Dan Salvato — Team Salvato
Creative director of his own studio, which developed Doki Doki Literature Club.
What led you to the game dev industry and how did you become a game designer?
Video games have always been an important part of my life, and my personal projects have always been within video game communities. Getting into game design was a natural progression for me, based on my personal interests.
What does a typical day look like?
In a typical day, I’m usually taking care of business upkeep and putting some work into the projects of my choice. I work from home and have no schedule, so what I work on each day can be pretty sporadic.
What's your setup?
My setup is a custom-built desktop PC with three monitors.
Which apps and services do you use most to complete your main tasks?
On a daily basis I’m using Tweetdeck, Slack, monday.com, Discord, Sublime Text, and Adobe Creative Cloud. This is the general spread for social media, business, and creative tasks.
Where do you gain inspiration from?
I’m always heavily inspired by other story-driven games with unique mechanics, art, or other elements that you don’t often get to see in games. As a game developer, I’m inspired by the games I love.
When and how do you start working on a new feature? Could you describe the process?
For new features, I set realistic goals and make sure it’s a task that is within my skill level to achieve. I usually bounce between research and testing code until I have a rudimentary implementation. My style is always to get it working first, then to go back and clean it up.
Which games have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?
I don’t spend as much time playing games nowadays, but I’m often impressed by flagship Nintendo releases, such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. I’m always enamored by Nintendo’s magic, as their games often make me smile with their amazing art direction, attention to fine details, and ability to keep me engaged with fresh new elements at each and every turn.
What achievements in your career are you most proud of?
I have always wanted to be able to make a difference in people’s lives, whether by entertaining them or inspiring them. I’m proud that I’ve been able to achieve that to some degree, and I will always aspire to continue doing so.
If you could change one thing about your career, what would it be?
I have nothing I wish I could change about my career, as I feel that it’s within my ability to make any changes I need to make.
Which recent task turned out to be much difficult than you expected?
The most difficult thing for me is adapting to my growing business, as I’m much better at making stuff than I am at managing a company. But I’m in a much better spot than I was six months ago.
How are the disputes about variants of feature design solved in your company?
Up until now I’ve only ever made things by myself, so I haven’t really been faced with any such disputes.
What do you do to self-improve in game design?
I improve in game design by learning as I go. I set goals that are realistically within my reach, and I learn the skills needed to make it happen. By the time I’m finished, I’ve emerged slightly more skilled than I was going in.
What music do you listen to whilst designing?
I don’t really listen to music while working – sometimes I have a Twitch stream open if the task is not very intensive, but in general I focus best in silence.
If a game designer would want to apply to your company, what would you advise him?
I’m not really sure, as I’ve never hired other game designers before.
Any advice for game designers in general?
My advice to aspiring game designers is always to start with the smallest possible projects. If something is too far out of reach, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and give up. But if it’s a small project where the goal is within reach and you can make tangible progress every day, then you can stay motivated and grow your skills for your next, larger project.
Traditionally we ask to take a picture of your working place. Could you please share a picture of yours?
I work from home, so my workplace is just a small office room in my house. I’d prefer not to share a picture at this time.