Letting your imagination run wild can be liberating

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 October, 2008, 12:00am

But it's not all fun and games, according to Cal Hung Ling-ki, a console game designer at M-Inverse Holdings, who says that it is a common misconception that designers are paid to play all the time

While the games available on the market are the final products, the bulk of a game designer's job involves testing the bits and pieces of a game's prototype repeatedly without the exciting visual and audio elements to fine-tune aspects, such as the parameters. I play games all the time, but these are incomplete ones and the process can be very time-consuming and boring. I equate the responsibilities of a game designer to those of a film director.

A designer develops an original concept for a game by exploring the possibilities of aspects such as the presentation and input of the players, for example the motion-sensing element incorporated in Nintendo's Wii console; and entirely new rules for an existing game. I enjoy the initial conceptualisation of the game the most as I can let my imagination run wild.

I graduated with an associate degree in computer science from City University and joined a team which entered Microsoft's Xbox game design contest in 2005 and was recruited by M-Inverse soon afterwards.

At the pre-production stage, a game designer is responsible for preparing a game design document which is the basic conceptualisation of the game containing sketchily outlined components, such as the basic designs of characters and weapons. When that is completed, I then initiate a discussion of the basic game concept outline with team members to make decisions regarding the feasibility of the project. After several rounds of revision based on input from the team, I work on the second draft of the document, which is closer to the final game. We then embark on the research and design based on the outline set out in the document.

I co-ordinate with other specialists such as programmers and graphic artists who come up with the game's prototype, or proof of concept. Then I will begin the trial run and provide feedback to ensure that core parts of the game appeal to game enthusiasts. When the proof of concept moves into full-game production, I need to ensure that all components match the requirements of the target game players.

The final phase of production involves the heaviest game design effort as the team finalises the settings and ensures that all components fit into the overall game. This is when we need to repeatedly play the various statuses of the game. It is the most challenging part because design possibilities are infinite but we work to a fixed deadline. Many game developers engage non-employees to play the final product to collect feedback before the game hits the market. The game designers make the last modifications to the components based on the feedback.

While I was still at secondary school, I already aspired to build a career in game design. My ultimate goal is to develop a successful board game, like Monopoly, whose main appeal is the game itself without any fancy visual or audio elements.

There has been a public backlash focusing on the impact of extreme levels of violence featured in some video games. I think that violence is a crucial element in the game's overall appeal to the target group, such as young men in the United States.

We get around it by making the details more exaggerated. For example, we make blood gush out in incredibly long distance so that players will not become confused and be reminded that this is only fantasy.