Confessions of a game designer: Hard to let go of great ideas
Lead designer at Ubisoft says manpower, deadlines determine what ends up in video games
Mention "game designer" and you would likely imagine massive computer set-ups - huge screens with many windows open, each configuring a certain aspect of a playable character or an open world.
But according to Mr Paul Fu, a lead designer at French multinational video game developer Ubisoft, this is not always true.
"To be honest, most of my work is done on Microsoft Word and PDF files," he said.
"Yes, we make models and create the gaming elements, but a lot of thinking and designing go into games too, more than people realise."
He should know. Mr Fu, 36, who has been working at Ubisoft for seven years, has had a hand in putting together games for the well-known series Assassin's Creed.
The decade-old franchise spans more than 13 games and has even expanded into a film, comics and novels.
Mr Fu has worked on several of the games, including Assassins's Creed III, one of the most critically-acclaimed titles.
But assembling games, be it small releases or AAA games - titles with the highest development budgets and levels of promotion - cannot be contingent on just one person.
"It's very much a collaborative process, and the passion the people here have for their work is what makes every game we make great," said Mr Fu.
He explained that games manufacturing has three stages - pre-production, production and post-production.
The first is the most crucial because that is when companies make decisions on what the game should look and feel like. The game development team have meetings to give suggestions, which Mr Fu takes charge of.
"Not a lot of people realise the importance of this planning stage," said Mr Fu.
"Everyone's creative, so everyone's got ideas, which is great. But it's also important to keep in mind what's possible to be achieved, given our manpower and deadline. We can't do everything."
It can take years before a game is eventually released, said Mr Fu.
He said one of the hardest things about being a game designer is letting go of ideas that the team really loves, because of a lack of either time or resources.
The eventual product that the players get to enjoy might not be the same game that his team conceptualised.
Mr Fu said: "It's a hard thing to do, to have to kill some ideas that we would have loved to add into the final product."
But he is quick to add that quality assurance is the "top priority" when it comes to games he designs, adding that it is precisely because he makes the tough calls to omit certain elements that the games will always be of a high standard.
Mr Fu's favourite pastime since he was a boy has been playing video games.
He admitted that it was an early console that he received which spurred a lifelong interest in gaming.
"Ever since I got that Atari, I knew that video games were what I wanted to do," Mr Fu said with a laugh.
Being part of the 300-man gaming development team at Ubisoft has been one of the best times of his life because the company culture is like no other, said Mr Fu.
Ubisoft will be celebrating its 10th anniversary with an exhibition at the National Design Centre called The Art Behind The Game - The Ubisoft Experience later this month, as part of the Voilah! French Festival.
Mr Fu said gaming companies like Ubisoft have been successful here because of Singapore's "encouraging environment".
He said: "We've got so much potential here, it's so good to see the gaming industry thriving.
"I can't wait to see what else we can do."
Secrets of the trade
- You have to live and breathe gaming. Being passionate about games is a must.
- Start learning how to use different programming applications. These are the building blocks of game design and it is useful to master them.
- The hours leading up to a release can be long and you have to be able to cope with the pressure.