Archive for the ‘Speakers’ Category

Guest Speaker – Alex Kowalski

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013 posted by rcano



Alex Kowalski, a game and UI designer at Electronic Arts was nice enough to stop by and spin us a tale of his experience working at EA, in particular The Sims 4. Alex is also an ETC alumnus and began by telling us how when he first started out at the ETC he didn’t know what he wanted to do; he just knew he wanted to be a game designer.

He thought it would be wise to first tell us what his job as a game designer entails. His main duties involve writing design docs, providing feature support, hooking and tuning, and actually playing the game. Providing feature support encompasses at least half his day. This process involves going over the design document with those involved line by line. During this time others in the room will try to poke holes in his design and talk about execution. In the end it creates a stronger design. Hooking and tuning is actually putting content in the game and balancing it out with the rest of the content. Finally playing the game to make sure the entire game flows correctly.

The other portion of his job is UI Design. His duties for UI design are wire framing, providing feature support, and again, playing the game.  Wire framing is creating the layout and flow of the UI buttons on the screen. He provides feature support by constantly talking to those involved in the execution of the UI and making sure he has accounted for any edge cases. Again, playing the game is important to make sure the UI is functional and has been executed correctly.

Alex finished off his presentation by answering question from the class. These questions ranged from what skills are needed as a designer to the difference between play testing in EA and in smaller groups. The class genuinely enjoyed his presentation and was glad to have him visit.

Vivek Jawa Visit

Monday, October 7th, 2013 posted by Chris Cashman
Vivek Jawa presentation to students

Vivek Jawa presentation to students

We were visited by ETC alumnus, Vivek Jawa, who is currently a development director for the Sims 4 project here at EA.  Vivek was gracious enough to talk to us about his time in the game industry, as well as informing us about how certain companies operate.

Vivek related to us how he started off by first being a tools engineer and working on somewhat mundane tasks.  He told us that in order to have more responsibilities and to climb up the corporate ladder, we will have to prove ourselves in more simple jobs.  From there, he delved into his rise through the ranks of EA, going from one great project to the next.  Vivek also went into how he dealt with the disappointment of having a project being canceled when recounted the time he worked on a Lord of the Rings game that never made it to market.  It is just how it goes sometimes; you work on a project for a period of time, and then it gets shut down for a whole multitude of reasons.  All you can do is just move on to the next project and do your best.

Lastly, Vivek gave us some understanding of what his job entails.  As a development director at EA, he has the same responsibilities as a producer in many other companies.  He makes sure that his team knows what they need to do, provides them any assistance he can to make their jobs easier, and ensures that the team meets their deadlines and ships the game on schedule.  He also interacts with the project’s producer, who in other companies would be called the creative director.  That person’s job is to develop fun concepts and get them into the project. By having conversations and meetings with the producer, Vivek is able to find a compromise between the creative and pragmatic sides of production so that the end result is a great game that also ships on time.

Vivek’s talk with us provided us with fantastic insight into the inner workings of a major gaming company and how to handle the personal aspects of being a part of said company, and this information will prove to be invaluable to us in the future.

Anthony Daniels Visit

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 posted by mjohns
Anthony Daniels

Anthony Daniels, Anthony Daniels, Anthony Daniels

On September 16th and 17th we were fortunate to be visited by Anthony Daniels, an ETC Adjunct Faculty better known as C3PO.  Each semester Anthony visits with ETC students to share wisdom and observe students’ work.

In his time visiting the ETC SV campus, Anthony spent time talking with the two teams and individuals from each team about the projects we are working on.  As always, Anthony bounded in with enthusiasm and critique, giving useful advice and making you rethink your entire life’s purpose.  During the All Hands meeting he enthralled us with his stories about George Lucas, and how he got his role as C3PO, and he reminded us of the importance of networking and reaching out to make a connection.  It is not uncommon for people in this industry to be shy, but it is important to remember the value of talking to strangers.  Sometimes it is important to step outside your comfort zone and strike up a conversation with someone who might be able to help you get a job.  Anthony told us about the bond formed between Lucas and Lego, and how it has brought success to both companies.  The advice from Anthony is to spread your network far and wide; every connection may be more useful than you know.

Stone Librande and Designing SimCity

Sunday, May 5th, 2013 posted by Jenn

Stone Librande
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.

Nikolas Alixopulos and VFX

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 posted by mmittner

On Thursday April 18th, 2013, ETC Silicon Valley was lucky enough to host Nikolas Orion Alixopulos. Nik is currently a Creative Director and Producer at UC Santa Curz. He is working on putting together their 3D visualization of course materials for a variety of different subjects. This work is part of a new initiative to bring alternative methods of engagement to traditional learning.

Nik spoke to us at length about his career in VFX and teaching. He told us about the importance of being a generalist as a VFX artist working in film and television, and contrasted that with how people typically specialize heavily when working in games.

Nik began in the industry as a modeler but as a generalist he got into all sorts of areas, from crowd simulations to rotoscoping. Nik gave us a taste of what it was like working in the industry. For example, he told us how challenging it was to work at a studio like ZOIC, but how much that impressed future employers and helped him stay employed (in an industry where artists move mostly from one contract position to the next).

He had a lot of advice for those of us who were graduating concerning how to find jobs. He told us to get creative in our job search, made good suggestions about how to manage our time, and pointed out a lot of good job searching tools that we might not all have been familiar with. His perspective on the industry was invaluable, and it was nice to have a speaker that was so responsive to questions and honest about his own journey. Unfortunately Nik was unable to show us any specifics of his work with the new film Elysium as all that work is under NDA until after August 9th. But, we did see the trailer and it looks really fantastic.

It was a pleasure to have Nik come and share his knowledge and experience with us.