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Lecture notes

Luna Javier on Game Development September 6, 2018

About the speaker


Luna Javier is the creative director at Altitude Games. Back in 2002, she started out in the
industry as the head writer for Anito: Defend a Land Enraged which was one of the games
that pioneered the game development industry in the Philippines. Since then, she rose up
the ranks as a game designer until co-founding Altitude Games in 2014.
Email: ​luna@altitude-games.com​.
Tinatamad talaga ako magsulat nang maayos, sorry.

Notes
I. Background
Year Description

2002 1 Graduated with a major in communication arts, but had no experience


in game development
Game development courses did not exist in the PH that time

2 Played games, but did not admit nor talk about these with her friends
because she did not fit the gamer stereotype
Games back then were targeted towards males

3 Wanted to be in the film industry to work for Pixar as an artist


Her first job was at ​Anino Entertainment ​where she made 3D houses
for their game
Was told that her art was terrible, but her writing was great, so she
shifted to storytelling

2003 - 1 Anito: Defend a Land Enraged


2004 An adventure role-playing game by Anino for PC
The first Filipino-made game, also Luna’s first game
She wrote for the female lead, Maya
The game won an award at the Independent Games Festival held at
the Game Developers Conference in 2004 for their audio

2 Anino did not have experience with game development, and learned
on the job
The company pioneered game development in the PH

3 After Anito became featured in various articles, they:


- started teaching in universities and taught game design in
computer science courses,
- brought the Global Game Jam in the country, and
- founded IGDA Manila and the Game Developers Association of
the Philippines

2008 1 Started working in ​Boomzap Entertainment

2 Games started to be directed to people of all ages


More women enrolled in game design courses because ​they wanted​ to
be in the game industry

2009 Boomzap asked her to pitch an adventure game to ​Big Fish Games
which was popular back then for casual-adventure games
Adventure games during this time were dark and gloomy, so she
thought of one that was bright and colorful

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Lecture notes
Luna Javier on Game Development September 6, 2018

2010 Awakening: The Dreamless Castle​, the game she conceptualized


the previous year, was launched
The game is a hidden object puzzle which was about a princess who
finds herself in a castle with no powers. To be able to progress in the
game, she has to travel to different lands and receive help from
magical creatures.
Had over 17M downloads

2011 - 1 Invented the franchises in Boomzap which included Knightstone,


2014 Fairing Point, Botanica (sci-fi), Otherworld, among others

2 During this time, the gaming industry was targeted to adult women
over the age of 30, so the main characters in her games were also
female

3 Gaming companies were starting to lean towards mobile games as


smartphones became more accessible

2014 - 1 Co-founded ​Altitude Games​ along with four of her friends


present Altitude is a mobile games company with currently >30 developers,
and 40% of them are female

2 As its creative director, she oversees the design quality of all games
Specifically, she ensures that the designers have the freedom to make
their own games while following the Altitude brand

II. Getting started in the industry


A. Play all the games, even the bad ones
■ What: O​ nce an individual is part of a gaming company, he has to create all
sorts of games that are aligned with the company’s brand, even those that he
does not particularly connect with
■ Why: ​Playing the badly designed games gives you a perspective on what can
be improved on and what not to follow, while playing highly-rated games
gives you ideas on what features could be added to your future games
■ Luna’s tips: ​Download games that are up on the Play Store, play them for ~5
minutes, and analyze the features that are good and bad as research for your
own games
B. Build something
■ What: S​ tart creating games or GDDs. There is no excuse not to build games
or create ideas for a game because there are a lot of game engines available
to help you out even without any prior knowledge to programming
■ Why: ​Portfolio building
■ Luna’s tips: ​Unity and RPG maker for making games, Balsamic for UI/UX
mockups
C. Get feedback from players
■ What: A ​ s creatives, we have a tendency to not show others our working
drafts and only present our games when it is out, but most of the time, this is
costly. It is better to receive feedback from family, friends, or a focus group
first before releasing your game.
■ Why: ​In the gaming industry, what matters is what your market thinks.
Feedback is important even in the early stages of your game, so that you can
revise early on and update your game fast.

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Lecture notes
Luna Javier on Game Development September 6, 2018

■ Luna’s tips: ​Attend game jams and if you plan to take up game development
seriously, check your user analytics and see where your players quit in your
game
D. Iterate
■ What: A​ fter you get feedback for your game, update your game -- fix your
bugs, remove unnecessary features, and improve on your UX.
■ Why: ​It shows that you listen to your users
■ Luna’s tips: ​Get user data, analyze it, fix what’s wrong, and release update.
She also shared her game design process wherein she and her team:
a) Makes cutouts of what assets she wants in the game
b) Creates a working prototype
c) Adds the creative elements
d) Tweaks those elements and continues tweaking them even after the
game is released
E. Join industry events
■ What: E​ vents to look out for:
a) Global game jam,
(1) Every January
(2) A theme is given and participants make a game about it
b) IGDA Manila
(1) There is a meetup every month
(2) GameDev speakers or have playtest or design meetups.
Basically, they have meetups about games
c) ESGS
(1) Gaming conference (for consumers)
(2) Three days before, game festival (for game developers)
■ Why: ​Attend these events to be visible. Visibility is key for better
representation.
■ Luna’s tips: ​Attend events, talk to people, and say yes to speaking
engagements whenever possible
III. Open forum
● What skills do we need to have to be in the game industry?
○ It depends on what you are applying for. In game design, at the very
least, show a portfolio containing your best works. To build this, try to
create a game at a game jam or script a game yourself.
● Tips​ ​for making your own portfolio
○ Research​ what games the game company you are applying for create
and build your portfolio based on your research.
○ Show your best game/s​. Even if you built a lot of games but the
hiring manager finds that your first game is broken, it puts you at a
huge disadvantage.
○ Even not in game development, you should tweak your resume based
on the companies you apply for.
● What platform do you use for data science in game development?
○ Google and Swrve. They pay a license to use the these data analytics
and mobile marketing tools for the game. They use both to have
different sets of data and to be able to compare these.

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Lecture notes
Luna Javier on Game Development September 6, 2018

● Do the data scientists/analysts only focus on data or is he allowed to do


design, art, and programming?
○ Usually the data director is only tasked to do analytics, but whenever
the game company has no games to publish, they make him play
games.
○ Designers and data analysts work together to pick what metrics to
focus on and analyze because data costs a lot.
● What do data scientists do in game development?
○ They usually track user engagements from the day he downloads it
until the day the player uninstalls it.
● What do I do if I am not sure what subfield of game development I want to
focus on?
○ It would be a big challenge for you to get hired if you are not sure what
you want to do in the game company you are applying for. Try the
different subfields in game dev, try design, and if you find out that you
are not good at it, try programming, and so on.
● If I want to be part of the programming team, what do I need to prepare for?
○ Try to be fluent in at least one language. Usually we look for those
who know C#, C++, and sometimes Java. You will be asked to take a
programming test as well. Figure out what kind of games you want to
make, and learn the syntax from there.
● Is game design important to be able to be in a programming team?
○ It depends on what kind of company you apply to. Some companies,
to save up money, have game designers that are also their resident
programmers. Bigger companies look at your specializations.
● How does your game qualify as good design?
○ When the UI/UX is good. If the buttons overlap or if the player doesn’t
understand your game without your intervention, it needs
improvement.
○ It depends on the game you are making. Different genres have
different standards. Even so, ​it is very common that the game passes
all the standards for its genre, has a clever design and smooth
gameplay, yet it still does not sell well.
● What is a game design test and what does it include?
○ The design test is usually a pitch of an game idea. Companies provide
a format on how to pitch it and you have ~1 week to prepare for it.
○ What are your game mechanics? Genre? How will the company make
money out of it?
○ It is meant to be a test of resourcefulness, and not of creativity. Quality
of output can be trained and learned inside the company, but the work
ethic can be not.
● What kind of artists are there in games?
○ Concept artists: capture the feel of the characters, even though it
won’t look like them in the game

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Lecture notes
Luna Javier on Game Development September 6, 2018

○ 2D artists: also do concepts, but create the actual sprites that will be
shown in the game. They make all the actions, like the idle pose,
victory pose, lose pose. They also make the backgrounds, and any
elements that are 2D.
○ Animators: started as 2D artists but they focus on making the sprites
and other object move in your game engine. Very technical, and
needs some knowledge in scripting.
○ 3D artists: like 2D artists but 3D
○ In bigger companies, they are more specialized. There are lining
artists, texture artists, environment artists, and background artists. The
bigger the company gets, the more specific the job descriptions are.
○ In the Philippines, it would be better to be a generalist while being
good at one thing, because gaming companies are small here.
● What do you prioritize in making games?
○ Platform and market first.
○ Would you want to make a game for mobile? PC? PS4? Then look at
your market. Research the bad and great games for your platform and
market in mind, and create your games based on that.

Uncategorized notes/Takeaways
1. There are many opportunities in the gaming industry.
a. Development: art, code, design, data (put analytics in the game, analyzes the
data for the developers to improve the game), sound, QA (game testers)
b. Management: production (managers), biz dev (flies around the world for
clients), finance, HR, admin
2. Create games. Tell people that you make games.
3. You can have the instinct, the experience, and the skills but you will only know if the
games you make are successful when they are published.
4. There is an issue with some game companies that speed up the hiring process of
females and move their resumes into the interview pile by just looking at their sex.
- Luna does not believe in this and that you should be in game development
because of your skills, and not because of your sex
5. She is featured in an upcoming book called Women in Gaming: 100 Pioneers in Play.