Feiko van Dijk: Game & Technical Designer

ARID

Summary

Main Role: Design Lead. Technical Designer.

Additional Roles: Analytics, Community.

Project Timespan
32 weeks

Team Size
21 Developers

First Month Downloads
200.000+

Arid is a gritty, exploration-survival experience that challenges players in surviving the most arid place in the world. By using your skills and adaptation, you must face the loneliness, the extreme temperatures, and mysteries of the Atacama Desert.

Arid is my IGAD Year 3 project where we got a year-long assignment. Over the course of the year we are developing Arid with a team of 21 students and a small outsourcing team, with the goal to release the game on steam.

Awards:

  • Dutch Game Awards Best Student Game
  • Best Game Design IGAD Year 3
  • Audience Award IGAD Year 3
  • Nominee Best Art Direction IGAD Year 3
  • Nominee Best Programming IGAD Year 3
  • Nominee Best Audio IGAD Year 3

Date: September 2020 – July 2021
Team Size: 21 (1 Producer, 4 Programmers, 7 Artists, 9 Designers)
Platform: PC & Playstation 4 
Software Used: Unreal Engine, GameAnalytics, Google Cloud Platform, Jenkins CI, Perforce, Jira

 


Full project available on Steam

Steam Page

My Responsibilities

Technical Designer

  • Responsible for researching & creating design prototypes during the first 16 weeks of the project, guiding design and answering technical design related questions
  • Researching opportunities such as previous projects & Marketplace plugins to speed up development
  • Implementing designed gameplay features through the use of custom tools, developed by programmers
  • Assisting Programmers with medium-level technical tasks such as feature implementation & performance optimization
  • Responsible for setup of CI/CD servers, e.g Jenkins & Perforce and maintaining availability
  • Implementing analytics both in game with GameAnalytics and on our websites with Google Analytics

Lead Game Designer

  • Responsible for the legal side of collecting user data, creating privacy policies & point of contact for legal advisor
  • Responsible for creating monthly analytics reports for shareholders & academic purposes
  • Responsible for all communication between the designers and the rest of the team, including the producer
  • Responsible for bi-weekly shareholder update meetings
  • Manage and update backlog & manage sprint planning meetings
  • Lead daily standups and standdowns
  • Responsible for design of various features such as Base Upgrades, Equipment, Weather, Day & Night cycles
  • Providing support for Design Team with Status Effects, Crafting & User Interface

Associate Producer (Concepting only)

  • Responsible for shareholder update meetings
  • Research & plan team bonding exercises both remote and on location
  • Ensuring availability & stability of servers & PS4 development kits
  • Responsible for handling NDAs related to PS4 development
  • Removing blocks related to CI/CD for our QA engineer

Experiences & Lessons

At the start of the 2020-2021 academic year I was aiming for a game producer role in one of the year-long projects. The previous project, Streamlined Mastermind, I managed to learn much more about production and scope management but I noticed that there was still so much to learn. After the first week of the academic year I was assigned the role of Associate Producer of Arid, a concept for a survival game set in the Atacama desert.

Being an Associate Producer meant (in my case) that I was in charge of short-term planning & risk mitigation, specifically technical related tasks like making sure Continuous Integration & Delivery systems are available and accessible to the team, but also reserving PS4 Devkits and making sure they are remotely accessible. Besides this I also took charge of team bonding and scouting for networking events & contests that we could apply for with Arid.

At the end of the Concepting phase of Arid we started to notice that the Design team lacked direction and a clear lead. This is why I stepped up and took on more Lead-Design related tasks. This also meant that from the Pre-Production phase and on my main role shifted to Lead Designer.

Looking back on this switch I’m very glad how it turned out. This role allows me to be much more hands-on in development and gives me more direct control over the concept and development process, but also increases pressure and workload. My responsibilities as a Lead Designer during Pre-Production were mostly related to features like Base Upgrades, Equipment, Crafting, Status Effects, Weather and the Day & Night cycle. I’ve also spent time on making technical design prototypes to test and prove concepts that the Design team worked on. Being a Lead Designer also meant that I had to manage a team of about 6 designers, giving me a good opportunity to improve my soft-skills. Overall I feel like the Pre-Production phase was an excellent challenge for me which allowed me to push the project further.

Feiko is a people person, can talk to everyone and doesn’t show any negative emotion or frustration to people. As a lead he communicated regularly about the issues with design and his professional opinions. He is improving as a lead overall.     Riccardo Di Giovanni – Producer of Arid