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Bringing 3D design principles to a 2D game, and the risks of giving advice

March 8, 2017 | By Alissa McAloon

March 8, 2017 | By Alissa McAloon
More: Console/PC, Indie, Design, Video

Last week’s daily recordings of the GDC X One Life Left podcast saw a host of different guests on a wide variety of different topics near and dear to the hearts of game developers.

One segment from the second day of recording captured a conversation with Lisa Brown, who herself gave three talks at the Game Developers Conference last week. Speaking about her talk in the ‘Everything I Said Was Wrong’ microtalk block, Brown offered some advice that both new and veteran developers should keep in mind. 

The microtalk series featured memories from Brown, Rami Ismail, Liz England, and Dan Cook about advice they once gave and believed in at the time but that, looking back, seemed like “kind of garbage” now. 

“The theme of everyone’s [talk] was that context is everything,” said Brown. “You don’t get to pick who takes your advice when you’re doing a talk. You don’t get to pick how people interpret it. Just be aware that there’s always risk involved when giving advice.” 

Another of her talks focused on her experience as a 3D centric game designer working for a triple-A developer to a designer working on an indie 2D title. 

Brown recently worked as a level designer on the 2D action-RPG Hyper Light Drifter. She had previously worked at Insomniac Games as a designer on Resistance 3 and Sunset Overdrive, and later as both a designer and project lead for Slow Down, Bull.

Since the bulk of her design experiences was with 3D games, she initially wasn’t sure how much of her skillset would be translatable into her work on Hyper Light Drifter

“When I first started I wasn’t sure if anything would carry over. But there’s a lot of general design principles that definitely did that are sort of agnostic of genre or camera view that ended up coming into play,” explained Brown.

She said that she found that some design principles like keeping a player’s survival-driven feelings in mind or isolating combat spaces could apply to both 3D and 2D design. “Basically all the muscles I built up making 3D games still were applicable making an overhead 2D game.”

The segment featuring both Brown, who recently joined up with Bungie’s sandbox gameplay design team, and mobile game publisher Martine Spaans, whose work centers around publishing games for older women, starts right at the 58:54 mark in the video above. The full hour and a half long episode is also worth a listen as well and features conversations with 11 total game developers from different parts of the industry. 

And while you’re at it, be sure to subscribe to the Gamasutra Twitch Channel and the One Life Left podcast for more great game analysis to enrich your development life. 

Gamasutra and GDC are sibling organizations under parent UBM America.

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