Stone Librande is a video game designer currently working at EA. He was the Creative Designer on the recently released SimCity (2013). He previously worked on Diablo 3 as the Lead Designer, and worked on Maxis’ Spore as a designer. He studied Animation at CalArts, and went on to study at MIT’s Media Lab.
Stone swung by the ETC-SV campus last Monday and gave us his GDC 2013 talk titled “Simulating a City, One Page at a Time.” At his GDC 2010 talk about “One Page Designs,” he showed one-page design examples that he previously made for games such as Diablo 3, Spore, and the Simpsons. His goals for one page designs are that they should be contained within a single page, printed and displayed prominently, and communicate a core idea clearly, concisely, and thoroughly. Due to the success that he had with one-page designs on previous games that he worked on, he decided to challenges himself and put all of his design work for SimCity on one-page documents.
During his presentation, he went through the design process, explained the different sections of the SimCity design, and showed how he broke each section down into one or several (if needed) one-page design documents. He explained his process for creating the isometric images and text and laying them out on the page to best communicate the design of a specific part of SimCity. He shared tales of the various methods he used to make the designs visible and accessible to the others on the SimCity team. He printed the documents out on small or large paper and stuck them up around the office, and updated them as needed. He even made magnets out of images of the buildings, so that the team could move them around on a whiteboard.
In the end, Stone found that it was difficult to maintain the pace of producing the meticulously-created documents, that they were difficult to organize, and that the one-page design doc format is not suited for use by all members of the team. However, this goal of pursuing one-page design documents was ultimately worth it, because it really helped him to thoroughly understand the design.
Stone said that a designer needs the ability to communicate well, especially through writing, and needs to be able to document what you talk to your team about. He recommended that a designer go from the top down. The designer should first make a big picture document, then drill down.
Stone’s talk was great for gaining insight into design, learning best practices for effective communication, and learning about the process of designing SimCity.