I recently had a number of interviews with Rockstar North as a World & Population Designer, at one point I was asked to fill out a design test, so I wanted to share my answers to that test with you! I didn't get the job, which is a shame; I was looking forward to a new life in a new city, and all the people and events that would come with it; but it was not meant to be. I’m still happy with this document though; its hardly the works of shakespear, but I hope its fun for some of you to read, and maybe useful for others; I tend to reuse things, so Im sure a few of these ideas will end up in my future projects.
1. What is your favourite small detail in a game?
a. Identify a place in a game you’ve played where a small detail made a big difference, or really meant something to you as a player.
I think in Tomb Raider 2; the training level was set in Lara’s house, so you got this feeling of back story to the character; there was a scary butler who incessantly followed you around with a clinking tea tray - if you made him follow you into the walk in fridge you could run out and close the door, locking him in - Apparently everyone did this! I like to imagine all of Lara’s adventures are just an excuse to get away from that guy - Its one of the most memorable things from the series.
2. Describe a bar or club space and its atmosphere. What kind of music is playing? What type of people go there? What’s the surrounding neighbourhood like? Please describe this in 1-2 paragraphs. Feel free to attach supporting visuals (not required).
There is condensation on the plastic of the temporary geodesic dome, added to the bar during the pandemic. Outside is crisp and sinister, as snow coated strangers shuffle past. Pointy alpine facades are lumpy and ambivalent against a light polluted sky. Washington Square sung by James Last is playing; time does a double take and everyone is wearing roller-skates for a moment. Someone tries to sing along but hides again when they don't know the lyrics; a cracked glass is hidden behind fake plants.
A sticky floor, a table that wobbles; a large man laughs at the counter with a skinny man who’s wearing a tweed coat; the manager drinks shots from a coffee cup; an old lady excitedly asks you about Isaac Asimov novels; you turn back to the unshaven van-lifer next to you, he says “I remember smoking on airplanes”. Your coffee foam looks like modern art. Canadians that dislike taxes; a girl looks away from her awkward date and smiles at the bar staff who can see its not working. In the corner there is a blinking arcade machine, and a public telephone that no one will use.
3. Using the same space listed above, describe what people are doing? How does the player interact with the space? Please describe your ideas in 1-2 paragraphs. Feel free to attach supporting visuals (not required).
NPCs moving around is usually an indicator of the passage of time; so people can remain seated and talking if time is not progressing; or they can be coming and going to move things along. If you can create miniature lives for an NPC that adds a huge amount of depth to a space. Players will expect to buy a drink, play the arcade, talk to strangers etc.
I think its fun if you can mess with that expectation - buy someone else a drink to weird them out; distract the bartender and steal their job for a minute by serving people random drinks; have someone who keeps hassling you about bitcoin for no reason. Start a karaoke session with a military general who gives you a tank if you sing well (uses the consoles mic so the player is actually forced to sing in real life); call your mum on the phone; set off the fire alarm to make everyone run outside. I don't think anyones done a giant steak eating sequence in a game before.
4. Using that same space, outline a routine or schedule that someone might execute while there. Lay out what they do during their day from start to finish using the table below.
Schedule of a snowboarder called Darrin who is too scared to actually go snowboarding, but waits for the bus to the ski resort every afternoon.
|Time of Day
|Outside and during opening
|A plow trundles past; delivery men drop off canisters; the rider greets them “HEY dudes, heading up by the snow pass? - gonna catch some GNARLY powder later” - he waves his snowboard at them - the woman opening the bar laughs as he asks yet again if he can wait there “just till the bus gets in” - he drinks a mocha to the clatter of cutlery being unpacked.
|“Woah dude - almost a high score at Xixit!” - the bus arrives and pulls away again outside! “Aw man! My bus!” - He thinks of calling his friends(crew) to let them know, but remembers they went home last week.
|Sitting at the bar
|He tries to chat up an ecology student by describing his wild snowboarding skills and invites her up to the mountain tomorrow for some shredding - she politely turns this down.
|Sitting in the back room laughing with the manager as they share shots and recount tales of (possible) past snowboarding glories - he proudly wears his new tweed coat, which he wont in a bet on a game of Xixit.
5. Design a new feature to improve the open world in a Rockstar game of your choice. Keep your answer to 1 page. Feel free to use visuals or reference material to support your ideas.
Could apply to Red or GTA - At a certain point you encounter a down and out fishmonger who has invested in crabs; however due to a recent anti-crustacean health fad crabs are not selling. The seller has a trolly/truck containing a tank with a very large crab.
The player can steal the trolly - this triggers the beginning of the crab club. The player can pull the trolly around and take the crab out for periods of time - running around with it in their hands!NPCs will either react favourably or negatively to the crab - some will run away in horror while others will casually appreciate the high quality crab. Be careful not to bring the crab too close to people; a pinch will not win anyones favour (unless they really love the crab??)
The more people that see the crab, the more of a fan base it will gather, and the more positively the population will react; as walking around with a crab becomes normalised.
Photographing the crab in scenic locations - having a poet write an ode to the crab, or publishing a crab centric song, are all ways the crabs reputation can be improved. Eventually a crab fan club will form and the player will receive a small income from membership signups.
As the crab club grows you will start seeing more crab paraphernalia throughout the world; t- shirts, bumper stickers, graffiti and discussions on the radio. The crab club will often hold meet- ups and the player can vastly improve their following by attending these with the crab.
The story comes to a head when a new mayor is elected; if the crab clubs following is large enough then the crab will be voted in as the new mayor; alternatively the crab club could become an enraged mob that attempts to storm the mayors office and claim victory by force.
If the crab becomes mayor then all flags in the game will be replaced with crab flags; newspapers are renamed “the crab times” and money becomes “crab coin”. When this happens, the player can no longer carry the crab around, but it can be visited in the mayors office.
- The crab and trolly should be tough, but not indestructible - if the trolly is destroyed the crab club cannot grow. This adds a hint of investment and risk.
- The crab should be player nameable - That would provide a bit of ownership over the story.
- If the crab is kept out of water or mistreated; an animal rights activist should appear and take the crab away - ending the club.
- The system runs outside the games story - e.g. the trolly is always present and the player can grow or ignore the club at any point in the game.
- The crab club should have its own range of clothes and decorations the player can purchase as the club grows - crab juice cola? crab ak-47s? the crab car.
- Crab centric interactions and options could be added to other quests too, maybe an ally hates the crab and turns on you if you progress the club - perhaps someone will try and buy the crab in exchange for a helicopter or something really tempting. I think its important to make the crabs success quite uncertain.
- If the crab club story has been completed, then the games end credits should be a montage of happy crab pictures with the song “Pure & Simple” by Hear’Say.
6. You’ve been tasked with implementing a system for the player making a food item of your choice. In one page or less, describe how this would work exactly, outlining any assets which would be required from other departments.
Smoothie Making System:
The player acquires a tripped out battery operated blender from a crazed cooking YouTuber, that allows them to make smoothies on the go.
- The player must take the blender out of their inventory and be holding it like a tool/weapon.
- The player focuses on a selectable world item and presses button A to blend it - this removes the item from the world and adds its stats to the blend mixture.
- Multiple world items must be blended together to produce a smoothie.
- When the smoothie is complete (e.g. has 3 ingredients), button B creates a unique smoothie item from the blenders contents - the blender is now empty and can be used again.
- Each smoothie item has buffs/debuffs and is deemed good/bad or toxic, depending on the mix of items the player blended.
- A blender model with full/empty variants - should be a vintage blender with a battery taped to it. • Genetic smoothie model for completed smoothies.
- Models for random food items - bananas, milk, hot sauce etc
- Blender textures - colour choices would be cool!
- Successful, unsuccessful and toxic smoothie textures - they can use the same model. • Textures for random food items - bananas, milk, hot sauce etc
- Vomit puddle texture - also needs a fade-over-time script.
- Blender player animations; holding, blending, pouring etc
- Generic (or unique) eating animation for smoothies and other food items - player and npcs. • omit animation and effect if the smoothie is really bad.
- Blending sounds - “bzzzz” “rrrrrr” “screeech!”
- Generic or unique eating sounds for food items.
Writing / Voice Acting:
- Voice reactions from the player and nearby npcs to blending and eating food items. • NPC dialogue for acquiring blender - the actual seller can be a generic NPC model.
- Buff/Debuff stats need to be applied to all blend-able world items.
- A mixing script that takes food/item stats and creates smoothie stats from them. • Buffs/Debuffs or other effects should be applied to the player when eating.
- Food items need to be scattered around the world - blender seller must be added.
Mechanic Notes: (Mostly script / interaction tasks)
Non food items such as money, cigarets, bullets etc should be blend-able too, but they toxify the smoothie (toxic smoothies given to NPCs should get you arrested). Blending near people should annoy NPCs and scare kids and wildlife.
Food items placed in the world will need to regenerate or respawn - Its more fun for the player if they can see the physical food object in the world - purchased items could spawn in the players home automatically. If the player loses their blender they will need to be able to get another from its original source; maybe if they loose it too often they are given an ugly blender!