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Remnant: From the Ashes

Dev Interview: Anthony Norcott

By Fero | Tue 30 Oct 2018 08:00:00 AM PDT

Thanks for joining us today, Anthony! Let’s get right into it: Who are you and what do you do at Gunfire Games?

My name is Anthony Norcott, and I am a Level Designer here at Gunfire.

Working in the gaming industry is still a dream of many (young) people. Did you always want to work in the industry and what made you get into it in the first place?

Originally, I wanted to be an architect and spent a good deal of time in school studying architecture. I was always fascinated with the idea of creating something that people could truly experience. As college progressed, I started to wonder, if there were other ways to bring great experiences to people, ways with less limitations. I have always loved games, and many moments in games have impacted me, so it kind of all came together when I realized that I could create experiences similar to the ones that shaped me so much. After I created my first functional game, I was hooked.

How did you find your way to Gunfire Games?

It came down to finding a place in the industry where I could really grow, learn, and explore. After my first interview with Gunfire, I knew I wanted to work here. They told me that even as a new employee I would have a lot of ownership of things that I would work on, that I would be constantly communicating with those right above me, and that I would be encouraged to try things out. It sounded like the perfect place to start a career, and all those points are as true seven months in as they were when I started.

Do you have any advice for those who want to work in the industry that you can share with the community?

Always be working. If you are looking for job, and you are out of school, work on solo projects, or find people to create content with. Keep an updated portfolio that is easily accessible (don’t put everything you’ve ever done on it). You should only be putting your very best work on a site or portfolio. One really good project can outshine four kind-of-okay projects, also one very bad project can easily make good projects feel less impressive. Lastly, this industry can be hard to break into. Don’t get discouraged when you don’t hear back or don’t get follow-ups. A lot of times, positions that are listed have already been filled, or things change in that studio’s pipeline, or any number of things.

Let’s talk about your work at Gunfire Games: Can you tell us what your tasks and responsibilities are?

As a Level Designer I am responsible for creating layouts. I create the shape of the spaces the player will be in. A lot of times this process is known as “Blocking Out” a level. As a designer here at Gunfire, my duties tend to extend to many other disciplines of design, with the occasional light scripting. The most important part of my job as a level designer is to understand the mechanics of the game and to create interesting spaces that allow those mechanics to be utilized in the most fun and impactful way.

The community is eager to know what project(s) you’re currently working on. Can you give us some insight?

I’m currently working on designing levels for an amazing new overworld that I can’t wait for the public to see.  The levels will feel and play very different than the first overworld that we’ve shown in videos and the PAX and Gamescom demos. We’ve been focusing on how to create new combat landscapes that force the player to really think about how to change up their combat styles to fit the new environment. I’ve also been working on some cool mission stuff that will really push the idea of dynamically generated content and worlds. More on that soon…

Without going too much into detail, what are the different steps from the idea to a finished level/quest?

It usually starts with deciding what the purpose of the level/quest is (i.e. to progress the story, or to give the player a skill test with an awesome reward, etc.). Then we sit down and talk through ideas that best bring out that purpose. After that major idea is solidified, we block out a map or level and then playtest - a lot. We iterate between blocking out and playtesting until the level feels right. Lastly, our talented artists come in and make our levels not only look amazing but evoke the desired tone of the level.

We’ve briefly mentioned it in a livestream before, but can you tell us a bit more about the dynamic tiles you use for the levels in Remnant: From the Ashes? What can player expect from that feature?

Completely unique experiences. From one playthrough to the next, from your game to your friends’, totally different levels and encounters. Our system is built to generate maps that all have a great deal of content but vary in how that content will be experienced, while feeling cohesive and creating possibilities that stretch beyond the initial playthrough.

What makes a well-designed level for you?

A level that is not only fun to play, but challenges the player to really think about the space, the goals, and the enemies. A good level should elicit a feeling or tone that puts the player in a desired state of mind that is complimentary to the purpose of the level.

Do you get inspired by playing other games, specifically by certain level designs or mechanics?

Yes, most definitely. There is some really great content out there, and it’s important as a designer to take in all that and try to create new things that build on those awesome ideas. Seeing something great makes me want to be better.

Are you an avid gamer yourself? What are some of the games you’ve loved growing up or that you’ve played recently?

Yes! I have loved games since I was very young. I started playing Warcraft when I was eight or so and fell in love with the world Blizzard had created. I started World of Warcraft in vanilla and still play today. Currently, I have been spending a good deal of time playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and League of Legends.

What are you doing when you’re not working on Remnant? Any hobbies or activities you want to share with us?

I’m always working on Remnant… No, but actually, I enjoy writing a lot. I spend a good amount of time writing poetry. Living in Austin has been great since there are so many open mic venues.

Passing the ball on, who should we definitely have on for an interview in the future?

Someone on the sound team. They worked really hard on Darksiders 3 and it shows, I’m sure they have some awesome stories.


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