Nikita Kulaga — Lazy Bear Games
Co-founder and game designer at Lazy Bear Games, the creators of Punch Club and Graveyard Keeper.
Saint Petersburg, Russia.
What led you to the game dev industry and how did you become a game designer?
Despite I loved computer games all my conscious life, I joined the industry quite accidentally. This happened because of my best friend and companion, Svyatoslav. We’ve met each other in World of Warcraft and as we were both programmers, we’ve become friends. We tried making different web projects together and after some video from the 2001’s KRI (“Game Developers Conference in Russia”), he suggested making games. We’ve started it as a hobby, which became life work.
What does a typical day look like?
We start at 12:30. It’s nice if before work you manage to go to a gym because after it the whole day is more productive. Up to 2 in the afternoon everyone’s getting into the flow, discussing tasks for the day. I try to prepare tasks for all the artists, game designers and developers. We don’t have planning as it is, except for my notebook and the common table with the art pool. This routine was happening since there were 3 of us on the team. On such a big project as Graveyard Keeper, this system started to fail and we’re working now on building proper processes in the team.
Up to 8 in the evening I do different game design tasks and writing dialogues. We spend a lot of time to discuss every aspect of the game and the art. The whole team is in the big open space. So usually everyone’s taking part in discussing any task. This is not efficient, but everyone understands what, how and what for we’re doing everything. At 8 in the evening, I go home.
What's your setup?
PC, which is hanged below the desk. Two 25’’ displays, one is 2560×1440 and a smaller one with 1080. Logitech keyboard, ROCCAT® Kone Pure mouse. Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones.
Which apps and services do you use most to complete your main tasks?
Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets and Unity — the three tools, which I spend 95% of the time in. And a few notebooks, of course.
Where do you gain inspiration from?
Game, movies. I like reading historical books, they have the best plots.
When and how do you start working on a new feature? Could you describe the process?
I don’t think there’s a process. Everything’s happening by itself. First I try to understand and to get into the player’s shoes. Because it’s the player, who with meet this feature in the game. That’s where I start from.
Which games have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?
A lot of game. From the latest I can note Frostpunk, They Are Billions and Ultimate General: Civil War.
What achievements in your career are you most proud of?
The team and the atmosphere at Lazy Bear Games.
If you could change one thing about your career, what would it be?
I would keep everything as it is.
Which recent task turned out to be much difficult than you expected?
Every task is difficult for me. I envy the people, who easily deal with everything. In my case, if you want to do it well, do it difficult.
How are the disputes about variants of feature design solved in your company?
Usually, we find the solution in a very natural way and it satisfies everyone. The last word in game design is on me, but I try not to use this right.
What do you do to self-improve in game design?
I play all the new interesting games.
What music do you listen to whilst designing?
I like classical music and the music from the 70s. During this whole year, I listened to the soundtrack of Stardew Valley.
If a game designer would want to apply to your company, what would you advise him?
Own a nice Steam library with some nice games in it.
Any advice for game designers in general?
Love to play games and don’t stop dreaming.