Oddworld’s Inhabitants: Steve Desilets, Game Designer

Oddworld's Inhabitants: Steve Desilets, Game Designer [Hosted by Oddworld.com]

Date: October - November 2003

Interviewer: Oddworld.com

Interviewee: Steve Desilets

Oddworld’s Inhabitants are as diverse as the world they’ve worked together to create. Here’s where you’ll find interviews and other informative articles spotlighting the many creative folk that work at Oddworld Inhabitants. Be they headline players or behind-the-scenes heroes, the Inhabitants profiled here all share Oddworld’s ceaseless dedication to bringing you the best worlds and games that you’ve ever experienced.

Steve Desilets, Game Designer

Steve Desilets began his career in games in 1995 as a Lead 3D Artist at the former Looking Glass Studios (Thief, Flight Unlimited, System Shock), eventually changing roles from artist to designer, focusing on systems design. In 2000, Steve left LG to join Harmonix Music systems as a conceptual and in-game artist for Frequency. Soon after joining Harmonix, Steve joined a venture started by fellow ex-LG’ers, making a p2p IM platform for real-time data sharing across corporate applications. In late 2002, Steve moved to California, finally escaping the cruel Boston winters, and crazy drivers. Soon thereafter, he took his current post as designer at Oddworld.

Q: Who are your biggest influences? Why?

Steve Desilets: Tom Leonard (formerly of Looking Glass, now Valve Software). Both as friends and as workmates, Tom has always illustrated to me what it means to be professional, why it’s important to be honest with one’s own work and that of peers, and how to better manage time. Also, Tom is the sharpest man alive.

Marc LeBlanc (formerly of Looking Glass). Though I never worked directly with Marc, through many talks, formal and informal, Marc opened my eyes to games as an engineered experience, and less of a product of some artistry based upon innate sensibility.

Q: Why did you decide to go into the video game industry? Why Oddworld?

Steve Desilets: I wanted to get into games to work in 3D. I wanted to build worlds, and the objects in them. I really just had to create. I ended up crashing a Christmas party at LG, which helped me get my interview there.

Oddworld has the talent, backing, and support from our fans that it takes to keep producing truly unique worlds with equally unique experiences. There is nothing out there that is like our new project. That gives me some serious thrills.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

Steve Desilets: Play games,weightlift, write songs, wood-burning, kayak, work on my screenplay, cook, eat, sleep.
I also like to dress up like Charlie Chaplin, stand on a busy street corner and point up at the sky. Just kidding.

Q: What CD are you currently listening to? What books are you reading?

Steve Desilets: CD’s? Well, that would be the new Metallica cut. Also, a lot of Beck and the White Stripes.
Books? I’m re-reading Tides of War from Stephen Pressfield. It’s all about the war between Athens and Sparta.

Q: What are your favorite games?

Steve Desilets: My all time favorite GAME is actually the board game Axis and Allies. But as far as my favorite video games goes, I’ll list it by age:
Age 8: Pong
Age 10: Zaxxon, Donkey Kong Jr., Moon Patrol, Dig Dug, Missle Control, Warlords, Combat, Dragons Lair, Space Ace
Age 13: Super Mario Bros. 2, Burger Time, CastleVania, Contra, Ikari Warriors
Age 21: Road Rash (3D0), PTO, Romance of the 3 Kindgoms, Star Control, Aerobiz, Civilization
Age 27: Railroad Tycoon II, StarCraft

Currently, I’m playing a lot of Rise of Nations.

Q: What kind of a place is Oddworld?

Steve Desilets: Fun, enthusiastic, driven. We get our work done, and everyone knows what they have to do. We still have incredible amounts of goofy fun though!

Q: What is a typical day like for you?

Steve Desilets: I get in before most people, to sip my coffee and read my email. Then I will work on whatever level I’m assigned throughout the day. As a designer, I spend most of my time laying out levels and scripting AI behaviors in them. I work mostly in Maya to edit my level since Oddworld has a large set of proprietary tools for Maya that allows me to do everything I need to, all within the program. While I’m creating a level from scratch, I’m getting feedback from peers as well as the leads, to tell them what I intend for the space, and receive their feedback and ideas. Once I get the level to a point where the space is providing the play experience we have in mind, I pass it off to our RT (Real Time) art department. The RT guys will take the level and make it extremely pretty. Once RT has made the level beautiful, I will get it back and run tests to assure that all the bits and pieces from RT and Design are working together. Then, as the day winds down for us, we all fire up Battlefield 1942 and scream at each other.

Q: What do you like best about coming to work? What’s the worst part?

Steve Desilets: The best part is that I can walk to work. Oddworld is in the most beautiful town I’ve ever seen. (well, okay … Toledo Spain was pretty damn nice, but … ), and I live close by. So I get to walk to work and chill. The worst part is that I get home pretty late, which the girlfriend isn’t so happy about!

Q: If you could change jobs with one of the other Inhabitants who would it be and why?

Steve Desilets: I actually wouldn’t change with anybody. I like my job too much!

Q: What at Oddworld are you most proud of?

Steve Desilets: I’d say I’m most proud of our ability to execute on very bizarre concepts.

Q: Many fans are still upset with Oddworld’s decision to develop for the Xbox exclusively. Any comments?

Steve Desilets: It’s tough when someone has invested so much in a PS2, just to have one of their favorite publishers come out on a whole other platform. All I can say is, when they see how gorgeous and fun this next game is, they won’t mind picking up an Xbox!

Q: What advice would you give someone trying to break into games? What type of education does someone need to do your job?

Steve Desilets: Be well rounded. Read a lot, be saturated with pop culture references. You don’t necessarily need a college degree, but you better make up for it with chutzpah! A good designer is someone that is equally right and left brained. In other words, you should have both a strong sense of space and style, while also being able to script complex sequences.

Q: Who is your favorite Oddworld character? Why?

Steve Desilets: Abe. He’s so cute, yet kind of gross. It’s very hard to make characters that walk fine lines like that!

Q: Can you tell us anything about the new game or what you are working on right now?

Steve Desilets: I could. But I’d have to kill me. Just kidding. Actually this game is far different from any other Oddworld game, and far different than anything out there. We have retained the core elements of story telling and strong character development through play that Oddworld cherishes, and is known for. The focus in our design is all about using the natural world to your advantage as you hunt down and outsmart your enemies. Since this new character is more aggressive than Abe or Munch, the spaces tend to play to that more.