Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tanya X. Short

Name: Tanya X. Short
Twitter: @tanyaxshort
Gender: Female
Nationality: USA
Birth date: 22/07/1983
Title: Creative Director
Company: Kitfox Games
Some games that you have worked on: 

Moon Hunters
Shattered Planet
The Secret World
Age of Conan
Dungeons of Fayte
Halo 2 ARG: Ilovebees project

1-What did motivate you to become a game developer? 

I've loved games since I was a very young girl, and once I found out game designer was a job in high school, I started keeping a game ideas journal. I was always full of ideas for new games I wanted to make, and briefly started and ran a games journalism/review site called, which let me attend the Game Developer's Conference in 2004. I earned a bachelor's degree in English Literature, then went to teach English in Japan, and it was there that I decided I would go for it and try to become a Game Designer.

2-What does inspire you creatively? 

Everything, but especially secrets and secret-keeping. I think game designers should always be interested in everything around them -- the systems, the factors, the weird quirks of reality and imagination that define our universe. Most of my favorite game designers are passionate about something in particular and create in another art form (drawing, painting, cooking, music, even sculpture or jewelry-craft) -- personally, I try to make sure I write at least one short story every month. It keeps my creative energies high.

3-If you had unlimited resources to make any game you wanted, what kind of game would that be? 

A persistent world in which politics, alliance, and betrayal were the main activity -- there probably wouldn't even be any combat or other kinds of conflict. Just pure battling for power over others.

4-What was the biggest challenge of your career? In which game? How did you overcome it? 

I think starting Kitfox Games was the hardest challenge, even though I didn't think much about it at the time. Creating our first game (Shattered Planet) could have been a disaster, because none of us 4 team members had ever worked together, and I certainly hadn't been a creative director before. But due to the other team members being really great, and our mutual trust for each other, we managed to make a game and release it on time, without crunching, which is a huge thing for an indie team. :)

5-What do you usually do for raising the possibility of success in your projects? 

First, when we start a game, we always have a clear idea of who our customer/audience is... and not just "myself" -- but myself in a certain context, and other people like me in that context. Second, we are very structured for an indie team, with many "best practices" carried over from my days at a bigger company. We're strict about our deadlines, and only working 8 or 9 hours a day, so that everyone can go home and have a good life there, instead of being stressed and working inefficiently and burning out. People are allowed to do some overtime now and then if they want to, of course, but I think it's a big problem for the game if we do that often.

6-What is the most helpful piece of constructive criticism you ever received? 

A mentor once told me "Stop thinking of your team like a company. You're all founders, you don't have any employees, so you're not a company. You don't have HR Managers. You're more like a band, being equals even if you have a lead singer -- you have to manage drama and personalities the same way."

7-What are the advantages/downsides to working in games?

Game developers are the coolest people. I really love them. The only real downside apart from it being an "office job" is that sometimes (like any artist, I think), I feel guilty for not contributing meaningfully to solving the problems of human suffering, as I might have done as a scientist, politician, or humanitarian.

8-What is your best advice to a beginning game developer?

Keep learning and stay humble. Personally, I learned a TON from working for a big company for some years, but there's lots to learn in many situations. Whether you're indie or AAA, as soon as you stop opening your mind and learning new things, you'll start calcifying and losing the ability to enjoy what you're doing.

9-Which skills are the most important for a game developer in your field/position?

Number one is ability to accept criticism. Then I'd say logical thinking, analytical thinking, communication skills (writing, speaking), creativity, people skills, multitasking. Game designers should also do a bit of programming and a bit of art, just to understand them, even if they're not very good at them.

10-If I want to become a great dev in your field, what games should I play, what books should I read, and whose work should I follow?

There are too many great games and books and developers to possibly see them all! Play a variety of games certainly, don't let yourself get too wrapped up in one or another. I recommend keeping a hungry spirit, but if you're a game designer, don't let yourself get too wrapped up in other people's game designs -- it can become an echo chamber of ideas. Instead, ask yourself what else you also love (a book or movie that touched you, a building's architecture, etc) and probe what you love about it. Devour the world and be brave when you express yourself. Don't feel like you have to imitate anyone else.

11-What changes do you want to see in the game industry?

I want to see more different kinds of people, with different backgrounds, making games. Right now, our culture thinks only programmer-types can become game developers, which isn't true, but it means that typically mostly white and Japanese guys become game developers. I want more industry leaders of different races, languages, genders, perspectives, passions, and dreams.

Bonus: Tell us a funny story from your adventures in game development.

Apparently in our previous game, Shattered Planet, there's a glitch/exploit that occurs if you create 1000+ of an item. Someone apparently used this SO MUCH that they lost use of that finger for some days due to repetitive stress, and accepted it as divine retribution for his 'sins' against the rules of the game. He now urges everyone not to use the exploit, or else they may also be punished by god. We devs thought that was pretty funny.

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