Stephen Mark Smith - Game/Level Designer

My Game Design Process

When I’m designing my games, I start by brainstorming my game ideas, use those ideas to create a cohesive foundation for starting the design documentation process and carrying out visual and contextual research into the gameplay, narrative and theme of the game. I then create a rough document, using word processing software and/or an online project wiki, which establishes what genre the game will be, an overarching summary of the narrative and themes of the game, the intended gameplay feel for the target audience and a description of the visual style of the game if collaborating with game artists.

After creating the rough document, I go into Unreal Engine 4 and create a sandbox to test and see if the gameplay mechanics are technically feasible for further development, noting down what did and didn’t work. This process continues until I have successfully implemented the designed gameplay mechanics into the engine, providing the foundation work for further development. I then go back to the design document, start designing and drafting the game’s levels on paper as well as beginning more detailed gameplay and narrative design.

Following this, I go back into Unreal Engine 4, create a blockout of the first level of the game, making edits to the original design during the development process if issues are spotted (i.e. bugs, enemy placements that worked on paper but not in the engine, hardware performance issues, etc.) and creating a build which is taken to gaming events and/or communities for play testing. In a team-working context, I would discuss my design decisions with colleagues and explain why I’m making the decisions and work with my colleagues to work out a feasible compromise and builds are handed over to dedicated testers (i.e. Quality Assurance) for play testing and finding bugs and defects.

Following play testing and quality assurance, I take note of observations of players interacting with the game and any verbal and/or written feedback provided, compare the notes with the intended design of the game and provide a list of actions to improve the game further which addresses the problems encountered during play testing while keeping the game’s creative vision intact. All of the above actions are done in an iterative loop until final polish and release of the game to the public.