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Category: Professions

Find the right partners

My grandfather told me once: Stay with those who are better than you. He intended humanly better, of course, not to those who have more futile stuff.

Understanding who is humanly better than us is an art and often we make mistakes. The important is to strive to stay with the best that we meet on our road.

Partners are the most valuable predictor of success. This is valid in all areas of life. Want a better career? Find the right partner. Starting a business? Find the right partners. Looking for a job? Find the right partners. Launching a new game? Find the right partners.

When you hire a freelancer, you are the client of a 1-person business. At the start, we have to test each other from both sides.

  • Will this person be the right one to delegate this job?
  • Will this new client pay me on time?

Oftentimes, after a couple of weeks, we may become partners. The company found someone to produce faster. And the freelancer found a business from which to learn to spot and solve more problems. This helps us to be faster with future clients, too. In fact, we see every week different kinds of situations and challenges. Many sources of data and very different readings of those. Wide picture.

Treat freelas like partners!

My suggestion then, is to treat your freelancers not simply like service providers. The best clients I have ask me “How are you doing?” “How do you feel?”. Speak to us also of other struggles you have, maybe we can help. This creates bounds. This fosters a partnership. This creates value.

Maybe you do not need our service anymore at some point. Our job is done. We can still be a partner, though. You can recommend us to other businesses, for instance. Write to us the updates on your product. “Hey, I am coming to this conference next month, what about you?”.

Be a good partner first, and you will find the right partners. Gigs, businesses, and jobs come and go. What the people think of us stays for a long time.

Questions to ask on culture

It happens to many of us to join a company and realize that it is not the place for us. Not for the product, not for the people, but for the type of culture there.

During some selection processes, we have the opportunity to speak with the founders. There is always a moment when they ask us if we have any questions. I recommend these 3 questions to understand where you are going to end up.

Are you running a race or a ride?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. There are professionals who prefer racing. They want to feel the adrenaline rush and get some results first. Train hard and work hard. They don’t like to lose the race. They want to be at least on the podium and bet everything in their lives on that.

There are other professionals who, like me, want to last 100 years. If some competitor does better, who cares? There’s room for everyone. Take it easy. Do your job with patience, and dedicate yourself to those hours with all of yourself. But remember that life has many facets, not just work.

Fun fact: I worked for a beautiful company that ran a ride. The company was bought by a multinational whose vision was: “to become the best f2p company in the world“. From ride, work turned to race. In a race, people are left behind. I jumped ship immediately. Many of my former colleagues were fired in 1 year, probably for some number on a spreadsheet. Do you read the company vision? Do you meditate on that? That is very important, believe me.

I’m working for you. What are the elements that will lead you to say “nice job” in 6 months?

This question is essential to understand what are the things that the company is looking for. All businesses want to make big profits, big and small. This is obvious, otherwise, a sane person would never get into entrepreneurial ventures.

There are many different types of leaders. Ask this question and listen carefully to the answer.

Fun fact: I was in a bar having an informal interview with a company that wanted to land in Barcelona. I asked this question to the person who was supposed to be my future boss. This person replies “I’ll tell you that you’re doing a good job if I’m drinking champagne from PRADA shoes! Hahaha!“. I finished my coffee, said goodbye politely, and left. The company has never been able to create anything here.

If you fired in the last year, could you tell me why?

This is a question that will make us understand the intentions of the companies. It’s a question I’ve never asked anyone. Today I only interview for companies that really interest me. With solid projects.

But given the recent times, where the job market treat people like commodities. This question is fundamental.

In fact, we need to understand what kind of monster we are entering through the jaws. If this monster will spit us out, shit us out.

Or if we will become part of his organism contributing to its functioning.


People who don’t know how to manage often manipulate the topic of cultural fit to serve their ego. Other times, it professionals who don’t know how to ask questions view this topic not so important.

Remember: you should become the member of a company to improve its culture. No one should never force you in their schema.

On experience

A few days ago I posted an ode to determination and willpower that triggered a number of interesting reactions. Best of all, I had interesting discussions around the topic of professional experience. Two things happened:

  • A claim made by me that says “Willpower eats experience for breakfast” gave rise to bad interpretations.
  • A reading from a skeptical perspective by some dear friends in the industry distorted a bit the message.

Someone interpreted that I underestimate experience. Someone read that I said that willpower is everything and that you don’t need the experience to make great games. That is not the case. What I wanted to say was that we should never underestimate willpower, because willpower is a strong force that often led to creating great franchises. Of course, professional experience is key. But if you have the experience and no willpower, you will probably create a clone, a repetition of something you don’t like. I made a concrete example from the city where I live, Barcelona. A lot of big companies landed here and I know they tried to create new games. And nothing happened. They have the best talent in the World, but probably not enough willpower to make great things. That was my point.

Experience is the real quality needed for a better industry. Our industry will be better if we’ll include more people in it and make more games out of the true experience.

Professional experience is something that:

  • You wish you had when you look for your first job.
  • You are building, when you practice your job
  • You possess, when you have invested a lot of time doing your work.

The discussion will be geared toward game designers, but perhaps some concepts can be extended to other profiles.

When you want to have experience

A lot of people get to finish their studies and find themselves faced with a mountain to climb. We wish we had a job, but we find ourselves rejected for lack of experience. We seem to be in a vicious circle: I don’t have a job because I don’t have experience because I don’t have a job because…

How to get out of the circle? Well for me there are a few points to consider:

Do you have enough willpower to want to be a game designer?

In this case, you simply have to be a game designer. Sleep at least 8 hours a day, wake up rested, and think about what to do. Every single day work on a project, it can also be a personal project. When you have something finished, you have to make ordinary people try it. You will never learn real game design from game jams. Because in game jams there is the most important part missing: the player. You must be present at the session and record everything. Jot down what you have learned and iterate at least once. After iterating, publish everything on, for example. Put your work out!

Do you need a job for economic reasons?

Look for a job even if it is not in game design. The richest people I know started out doing jobs they didn’t like! Maybe you discover something else, what do you know?

When you’re getting experience

When you are getting the experience you will be junior, mid, or senior. Depending on your level of experience, you will have different challenges ahead of you.

When you are a junior your goal is to bring out that special something that made the miracle of getting a job to happen. Remember that you are not there solely because of your talent. You are there because of a number of issues that you do not control. The best way to repay this grace is to truly express yourself.

Recognize that you have been fortunate and start giving support to more experienced people. Learn from them by helping them. If you have an opinion, express it. If you have a contradiction, keep it to yourself. If your superior seems to know less than you do, that’s okay-it’s normal. It may depend on your inexperience or it may be true. Sacrifice yourself and do your job.

When you are mid, your challenge is to learn to be disciplined. In fact, very often being a mid means feeling like a senior who hasn’t made it yet. You are not a senior, you are mid! Fall in line, young man! Do your homework, participate in interesting discussions respectfully, and above all: study!

When you get home, don’t stand in front of the PlayStation streaming with friends who want followers. You are not a gamer, you are a game designer. You need to devour any book, podcast or YouTube video you can find. You need to start structuring your own method, your own special sauce! Don’t worry about Internet coaches talking about “work-life balance.” Your work is part of your life, and in your life there is work. Become the best you can be, instead. The balance will come later, after the right effort. You are here to build something great.

When you are a senior, you don’t need to be told what to do. If you have done well on your path, you will have your own more or less formalized method. You need to understand the business behind the project and give up your prejudices in the name of growth. Your manager will help you grow. You have to learn from this person. If you feel you have nothing to learn, dedicate yourself to the project. And if the project is going nowhere, move on: you are not a tree!

Don’t forget to expand your network of people a lot. I know you work long hours, so use your free time to get out and meet as many people as possible. If you can join a local community all the better. If you can teach somewhere I assure you it is a wonderful experience.

When you have experience

When you have a lot of experience you might even find yourself unemployed. We’re seeing that these days across the whole technology sector.

Many people will be looking for work, and your time will come to find it. Don’t lose sight of your mental and physical health and keep pressing on. You have always made it, and you will make it!

If, on the other hand, you are considering going it alone, I am an advisor and I suggest you give it a try. Unless you have a big business vision, don’t become an entrepreneur: become a freelancer. Remember the big difference:

  • Freelancers are like employees: they earn when they work.
  • Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, earn when they sleep! They earn from what they have built. And it’s hard to be on that side if you have never been.

And that’s it! 🙂

Hiring good leaders

A good leader will have worked with others and can involve these people in other adventures. This is one of the keys to success when a company wants to find a new leader for a department.

I have met various leaders in my career, and I would not work again with all of them. In the selection processes for leaders in which I take part, I do not see enough insistence on this point. A good leader makes the company hire the best talent.

If there’s one thing that’s important to a good leader, it’s the ability to help manage the hiring process.

  • What is this person’s reputation in the local sector?
  • How will they create a meaningful hiring strategy?
  • Are they capable of bring the best people with them?
  • Do companies check these things when they hire a new leader?

Often, some inefficient people get for some reason to be “head of…” at some company. Another company reads their resume and sees they’ve had that position before. The company doesn’t inquire who they have worked with and “cancer” expands into another reality.

A good leader may have held non-leadership positions, but be respected by current and former colleagues. Important is the capability of making an impact in hiring the best talent.

Don’t just look at the resume, you need to consult the people that worked with them!

The power of asking

I notice a tendency of show off everything on social networks instead than asking for help. Especially from Gen Z, I see that many times they are worried more with their personal brands that with building meaningful relationships. The few of them who ask will receive.

There was a moment in my career in which I found myself alone, without a job and thinking seriously of leaving the industry. Naturally, I started to speak with every friend regarding this. Also with new employers. I worked as waiter and as data scientist, always thinking in making video games someday. I also started a blog in Spanish in order to make myself visible, but there was a single activity which I was committed: asking.

I asked everyone I could for help. Most people will try their best, believe me. Asking is way more useful that put a screenshot of a Unity session on LinkedIn saying “first trials with new video pipeline!”. That is not useful at all, there is no polish in what you’are publishing and it’s only noise. Ask instead something to some expert of your field. Ask them everything you can, on all channels you can. Use comments but also DMs. Ask and insist asking for help. Ask is so powerful!

Deserving the position

A friend of mine, indie game developer, is trying to join the industry. He managed in a brilliant way getting his first interview. He study their game and made a feature proposal for them.

A few months ago, I sent my CV to the same company and for the same position. I have far more experience than my friend, still they rejected my application. He was smart and proactive. I didn’t, I just applied. He deserves that position!

Today he asked me for a way of preparing for his interview. I suggested him to get informed regarding the main KPIs, key performance indicators. Those are very important when you are giving the core of your service for free.

Then you have to study the company’s game and at least 2 competitors of the same game. Look on Game Refinery and Deconstructor of Fun for more depth on the genre.

This post is for my friend. He deserves the position!

Owning the feature design

This post is about ownership of the development of a feature or mechanic in a video game. Many companies say that they need people who really own the tasks they have. Ownership is very important but also a little fuzzy concept.

What I understand for ownership is different from what you mean with the same word. It is also different from reality to reality. It is not the same to own the design and development of a secondary feature than to own the core mechanic of a new game.

To me, the secret of good ownership is being able to maintain a vision while adapting to the context. The term ownership can be easily confused with property ownership. If your duty is to own some feature, the best you can do is to build on what you have, leaving the borders of your property open.


In the world of data driven development it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking “data is everything”, repeating the same mistakes over and over or offering the same formula to the Players.

Data is not everything. Data is a resource that has to be translated into information, otherwise everything can be read. Ownership means also to be able in doing this translation. You need to make hypotheses, you need to verify those hypotheses using concrete experiments and then you can discuss how to transform the information in actions. 

It is very hard having the right data ready at the start of some new implementation, so that often you need to rely on other elements to form your vision:

  • Your own personal experience brings inevitably something interesting to the discussion table.
  • Never forget that game design is also art, you should put something very personal in if you want to really engage your team and Players in your vision.
  • You need to know the state of the art, breaking down the same feature implemented in other games. It is not necessary to reinvent the wheel.
  • You need to connect with the people playing those games and really understand what it works and why.


It is very unlikely to create the next f2p success with a team of 3 developers and 2 artists and no QA, right? If you have a small team, a feature can take aeons to get right. Most of the times you cannot iterate properly, your manager will pass to the next feature and your work will cripple. This happens in the majority of companies, and it is completely normal. Owning your design means accepting this and move forward. It’s hard, I know.

From the other side, it is very hard to create a fresh core loop with a team of 80 people. Politics, meetings and dispersion of the information will make you struggle to properly transmit your insight with the rest of the team. In that case, it is way better to take a strong base and then focus on improving the experience in terms of UX. Believe me, you will save a lot of stress.

Being aware of the context is very important, the magic lies where you can do the best you can with what you have. When you have the feeling that you can do everything with no limitations, it probably means that the context is not clear to the leadership nor to the team. Red flag. When you own a feature, you should try to clarify:

  • Goals with all the stakeholders
  • Concrete deadlines with weekly/bi-weekly intermediate milestones
  • Concrete quality expectations for the feature you own.

Final thoughts

The rise of automation is solving a lot of problems and saving us a lot of time. If we really want to be the professionals of tomorrow, we should focus our attention on providing the right solutions and vision according to the context we work in. 

Ownership is one of the most important factors of the future landscape of professional game design. 

What is your way of owning your tasks?

My thoughts on seniority

I was talking to a friend and game designer about the future and our wishes. Sometimes I would like to dedicate to projects of a different nature than mobile f2p. Sometimes I would also appreciate to have different kinds of responsibilities.

Companies see my profile and normally contact me for:

  • virtual economies
  • tutorials and first time user experiences
  • game design documents for free-to-play mobile games
  • creative direction

I would love to be able to dedicate a couple of years to an action RPG for PC and Consoles at some point. Maybe I can be very useful in the level design of a moment-to-moment adventure games of the caliber of The Last of Us. I am absolutely convinced of it, even if companies of this type when my resume arrives they discard it in a few minutes.

You should then start as a junior designer in a new reality if you want to do this. Difficult to be a senior designer there.“, my friend pointed out.

I disagree with this. For me, seniority does not depend on concrete experience in a specific type of game.

What it takes to be a good game designer

Raph Koster says that a designer must express quality in three fundamental fields: artistic, technical and editorial.

The artistic side is essential to have that sensitivity to observe what players are looking for in a certain type of game and offer them an experience that in terms of aesthetics and challenge makes sense. The game designer is a bit of an artist: is the game imitating real life, or do you want to create a game that influences real life in some way?

The ability to write is also very important, especially being concise. I believe that the best designers use the formula 60-30-10 when presenting their ideas: 60% images, 30% text and 10% multimedia references. 30% text therefore needs to hit the spot and inspire. For that you need experience and editorial skills. I’m not even an English native speaker, so I have to constantly update myself on this point.

Finally, there are the technical skills. Using a game engine, knowing how to use spreadsheets and other skills that vary depending on the designer. Personally I am proficient with Unity and Python and I create scripts that often make things easier for me and the team. Others are very good at photoshop and can also create basic concept art. Some level designers come from architecture and therefore are quite more comfortable creating structures that make sense. All technical skills can be learned, however. In fact, in 3-6 months at the most, it is possible to enter a new world and acquire what we need to be fully operational.

What is seniority to me

Senior game designers are people capable of understanding the context in which they move, constructively stimulating dialogues and setting up processes according to the project they are in. They are very aware of the gaming business, too.

While I’ve contributed to various virtual economies, that doesn’t mean an AAA game designer isn’t capable of studying competitors and preparing mathematical models and spreadsheets. These are things that can be easily learned. The design process has stages that are independent of the platform, genre and type of audience. It is a question of understanding which problems must be solved, analyzing how other realities have faced the same problems and defining solutions according to a certain context (team, budget, scope, time and quality).

Seniority is primarily dependent on age, in my humble opinion. When I read “senior game designer” and I see an age under 25 I already start to have suspicions. Being senior also gives you the self-confidence necessary to defend designs with superiors. Except in special cases, if you are 22 it is difficult to overcome certain filters set by the experience of 40+ years old leaders.

Age, previous experience and context make the seniority, for me. Having faced the same kind of problems in the past certainly accelerates, but it doesn’t make the difference between junior and senior. You can be slower at start but way more effective on the long term.

Less broken features are more value

These days I am reading the book Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It is definitely not an easy lecture, for a non-english speaker. You need time and dedication to fully understand it. I am sure I will need more lectures.

In the edition I have, on chapter 15 called “Linda: Less is More” there is a paragraph where the author reports an experiment run at the University of Chicago. Professor Christopher Hsee asked people to name a price for sets of dinnerware, using a method called “joint evaluation”. The method consists of compare two different sets of things and propose a value. The Set B had a list of items, all in good conditions. Set A, instead, contained the same items of Set B plus more items partly broken.

Since Set A contained exactly the same things that B, but with more things (partly broken), logically participants valued Set A more than B: $32 versus $30 (average).

The professor run the same experiment but with single evaluation. The result is quite interesting: Set B was priced way more than A. $33 versus $23 average.

What does that mean to us game designers? Sometimes the best you can do for a game is to remove some part that is broken. Having a feature that does not work can be a problem. It is better to remove features, and test if the things improve without them. Players can genuinely value our game better without that synchronized broken multiplayer mode, believe me!

Have you created your framework yet?

I have been observing the profiles of the most renowned game designers for some time. They all have one thing in common: they have developed frameworks and shared them with the world.

What are the tools and methodologies you use the most to tackle problems? Group everything, create a mind map, and share your thoughts every now and then. Your framework is interesting to the world, believe me!

Don’t waste any more time, start building your frameworks. It helps to think about everything in the form of a system. Excellent tool for optimizing times!