About this Episode

In this engaging episode of the Player Engage podcast, host Greg sits down with Dan, a senior game designer at Outright Games, to explore the intricacies of creating games that resonate with children and families. Dan shares his journey from a child gamer to a game tester and eventually to a game designer, emphasizing the importance of accessibility and user experience in game design. He reflects on his early gaming memories, such as the joy of playing Super Mario Bros 3, and how these experiences influenced his career path. Dan also discusses the challenges and rewards of designing games for kids, including the need for empathy and the joy of seeing a game bring happiness to young players.

Key takeaways from the episode:

  • The evolution of game design from simple side-scrollers to more complex 3D and open-world games for children.
  • Insights into the role of a game designer and the various paths one can take within the industry.
  • The significance of playtesting and how children’s honest feedback shapes the development of games.

To discover more about Dan’s creative process and how he balances professional and personal gaming interests, tune in to the full episode. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the game design world, especially if you’re interested in crafting experiences that delight the younger audience.

Listen to the full episode for a more comprehensive dive into Dan’s story and to learn how his work is shaping the future of family-friendly gaming.

AI Transcript: Dan McCreadie

Intro: 00:00: 00:15: Welcome to the Player Engage podcast where we dive into the biggest challenges, technologies, trends, and best practices for creating unforgettable player experiences. Player Engage is brought to you as a collaboration between Keyword Studios and Helpshift. Here is your host, Greg Posner.
Greg Posner: 00:16: 00:44: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to the Player Engage podcast, where we dive into the game design and the joy of playing games. I’m your host, Greg, and today we’re joined by someone who made a significant mark in the gaming world. He’s known for his creative touch that brings game to life and his dedication to making games accessible for everyone and his belief in the joy of just making games. Let’s welcome senior game designer at Outright Games and former assistant game director at TT Games, Dan McCready. Dan, thank you so much for joining me today. I’m really excited about this conversation. Is there anything else you’d like to say about yourself?

Daniel McCreadie: 00:45: 00:53: No, as I say, I think that was a great intro. Pleasure to be here, obviously, to share some experiences and the things I’m working on currently.

Greg Posner: 00:53: 01:32: So people understand how my podcast works. Before I actually jump onto the podcast with my guests, we talked beforehand, and I was really excited to talk to Dan, because Outright Games, which many of you may know, many of you may not know, does a lot of children’s games. And my son, who is now five, learned how to play games by playing the Paw Patrol on a roll game. And I was really excited because it taught him a great job at kind of how to do a side-scrolling game. Because at first you try and do a 3D game and realize kids don’t know how to use all the sticks appropriately. So I’m really curious, Dan, like, I guess, first of all, before we jump into that, what got you into the whole idea of gaming and what brought you to this path?

Daniel McCreadie: 01:33: 02:47: Wow. Yeah. So, I kind of looked recently, I’ve been working in the games industry now close to 20 years. So, it’s definitely kind of flown by, I would say. Obviously, you know, getting started, I think my journey began as a child as well. So, I first experienced kind of games with my Nintendo Entertainment System. So, obviously, you know, like a lot of people, really happy at Christmas, had a console which was kind of blown away by and I think one of my earliest gaming memories would be Super Mario Bros 3. And I think it really just sparked kind of an intrigue I had and a curiosity with games and wanting to kind of find out more. So I actually kind of I don’t know. I wouldn’t say obsessed over it, but maybe slightly. So I was looking at the box art. I was looking at the kind of imagery there. Well, this level isn’t in the game. Why not? So it kind of sparked that kind of desire to kind of find out more, ask why. So I remember writing to Nintendo and saying, well, why is this image not in the game? And then they explained about, well, it’s in beta, and things change. And yeah, and here I am now. So yeah.

Greg Posner: 02:48: 03:01: heck of a curiosity. And it’s awesome that you got a response, right? I mean, my memories are at the same time as NES. I remember playing Dr. Mario. And it’s just a great kind of way to get into gaming. Did you go to university with the idea that you want to be working in gaming?

Daniel McCreadie: 03:02: 03:56: Actually, when I was in college, I always had that passion for games still. I didn’t really notice a viable career path. Probably like, I think it’s changed a bit more now because obviously, I think things have become a bit more accessible to different paths into the games industry. But it was actually, when I was in college, I was speaking to someone there and she was like, oh, well, I used to be a games tester. And I think immediately when I heard that, it’s like, okay, how did you become a game tester? How did you find that kind of path? And I think for me, my path in the industry was starting as a game tester and then having further kind of, I guess, kind of sparks and inspiration from finding out a bit more about game development, a bit more about how games were put together. That was my in, essentially.

Greg Posner: 03:56: 04:05: So now you’re a senior game designer. Can you explain, at least at Outright Games, what does the role of a senior game designer do?

Daniel McCreadie: 04:05: 05:16: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think, obviously, The roles can vary from company to company. My current role at Outright, we’re a family-friendly video games publisher. We focus on from preschool age, essentially. One of the roles, there’s a few different ones, but looking at games from an early conceptual stage, working with developers and licensors to bring those experience in games to life. It’s essentially from the initial pitch of the game right the way through to development and release. Obviously, along the way, we look at the playtest and data, we’ll play a lot ourselves, we’ll work to pass on experience and tips where we can and look to kind of guide that process as well. So yeah, that’s kind of in a nutshell. Obviously there’s a lot of other kind of departments involved with it. I have a lot of colleagues as well and from the creative side where we kind of draw inspiration from each other, kind of pass on our kind of perspective to the game as well. So

Greg Posner: 05:17: 05:30: When you take a look at your skill set, what skill would it be? I mean, coding or graphic design or just project management. What skill sets do you think you tap into the most in the current role?

Daniel McCreadie: 05:30: 06:23: My own experience with design obviously come from QA, going into TT and various other companies as well. I think I would classify myself as a generalist designer, really. The kind of specialization would be kids games, obviously. But I would say is that kind of the lens I look at things through at least is user experience and certainly accessibility as well. For me, there’s a level of empathy with the player as well. I always try to kind of envision how someone’s going to experience a game, what I kind of want to kind of, I guess, get a player to experience as well. I’m mindful of. but I would say it’s definitely a bit of everything and always maintain that kind of collaboration with other departments and that curiosity I guess.

Greg Posner: 06:23: 06:55: That’s awesome because you know, when I, when I was growing up and I’m sure other people as well, like you think getting into game gaming, it means coding or it means doing something like that. The ones and zeros and just whatever. Right. And I remember going to school for that and just doing terribly at it. And it’s fascinating that once you’re in the industry, right, I guess like you were talking about, it’s more accessible and people have more visibility. Like you don’t need to know how to code necessarily. I mean, sure. It helps a lot, but like you don’t need to know how to code to get into this industry. And I think it’s. It’s kind of an enlightening, like, light bulb moment for me, like, oh, wow, there’s a whole lot of things going on in the back end there.

Daniel McCreadie: 06:55: 08:08: Absolutely. I think, you know, the games industry, more than any previous times, is kind of a role for everyone. And I kind of see, certainly, maybe we can kind of talk about it later, but I think that it is very encouraging that there’s skills that you can learn from other industries and kind of apply to the games industry as well. I mean, even kind of, Obviously the coding side can maybe put people off, but there’s a lot of kind of tools now where you can kind of maybe see, maybe not the Norton Dero’s book, kind of how things are put together in a kind of visual way. And obviously at different levels where there’s obviously scripting. And I think the thing for me, obviously I’ve done a bit of scripting in my career and I’m very much a person that trial and error. So I’ll play around for a bit and say, okay, that kind of works, that doesn’t. maybe a coder will look at it and go what on earth is this but yeah I think that is the key thing really it comes from kind of you know just just having a bit of kind of um experimentation, really seeing what kind of things interest you, what kind of paths there are as well.

Greg Posner: 08:08: 09:08: It’s interesting, right? Because you’re working with games that are made for kids, right? And I don’t know if you come into this career thinking like, all right, I want to make the next Doom, I want to make the next, right? And then you start working at TT Games, which for those who are listening that may not be familiar with TT Games, they make all the Lego games for the most part that are out there. And they’re phenomenal. I remember back to the 360 days they were coming out, and it seemed like every few months a new Lego game would come out and be rated an even higher rating than the next one. And one of the things you and I spoke about, I’d love to talk about, is just A, kind of the fatigue, right? You hear about Bungie getting sick of making Halo. You hear of Whoever makes Call of Duty, I can’t think of the studio in the back end, right? You hear them getting sick of making Call of Duty, right? Lego was changing the subject, whether it be the Skywalker Chronicles or whatever, or my son’s playing supervillains now or superheroes, right? Does that same fatigue exist if you’re changing the subject that you’re creating from?

Daniel McCreadie: 09:08: 11:27: I think, again, I certainly can’t speak for everyone at TC. I can only kind of look to reflect on my kind of experiences, obviously, but I was always quite kind of… I guess I saw each game as a challenge in terms of how best to tell the story of the IP, how best to really embrace what the fans wanted, for sure, to build on the strengths of the past, essentially, and have that as a foundational point. I look at games like, obviously, you mentioned the superhero games. I think a big part of it was, I would look at these amazing games and, well, how do you improve on those? But also, how do you maintain the elements that resonate resonated with fans and what were those elements you know and it’s quite obviously there’s there’s a subjective side to it as well but it’s always quite a tricky kind of balance to make what do you change what do you kind of refine and what new things you add so i was always quite kind of um excited for that challenge and i think getting into the kind of mindset of a fan a fan of the kind of subject material as well. It was always real exciting. And the sorts of things that would push me as a designer as well. So for example, in some games, I’d be more focused on the level design side of things, obviously. We’d call it like a paper design, so kind of planning out how the level would flow. On another game, it might be more kind of, well, how the hints are presented to the player, how the rewards kind of presented, like the character unlocks, again, another massive part of those games. Again, from my perspective, I think there was, even though there was kind of a lot of commonalities, I was always trying to think, well, how can we make sure everyone has a great experience playing these games? But yeah, I think definitely just if you have a successful kind of game, it is always kind of like, well, maybe the fans want more of the same, but also you have to kind of, I guess, be mindful. You know, you also want to kind of present a new experience as well. So it’s definitely a fine balance, but I saw it as an exciting challenge to kind of, you know, undertake.

Greg Posner: 11:27: 12:58: So there’s two ways to look at it, right? And I find it fascinating, right? You kind of mentioned it. Again, I’m going to bring Call of Duty up again, I’m sorry, right? Everyone gets mad that they release every year, right? And do they make a ton of updates? No, but do they really want a ton of updates? If you’re on the outside looking in, you’re going to say, keep it the same, just give me more maps. So from, we’ll compare kind of TT to outright games, right? TT was making Legos with different kind of characters. So there was some iteration there. I see clear iteration from game to game for outright, right? Again, my son played Paw Patrol, right? So on a roll, had the side scrolling, the next one introduced 3D elements, the one after that started introducing open world. And it was this really cool, give the fans more of what they like, but iterate and grow up with them. And, you know, I’m going to kind of back up because I asked a question, but didn’t ask it, right? It was like, when you’re creating these games, when you graduate from college and you want to go into the game industry, are you thinking about making kids games? And probably not, and I’m sure your mindset has changed, but you’re making these accessibility type of games, right? A lot of people think of accessibility about people with colorblindness, maybe they’re deaf, maybe, right? But your accessibility is for children, right? And you got to say, all right, How is a kid going to adapt to this game? How are they going to know to pull this rope or which button to press to activate the right pups? How does your mindset resonate with a child when you’re building this game to see it through their lens?

Daniel McCreadie: 12:58: 16:07: Again, very good question. I think For me, I’m very privileged in the sense that I’ve worked on a lot of children-focused games in the past, but it’s something you always have to be mindful of. When it comes to games, I don’t think anyone could stand around and say, well, I love every single game. Maybe I’m one of those people, actually, because I love variety in games. I love trying new things. I love seeing what’s out there. But I think when I was a games tester, there was maybe a few games where it’s like, well, I don’t particularly find this fun. I don’t like this. Name and no names. But I think it was important to kind of think, well, it was actually someone I worked with at the time said, well, this game will bring a smile to a child’s face. I’m like, Yeah, it will. And I think that’s maybe something I always try and be mindful of. Again, I think a lot of designers kind of think this way, where it’s like, well, it might not be my ideal genre or my ideal game, but you put yourself in that mindset, in that kind of space, essentially. And I think for me, I’ve never really struggled to kind of… Maybe I’m a child at heart as well. Maybe. Because I think, you know, I remember what games meant to me when I was growing up. Again, looking at kind of Mario, looking at… I think even as a tester, you know, making a simple game is incredibly challenging, I would say. Again, I think the term simple is maybe a bit kind of… I think when it boils down to it, there’s a level of empathy. There’s a level of experience. And again, we tap into other perspectives and voices as well with these games to really think, well, what is it that a player wants? What is it that a fan wants? And I’m going back to maybe before I was a dad, for example, before I did fully focus on what that was. seeing someone play one of the levels you’ve worked on or one of the games that you’ve been on, it’s very revealing. And children are very honest. I think players are very honest, even without saying things. So I think if you see someone play, if you really focus, things that maybe are apparent to me as a designer aren’t apparent to the kind of player immediately. So yeah, there’s a lot of factors involved. I think it is something that I try and look at it that a game should aspire to stand on its own merits. So if you have an environment in the game, it should be immediately obvious to people. But also, you want players to sense that, oh, I’ve solved something, or I’ve achieved something as well. So yeah, I think there’s a multitude of factors involved, really, in getting into that headspace.

Greg Posner: 16:08: 17:23: I love that. I think, you know, I think it’s funny because kids are brutally honest, right? For better or for worse. Kids don’t know the difference. And it’s probably great feedback to get because some people might be intimidated to give that type of feedback when a kid doesn’t even second guess it. And a lot of those design principles really, I mean, in all the games we talked about, right? Like right now he’s playing super villains and he was at a Joker Island and it was clearly a Joker Island and he went to Gotham. It really stands out. And Kit has no question about where he is. And Paw Patrol does a great job at that too. And I think it’s really cool. I had a really good question that follows up with this, and now I’m completely blanking on what that was. But speaking about kind of brutally honest, right? And this is just a different story. It kind of takes a different thing. Outright Games, I’ve been talking about Paw Patrol, but you had a Peppa Pig game come out and the Peppa Pig game caught fire on Reddit and people just loved it. I think, was it Elden Ring they were comparing it to basically on the highest scoring game on Metacritic or something like that? And first of all, does energy like that just fuel, like get people excited at the company? Like, were you like, oh my God, what’s happening? Why is Peppa Pig catching so much steam here?

Daniel McCreadie: 17:25: 18:48: Absolutely. I think from my perspective, I think seeing fans resonate with something is always what I think what I aspire for as a designer and a kind of creator. And I think certainly kind of outright, we want to kind of work with all global IPs that kind of speak to children and the families. I think seeing the kind of reaction to Pepper, I think I didn’t look at the kind of obviously the initial game. But I think when I looked at kind of World Adventures, I was kind of when I played it for the first time, I’m like, okay, it just looks like the show. And I think that was so powerful as kind of, you know, you’re not breaking the immersion from a fan. And I think one of the first things we did, and the second one was you jump in the muddy puddle, which is amazing. And I think, you know, the internet’s going to be the internet, aren’t they? You know, they’re going to have a reaction. Certain things will kind of obviously take off and resonate. You know, I would love, obviously, all games I wrote to be experienced by as many people as possible, as many different audiences. And that is something that I think with Pepper, certainly, my takeaway from them is just seeing parents play in co-op with the children, and then also being able to kind of let them discover and play on their own, which is what kind of excited me.

Greg Posner: 18:48: 19:26: It’s really funny. I’ve played Peppa Pig, right? I liked the game. I can’t tell you I had the same reaction as Reddit, but to your point, it looked exactly like Peppa Pig. It was just like, wow, this, I mean, it’s an animated show, right? But like, it just nailed it. It just felt like the experience from within Peppa Pig. I was just like, It’s nailed. I mean, Paw Patrol does a good job too, but it’s not the same as being immersed by Peppa Pig. But I’m going to take a quick timeout here because in the middle of the podcast, I like to do like a spitfire round. I’m going to throw some questions at you. Simple questions. Just give me your first answer. All right. What do you have for breakfast?

Daniel McCreadie: 19:26: 19:29: Oh, sausage muffin.

Greg Posner: 19:29: 19:33: Nice. If you were to go to a bar, what drink would you order?

Daniel McCreadie: 19:34: 19:37: It’s a very good one. I think Guinness Zero.

Greg Posner: 19:37: 19:41: I’d probably go. What’s your dream vacation?

Daniel McCreadie: 19:41: 19:49: Oh, let’s have a think. A trip away with the family. Camping, probably.

Greg Posner: 19:49: 19:57: Camping? You like to be with your family. I’d probably get away from my family. What’s the last book that you read?

Daniel McCreadie: 19:57: 20:00: It was a history book. I’m just trying to think what it is now. What was it called?

Greg Posner: 20:03: 20:24: You know, I asked this question and I’m just thinking to myself, I don’t even know the last book I read. Why would I ask this question to people? Luckily, I’m not being asked the questions. The last question, it’s a two-part question, this one, right? This is special for you, Dan. A, what’s the last game that you played and what’s the game that you’re most likely to play that is your kids’ games when they go to bed?

Daniel McCreadie: 20:24: 20:51: Oh, that’s a very good question. I think the last game I’ve kind of played is Last Faith. So I’m playing that on a Steam Deck at the moment. And I think a game that I’d kind of, you know, love to play with kids is, well, anything can co-op really, a nice outright game, which can just be kid-friendly. But yeah, I think anything that all our family can kind of experience together and not fight over.

Greg Posner: 20:53: 21:35: Fighting is a tough one. I asked Dan that question specifically because when my kid used to go to bed and Paw Patrol on a roll is just a side-scrolling game where you collect pup treats, my kid would miss every single one. And when he’d go to bed, I’d just be like, I need to play this one level and just collect all the pup treats. And nothing happens. You get a reward, but you can’t die. Nothing can happen. It just becomes this OCD thing where I just need to get every pup treat because my kid has no idea to go get every pup treat. So that’s why that question was asked. Well, I remember the question I want to ask. You were a game tester, which I think when you’re growing up, everyone dreams to be a game tester. And then you read the stories. I personally, I saw the movie Grandma’s Boy, not sure if you saw it, where it’s also the life of a game tester. It’s a terrible comedy.

Daniel McCreadie: 21:35: 21:37: I’ve not heard it yet. I’ll have to pass it over.

Greg Posner: 21:37: 21:49: It is really raunchy. terrible comedy movie from Adam Sandler’s company. Can you tell us the story of your best experience and worst experience? You don’t need to name games, but if you want to, you can.

Daniel McCreadie: 21:49: 23:56: If you want to throw some… I think maybe the best and worst experience are tied into one. I think every game I tested, I’ll say the same thing. I just felt really lucky obviously getting the credit, getting the kind of actual copy of the game as well. So an experience I kind of always remember is I was actually testing Getaway Black Monday, which is kind of like, you know, a sequel to the Getaway on PlayStation 2. And I was working on site with the developers. So I think I obviously got a bit of experience there, seeing what a producer is, seeing what an artist does, seeing what a coder does. And obviously, hearing the groans as I’m maybe entering in bugs real time, that kind of thing. So I remember I was just testing away. An objective of any game development, one of the milestones is the first time you can play through the game, I guess 100% or play through it. And I’m just doing my job, playing away. And then I turn around, and there’s an audience. And obviously, at the time, it was the likes of, I think, Phil Harrison was there. He’s in the studio. There was obviously a lot of the development team. And I feel small and small as I’m playing it. doing my best to kind of avoid all the kind of crashes and pitfalls and I got quite close to the end and I jumped into a taxi then I remembered it’s not a good thing to do and I think it crashed then there was oh um but yeah it was good in the sense that like you know I was maybe part of that game games history which it’s something I couldn’t really dream of as a first game to kind of um be involved with massively lucky But obviously at the same time, you know, just feeling the pressure, feeling everyone else kind of having those kind of work and long nights and then seeing things. But yeah, that’s one that stood out for me, being a tester.

Greg Posner: 23:56: 24:07: That’s an awesome way to get visibility into the industry itself, right? You start understanding what all these roles are. And then it gives you this kind of idea of people who are in the esports leagues. Oh my God, everyone watching and like pressure on. Yeah.

Daniel McCreadie: 24:07: 24:45: It’s funny how that happens, huh? Definitely. And I think that’s something that, obviously, it’s maybe a completely different side of the coin in terms of the stuff I look at now. But when I look at, say, streamers, competitive gamers, it’s a completely different kind of mentality. Obviously, you’re having to express your skills, show your ability and your own stamp, but also commentate on that. I mean, it’s something I’d probably struggle with doing two things at once. It’s definitely, you know, I really admire people that can kind of do that.

Greg Posner: 24:45: 25:17: Uh, we, we, we, uh, nevermind. I was gonna say, we don’t really like multitasking here. We don’t talk about it cause it gets people distracted, but, uh, you know, with, with cool titles like Bluey, which is popular, right? You have Paw Patrol, you have new ones coming out as well. There’s a lot of cool technologies that are on the horizon. Things like web three, which obviously. nowhere near with you guys, right? But like, does your mind take a look at these types of technologies for kind of what are the next levels for game design? How can we implement things like this? What’s of interest and how do you keep yourself up to date on that type of stuff?

Daniel McCreadie: 25:17: 26:32: Yeah, good question. I think for me, I, as a designer, it’s really important to kind of stay current, but obviously you have to kind of look at things through the lens of maybe if you kind of import it, it’s what you’re working on, but I think consuming the kind of media that’s out there, obviously kind of looking at, you know, reading stories, looking at content, staying current is really kind of important, but it’s maybe kind of not overwhelming yourself because it is quite, it’s very difficult to predict certain trends, obviously in the games industry or where maybe things will go. But I think just having like an awareness and having a kind of, you know, a bit of an understanding is never a bad thing, really. But yeah, it’s something I would maybe advise a lot of people to do, is maybe pick up a game you wouldn’t normally play, or a favorite game, and then maybe think about how you would change that, or why it was put together. Question things. Yeah, it’s, as I say, I feel that it’s maybe impossible to keep up with everything that’s out there, and different trends. But yeah, it’s… It’s an ever-changing industry.

Greg Posner: 26:32: 26:51: So in the same kind of light, right, you mentioned earlier, well, on our pre-call, right, how you would let your children play the games and notice kind of what they’re playing in the games, and then in a similar way, rather than it being you, since it’s a game made for kids, you kind of built on that. So can you kind of tell maybe that story we talked about the trampoline, right?

Daniel McCreadie: 26:51: 28:32: Absolutely. Yeah. So I mean, I guess the benefit, maybe, obviously something being a designer when I first started, not being a dad as I kind of mentioned, I’m now a dad to three, I think being able to kind of draw from your own family’s experience, what they’re kind of playing, for example, and their kind of mindset. It’s absolutely invaluable. And again, children are very honest about kind of what they see and they’ll question why. And then sometimes I think, as you know, maybe you don’t always have the answers, which I think is something I’ve kind of discovered. And I think my daughter, through playing Bluey, she saw a trampoline and was just like, straight away, obvious thing, you want to bounce on the trampoline. But I think it’s the level in which you can kind of have that interaction. And I guess looking at lots of different kind of children playing and what the kind of expectations are there and how they play. And as I say, obviously, I think there’s certain commonalities with children that they’ll enjoy certain repetition, maybe, that maybe older players won’t. Obviously, lots of reward and encouragement. But yeah, it’s incredibly kind of invaluable having that insight. And I’m still kind of just in awe of what children love doing, certainly with Paw Patrol. It’s like they want the favorite pup. They want to kind of explore and collect and create their own kind of fun, essentially. So yeah.

Greg Posner: 28:32: 29:51: It’s fun to pick up on trends like that, and not trends, just even just picking up on the nuances that kids have. Because again, just going back to my son, right? He wanted to try Pal World the other day with me, so we kind of started playing Pal World. And you know, there’s just little things like you have to be able to read what ingredients you need to craft together to do this. There’s a lot of buttons to press. And I was thinking about kind of Paw Patrol, right? Sorry to keep going back to that one. He plays Bluey too, but the fact that there is no reading, it’s very clear on the buttons to press. Accessibility just screams, and I don’t think, and I know we talked about this already, but I don’t think people really understand that truly is building accessibility for games for kids because they can’t read. And you were telling me about how Lego transitioned from text to actually speech in the game and how it’s fascinating to see how kids pick up on this, because he couldn’t do anything in Power. Well, he did, but like, it’s not the full game. Whereas looking at some of the new games that are coming out from Outright, like, this is a great introduction to the open world experience without having to read it. And do you guys recognize these cues right out the gate, like noticing that, hey, kids won’t be able to do this? Or do you actually have playtesting with the kids or your children, right? Where you say, hey, you’re not understanding to do this. How do we make this more obvious?

Daniel McCreadie: 29:52: 32:40: I think it’s a bit of both, really. So obviously, play testing is absolutely key, but obviously, done in a way in which it will be a certain stage of the title. So there’ll be something we’ll be specifically asking or directing, and we’ll maybe have assumptions ourselves of how people will find things. But maybe it’s kind of, you know, it will be in a place where we’d think it is. But I think sometimes if children do play it and then it’s maybe a different pivot or we will follow what the players kind of expect from the game and what their kind of experience is. I think, yeah, accessibility is a very broad topic. And I think making a game kind of accessible to me is certainly kind of not having prior assumptions, which is sometimes quite difficult. It’s incredibly difficult, actually, to think, well, this could be the first time a child’s ever held a controller. And I see that as a big responsibility, really, because you don’t want someone to have an experience that’s maybe too challenging or things haven’t been clearly explained. So I think in Blu, we’ve obviously had simple on-screen instructions, which are then repeated and reinforced, having full voiceover as well. It’s something that can get most players. But obviously, then we have to think that maybe there also needs to be further reinforcement with the visual aids, with the way things are set up. And obviously, reinforcing when players do achieve something. Having that speech and having that visual feedback to go, you’ve done amazing. Because again, I think the onboarding for games, it really is something that, again, I try to constantly look at that it could be the first time someone’s played. But I think having as many options and ways that players obviously can pick things up and just having that kind of, I guess, assumption in mind that they won’t have kind of had someone maybe to help them as well. And it does, it really, it does, it’s a, it’s a big challenge and a big responsibility, but I think when you do see games resonate well with children and families, I don’t think there’s anything like it in the world, you know, hearing that kind of, that laughter, that excitement, that sense of achievement. Yeah, it’s definitely what I keep kind of pushing for and aspiring to see.

Greg Posner: 32:40: 33:19: Yeah, it’s fantastic. I agree with you and just seeing my kids happy playing games, right? It excites me because I remember that feeling like you were mentioning earlier when we were younger and the more people that could experience, the more people want to play more games, the better for the entire industry. It’s good games to be playing when there’s a whole bunch of games that are not safe for kids out there in the internet. So it’s a fantastic place to be. More questions about a game designer. If you are, I guess this isn’t a straightforward question, but like Where do you, where would you like to go next? What’s the natural progression for a game designer? What’s that next step? Is it a principle? Is it something else?

Daniel McCreadie: 33:19: 34:40: Yeah, it’s a really interesting question. And I think the way I kind of see it, I think for anyone to be in a space really where obviously as a designer, the kind of crafting experiences that they enjoy. I would say, as well, trying to kind of push yourself in terms of picking up those new skills, crafting those experiences, you’ll never kind of go wrong. I think it is kind of, a lot of it does come down to the individual. I think when I kind of heard about, obviously, having principal designers, it is essentially an equivalent to kind of a lead position in a lot of companies. And I think it just allows players who really have, sorry, designers who have mastered their craft essentially, to be given that space to continue to create, to continue to refine the skills in a specialized area. I count myself as very lucky really, because in my career of being in most of the different branches of design, So level design, game design, system design. Obviously, there’s different design, accessibility design. We kind of look at user experience design as well. And again, I think it’s about finding what interests you, and I guess, obviously, what you’re good at as well.

Greg Posner: 34:41: 34:53: I mean, just talking about the different roles in design, to be honest, I never really thought that deep into it. I’m thinking like these indie studios that just have one or two people that handle all these roles.

Daniel McCreadie: 34:53: 37:08: Yeah. And I think that’s the thing as well. You know, if you look at kind of a lot of indie developers, it could be a case of, you know, your CEO, essentially, you’d be the producer, you’ll kind of be a designer as well. And I think maybe there isn’t necessarily a defined role there. And I would say, I think sometimes, certainly not in my experience, but I think a designer does look to other disciplines as well. It looks at other people for the idea. And I think maybe it’s a bit of a misconception sometimes that a designer always has to come up with the best ideas or has to be this person where it’s just like, well, I have an answer for everything. I don’t necessarily think that is the case. I think you ask questions, you see What what the act what idea is the best fit and it might not necessarily be one that you’ve kind of come up with But it will be the one that kind of fits fits the game or the task at hand So is there a typical type of game that you play that you you draw inspiration from or is it all just different types of games? I think it again. It’s an interesting question because like I think a lot of kind of I A lot of games obviously will take elements from different genres, from different games, from different mediums as well. So, you know, I’ve seen games or I’ve worked on games where obviously if it’s based on an IP, you’ll kind of look towards that IP and like, well, maybe there’s a moment in the TV show or the film or wherever it’s like, well, how do you represent that within the game? What games have maybe done something similar And I think that’s why it’s important as a designer to play as much as you can. And if not, look to play if you’ve got a certain problem. Because I think it is important to look from other sources and get the inspiration that way. And again, it won’t be exactly the same situation for each game. But I think having almost kind of a library, and I think as you kind of gain experience as well, you can kind of think, well, on this game, this is how I tackled this problem. Yeah, it’s just really important to kind of

Greg Posner: 37:09: 37:29: Essentially keep an open mind with certain, you know approaches that you might have to different issues How do you I mean maybe this isn’t an issue for you But how do you combat things like gaming fatigue right and like you work all day building a game you go home You play a game and rinse and repeat rinse and repeat. What do you do to disconnect? Well, I guess what would be your hobbies outside of that?

Daniel McCreadie: 37:29: 38:57: Yeah, I think again, it’s a great question. I think oh it can differ for everyone I think Obviously One of the things that if you are kind of in any industry and any kind of job, it can be kind of difficult to kind of have a clear stop point. Because you might kind of, I don’t know, for me, I might be walking a dog and think, oh, this is something I can kind of put pen to paper and everything like that. I think setting boundaries is really important. It’s important to try your best to kind of think, well, I can look at this in terms of this. And I think a lot of people maybe say, if you’re working from home, it might be to have a separate space where that’s your work area. And then if you do game, as a casual thing, it could be somewhere else. But yeah, it is different for everyone. I think for me, obviously, in terms of hobbies, I do find that I play a lot of games as well, I think, naturally. But there is kind of, yeah, it can be a challenge. Certainly, if you spoke to my wife, she’d be like, oh, you know, you’re watching this film and you’re thinking about, oh, well, how have they done this here? Or how could we maybe kind of put something like this in the game? Yeah, I think it’s just being mindful of it and just taking time to kind of relax outside of that kind of space, essentially.

Greg Posner: 38:58: 39:09: As someone like myself who’s disorganized, when you have a lot going on with all the different roles that you’re helping with, right? How do you keep yourself organized? Do you have a tip or trick or do you use a specific app?

Daniel McCreadie: 39:09: 40:32: Yeah, I think that’s a great question. I find it amazing that you can kind of, well, from my perspective, I’ve loved working with different designers who might go, this has worked for me, or this might have worked for me. having a notepad is actually one of the foundations that I remember when I first started. That was one of the key moments where it’s like, OK, literally a door is open. Do you want to work on this level? And it’s just like, OK, I’ve got a notepad in hand. And being able to read my own handwriting afterwards is a challenge because I’m a bit like chicken skull. But I think it’s trying to find a method that works, again, for the individual. So something that maybe works for me is having a kind of checking things off. I think, again, maybe treating it as a game. So it’s like, well, what do you want to set out to do today? Maybe there’s a list of five things, six things, whatever. Taking that thing off, I think naturally, oh, OK, I’ve done this. What can I do now? That’s a good motivation. But I think for other people, it could be a case of, well, everything is fairly regimented. I’m not one of those people either. So, you know, it’s finding what works for them really.

Greg Posner: 40:32: 41:15: It’s funny. I remember I was, my first job was a customer support agent and every day we would kind of compete internally, who can close the most tickets. And at the end of the day, when you can look at a number, it’d be like, I closed 50 tickets today. You’re like, that was a good day. And then all of a sudden you get promoted to a position where you’re not closing tickets and you start to think to yourself, what did I do today? How do I accomplish this? I love the idea of checklists, right? Because it gives you that motivation to say, all right, what did I accomplish today? Because sometimes projects are big, right? Creating a game doesn’t happen in a single day. But if you can do one, two, or three, I think visually seeing that I did this today, I did this today is so self-satisfying. You need that to help understand that there is movement because sometimes there’s movement in an ocean that just isn’t moving.

Daniel McCreadie: 41:16: 42:16: Definitely. And I think going back to actually when I was a tester, and I think it kind of never ends. What I mean by that is like, obviously, I’m still a tester in terms in the fact that, well, I’m checking work, I’m checking kind of obviously the design elements of things. But I think setting maybe personal challenges, like micro challenges, I think is a great way to kind of keep that kind of motivation, but also having kind of a target in mind. So I think when I was testing, it’s like, OK, you might boot up a game. How do I break this game? And it’s not like you’re attacking the people that are developing it. You’re thinking, well, this is going to make that title more robust. I’m going to find, I’m going to be able to jump over that wall. I’m going to be able to kind of get a high score, reverse back, whatever it may be. I think it’s a great way to kind of have a motivation, have kind of a target. But yeah, as you say, every day can be different in a lot of jobs.

Greg Posner: 42:16: 42:32: Yeah, for sure. I guess my question is, do you have a piece of technology that you kind of live by, need in your life? Yes, it’s a good question. Why don’t you do it on mobile phone? Because everyone will do it on mobile phone.

Daniel McCreadie: 42:32: 44:37: Yeah. I mean, it could be argued I’m probably on that too much. I think for me, it’s trying to kind of think of ways that you kind of, certainly in a professional environment, I think for me, it’s how you kind of maybe convey feedback. And there’s fantastic tools for that now. One of the things, that I absolutely love. I mean, it’s Photoshop. I think that there’s so much you can do with Photoshop that isn’t just net. Maybe people have an idea in their head that, well, Photoshop, you’re just touching an image up or whatever. It’s like, well, no. It’s the process of how you can have an image, set layers to it, put text on there, convey ideas. You can do so much with it. I don’t work for Adobe. There’s other software titles available as well. But something like that, I think, I had a hesitancy and happy to kind of share this. When I started in the games industry, I was a tester, right? So I was essentially, well, it was essentially, the way I saw it in ways, it was me versus the game. It’s like, well, I need to observe everything, report it, but also find ways that pressure points to break it. When I became a designer, it was a different prospect. It was kind of, there was a problem solving element, but also there was kind of like, certainly a creativity element. being able to convey an idea, I wasn’t the best drawer. And I think I was quite self-conscious about that because I had an expectation that the designers should be amazing illustrators, amazing drawers. But I found that I think the ideas were there, but I think it was trying to convey it in a way. And for me, it was learning Photoshop. It was learning, well, you can It doesn’t necessarily have to be a masterpiece, but as long as it’s kind of clear to someone reading the design or viewing it in a visual way. But yeah, probably that. I do use that quite a lot.

Greg Posner: 44:37: 45:11: I just got access to our company’s Adobe license, so I just downloaded Photoshop and I’m afraid to jump into it. It seems very intimidating of a tool. That and Premiere Pro, they’re all the same. Oh, yeah. But it’s funny, you know, it’s funny. Everyone always says game designer. It’s funny to hear you talk. It’s refreshing. I wasn’t confident in my illustration skills, right? And like, all you got to do is get the points across, right? That’s like, we always say you just need the MVP, like get something viable out there that people can understand and wrap their head around it. And that’s good enough. But sometimes you put your own expectations on yourself, where it ends up almost like crushing you internally.

Daniel McCreadie: 45:11: 47:28: But definitely, and I think, you know, I did a talk last year actually, and I think it was the people looking to get into the games industry. And I shared that because I think it is important that you know that you don’t have to have perfection in every single area. You don’t have to almost be the finished article with things. I think naturally, I’m still learning every day. I have no problem saying that. I think that you learn off others, you learn from kind of obviously medium that’s out there. But I think it is, it’s very important to kind of take time aside and, you know, realize that I think the world doesn’t always see yourself in the same way that you can see yourself sometimes. And I think just because I wanted to be a designer so much, I had this level of pressure on myself. And I wanted to kind of, I wanted every idea to be amazing. I wanted every design to be, you know, well-breaking. I think the other point I would make as a designer, and maybe for the audience, it might kind of help a little, is a design isn’t always kind of like Hollywood spectacular, necessarily. And by that, I mean that a design, it’s essentially, it’s to either solve a problem or to kind of fulfill the need of the pillars of the game or the brief. And a lot of the time, it could be a menu. It could be a button prompt. It could be character movement. And these elements of the game are massively important, but maybe unsung sometimes. And I think sometimes the solutions that you can come to resolve issues in the game, they can be the simplest one on the paper. I’m certainly guilty of maybe sometimes over-engineering a solution or thinking, well, The system needs to be this robust. It needs to do that. And it’s like, well, actually, maybe it’s just a case of the first idea you have, the simplest one. And it’s realizing that people might not actually notice what you put in the game, but without it being there, the game wouldn’t be the same.

Greg Posner: 47:30: 48:08: Dan, first off, I really want to thank you again for coming in. I know I said this time and time and time again, but you really helped my kids get into gaming, starting with outright games, TT games. And I’m excited about this next generation of kids getting into gaming. And again, it’s the safe zone. I know they’re playing these games and they’re not going to be exposed to other people yet. And it’s just fantastic and accessible for all kids. And I appreciate that. Before we go, there’s a large number of people out there today that are looking for their next opportunities in gaming and people are looking into roles like designer. Any advice you would give someone looking for their next role?

Daniel McCreadie: 48:08: 50:02: Yeah. Yeah. You know, I think again, obviously every journey is different. There’s loads of different routes kind of into the games industry, but I think a few points for me would be. Try to maintain positivity, belief, and drive in yourself and realize that there might be skills that you gain in other industries or other pursuits that you may make in life. They can be relevant to the games industry in loads of different ways and disciplines. And there’s lots of different resources out there as well. But I would say keep creating, keep looking to problem solve, and see how this might apply to a design role as well. And think about, obviously, looking at games that are out there, one of your favorite games, or maybe a game that has interested you, and then try to break it down, try to think about how it’s made, why the decisions are made in it, and see if you can then compare your thoughts to maybe the person that made it, or maybe other people’s views about it. I think that will give you an understanding into games as well. And maybe it’s a bit cheesy to end on as well, but it is never too late to make it. you know, have fun. That’s what it’s all about. That’s actually Judge Judy, the quote of that. Judge Judy. Yeah. I use that because I think it is important that, you know, your path in life and in the games industry, you know, it might be different, it might look different, but, you know, there are kind of opportunities and there is kind of, you know, an industry that, you know, obviously there’s changes, there’s things that kind of, will maintain the same. There’s things that will kind of be completely different in the next few years, but it’s important to kind of, you know, just maintain that belief and work hard.

Greg Posner: 50:02: 50:16: On that note, is there any resources that you use, whether it be Reddit, LinkedIn, Slack groups, Discord groups, that you personally kind of connect with others in the industry, or is it kind of just… Personally, I found LinkedIn invaluable.

Daniel McCreadie: 50:16: 51:16: I kind of, obviously, you know, myself, I can see a lot of people in the industry sharing their skills, experiences. Yeah, it’s a great resource to network. It’s a great resource to see what’s out and about in terms of your own industries. And it can never hurt to maintain a profile there. I think there’s a lot of things like, I love cooking and videos and podcasts such as this, seeing other people’s views and experiences. Yeah, I think it’s just there is a lot of free information out there. And I think you can’t be just getting something tangible there and working on it and creating it, be it kind of a document, a design, a drawing, or even a video. There’s lots of different ways to kind of create and share with the world now.

Greg Posner: 51:17: 51:25: Awesome. Well, Dan, again, thank you so much for coming out and taking the time. Is there anything else you want to share about yourself or Outright Games or anything in general?

Daniel McCreadie: 51:25: 52:10: Well, as I say, you know, I’m incredibly biased, but, you know, working at Outright Games, I’m incredibly happy to kind of build on family-friendly experiences, working with these fantastic IPs and brands, you know, really kind of being focused on that kind of preschool audience. And I would say that certainly every game that I kind of you know, looked at, I would be really happy for kind of children to kind of experience, my own family included. And yeah, you know, it’s, I think just anyone out there that kind of does feel that, you know, they want to kind of be involved in the industry, you know, just don’t give up early, you know, there could well be a path.

Greg Posner: 52:11: 52:21: Awesome. Thank you, Dan. And thank you everyone for listening. Thanks for coming down today again, Dan. I appreciate your time and I hope you have a great rest of your day. Thanks, Greg. Cheers.

Greg Posner

Avid gamer with a passion for storytelling. My goal is to unpack the narratives of customers, partners and others to better understand how industry-leaders tackle today's challenges.

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