WorkStation: The spaces where 22 different game-makers build worlds
Video game makers are small gods, conjuring universes and bright realities into being from arcane scripts. But even divinities need a place to work. After all, there is no PlayStation without the WorkStation. And just as the creator’s game reveals something about his or her values, aesthetics, interests or frustrations, so the arrangement and decoration of a WorkStation betrays its worker.
The vision of the prototypical game developer’s desk is well known and enduring: a shantytown of headphones and empty take-out boxes, a flanking battalion of plastic toy figurines, a greasy award for the lucky ones. Is this a fair representation? And even if it once was, is it still a relevant one? Laptops and tablets have untethered creators from their desks, turning any park bench or café into a potential workplace. In this nomad-friendly context, do game-makers still prize the finely calibrated environment of their personal workplace? Is noise or silence preferable? How about solitude or camaraderie?
A clutch of game developers around the world agreed to show us around their workstations and thereby create a scene for the worlds in which game worlds are made in 2016.
Location: Culver City, USA
Selected Games: Gravity Bone, 30 Flights of Loving, Quadrilateral Cowboy
"Nowadays I split up my time between my home office and Glitch City, an office space a bunch of local independent developers and I share. There's a certain energy in a shared office environment -- a creative one for sure, but also one of being a support network, of lifting that weight by knowing you're not alone in whatever you're going through. But if you want to know the secret to focused productivity, here it is: trains. God, I love working on trains. Stick me in a metal tube any day of the week."
"I do a fair amount of traveling, so I'm not precious about my setup. One of the nice things about making games -- or at least, the kind of games that I like making -- is that it requires so little overhead and equipment. As long as I have a surface to place my laptop and mouse, that's all I need to fall into the deep-work zone."
"If I'm drawing or modeling or doing level design, noise is like a warm blanket. Any and all kinds of music, people chatting it up, a Netflix movie in my periphery -- all of that works for me. A nuclear bomb can go off next door and it (probably) wouldn't faze me. However, if I'm doing any kind of writing or programming, then it's a hard-stop on noise. When I need to use words or language, I become a dandelion that shoots off into outer space at the slightest gust of wind. If there's any music, I need it vocal-free."
Location: Santa Cruz, USA
Selected Games: Super Meat Boy, The Binding of Isaac
"These days my home office is ideal because I need a part of my house I can get away to so my non-work life doesn’t distract me, a place I can blare music and talk endlessly with people I’m working with without forcing my wife and new baby to deal with it. It’s also important to have an area I can share with them, this kind of work can be pretty isolating so I make sure I always have an empty desk next to me so Danielle can sew and a play setup on the ground for our baby. In a lot of ways my office is just a recreation of our previous living room, but with a door I can close."
"When I’m just doing design I can work just about anywhere with a pen paper and laptop. But if I’m animating or doing level design its pretty ideal for me to have this setup. I’d say at this point 50% of my workload is just thinking on paper and the rest is at the desk drawing."
"If I’m writing I need silence, but the rest of the time I fully require music at very loud volumes to really burn through things. I usually talk with the people I’m working with for an hour or so a day via Skype to sync up and go over stuff, but for the most part I just need a place to put my dumb toys and be a weirdo."
Location: Galway, Ireland
Selected Games: Wizardry, Ghost Recon, Train
"My office is designed to be a reflection of my personality combined with whatever it is that I am creating. I have things of tactile importance around me which feel good to touch, including my desk, or things of mechanical beauty, such as a couple old and unique typewriters."
"For years, I worked on whatever desk was available, or got the standard 'start up desk' from the big box store. This year, we had desks made. They’re just beautiful. If you’re trying to create something special, I feel that working in a place that feel equally special and designed is important. For me, that even extends to the beauty of the city and time-zone in which I live. When I lived in CA, I woke up at what felt like late in the day. I was behind everyone, and my email was full when I woke up. Here, I don’t feel the need to rush or feel that sense of being behind."
"I can work in a lot of places, provided I have some key ingredients: quiet and comfort. I cannot work in places with a lot of distractions, which aren’t already ingrained. For instance, I am used to working around my co-workers, so their conversations aren’t distractions. Working in a coffee house would be too distracting for me. I find few things as great as pure silence. It’s so rare. My favorite time to work is early in the morning, in silence, with some espresso."
Location: Grand Rapids, USA
Selected Games: Canabalt, Overland
"My main workspace is a room on the ground floor of our suburban Michigan home. It's bigger than a closet but smaller than a bedroom. It has a great big window, which is just about the perfect thing. There's a robin's nest out one side of the window, and out the other side is a small service-berry tree that collects cardinals and encumbered squirrels. The room itself is a bit of a disaster, as we just moved in a little while ago - we don't even have the whiteboards up."
"I miss my whiteboards so much. Like the "mechanics" of a whiteboard really aren't that different from a notebook or something, right, but I think they're super different. You're standing, you have these sloppy markers that are bad at everything, you can erase things really quickly, the amount of detail you can use is limited... Between the posture being different and the tools having limited resolution its really the greatest thing for doing broad-strokes planning. The best way to sort of prune a possibility space before sitting down and doing costly programming... that's about it though. Otherwise I mostly feel like a desk is a desk. Keep your monitor elevated though, take care of your neck and back!"
"Beyond having a 'stand up and make sloppy drawings’ space I'm not super impacted by the space I'm in I don't think. If I learned anything in the last year or so of moving twice, working out of an apartment bedroom and several coffee shops, on top of jamming in other countries and on long flights... if I have headphones and a laptop I'm OK. It feels like a good survival skill to cultivate, to be able to execute reasonably well even if the space isn't perfect... because no space will ever be perfect."
"Silence drives me to discomfort, terror, and a dire need to escape, usually. I can't listen to things that have words if I'm debugging or programming - too much interference or something. Usually that means art days are a lot of podcasts, code days are a lot of music. It's been a long time since I had an art day though. I really miss working with people in the same space. Co-working with Overland team, the few times a year we get to do that, is truly the greatest. I don't miss being forced to work with toxic people though, and I really, really don't miss driving to places. Maybe we'll work out a part-time bike-friendly space here sometime. I could deal with that I think."
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Selected Games: PaRappa the Rapper, UmJammerLammy
"I actually have three workstations. The first one is in the office with a PlayStation 4 and turntable. It’s for designing the games and office work. The second one is pictured here; it’s my study lobby in the recording studio. The third one is musical desk in the recording studio."
"As the space here is for studying, it requires some brightness and calmness. I didn’t take a photo but this space has various miniatures or vinyls that make me feel fresh inspiration. I have a cabinet next to it which is filled with game event passes, like, GameCity, Dice, Bitsummit, GDC… mmm? No TGS though…"
"I love to think during walking or traveling, but I have a short attention span. I always lose interest no matter what the circumstance or environment. I’m fiddling with everything all the time, like just moving a miniature in the different angle for no reason. I don’t go coffee shop frequently. I don’t like Starbucks coffee...
"I need various kind of setting. For example, I don’t describe any musical phrases I conceive in the first time. I forgot it suddenly by watching shiny billboard, for example. But in the next day, still I can remember it sometime. I think this type of phrase has its own forgettable resistance…"
Location: Pittsburgh, USA
Selected Games: Lapis, Superhypercube
"I travel a lot, so I have to choose carefully which bits of hardware to bring, because it affects the kind of work I can do quite materially. I can't test the game if I don't bring the test kit and VR rig, for instance. I can't do builds myself if I don't bring the PC laptop. But my primary workspace is simply the screen of my Mac laptop."
"I tend to prefer working in a well-lit space, which is of course terrible for computer work and particularly with projectors. But visual contrast is a justifiable sacrifice to get the sun’s overall improvement on my mood. I prefer an uncluttered work environment... which simply means I shove the clutter in a drawer or closet temporarily so I don't have to look at it."
"I find that the factors that affect me most are hunger, temperature, tiredness, and other basic physical conditions. As long as I've got an internet connection and I'm not feeling some kind of bodily discomfort, I can zone in on what I'm doing. My main problem now is bad ergonomics at my dining room table where I'm spending a lot of time on my laptop. My shoulders, arms and hands are hurting as I type this. Moving around and changing positions is key. Oh and not being on the computer all the damn time."
"If I'm working on something verbal like writing, I can't have voices in the background. So I listen to a lot of classic jazz, rather than music with lyrics. And I've learned I work well in public spaces where the majority of the people speak a language that I don't understand. At home when weather permits, I leave the windows open a bit and enjoy 4'33" on repeat."
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Selected Games: Papers, Please, Return of the Obra Dinn
"I haven't really thought about how my creativity or productivity is affected by my environment beyond 'the fewer interruptions, the better.’ I get lost in work pretty easily and need intermittent breaks to get a breather and recharge. It helps if there's good sunlight in the room, and enough square footage to walk around and stare at the walls when I'm stuck on something."
"I only recently tried working outside the office, in a coffee shop. That was for something where I could use an iPad instead of a desktop/laptop and it worked out pretty well. The noise and activity was a good contrast to my normal solitude, which helped with the creative task I was working on. I probably wouldn't want to do it for proper programming or artwork though. The noise/activity would probably be OK, but I enjoy a lot of small efficiencies from large dual monitors, full-sized keyboard, trackball, pen tablet, etc."
"Currently I work alone with some quiet chip-tunes or other non-intrusive music playing. It's hard to say what my ideal is - I'm pretty flexible when absorbed with work. Silence is distracting though so there has to be some tunes at least. For slower periods of development I appreciate having colleagues to break with, but at the moment I'm in crunch and pretty much putter around in my own little world."
Location: New York, USA
Selected Games: Tiny Games, Dots & Co.
"My working space is definitely an extension of my head space. If there's bad stuff in it, then there's bad stuff in my head. If there's lovely stuff in it, then that seeps into my thinking. I'm messy, so i need a lot of space, but I also hate mess, so I need a lot of things to put other things i so I can tidy up a bit. I'm basically a workspace Eeyore. Pretty much nothing makes me happier than a Pot I Can Put Other Things In."
"I have a stash of paper prototyping gear, and a rat's nest of phones and charging cables and a plant that smells of cookies. Also important to me is being in downtown Manhattan. I hate making games away from people. Years of working in real-world, live-action games means I'm used to my audience being in the room with me, all the time, which isn't often the case in digital game production. I find it incredibly important to step outside the office and immediately be surrounded by people who are playing our games, or games like our games, or games that are interestingly different from our games. And I love that I'm so close to art galleries and fashion studios and secret gardens and grimy dive bars. My new project is intensely inspired by the world around me - I'd struggle to find those touchpoints in a bland business park."
"I can't do too much solitude. I flunked out of a PhD a long time ago, and I think a large part of the reason was the utter, relentless solitude. I love how much laughing I do at work, and how much instant feedback I can get on ideas. So much of your job as a game designer is eliciting feedback, watching people play, asking questions even when you know the answers are going to be crushing. It's essential, but it's only half the process. Going away - and for me it's often literally going away - and processing all of that is the other half. So my working pattern tends to be drinking in all that feedback, and then hiding out somewhere on my own with a giant whiteboard or a massive sheet of paper and literally try to map everything I'm hearing back from people. And then you emerge from that with a refined idea and a thirst for some human company and immerse yourself back in the feedback vortex again."
Location: Oregon, USA
Selected Games: Balance of Power, Storytron
"I work at my home, in solitude and with music. The computer is in my office, but working in the 40 acres of forestland I own is an important part of my working style. The physical labor clears my mind. In fact, I shall postpone my reply while I go outside and patrol for invasive weeds in a section of my land, including sulfur cinquefoil and yellow star thistle.
"I play music while I work: Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorak, Telemann, Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky, 60s rock, Scott Joplin, Philip Glass, Uakti, Strauss…I break my work up into changing tasks. I write code for only a few hours at a time; at other times, I write, repair fences, cut down dead trees on my land, drag them to the woodpile with the tractor, and cut them up for firewood."
"I’m building a Panther tank 4 feet long, which I shall program to circle the house at night, occasionally setting off flashes so as to chase away varmints. It is named 'Buckwheat’s Revenge’ after a cat who was taken by coyotes."
"I work in my cave. If I am traveling, which is rarely, I don’t try to work except for light stuff like answering email."
Location: Kyoto, Japan
Selected Games: Starfox Command, PixelJunk Series, The Tomorrow Children
"Q-Games is now in a cool new office that we designed ourselves, in Kyoto, Japan. It is an older building so we were pretty much allowed to do whatever we wanted with the floor we are on."
"My workspace affects my creativity and productivity enormously, which is why in our new design we built a fairly large "social space" or what we refer to as our "café area" where we can go relax and mingle. Each desk is custom designed in groups of three with no direct lighting and everything bouncing off the ceiling. We also designed the desks to have good airflow underneath the desks where we tend to place hot things like PCs and this helps keep a nice average temperature for the office, along with great CO2 levels. High CO2 can be a problem in a work space and will affect your energy levels. We also have shared standing desks that people can go and use at any time."
"I enjoy being in a room full of creative people so I prefer to work in a really nice office space. I definitely don’t like to work in a cubicle type office though, I like open areas and wide spaces to walk. I don’t want to have to take the exact same route every time when I pop to the toilet or go get a coffee and the new office layout has really helped shake that up nicely. I like it to be not too noisy, but every now and then a bit of hub-bub is great and gives me the impression of stuff happening which is what I love."
Location: London, England
Selected Games: Samsara; 80 Days
"I work from home so there's a lot of bleed between 'work’ and 'leisure’. If I haven't had a good day or few days of work, that stress and frustration feels embedded in the whole house, and makes it harder to relax which in turn makes it harder to get up the next morning and be productive. But on the positive side I'm not beholden to a nine-to-five, I have a lot more flexibility, and I enjoy that self-direction."
"You'd think all I really need is a laptop and an internet connection, but I’m unfortunately particular. I like to be able to pace around, go out on the balcony, fiddle around making cups of coffee for myself. I can do research and background work in coffee shops or libraries, but being in my own space is really important to be able to actually sit down and write."
"I really hate doing proper writing -- rather than research or editing or admin -- in front of people, it makes me completely self-conscious and my sentences feel forced. I like having the television on in the background playing something low-key, and tabs open with news and articles to dip in and out of. It's a bit of a scattered, weird process but having controlled distractions actually allows me to focus more intensely."
Location: New York, USA
Selected Games: Silent Hill: Shattered Memories; Her Story; War Games
"I tend to be fairly ambivalent about specific workspaces. The most useful bits of work I do all happen in my subconscious (which is way, way cleverer than I am) and the actual period where I sit at a computer and bash stuff out tends to be more of a work-a-day task. As long as I can talk a walk or go do something pleasant to give myself a break and then I can return and focus, that tends to be important. Having a good coffee shop nearby as an excuse to go take a walk is a good thing -- and NYC doesn't skimp in that area! Having other good people to hand to bounce ideas of and rubber-duck (I know this is supposed to be a bad thing, but I find this is a useful step!) is also key -- and so surrounding myself with the best people either physically or digitally via Skype is super important."
"I can and do work anywhere -- roaming internet connection and headphones and a MacBook means I have pretty much everything I need to hand as long as I'm sheltered from bad weather. And a Kindle for research -- eInk is the best. The exception is when I have a script I need to review I have to go someplace where I have a big enough table to print it all out and lay it out -- wrestling and reviewing something like that works best when I can physically grab pages and see it all in one place. Sometimes I'll do things with post-it notes on the wall and/or scribbling stuff out in notebook too... using my hands can help shake things loose."
"Ever since I was a kid and did my homework whilst watching TV I've convinced myself that a lot of environmental noise is good for me, but I think the best working conditions are 6am in a quiet room. That remains an elusive scenario though -- maybe once a year I manage this. Most projects I work on, I have a set of music that is 'The Music' for the project and sticking that on loop usually jumps my into 'the zone' when I need it to."
Location: London, England
Selected Games: Tenya Wanya Teens; Hohokum
"We're in a place called Busworks, just north of King's Cross. It's one of those converted warehouse buildings that North London has so many of - they used to build and repair the old horse-drawn Omnibuses here in the late 19th century."
"As long as I have natural light, and enough desk space to sit upright and rest my arms comfortably, I'm not especially bothered about my surroundings. I actually quite like working in coffee shops for the people watching, but I don't really drink coffee -- just tea. Constant cups of tea."
"My set up in terms of the computer is way more important to me - not so much a particular keyboard or screen or whatever -- again, I don't really care -- but it's hugely important to me that things like directory structures and naming conventions are sensible, so I can find things when I need to. This stuff has way more of an impact on my productivity than my physical surroundings."
"We tend to listen to music pretty much all day, for which we tend to favor stuff that's not too abrasive and has a particular kind of flow. I like it when people bring me tea. That's pretty important. And sometimes Pat Ashe gives me some nuts in a mug when I'm feeling peckish."
Location: Oakland, USA
Selected Games: Howling Dogs, Neon Haze
"I made a lot of my work sitting on the floor surrounded by cockroaches with my computer screeching and crashing randomly, monitor propped up on a cardboard box, so I care a whole bunch about having a good zone. I think my ideal would be a semi-aquatic environment like an amphibian, slithering around in warm water totally encased in rubber, working on a waterproof computer. Or in a painless VR polygon meadow."
"Right now I work at a desk by my apartment window overlooking the palms and swimming pool of the courtyard. I might work on, like, three to four projects in a day, rapidly switching mediums, so my desk is scattered with cables and scrap - Wacom tablet, Snowball mic, Sharpies, notes. Alternating between paper and typing is a good way to break up my perspective. I love hypnotically shifting colors - we have Christmas lights strung along the window, a Pico projector we aim at the ceiling. Anything that makes the apartment feel like a different world."
"I have hyper-sensory issues so I like a climate-controlled workspace or my apartment where I’ve carefully tailored everything to fit my highly specialized mutant biology (humidity levels, dim or natural lighting, quietness, blankets, hugs.) I like working quietly on my computer listening to music as my girlfriend works on hers and sometimes we will extend our fingers and poke them together and kind of moan happily at each other. Ambiently working near humans with no expectation."
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Selected Games: Noah’s Arks, Ardo
"My desk is often little more than a stage for whatever hardware, reference materials or physical models I might be using at a given time, but it's also there as a void to be filled by whatever comes next. Populating it and clearing this desk becomes a key part of my creative process. I move from one idea to the next by fetching things from bookshelves and tidying them away again. That does, however, tend to mean that basically no part of my workspace actually inspires me directly, unless it is towards some sort of feeling of orderliness."
"As a semi-frequent game jammer, I've come to accept that the mental model of my workspace can and should be portable. Even for day-to-day work, I sometimes find myself having to work over the course of 2-hour rail journeys, in and out of the heart of Götaland. I've taught myself ways to still manage documentation, or otherwise stack up admin and marketing tasks for times like that. I have found that I can make far fewer compromises when it comes to graphics work, though. Without a desk, decent chair and a mouse, there's no hope of me doing any good in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator."
"My ideal working conditions almost always involve my music library, but with the rest of my audio environment under fairly tight control. I'm easily disturbed by sounds like thumping bass and loud, outdoor conversations from neighbors - basically any noise whose source I cannot actually see. I'm usually relatively okay with background conversation sounds somewhere like a café, but decent earphones are a must."
Khaled Abu Al Kheir
Location: Ramallah, Palestine
Selected Games: Spermania, Al-Mamlaka
"All the workstations in the studio were built by the team from bricks and wood. The environment we have built at PinchPoint has made the team grow closer to each other. It’s made us friends, placed us on the same level of importance, made the team smarter.
"I love working with people around. Our office is an open space, and anyone who wants to listen to music or watch video puts on headphones is able to. Personally I rarely put on headphones to listen to music because I love the small chats that start up when one of the team see something interesting or come up with a cool idea, I can’t miss those... I can’t be as productive from home. I sometimes go to coffeeshops, but my work there is normally limited to replying to emails, or working on fundraising stuff and I don’t think it is about the orchestrated workspace, but more about the environment and the vibe.
"To me, our studio feels like a exclusive gaming club for PinchPoint family members, so when I go to there I feel like going out to hang with my friends who share my passion. We have a gaming room for console games. Every Wednesday night the whole studio becomes a gaming arena where we all play several MMOs. We even go as a group to hunt Pokémon."
Location: Cambridge, England
Selected Games: Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark, Bonsai Barber
"I need peace for the deepest work and I desire it for all my work. I have a range of kinds of work from loose to tight. The loosest work is input that includes films, games and book-reading. For these I prefer tranquillity and a lack of interruptions but it is not absolutely necessary. In my life now it is a challenge to put two hours of so called leisure time together to watch a film, so I watch one hour.
"For creative non-programming work, which for me usually involves paper I need the sense that I will not be interrupted. This work I do at my desk or in a café. For programming, which I cannot do in a café in a hunch, I work at my standing desk or sitting desk depending on my whim.
"A lot of my best design work is done while moving: on trains or walking, jogging or cycling. This builds enthusiasm but undeniably I have more ideas per minute when the heart beats faster. Most work for a designer -- or this designer at least -- is thinking, examining the world and searching for something that improves your project.
Location: San Francisco, USA
Selected Games: Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, Headlander
"It's an open workspace, which means that I always know if anything exciting is going on, especially as it pertains to work. If I need to talk to someone nearby or an aisle over, I can often just speak aloud, usually without getting up. We sit everyone on a particular team close to one another. The Headlander team is really fun to be around -- lots of jokes, audible reactions to new stuff in the game, etc. I feel like it draws people out to be in an environment like that. I was very shy when I first started at Double Fine and the accepting atmosphere, combined with this kind of office arrangement meant that I knew absolutely everyone at the company really well and felt a sort of camaraderie with them."
"The downside of an open office is that it can get really distracting during the day; very hard to focus sometimes. I got used to that over time, though, and I always have headphones if I want to drown out the sound."
"The most important thing for my set-up is to have a comfortable chair (they give us aeron chairs at work) else the physical pain from sitting awkwardly makes it impossible to work. Next most important thing is having a large screen (at least 15"), or ideally, two of them. As a game programmer, when I debug a game that's running full-screen, being able to see the debugger simultaneously is invaluable. All this makes working from a coffee shop less than ideal. You also can't really lug a dev kit to a coffee shop -- many dev kits possibly weigh more than I do. If I'm working on a new feature for a PC build or on/in a tool, coffee shops are doable."
"It's probably a well-known thing by now, but a lot of programmers have a hard time listening to music with clearly understandable language. Something to do with your language centers being needed for generating code/problem-solving. I'm definitely affected by this, so I make copious playlists of stuff I can listen to while coding, should I need to put on headphones."
"When I work alone from home or a coffee shop, I get a lot done, but I lose track of time, of my surroundings, and begin to feel a bit lonely or maybe isolated. I forget to eat and take breaks and all kinds of nonsense. I like having people that I know and can talk to around me while I work to keep me sane. And while I do get a lot done working alone, I sometimes lose a sense of urgency -- if you have no one to be accountable to, self-discipline becomes tricky. Seeing others being productive around you can be great for your work ethic. I find I get a lot done if I come in early in the morning or stay late, though I try to curb overtime. Our lights begin to shut off at 7pm at the office (you have to go manually turn them back on -- and they'll shut off again every hour), so it's sort of like having a bar turn all the lights on at closing time, signaling the proverbial, 'You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.’ I usually take the hint."
Location: Guildford, UK
Selected Games: LittleBigPlanet, Tearaway
"I think of my workspace as the place where I both absorb and create ideas, and its very important to me to have a space that supports both sides of that process. Those ideas might come from the conversations that are happening around me, the books I have opened up around the laptop, or it might be that I’m plugged into a second monitor watching whatever movies Mubi are currently streaming. Each of those external inputs gives the work I’m creating a slightly different flavor, so I’m glad I’m able to work in a variety of different places to get a good balance."
"Where I am able to work depends what kind of tasks I’m currently doing. If I’m laying out levels I can do it anywhere, on a train, in a coffee-shop, on the sofa. If I’m creating artwork outside of my sketchbooks then I need extra hardware like either a Cintiq monitor or a Wacom tablet, which makes the setup less portable. Having said that I still try to vary my environment as much as I can, and have managed to balance my Wacom tablet on some quite unusual surfaces."
"I don’t enjoy silence, it feels like being in a vacuum, and not very stimulating while working. So I will either have music or spoken-word-radio playing in the background, or ideally some conversation happening nearby. Something I really don’t like are digital distractions while working - I can listen to any number of conversations while painting some concept-art, but if I keep needing to minimize my canvas to respond to a Slack chat it can really break my flow. And that flow-state is what I enjoy most about creating, and playing, games."
Location: Cardiff, Wales
Selected Games: Scram Kitty
"On and behind my workstation are thematic inspirations for the projects we have developed -- models, sketches, statues -- and for the current project, and by keeping me constantly connected to the ideas around the games, I find that ideas flow more freely. There’s also a healthy dose of fan material - a pose-able Ken Masters from Street Fighter, a plush Bulbasaur, and a Pac-Man ghost… it’s important to me to be reminded what brought me to doing what I do."
"Technologically, having a multi-monitor setup is crucial for debugging and optimizing - you need to be able to see the code whilst the game is running, without switching back and forth (especially because most monitors have horrifyingly bad buttons!). I try to separate out my 'gaming/personal’ PC from my work PC, in order to help with focus, so my desk PC is very much development-only.
"I spend a fair bit of time in Japan, so it’s important that I can keep coding on the go and actually it can be a lot of fun hot-desking at other companies, getting ideas and feedback from other developers. But there’s no substitute for my desk at the Dakko Dakko office, with the plushy Scram Kitty made by our artist’s wife, and the phrase 'tomorrow, too, holds good things’, hanging overhead. And the cats, of course! We have two cats in the office, one of which spends much of the day quietly watching me type.
"My ideal is our current set-up, whereby we are in our own spaces but constantly connected online, and once or twice per month we get together in the office for a review, and a burst of new ideas spring forth. In future I imagine we’re going to formalize this structure a bit more and build on it.
"Unfortunately, despite often being in some very pretty locations, I don’t seem to work well outside. Not only is the sun a problem on the screen -- even in Cardiff sometimes! -- but birds overhead make me constantly nervous. If you’re ever by the river in Kyoto, be sure to cover your food…"
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Selected Games: Final Fantasy Type-0, Final Fantasy XV
"As lead game designer of the towns in Final Fantasy XV, I want to create fictional cities that are grounded while still being fascinating for players to explore. For this, I need to have immediate access to materials on world cultures, including books on urban planning and manga focusing on travel and cuisine. Even with Internet access, I insist on having these physical copies lying around. Not only do they help me get instant inspiration, but they also encourage the exchange of knowledge within the team. My colleagues and I are in a constant habit of borrowing each other’s books and manga, and this can only happen when they're on the desk for everyone to see."
"Desk is best for me. Our director Tabata-san insists on grouping us based on game features rather than skill sets, so I sit very close to the artists and programmers who are working on the towns as well. This makes it easy for us to create mini-brainstorming sessions. We can easily call out to each other if any of us have feedback or complaints. In addition to that, physical materials like books and printed diagrams also help us to easily communicate new ideas. Also, I often have to play and check the game thoroughly, especially this late in the production. Due to security reasons, there's no way I can do that in a coffee shop for now."
"I'm used to people making noise near my workstation. Communication is key when it comes to game design, hence I would like to stay as close as possible to my team members for instant discussions and decision-making. Realizing this importance made me welcome noise in my environment. Surprisingly, I can work without music in my ears, but for those super sleepy moments I usually have YouTube documentaries running in the background. Last but not least, I need to have proper air circulation in order to work, no matter the season. That's what the table fan is for."