Alexander Shumeyiko — Funcom
Senior game designer of Conan Exiles, The Secret World and other projects of the company.
What led you to the game dev industry and how did you become a game designer?
Like everyone growing up, I had no idea what I wanted to do as a profession, after trying a few random opportunities I decided to enroll at university, still without a concrete plan, thankfully tuition fees at the time were not crippling and I landed on the BSc Computer Games program, this was around 13 years ago and at the time very novel, it was very much an unknown, there were very few industry people teaching or had published works on the subject.
Around that time I was actively playing EVE Online, late one evening while waiting for our scheduled fleet operation a heated discussion was taking place on team speak about the gameplay reasons for siege timers and their function as a schedule gaming mechanic, one of the people listening in just happened to be a lead designer at Funcom, one thing followed another and I joined the company.
What does a typical day look like?
Having a young kid means you get up early, sleep and recreational time is a luxury of a previous life, after the morning’s antics getting to work is extremely calming. Once at work running 8 flights of stairs gets the mind working, morning are usually meeting and coordination, afternoons are where the majority of the days work gets done.
What's your setup?
Novacat; six extended large lasers, no leg or side armour, fourteen sinks, 86 kph.
Which apps and services do you use most to complete your main tasks?
Office 365, learn to love Excel.
Where do you gain inspiration from?
Books, podcasts and other games, which is my favourite way to keep motivated and inspired; to enjoy the awesome work others.
When and how do you start working on a new feature? Could you describe the process?
The high-level process is generally: the product owner wants a feature, we have a meeting and try to come to a mutual understanding of the feature, the feature design is written up, reviewed and iterated on within the design team, when we are happy with it internally then the product owner reviews and either accepts or returns for another iteration, or shelves the feature.
Once a feature is accepted we make a working prototype with placeholder art, data and scripts, something that can demonstrate intent and can be tested which other the profession will get involved and we migrate the feature from prototype to shippable.
Which games have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?
Every game has something special, for example with Battle Brothers I very much enjoyed the RPG and Combat systems while Eve Online is a fantastic economic PvP sandbox and World of Tanks revitalised the tactical vehicular shooter genre.
What achievements in your career are you most proud of?
Having worked in the industry for over 10 years, I still enjoy every day at work.
If you could change one thing about your career, what would it be?
Study harder and drink less at university.
Which recent task turned out to be much difficult than you expected?
Anything multiplayer related is automatically three times as complicated as first estimated, always.
How are the disputes about variants of feature design solved in your company?
What do you do to self-improve in game design?
Read different things, play different games and talk to people about their gaming experiences.
What music do you listen to whilst designing?
If a game designer would want to apply to your company, what would you advise him?
Every game designer is in the first place a thought leader, communicator and negotiator. Secondly, have a portfolio of personal game projects and be ready to defend the design decisions therein and finally, be well read; history, religion, fiction, psychology, dialectics and mathematics.
Any advice for game designers in general?
For juniors; ideas are free, but their execution is priceless. For veterans; never settle, always take the extra step.
Traditionally we ask to take a picture of your working place. Could you please share a picture of yours?
No, sorry, it’s a mess.