Robin Vilain
videogame designer
author of commotions
créateur de jeu
Blog
Blog
Blog

Freeplay 15

TO: Nathan Chad Georgia Fraser Peter Matthew Goldie Tim Alexander AJ Hugo Claire Danielle Ben Ian Mat Kevin Alex Mat Brendan Mandy Stuart Michèle Anthony Chris Maize Kevin Darshana Nico Tom Katelyn Aaron Ben Alex Jesper Josh Amani Sam Christian Thomas Evelyn Jess Luke Brendan Chris Harry Benjamin Dan Louie Dominica Hong Terry Trent Izzy Max Jamie Barnaby Sophie Zane Nina Ryan Greg Michael David Harrison Susan Andrew Monica and everyone whose name I have forgotten (sorry!) or whom I haven’t had the chance to talk to

SUBJECT: Freeplay 2015

MESSAGE: How can I put this in a way that doesn’t sound too dramatic or hyperbolic? I don’t think I’ve ever, ever felt so welcome in a community. In my entire life. Immediately after I landed in Melbourne last Wednesday, things got crazy (as my fantastic hosts can attest) and they never truly went back to normal. The festival’s been awesome, and lots of people far more important than I have already expressed far more eloquently the immense respect for the organisers one is bound to feel; but beyond the talks, the workshops, the fete… what really made this special for me was the sense of suddenly being surrounded by such great people. It takes a lot for me feel like I belong somewhere, to overcome the ever-present social uneasiness; I would never have guessed that after just one week, that anxiety would be no more than a faint murmur, essentially forgotten. That’s not my doing. It’s thanks to everyone who went out of their way to extend a hand, to introduce me to friends, to take a bit of time to chat and get to know each other… You have no idea how much it means. I hope Freeplay continues to thrive, and that in the following years I get to meet more of the kind and talented people who have contributed to its conviviality, which I can’t help but think is at the very heart of the event. I know I will do everything I can to become part of it, so that maybe, in the future, I can also show disoriented foreigners around.

Work
Work

Hi! My name’s Robin. I’m super passionate about videogames.

I think they can be meaningful on many levels – from the authors' ideas to the players' interpretations, from the intimate harmony of mechanics echoing each other to the booming contribution to greater social or cultural contexts.

I love games that are deep, inspiring, yet still engaging enough for the players to seek out and even analyse these meanings. When the overarching purpose shines through, you know you’re playing something unique and beautiful.

This is what I aspire to create: experiences that make players stop and think. Below is some of my past work, in which I've tried to put this into practice.

Logo JMC

After moving to Melbourne, I started teaching game design and development at JMC Academy. The position involved mentoring students through the development of their final project: pre-production, planning and management, development; and of course, teaching them how to approach design critically and meaningfully, rather than conventionally or arbitrarily.

Teaching was an opportunity for me to articulate and expand on my design aesthetics, and to introduce students to kinds of games and interactive works that they’d not heard of before. Seeing their horizons broaden was truly rewarding and led them to experiment with new ideas, while still maintaining a sense of ownership and uniqueness. I learnt from them as well, as a group of people with different outlooks on games and different goals; and while I taught them new concepts, I also encouraged them to cherish their own perspectives, to cultivate their own individuality, and to imbue their projects with it.

In 2015 and early 2016, I worked on a variety of playful live events: murder parties, pop-up escape games, historical investigative mysteries… I also designed and/or consulted on small-scale videogames and board games. During this time, I focused on how to better introduce play concepts to different audiences, and analysed reactions on more experimental projects. As part of my push to broaden my skill set, I designed and developed several websites (including this one).

This exploration of new fields and desire to step out of my comfort zone led me to move to Melbourne in April, where I was welcomed by the local game dev scene. I continued progress on personal projects and started working at Mind Games, a board game store, which provided yet another opportunity to get a better understanding of the kinds of audiences interested in games – from experts to newcomers.

Logo Innovation

Innovation: Age of Crafting is a mobile game that was recently released on Windows Phone, and will soon be out on Android and iOS. Tiles representing scientific and cultural landmarks of humanity’s evolution through the ages are arranged on a grid; the player must slide them to combine them, discovering more advanced technologies.

I worked on the game as a freelancer; when I arrived on the project, only the basic concept had been determined. I fleshed it out and expanded it, then designed the game’s rule variants and all of 125+ levels they’re used in, aiming for a constantly renewed experience and a welcoming learning curve.

Logo The Crew

In 2013, I worked as a mission designer on The Crew, at Ivory Tower. I collaborated with the environment artists to find beautiful locations within the game world, then defined mission rules that were adequate for the player’s level. I tried to subvert the existing mechanics, to suggest emergent narratives; I took advantage of the game’s features, such as off-road driving, but was careful not to be confined to them either.

I also worked on the exposition of the game’s structure, which had never been seen before. The tutorials and informative screens had to effectively teach the player how to navigate the many systems, without being an obstacle to free-form play. Predicting the player’s progression and timing the delivery of explanations accordingly was crucial.

Logo Rainbow Six

My post-grad internship was at Ubisoft’s Editorial, which oversees the development of the company’s games and ensures a high level of quality, providing advice and feedback to the dev teams – I was assigned to Rainbow Six. I studied the portrayal of crowd panic and tactical squad interventions in films and games, and derived key points and guidelines. I also played each build and offered suggestions on how to make the experience more cohesive and intense.

While I focused primarily on Rainbow Six, I also intervened on other projects, among which Far Cry 3 and Splinter Cell: Blacklist. I helped balance the multiplayer modes of both games; on FC3, I also played the whole game several times to give feedback from an external point of view, and specifically whether the introductory sections properly explained every aspect of the game.

Logo Flux

FluX is my final school project; it’s a 2-player digital board game, played on Microsoft’s PixelSense touch table. Each player owns a base that releases ink; by placing wooden pawns on the screen, they create currents and obstacles. The aim is to lead the ink towards neutral bases scattered on the board to convert them into new ink sources, and then to capture the opponent’s main base.

My contribution was quite broad: I elaborated of the main concept, designed board layouts, programmed a vector field and fluid mechanics to handle ink propagation, and implemented the pawn identification system – using PixelSense’s virtual reality API within Unity 3D. This project started out as an art installation motivated by a question: how to make human-human interactions through a digital medium feel natural, transparent and even physical?