Dan Kading, Game Designer · Part Three: The Game Design Dept.
In a desperate attempt to counteract my decided lack of “flavor,” I have been directed by my superiors to make this particular article about the other designers here at Oddworld who, I can safely say, have abundant flavor.
There are six of us, in a way, though only five of us actually count. This is explained via an odd war propaganda comic that Paul Goldenboat, Senior Designer and WWII buff, has ensured that each and every member of the department have a copy of somewhere near his or her workspace. The comic features a muscular, heroic-looking soldier and his spindly, foreign companion lost at sea after their fighter plane was shot down. With only one life preserver between the two of them, the heroic soldier draws his sidearm, holds it to his own head and states through tears, “We’re taught always to think of our comrades, that it is better to give than to receive.”
He then promptly turns the gun on his companion and, while unloading several rounds into him, states “So I’m giving you the works! After all, you’re not really one of us!”
As such, Chris, the Ass. Director (a delightful title with several potential interpretations, the two most boring of which are ‘associate’ and ‘assistant’) and former designer, despite sitting in the design department and, for all intents and purposes, doing design work that often makes most of us gape in awe, is always the first to get the works.
Chris and Paul are old friends, and aside from fostering a hostile, eat-the-wounded mentality among us younger members of the department, these two tragic clowns have the unenviable task (despite my perpetual envying of it) of writing the script for the Oddworld games. It’s a heavy deal when your job is to be funny on command, but they manage to pull it off with astonishing regularity. Their finely honed senses of humor and writing skills have ensured that Oddworld games will always pull laughs out of its audience, and that everybody else has to do the real work.
And at the head of the department, the man who has to do the most of that real work is lead Jeff Juggernaut. The position of Lead Designer is an oddity. The emphasis is on “Lead.” Jeff was rewarded for his excellent work on both Abe’s Oddysee and Abe’s Exoddus by being promoted to this position which essentially means that if he wants to do any design in addition to leading, it’ll have to be on his own time. And he does, somehowÑseveral levels in Munch have his signature on them, but the majority of his time is still consumed with keeping the rest of us louts in line and verifying that the levels that we produce are the kind of thing that he’d want to play.
The Louts include Jessica and Trevor, who are respectively the Senior-Junior and Junior-Junior designers. Jessica was delighted when Trevor was hired two months ago, thereby kicking her out of the low-person-on-the-totem-pole slot. Nonetheless, she now has somebody she can delegate authority to when she deems a task unworthy of her talents, such as, say, going on a contraband doughnut run.
These two weren’t hired for their doughnut-fetching skills, though, make no mistake. While that turned out to be an unexpected perk, they actually pay the bills with their 3Dstudio Max skillz, yo. Trevor is a game-industry alumnus, and Jessica came to Oddworld directly from a school which allegedly “taught” game design. (It’s comforting to know that there are professors who have defined Game Design to a point where it can be taught, and as such I’ve been pulling to have all Oddworld staff sent on a brief training course so they’ll stop asking me what the hell I’m doing here.) From their pasts, they each brought a wealth of information on how to make brilliant looking layouts with a tool that the rest of us were still using to do things like breaking open coconuts, or tying it to the end of a stick to make a sort of crude weapon.
And in the end, we all wind up doing a bit of everyone else’s jobs. Jeff has to write a bit of script or a treatment once in a while, Paul and Chris sneak onto Jessica’s machine and play with their own layouts when nobody’s looking, and I bark orders at people when I don’t think Jeff can hear. It’s like some kind of beautiful circle of life, without all that unsightly stuff about decomposition and such. -Dandan
PS: Performance Reviews are right around the corner here at Oddworld, and though they aren’t part of the Design department, I figure it’s probably somehow relevant to mention that Producer Brian , COO Maurice, and HR Chief Mike are all fabulous, lovable, generous guys.