Game design is often referred to as a form of art. It is the art of bringing together different components of a design and aesthetic to create a wonderful, unique experience for a player. Each aspect requires an answer regarding its role in the story and gameplay, from its fictional world to the individual bits. The requirements of Hash Rush — in this sense — are no different.
From its humble beginnings until now, Hash Rush underwent numerous adjustments, and different ideas, and brought them together in various ways. Today, the vision for what we’re seeking to show thrives in the hands of our Lead Designer, Mark Gilbert. While he is willing to have his work speak for itself, he gladly took some time for a quick chat about the Hash Rush and his role in the team.
Who is Mark Gilbert?
“I’ve always thought of myself as a logical person, who breaks all problems down into smaller bits to work out the answer. Be it a maths problem or a design one, everything can be simplified in some way and then tackled in smaller parts until you solve it as a whole.”
If Mark’s engagement is anything to go by, the importance of being able to think of many different things and predicting many different scenarios is a winner! For every game designer, understanding the game’s flow and creating modes in which problems are resolved is crucial. Still, for a lead member of the design department, it is only a job half done. Where the challenge of understanding various concepts ends, the challenge of articulating that knowledge to the rest of the team begins.
After all, the chain is only as strong as its weakest link, but a good leader knows how to make any problem or question into an opportunity to learn and improve.
“A Lead Designer is responsible for the overall vision and direction of the project, ensuring that the new feature designs support what already exists while ensuring everyone in the team knows what the vision is and helping them with any questions or issues they have. If there are issues, I work with the whole team to identify exactly what the issue(s) are and ensure the solutions fit in with the existing game direction.”
All of those things considered, how does an average workday look like for Mark?
“An average day is really varied but mainly depends on the size of the team; the smaller the team, the more hands-on I tend to be in writing up the specific designs or balancing the game.
The larger the team, the more high-level my work tends to be, giving overviews of how features should be to the designer who is going to write it.”
Undoubtedly, with a game in development, many aesthetic and technical decisions that are being worked on are often updated, changed, or replaced altogether. It may seem like a daunting process of trial and error. Still, Mark evidently takes the best out of it, seeing every change as a way of ensuring future progress rather than a setback. He is a person that thrives on problem-solving and diverse ideas. This notion also reflects itself on his favorite part of the work process:
“If I had to pick a single part, I would say the Heroes as they are so varied and (hopefully!) fun to play. More generally, though, I love how everything is fitting together to make a complete experience, the new version of crafting solved an issue we were having with RNG whilst still giving the necessary depth, or the new Dungeons bringing a new way to play the game, whilst still being familiar.”
In the video game industry, ambition and creativity are a significant part of the success formula. The“fun part” of the equation often can drive teams away from realism into a risky optimism. It happens to the best of us! This is another essential point in which Mark’s leadership qualities come into the spotlight, bringing forth what seems to be the biggest challenge: Saying “no.”
“Controlling expectations. This might sound like a strange response, but the Hash Rush team loves the game, and they want to do all the wonderful things they think of. Unfortunately, everything we do takes development time, and that is limited, so I sometimes have to be the horrible person to say that we can’t do something even though the idea sounds awesome.”
But we like to think that it is necessary! A person who is an anchor, keeping the team’s feet firmly on the ground through good and bad, drives it all forward. And while Mark seems to be swimming comfortably in the rough waters of game design and leadership, he undoubtedly requires time to
simply forget all of it for a moment.
If there was a secret recipe for managing to stay calm and collected throughout, we wanted to know it. So we asked: How does Mark Gilbert unwind whenever he gets the opportunity to do so? Just like his portfolio, the list of Mark’s past-time activities is quite varied:
“I have two different ways to recharge. One is to step away from the computer and get outside, such as walking my dog. The other is to play games with a lot of depth and to get lost in that for a while — they could be MMOs like World of Warcraft or Guild Wars 2 or RTS games like Starcraft 2. I’ve also been going back over the old Westwood titles like C&C and Red Alert, [as well as] simulation games such as Factorio or Oxygen Not Included, [and also] Heroes of Might and Magic 3 — HOTA specifically.”
Besides that, he had expressed his appreciation of music, a significant part of the brainstorming process. And that includes his responses to us!
“I also like listening to a wide variety of music — this is what I’m listening to whilst writing this. I also once got a strange look from a colleague for listening to Sabaton whilst working — not the most calming thing I know.”
We say: If it works, then keep it up!
But regardless of the occasional “strange looks,” Mark, without a doubt, understands the importance of a well-connected team, and he — accordingly — has a solid connection with his co-workers. He benefits greatly from his ability to relay information and ideas to the rest of the team in close interactions. So, which team member does Mark like working with the most?
“I think calling out one person here isn’t right as I love working with everyone here. It’s part of my role to be able to cooperate and work well with everyone!”
Well, we tried, but we are not disappointed with the response. A well-connected team can do wonders! Furthermore, it gives us a good feeling about the future work waiting to improve the concept of Hash Rush. We were curious to know what can players expect from Mark and his team in the next period:
“There is a lot in store for Hash Rush; we’ve already teased a lot of it recently on Discord or Twitter. Amongst other things, I am working on the long-term design roadmap and will look to release this once it’s all agreed. We’re working on the main game loop right now, the foundations of the Hash Rush house. Once those are solid, we can build a strong building on top of that, which would be a LOT more content — more planets, more difficulties, more enemies, more heroes, more fun!”
Like the rest of the team, Mark seems a perfect fit for the design challenges of the game he concerns himself with. However, he recognizes that the knowledge and experience that renders a person able to cope with such tasks — while requiring a lot of love for the craft — comes with a lot of hard work.
Where to begin?
On behalf of all of you that seek to one day be aspiring designers enriching the gaming industry — and out of curiosity — we asked for advice on becoming a game designer:
“Becoming a game designer isn’t straightforward to get into. A quick warning to those who want to get into this career: there are a LOT of “Game Design” courses out there, either online or at universities; unfortunately, a lot of them only prey on the dreams of their students. [You could also] hunt through YouTube or other free sources and join as many game jams as possible. A game designer also needs a good knowledge of engines like Unity or Unreal Engine, so make sure to learn those too. If you do want to go via education, look for courses taught by ex-industry veterans or those that have connections with game studios for internships. Look at the placement percentages as well (those who completed the course and got a job in the games industry — I’ve seen bad courses with as low as 5% placement rates.”
And in the end, there is always more to dedication than simply studying it:
“It’s a tough path. Be ready to move to new cities or new countries, build your network, always be on the lookout for what’s working well and what’s not in games, and then do a deep dive on exactly WHY it is or is not working. Remember to be objective.”
While we are looking forward to the new challenges in the Hash Rush development world, we are also trying to stay calm, cool, and objective. However, the excitement for progress is not lacking!
We are now letting Mark go back to his obligations, but if you would like to know more about Hash Rush from the perspective of its Lead Designer, catch up on live streams with Mark Gilbert. Join and follow our official Discord channel for updates on when Mark goes live!
Until next time,
Stay curious (and also objective), Voyagers!