Posted on October 31, 2013
Hallo! I’m Ben, and I’m the Content Design lead for Fable Legends.
I work with a team of very talented designers and writers, dreaming up and building the world, narrative, quests and levels of the next Fable game. I’ve worked on every Fable in some form or another, from tester to quest designer, and one of the most important parts of my job is to make sure Fable Legends is a worthy addition to Albion. Its historians and cartographers have never been the most reliable, and marshalling all the accumulated myths and history of the series is a never-ending challenge – but a really fun one.
I’m also kept on my toes by the different aspects there are to building Albion. One day I might be looking at the maps we have pinned up on the office walls, deciding where to place a town and its important features: name, climate, preferred breed of chicken. The next day could see us thinking about creatures old and new. What did the ancestors of the traditional Fable monsters look like? What other strange beasts might we find alongside them? Another moment might find me working with our level designers and gameplay scripters on the geometry and pacing of a combat encounter, or with the writers, coming up with new characters and stories to adventure with and through.
Being involved with both the details and the broad strokes of a fantastic world like Albion is a real privilege. When I was younger I spent hours building levels and writing stories, and to be able to do that every day is a dream come true. I’ve also been lucky enough to work on a lot of other Lionhead games in my time here. I started out doing work experience at Lionhead nearly 12 years ago, and became a QA tester on Fable 1 after that. While I was studying at university I kept coming back for more, testing Black and White 2, The Movies and Fable 2.
While I was testing Fable 2, I would stay back after work for hours, working through the night to learn FablEd and Lua. These were the tools we used to build the first three Fable games. I went a few months without sleep, but I was able to get the hang of things enough to make a small demo with another tester (Lewis Brundish, who’s now a gameplay designer on Legends). This was enough to get us both places as junior members of the design team. From there I’ve been able to contribute quest and level designs, gameplay scripts and narrative design to the projects we’ve done since.
In some ways that’s a very traditional way into the industry – young kid who loves to mod videogames gets a job in QA and works his way up. But in another I’ve had a slightly unusual journey. My degree was in Philosophy & Politics, and in a search to find a way to turn that into a job then went on to do a law degree. I was just about to start practicing when Lionhead offered me the design position. My last act as a lawyer was to negotiate my way out of the job I’d just agreed to start so that I could go make videogames!
To me, that’s a good example of the way into game design. Your qualifications matter, but what matters more is passion for games and a good portfolio. ‘Pure’ design roles, where you just write documents and come up with ideas, don’t really exist. You always need to be able to build your vision. Luckily, there’s never been a better time to start building! There are so many professional-grade packages out there (Unreal, Unity, etc) that anyone can download and start learning.
Pointing at maps. It’s like level design, on the floor!
Aspiring games writers can work easily in things like Twine or Inklewriter without any need for a technical background. If you don’t want to build an entire game, there’s always a need for enthusiastic level designers or artists building mods for existing games. The important thing is to learn the skills games designers use every day, and to be able to demonstrate your enthusiasm by just going out and building something.
To anyone who’s ever sat and wondered about making a videogame I’d say – go for it! It’s easier than ever to get started. Every day I have a blast working with awesome people, building exciting worlds, and I couldn’t ask for a better way to spend my day.
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