Getting into Game Design - Murray Lorden

Getting into Game Design - Murray Lorden

Getting into Game Design - Murray Lorden

We caught up with Murray Lorden, Game Design teacher at AIE Melbourne to find out more about his work in games over the past 14 years and get some insights as to what it takes to make it as a Game Designer. 

You have vast amounts of experience behind you in the games industry, how did you get started and where did that take you?

I began my career at Bluetongue Entertainment in 2000 as a game tester.  I sent letters around to all the game studios I could find in Melbourne, advertising myself as a FREE GAME DESIGNER!  This offer of FREE WORK got their attention and they got me in for an interview.  At the time, they didn't need another designer, but I was offered a position testing games.  

I’d been teaching myself 3DStudio Max and Photoshop at home, and I’d done some basic programming as a kid in GWBasic, mostly writing text adventures and simple graphics drawing programs.  I didn't even know what a tester did the more I researched it, the more excited I became.

I was the only tester for many years at Bluetongue.  I spent a lot of time working with programmers and artists to come up with solutions to bugs and gameplay issues, which I really enjoyed.  Over getting a few titles under my belt, I began laying out path-finding networks (telling the artificial intelligence how to transport from point A to point B) (Starship Troopers: Terran Ascendancy) and doing game design (Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis) which really helped me nurture my skills in various elements of game dev.

I left Bluetongue in 2006, and did some freelance game design work on various projects, which lead me to Firemint.  Firemint was an up and coming mobile game developer at the time and was run by Rob Murray and his partner Alex Peters.  The studio felt like the classic days of Sierra Online who created some of my favourite games as a kid.  I was instantly attracted to them. There I got the opportunity to work on Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots (GBA), Back at the Barnyard: Slopbucket Games (Nintendo DS), Real Racing 2 (iOS) and SPY mouse (iOS) as well as creating the promotional videos for our games.

I left Firemint in 2011 to make my own games under the name MUZBOZ.  This had always been a life-long dream of mine.  I began using Game Salad, a 2D game creation toolkit, to make my own games for iOS.  I’ve made two simple games, with another two or three projects kicking around for the future.

Game design is such an interesting area, what do you love about it?

I love the process of bringing something to life that previously didn't exist, then inviting a player to enter that world and live within it. Game design is like playing a game on nightmare mode.  It’s really challenging and unforgiving, but when you finally get to the end, it’s incredibly satisfying.

If you could sum it up in a few words, what are some of the fundamentals of game design?

You need to provide the player with interesting decisions to make - all the time, not just every now and again.  The player must feel empowered to make decisions – they’re not there to sit through “your” predefined set of actions, they need to express themselves to overcome your challenges. Also, your game needs tension.  It can’t be a simple binary affair, right or wrong.  It needs a third element for the player to juggle, to keep their mind actively engaged in a fun juggling act. 


Are there any general “common misconceptions” you feel the public has about game design?

Sometimes an aspiring game designer can get swept up thinking game design is mainly about the story or setting of a game.  While these elements are important, a game designer needs to be both creative and analytical.  A lot of game design work is about tending to finer details.  Creating new and unusual combinations of gameplay elements to provide users with a new experience is what it is all about.  It’s a very psychological process, and you need to be able to peel back the layers and look at things in innovative ways.

Lastly, what big tip can you give for anybody interested in following a career in game design?

Start making games.  Make games on paper, or with dice or cards.  Make games using Twine (interactive fiction / text games).  Make games with your friends out in a park.  Participate in 48 hour game development challenges such as the Global Game Jam

Beyond that, enrich your life experience.  Go out and do things you haven’t done before.  Read books, fiction, poetry, comedy, non-fiction.  Watch documentaries, dramas, art-house films.  We need more variety in our games.  We need more interesting verbs and concepts, beyond just run, jump and shoot.  Go out there and make something unique, personal and fun!

Murray is currently teaching the first year of the Advanced Diploma of Professional Game Development specialising in Game Design and Production at AIE Melbourne. If you're interesting in finding out more about game design or saying g'day to Murray, you should come along to an open day!