

We have some AMAZING ideas for what's next, but it all depends on how Perception does.

For indie devs, aside from finishing projects (surprisingly hard it turns out), it's standing out. It's important to always ask, "why does the audience care?" Sounds terse, but if you can't honestly answer, the audience won't either.

kajnbagoat1 karma

I'm into RPG. Like Skyrim , Witcher , Mass Effect. I started off with strategy games and I used to play pharaoh. But I play any game which keeps me interested.

All the best. Wil surely check out your game .

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

You have mighty fine taste. Love all those, but I haven't played much of The Witcher - been too busy for too long. Hope to pick up 3 when things cool down after Perception.

Rhaegar0770 karma

Bioshock was not a game in my mind, it was an artistic masterpiece! Thanks for your time and effort on that project! Regarding Perception, it seems that the environment is a huge narrative component as it basically tells you the story by revealing itself piece by piece. What was the most challenging part of creating this world that literally engulfs the player into its mystery? Greetings from Honduras! - Cristian Aguilar

TheDeepEndGames3 karma

Wowza! Thanks. The team at Irrational was the home of so much talent. Thank you for playing and the kind words! Makes all the blood sweat and tears worthwhile.

One of the biggest challenges is knowing the right amount of information to reveal. Too much and people get overwhelmed. Too little and they get bored.

In usability tests about 6 months before ship, people HATED the game. They called it a "cheap man's half life 2" and gave it like 3/10. So, we focused on the heart of the feedback, which was mostly centered around the fact that people weren't getting what we wanted them to. They were getting lost, both physically and narratively.

So we set about focusing on clarity. We constantly stopped at every inch of the way and asked "what does the player know right now and why do they give an eff about any of this?" If we couldn't answer that, we knew we had a problem.

GrueneWiese0 karma

From start to finish games often change a lot. Like the first bioshock startet as a Tech-Demo with a space station then it was about an island with nazis and became the game we know today. How much changed Bioshock Infinite and Perception during the development process?

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Iteration is a tricky and necessary beast. Imagine if BioShock was about a Nazi island!

Honestly though, creativity works in strange ways. Sometimes, you can't find the "right" answer until you've sorted through countless "wrong" answers.

Infinite did go through a ton of iteration, tweaks, updates, revamps, etc. You can't really wind up with a world like Columbia without the kind of environment that embraces change.

Perception had its fair share of updates as well, but given the size of the team and how focused the vision was, the iteration was much more about massaging rather than rebooting. At some point, I hope to walk through in detail some of the changes we put into some of the chapters.

Julius-n-Caesar0 karma

Wow, I'll be honest, your title reminds me a little bit of myself. It wasn't too long ago that I was just reviewing and editing other people's work while trying to work on a game and now I'm the screenwriter on an actual video game project that has a ton of fans. I just wanted to thank you for being an inspiration to those of us that are trying to get something out there. Also, thank you so much for this inspiring sequence, it has really influenced a lot of my writing. I just have to ask, it felt like you were putting the weight of the world on our shoulders in that scene, was that intentional?

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Get after it!

Glad to hear you are creating content. I'm curious what it is you're working on!

Full disclosure: I had nothing to do with that sequence.

Julius-n-Caesar0 karma

My team and I are working on a park tycoon simulator called Mesozoica. I was hired as a screenwriter to do what no park simulator had really done before, have a proper storyline, quest line. As one of our lead devs' put it, tycoon games have had objectives but never a defined trail. Anyways, I'm really looking forward to Perception and whatever else you create next.

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Sounds really interesting. Definitely would like to know more.

Julius-n-Caesar0 karma

Here, our website has a ton of information. Thanks for the AMA and I can't stress enough how much I'm looking forward to your game, it really sounds like its up my alley.

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

OMG, this looks like so much fun! When things clear up, I definitely want to check this out. I never played any real Jurassic Park games, so this is going to scratch an itch I've had since I was a kid.

Julius-n-Caesar1 karma

Thanks, I really hope it turns out enjoyable for everyone. It feels really good knowing that someone as experienced as you in the industry even knows of our game.

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Please keep me posted on your progress! @GameOnGardner

Newnewhuman0 karma

What is the requirement to be in a game industry? Know how to code? know how and what to draw (art design) ? experience in any kind of background?

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

All depends on what you're looking to do and where.

Every company is different.

I worked in design for over 15 years now and can't code my way out of a paper bag.

I take it you want in? If so, what areas interest you? I understand if that might be a daunting question. Heck, I had no idea what the difference was between a designer and an artist when I started. Gamasutra is a great place to get an understanding of the different roles.

And YouTube is becoming a bit like a college curriculum for games now.

Lemme know if you think there's a particular area that appeals to you.

Newnewhuman0 karma

Heck yeah, be a part of a game industry would be my dream. Sadly I do not equip any skill or talent related to game industry. Let's say I am interested in your field which is design. What skill need to be ready to get a job like that?

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

Most of the designers I have worked with have all had radically different backgrounds. My Lead on BioShock, Paul Hellquist, was an archaeology major.

What really matters is passion, drive, a willingness to learn and collaborate.

The people who get a foot in the door are the ones who just show up. That may sounds a bit crass, but in reality, with each step - whether it's learning Unreal, building a small sequence, blogging about game design, etc - sets you apart.

I can't stress enough how important it is to just download Unreal and watch some intro videos and tweak. You may fall in love and find yourself building a mock combat sequence for Gears of War, or a narrative bit for a mock BioShock room. Just build something. Build some bad stuff so you can get to the good, then, eventually, the amazing.

Newnewhuman1 karma

Thank you! BioShock was absolutely amazing. I will defiantly play Perception!

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

Please let me know what you think!

Red-Bard0 karma

Hello, Bill!

2 questions:

  1. You mentioned earlier that you met Ken Levine at your store--I'd like to hear that story! Did you guys become friends and then Bioshock happened, or was he a game dev in need of your talents who just happened upon you?
  2. What inspired the setting of Perception--the Estate at Echo Bluff?

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

  1. Small world, right? Well, my boss at Electronics Boutique, who is one of the nicest dudes I've ever met (Bill Grasso) was chatting with this dude. He started ringing him up and then turned to me and said, "Hey Bill, have you met Ken, and his lovely wife Meredith?" I did the usual nice to meet you thing. Then Bill went on to say "Ken created System Shock 2" and I fecking lost it.

I immediately started praising him, and somehow found a way to impress him with my encyclopedic knowledge of the SNES. Anyhow, he kept returning to the store and we continued to hit it off. Eventually he offered me an interview in QA. Ken remains one of my closest friends to this day.

Moral: you never know when you are meeting someone who will forever change your life!

  1. Growing up on the North Shore of Boston. There is something in the air up here. It's teeming with not only history, but some kind of, I dunno, force. There's a reason why so many horror greats come from and were inspired by the region. Stephen King, Edgar Allen Poe, HP Lovecraft, the list goes on and on.

Beyond that, you also need to play Perception as there are very specific reasons why it's this neck of the woods. ;)

immortaljester0 karma

Hey Bill,

Can't wait to see perception in full once the game releases.

One of the questions i have is did you think when creating the bioshock universe that it would be as big as it has become?

Second one would you ever go back and create a forth one if they decided to keep the story going, maybe not the story but maybe the world?

It is hands down one of my favorite series so thank you and your team for creating such an amazing world.

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

Thank you!

Not for a single moment did I think it would get as big as it is. I BELIEVED it should have :) But you just never know. Let's face it, it's a weird series. I am truly grateful people were willing to give it a shot.

It wasn't until we released our demo about 2 weeks before release that we thought we were going to be a commercial success. The morning we released, there were reports of XBox Live sputtering to a hault because so many people were trying to download the demo. We experienced it ourselves at the office! What a relief that morning was!

I would absolutely consider it, but I would be absolutely terrified. The series is so special to me, and to gamers. The pressure would be enormous. Like bottom of the ocean level pressure.

Smittytec0 karma

Are you geography close to the guy from the other AMA thread who has been trapped in a garage with no way to get out?

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

OMG, is this a real thing? Haven't heard about it.

Smittytec0 karma

Yep.. I've already advised him to periodically run the engine to keep the battery charged but I fear he may have to resort to eating his own leg if help doesn't arrive soon. Do you have any good leg recipes?

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

I am not sure if I should laugh.

Smittytec0 karma

It could make a great plot for a new game "Trapped in a Truck in a Garage" based on a true story that wasn't verified. :)

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

You need to go and build this game before someone steals it.

Dro_AA0 karma

Hey Bill, super excited to play perception!

 

A few questions if you have a moment:

 

1: During the late 2000s universities began to roll out programs featuring "Game Design" due to the growing industry around us. I decided to get my degree in game design from a formal University; but as a recent graduate, I cannot help but feel it did not fully prepare me for anything practical that I can take with me in my future career. I'm sure you have seen these programs pop up everywhere, and wanted to know your thoughts about Universities offering degrees based in the game development sector. Do you see it as preying on a group of people? Or a benefit to the growth of the industry?

 

2: With Perception, what were the challenges on creating a game with one of the major feedback systems severely limited? Former alums of my school made something similar: Devil's Tuning Fork (http://www.devilstuningfork.com/) and used the same sound feedback system (like using ray-casts to confirm something's there and creating visuals of the results). I'm curious to know what were some of the biggest hurdles to overcome to make sure the game still plays well.

 

3: Finally, as someone who has just started my tenure in the industry (2nd QA contract at a AAA studio) what was your journey like towards becoming a lead?

 

Thanks for your time, looking forward to Perception and more from you guys at The Deep End.

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

  1. I see a lot of great programs out there. I can't really speak for all of them, I can say that I have heard from plenty of folks who have had difficulty getting their foot in the door. I feel for you. I went to film school and stepped away to try my hand at games. While I busted my ass, I was fortunate. Tough to really work through each case in a chat like this, but if you network, create a solid portfolio and keep plugging away, you'll likely find your way. And having formal training certainly can't hurt, right?

  2. Iteration was crucial. We kept tweaking how much was revealed when you "tap" your cane and echolocate. We want to restrict information but not push over into frustration. I am really happy with where we ended up, and that's all thanks to copious amounts of feedback.

  3. You are doing the right thing it sounds like. I too started in QA! Again, right place right time, but I made myself available to take on any challenge, put in the hours, learned everything I possibly could. Then, one day, the bugs I was reporting started to flood the small design team and I offered to fix some of the more tedious but easy to fix bugs. I worked my way in from there. But I also stayed super late most days so I could run backups on our server for the whole company, offered to grab people lunches, wrote docs that provided research on other titles, etc, etc. It's a marathon, but always be looking for opportunities to help out. Eventually, you'll be noticed.

ChristopherOdd0 karma

Been looking forward to Perception for a while now. I'm wondering, what can you tell us about the pacing of the story?

How do you balance the narrative pushing the player forward and keeping the actual gameplay interesting?

Thanks!

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

This is one of the greater challenges of game design and development in general.

There are a lot of tools available that serve as checks and balances. Things like usability testing, QA, publisher feedback, etc. It's crucial to be able to take a step back and realize that YOU WILL get too close to your work.

Over time, you develop a sense for these sort of things. But there are also some things you can do to plot them out. Most of the time, simply whiteboarding out the events of a sequence or a level goes a loooooong way.

Narshie70 karma

I have four questions about Perception:

  1. How did working on Bioshock prepare you for designing and creating Perception? And is there any direct influence?

  2. What made you interested in creating a horror game?

  3. Why did you choose to make a game about a blind woman? Aside from the echolocation mechanics, how else does that play into the storyline/game experience?

  4. What are you hoping gamers walk away with after playing Perception?

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

  1. Absolutely. Working with Ken and the team taught me a ton about how to weave in narrative, pace out events, make players lean in, etc. There are a lot of BioShock-y feeling elements in Perception. Players often comment on Chapter 3 in particular as feeling very BioShock. You'll see why when you get there. ;)

  2. Shooting terrible horror films in my backyard when I was 10 years old. :p

  3. Amanda (game's writer) and I are always looking for new stories to tell and ways to inject new life into horror. Information is the enemy of horror, so the idea of not having sight in a game seemed like an opportunity to immerse players in a fresh experience.

  4. An appreciation for experiencing things in a different way.

thekingofcosmos0 karma

What is it like to have worked with the miracle Jonathan Vazquez?

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Let me be very clear here:

Jonathan Vazquez is a force of nature and I am not worthy of his limitless talents.

Coronis120 karma

What does being a level designer entail and how would one get started learning such a skillet?

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Loaded question, but one I like exploring.

It differs from company to company, but in some ways they're kind of like directors of a small chunk of the game (their individual levels). They work with the artists, programmers, producers etc to scope the moment-to-moment gameplay and then realize it onscreen.

They will tweak the heck out of the experience based on feedback from bugs, focus tests, Lead criticisms, etc.

To get a good sense for the day-to-day, I would recommend just spending a few hours looking at some YouTube videos on how to use the Unreal Engine. In looking at the workflow, you can get a sense for what it's like in the trenches.

dtg1080 karma

Hey Bill. I'm about to be going to college for Computer science, specifically Games programming.

Is there any advice you could give for someone breaking into the industry?

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

Good for you!

Every path is going to be different. However, I will say that aside form the obvious ass-kickery with the whole studies thing, you should try to get as involved as possible.

If you don't feel like you are moving toward something tangible, then you may want to take a step back. Find a project - indie, on-campus, an assignment, etc.

Simply showing up to class and getting good grades is not enough. Most devs want to see passion along with the talent.

So, it's important to find stuff to work on and be able to present when you graduate. If you can show a bunch of projects, no matter how small or, frankly, terrible, that is a HUGE plus.

On top of that, your classmates will likely wind up in the industry and hopefully be able to sing your praise!

dtg1080 karma

Thanks a lot!

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

Anytime!

Ehh_Embb0 karma

You ever make secret codes or levels or sumn that only you and your buddies know about?

TheDeepEndGames3 karma

Yes, but then they wind up being too cool to keep to ourselves.

Perception has a hidden section that I am quite proud of. It's not THAT well hidden, but it has what I view as a super cool nod to BioShock (and Ken!)

Bhockzer0 karma

When designing the three-dimension spaces that the game's main character inhabits, did your designers take into account the various handicapped accessibility requirements that would needed based on the usage, most recent "renovation", and "age" of the structures and spaces they were designing?

For example: A commercial building built now has to adhere to a higher level of handicapped accessibility than one built in the 1980s, 60s, etc...

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

No, if you look at Rapture or Columbia, they are about as inaccessible as you can imagine. In a way, that speaks to the narrative of the overall game.

I don't know that I can really think of too many games that do this. Interesting question. Do you have any in mind that do this?

Bhockzer0 karma

Do you have any in mind that do this?

The only game(s) that I can think of that even sort of address the issue are the most recent GTA games and that seems to be because they're more replicating real world locations and then designing fictional locations into that world. That being said, GTA doesn't use these to demonstrate handicapped accessibility. Which is disappointing considering that a major secondary character in GTA5 was confined to a wheelchair and even his living space looked more like they simply decided the character was in a wheelchair without giving much thought to how that character would interact with his environment.

So, with Perception, you've got a main character who effectively "sees" in the same manner as DareDevil, via a form of echolocation. Wouldn't it have made sense to incorporate real-world handicapped accessibility requirements into the digital world that you're creating, specifically the use of auditory fire alarms that the character could use to help "see" the overall environment if even for a short period of time?

From the trailer, it seems as though you're only using physical barriers to prevent the player from moving into spaces you don't want them to enter. The obstacles presented in the Bioshock universe are either the result of the crumbling of Rapture/Columbia or a result of Columbia being a flying city and Rapture being a place that was meant to allow people and businesses to thrive without the rigidity and interference of an overarching and overbearing governmental entity, i.e. far fewer regulations. Plus the time period in which Bioshock, Bioshock 2, and Bioshock Infinite took place there were very few, if any, handicapped accessibility requirements. Had you considered using non-physical barriers to prevent the protagonist from moving into certain areas? As a blind person, the character's other senses would be heightened to a certain degree. In this case, having the main character literally get too sick to proceed due to overly powering smells, loss of "sight" as a result of sound dampening/absorbing materials, etc...

The only reason I ask these questions is because I've worked as an Architectural Designer, Draftsman, and 3D Modeler for the last 10+ years and I've noticed that the recreation spaces that are supposed to exist in the "real world" usually fail to meet the same standards that real world buildings are held. Just because a 3D model doesn't need an internal structure to keep it standing shouldn't mean that you should design it without taking that internal structure into account, especially if that model is meant to replicate or evoke a real world location.

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

GTA is actually a good example, thanks!

Making architecturally sound spaces is very difficult in games. Heck, it's hard enough in real life when we have pros like yourself, right?

I would say that it's all about balance and how important it is that realism aligns with your vision in the game.

Bhockzer0 karma

Have you ever found yourself questioning your vision for a sequence in a game because its implementation would require too much of a "leap of faith" on the player's part in terms of acceptance of a radically different setting, and thus a new set of environmental rules, than anything they've been subjected up to that point?

TheDeepEndGames2 karma

Wow. Great question!

Yes. All the time. I love that you are thinking about things from the player's perspective. This is crucial. Lots of designer tend to fall in love with their ideas and not really think about the context fully.

That's what it all comes down to: context. As long as you've given players enough tools to adapt to the change, you should be fine. It's really important to keep players on their toes by not only building on what they've learned, but twisting it, adding to it, and subverting it. As long as you've taken proper steps to ease people into the change, you should be fine. Additionally, putting systems in place that can adapt to players who aren't "getting it" can go a long way.

Bhockzer1 karma

Thanks for the answers. I really appreciate the explanation about how game designers approach creating spaces that are exclusively meant for somebody else to inhabit.

I read one of your other responses and it struck a cord with me. I've wanted to work in the videogame industry since I was highschool, ever since I played Halo CE came out. So, if you ever need, or feel, like it would be beneficial to have somebody with a 15 years of experience in the field of Architectural Design beta-test a game I'd be more than willing to lend a hand.

TheDeepEndGames1 karma

Very generous offer. Please let's keep in touch on Twitter @GameOnGardner

I try to study as much AD as possible, but do not claim to know as much as a professional like yourself.

Keep in touch!