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

GCAP 16

I am currently a teary mess. I am sitting on my couch, having just returned from the AGDA party, the closing act of this year’s Game Connect Asia Pacific (which, itself, is only one event within the larger Melbourne International Games Week). I think it’s telling that the last two awards that were handed out during the night, following the ‘Game Of The Year’ recognition that would conventionally be considered its highlight, were given to people: here, what matters most is not the games, but the individuals who make them. Tonight felt like a culmination of all of the things that made me want to move to Melbourne. More than a year ago, I got a taste of this incredible community; today, I saw it again, and it reaffirmed just how right I was when I decided to move. Of course, GCAP isn’t the same as Freeplay, but they do have things in common: they celebrate people, they are about giving, they feel like an opportunity for a family to come together and share experiences and knowledge and celebrate each other’s achievements in the most kind-hearted way.

It’s really hard to convey the extent to which this is true. To the friends I’ve made here, being generally kind and supportive probably sounds – if not normal, at least natural. It’s all around me, it’s infectious, and it’s impossible to escape: as I was going home on the tram, I thought about just how proud I was of my friends who won the Best Studio award, and how happy I am for them, and got really embarrassed because I was showing actual emotion on public transport. I thought about how I lasted like three whole hours at a social event, introducing myself to strangers, having a good time, and not feeling oppressed or overwhelmed. I thought about Innes McKendrick’s and Tony Reed’s incredibly moving closing talks, which emphasised the importance of people – humans, not giants – who do their best to make our lives better, by simply being around when we need them, and I’ve certainly needed them, and they absolutely were around. But the beautiful thing is, that’s not a radical or divergent notion: it’s just what people do. I saw Tony briefly after his closing address and tried to express how grateful I am for the support that I’ve received, and he just hugged me, which is exactly what I’m talking about: being genuine and charitable and caring isn’t something that happens through bombastic prowess, it’s an everyday mode of being. Receiving that kind of love is deeply humbling but also gives me confidence in my ability to create things, and motivation to extend that kindness onto others. I want to contribute, not only because I love making games and thinking about them, but also because I want to give back; I want to do my best to nurture this community, and help it grow while maintaining that spirit of looking out for each other.

Tomorrow, MIGW will resume its onward march, with PAX – which will certainly be an almost unbearable flurry of sounds and lights for me, but will still be an opportunity for people to show what they’ve been working on – and I do look forward to seeing what everyone’s been up to. Some of my students will have their game on the showfloor as well, and I can’t help but feel a tinge of anxiety about it; but on the other hand, I have no doubt that the same atmosphere of solidarity will extend to their booth. The week’s nights are peppered with parties of all kinds, each of them an opportunity to catch up with friends, to play games that don’t fit under the mainstream spotlight, or just to take a break from the bustle. I have learnt so much during GCAP’s two days of talks and keynotes, and felt so happy and fulfilled; I am sure that this sensation of belonging, of being exactly where and when I am meant to be, will persist throughout the remainder of the week and the following months and years. To everyone who makes this possible: thank you so much.
Thank you for welcoming me with open arms and for doing what you love and for being good; you are all giants to me.

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?