A love of gaming was instilled in Loris Casagrandi as a child, but the opportunities to develop his dream career didn’tpresent until he reached adulthood. Loris went on to transform his career from software designer to game designer, and began working at Stormind Games where got his first game credit as a Technical Designer on Batora: Lost Haven. We talk to him about his career journey and how his process ensures winning results.
What made you finally decide to launch your game design career? Was there a catalyst that set you on your way?
I always loved video games: I had a PS1 at the age of 6! I should tell you that I grew up in the countryside alone with my parents, grandma, and different animals (dogs, cats, cows, chickens, etc.). So video games were my gateway to other worlds, other people, other lives. They kept me company, and by the age of 15, when I learned about the game designer job for the first time, I knew I would be one.
But I needed to wait until my 30s to become one because 15 years ago there was no school in Italy teaching game design. Also COVID quarantines gave me more time, so I started studying game design again by myself and I had the economic stability to pay for my study at CG Spectrum.
Still image from Loris's game Wolf & Lola.
Why did you choose CG Spectrum?
I chose CG Spectrum because it has working professionals as mentors, and it is one of the few fully online schools. I really enjoyed the experience, all the people I met were warm and welcoming, and they cared about helping me achieve my dream job. Since I already had experience the most crucial part of the Career Development Program was improving my social media and portfolio pages.
Tell us about your transition from software developer to game designer. Why the change?
My dream job was always to be a game designer, as there was no game design school 15 years ago I attended Computer Science University at 18.
At 30 I understood that even if I worked for a fantastic company as a technical team leader with wonderful colleagues I wasn't satisfied with my job. So I decided to change my life and see if I could become a game designer. The quote "money doesn't buy happiness" fits me here but money bought the course and paid for the rent.
The most significant change in mindset is that you don't only need to build features that work, you also need to produce fun and beautiful products for a target audience.
Also, while prototyping by yourself it is easy to waste time on the implementation details and forget the big picture. So it is essential to keep shifting from micro to macro, from implementation to player experience.
Trailer for Batora: Lost Haven, Loris' latest project at Stormind Games
How is your time as a software designer an advantage for your new role?
Being a tech team leader and being a game designer does not change too much regarding your relationship with other colleagues.
You have to be a good communicator, talk with others, support them while they resolve issues, and brainstorm solutions to problems with them.
Also, as a designer, you still have to reason logically. It also helps to know how difficult it is to produce an idea.
Software architecture helped, but not in world-building. Instead, it helped me understand systemic design and how two systems can communicate and influence each other.
What kinds of projects are you working on now?
Unfortunately, I cannot talk about it. The NDA is very strict, and I can't even tell you about the genre of the game. I can tell you that my background as a software developer helped me achieve the position of Technical Designer, so I work with the developers and the designers simultaneously help the two teams communicate. So, I collaborate on the usual designer stuff: design documents, ideas, story, balancing, etc. But I also support the designer with small prototypes, and I test if the deliveries by the dev team meet the requirements. When possible, I help devs develop a logical solution to solve the designer request based on the current implementation.
Can you share a piece of your work and show your process?
For sure, thank you for asking me! But first of all, let me tell you that I am still smoothing out my process. I got the overall steps laid down, you can see them on my portfolio page, but I'm still figuring out how to improve it even more!
I usually start with a small brainstorming document where I put all my ideas and develop them until I’m satisfied. This is when I have a clear view of the core gameplay. I find out if the world or the gameplay, or both, has something unique and exciting.
Then I move to Photoshop to create an image that gives the feel of the game I'm making.
If the game still convinces me, I create a first iteration of the pitch deck, so I analyze competitors and move my brainstorming notes to the first version of a game design document. (Here is the design document Loris created for his project Wolf & Lola.)
Next I go deeper into the game story, the characters, or the gameplay. It depends on what I need to continue my design process solidly, and every game has its own unique needs.
I always create a prototype to see how the game works. If the gameplay idea is unusual, I could move to the prototype phase step in the early stage of the process, around the pitch deck phase. In this phase, I make some Jungle gyms, and I proceed to design a short level.
Level prototype for class project Medieval Moderness.
What are you enjoying most about being a game designer? Are you inspired more by visuals or storytelling?
I'm always eager to learn more. And game design gives me endless opportunities to learn something new and something different: architecture, psychology, math balancing, creating a story, coping with time and money constraints, 3D engines, art and graphics, marketing, and more! I'm never stuck on a single topic and I love that about game design.
To be honest, I love to be inspired by both.
I think both storytelling and visuals are complementary. One without the other is not enough to correctly grasp the scope and feel of the game, especially in the initial design phases.
Loris's game Brush Chronicles features a pencil rubber that detaches from the pencil grip & wreaks havoc on the art world by erasing masterpieces. The object of the game is to take on the role of the paintbrush that restores the works of art & stops the evil eraser!
How do you see your future in the gaming industry? Are there areas you would like to specialize in?
I hope to grow more and more as a designer. I want to master all the main areas of game design - system design, level design, narrative design, and visual design.
I don't exactly know which area I like more or if I'd like to work in a more creative and coordinator position, but I know that I want to become the best designer I can be.
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