Ilya Eremeev, Creative Director of A-Steroids, shared with App2Top.ru experience in hiring employees in game development.
The basic principles are suitable for most professions, but since I am engaged in the selection of game designers, let’s focus on them in more detail.
The first step in hiring a new employee is an unambiguous sense of the need for a new person and an extremely clear understanding of who we need.
Since we are a small company, we cannot hire weak people and try to pull them out or grow them. One weak person in a company of 200 people can pull up to the level of the company, one weak person in a company of 10-15 people will pull it down. Let’s try to find exactly the one we need!
The work of a game designer is most often divided into 2 types: game designers-screenwriters and game designers-mathematicians.
The former see their role in writing quests, item descriptions, and thinking through the backstory of the game world.
The second is in the calculation of balance, economy, gameplay formulas and calculators.
We are looking for game designers-mathematicians
Naturally, most game designers combine these skills, but the focus nevertheless happens to be on one of these areas.
I usually look for people with a mathematical/programming background and make sure to indicate this in the vacancy, which helps to immediately cut off half of the unsuitable candidates and save time.
Based on our needs, I create a vacancy and place it on 3 main sites for finding employees in game development: DTF.ru , Gamedev.ru and hh.ru .
I write 3 blocks in the vacancy:
- requirements for the candidate, divided into mandatory and desirable;
- future responsibilities;
- working conditions.
Be sure to warn you that a test task will be offered.
OK, the vacancy has been compiled and posted on the resources. Resumes begin to arrive – usually from 30-50 resumes for a vacancy, and they need to be processed somehow.
First of all, we separate children, caravan robbers, absolutely juniors without experience and strange people who send messages like “Hello, I want to work with you, have ideas, write” [the punctuation and spelling of the ad are preserved. – Approx. editors], and instead of working skills, who have a love of coffee and anime.
We say goodbye to these candidates. I try to respond to all interested people who have responded to a vacancy, because you never know where you will meet a person next time and a polite attitude a priori is an important strategic step.
I am sending a letter to the rest with a message about our interest and an offer to complete a test task.
I believe that a test task is a mandatory step in hiring a game designer, so let’s focus on it in more detail.
The task consists of 7 items and is designed for 8 hours. Naturally, I do not expect that a person will spend a whole day on the task, so I ask the candidate to specify the deadline by which the result can be expected. This is an important point that will show the candidate’s ability to evaluate the task and perform the work on time. 5-7 days on average is the normal period for completing a test task.
I immediately warn the candidate that the task is synthetic, and the result cannot and will not be used to benefit our company, this removes doubts that I want to do our current work for free with the hands of candidates.
Consider the items of the task.
Choose the most successful, in your opinion, free-to-play RPG (client, browser or social) and briefly describe its core loop, the main mechanics used (PvE, PvP, Loot, Craft, etc.) and monetization methods.
The task shows the candidate’s awareness of the market of modern free-to-play games, an understanding of the concepts of mechanics and loop, the ability to use information search and the ability to form thoughts into a coherent text. In this task, I do not insist on choosing our project, on the contrary, choosing a non-standard object for analysis will only be a plus, since, unfortunately, most choose Dota 2 or Clash of Clans, often rewriting someone else’s analysis.
Choose any free-to-play game and offer three main improvements to the gameplay, monetization or interface.
The task shows the candidate’s areas of competence, shows his ability to think analytically, see problems in the project and suggest ways to solve them, we pay special attention to the justification of the proposed solutions. It is good if the candidate confirms his thoughts with examples from other games where these problems are solved, in his opinion, successfully. This approach will be useful in the work.
Write a crafting specification in Minecraft. Describe the system of resources, items and their crafting. Format: Specification for the developer who will implement this mechanics.
Do you know how it works?
The task shows the candidate’s ability to create and maintain documentation on game functionality, the ability to delve into the little things. If the candidate describes the functionality in Wikipedia-style, refers to “well-known” principles (“as usual”, “as in all RPGs”, etc.) or says that he did not play Minecraft – this is a bad sign. So there will be problems with documentation, information search and processing. If you haven’t played or have been playing for a long time – there are always forums, encyclopedias where you can find any information.
A task. A rare item drops out of a magic chest with a 27% chance. The player has three chests. What are the chances of finding 0-1-2-3 rare items in these chests? Describe your reasoning.
Since I’m looking for a game designer with mathematical abilities, math problems are a mandatory part of the program.
Using a primitive example, this task allows us to assess the familiarity of a game designer with the probability theory necessary to calculate the balance in games.
In mathematical problems, it is very important to look at the calculation process, since in the future I will have to trust this person with the skeleton of my project – balance and gameplay formulas, and I do not need a dump in calculations and documentation at all.
A task. 13% of players buy a Premium Account in a free-to-play game. 55% of those who bought a Premium Account at the beginning of the game bought a Beginner’s Kit. Also, 9% of those who did not buy a Premium Account bought a Beginner’s Kit. What is the probability that a newly arrived player will buy a Premium Account if he has just bought a Beginner’s Kit?
Another task with chances, this time more difficult, but its correct execution will be a big plus when evaluating the task and will show deeper knowledge of mathematics. Of course, this task is more from the field of analytics, but a game designer must have the basics of analytics in order to see and evaluate the changes in the game made by the introduction of features that he has developed.
A task. The mobile mid-core game has a unit that has a base damage of 35 units per hit. We give the unit a weapon that gives +12% damage, and a second weapon that gives +17% damage. Also, a buff is imposed on the unit, which gives + 6% damage. Suppose this unit has an injury from the last battle, which gives -17% damage. The question is, how much total damage will a squad of 40 such units inflict with 1 hit? Describe your reasoning and explain why you chose this particular damage calculation option.
Will you quickly calculate the total damage of one witch who has attacked skeletons?
There is no unambiguous correct solution to this problem, and everything depends on the method of calculation chosen by the candidate. With this task, I check the balance of hardcore/casual thinking of the candidate and how much he is able to adapt the mechanics to the chosen audience.
Come up with a legendary item, weapon or character for a hypothetical MMO game in a sci-fi setting: describe its characteristics and special features, write a text description (with which it will be presented in the game) and select a reference appearance.
And finally, a creative task that reveals the creative abilities of the candidate. We check the pattern / originality of thinking, the ability to write capacious vivid descriptions and select references for artists. Voluminous lengthy text is a minus, concise and bright is a plus.
Some of the candidates disappear immediately after receiving the assignment, such people who are not ready to invest 8 hours of their time for the sake of getting a job are not interested in us because of their “falling off” I’m not upset, since the percentage is quite small.
A week later, we begin to harvest the completed tasks and select 3-6 candidates who have successfully and originally completed it.
Plagiarists and completely inadequate solutions are rigidly cut off, like “it is impossible to calculate the chances of a loot drop in principle.”
We send the rest a letter with a response and a brief analysis of their decision and the reason why I decided to reject their candidacies. If a person asks me to analyze a task in more detail, I often agree and explain what is wrong in his decision, but of course I do not suggest the correct answer.
With selected people, we schedule an interview in the office or on Skype – only by voice or video, text communication absolutely does not allow us to evaluate a person.
The match must know!
First of all, we talk about our company and then we analyze the results of the test task, discuss the chosen solutions, the games that the candidate chose for analysis and discuss in more detail the experience of a potential employee – what tools he is familiar with, what exactly he did at previous jobs, what games he plays and what achievements he has. I really love level 90 elves and I don’t understand people who have a level in Clash of Clans below 20 at all.
We need people already moving in the direction we need, in our case, mobile free-to-play games. If the candidate has previously done only Hidden Object or shooters for consoles, but he will also understand mobile games – such a person definitely does not suit us.
It is very important at this moment to calculate the haters of frituplay, ideological pirates, people stuck in the past. To understand how to make free-to-play games, you need to play and pay for such games yourself.
Is it worth asking what the candidate knows about your company? Did he play your games? What does he think about them?
This shows a person’s interest in working in our company, and it doesn’t matter where, as long as they pay money. This is an important point, since motivation and interest in the company’s business is an important source of employee loyalty and productivity.
Final preparations before hiring
After discussing the formalities and the financial side of the issue, we take a pause to think about the decision and enter its data into a special plate, according to which we will then make a choice of one, the most suitable candidate.
The sign indicates the city of residence, contacts, the result of the test assignment, notes and comments on the interview, experience, desired salary and contacts for which you can get recommendations or feedback about the work.
Recommendations are an important part of hiring, which, unfortunately, some neglect. It’s great if the person himself offers contacts for which you can get feedback on his work, but if not, I recommend finding them yourself, calling/writing to his former boss and asking what it was like to work with this employee.
Game Dev is a close industry, and everyone knows each other, so reputation means quite a lot.
After the final selection, an offer is made to the candidate, and if he accepts it, our team is replenished with a new employee.