Mathilde Pignol participated in a panel about working with large teams in game design at Casual Connect USA. “In my experience, it’s really good to get the goals of what you are trying to get accomplish communicated up front and to try to get the challenge that you are proposing to the creative people to be something interesting, hopefully.”
Mathilde Pignol is co-founder and chief creative officer at Roboto Games. She has recently returned from a large company (EA PopCap) to running her own game studio again. She learned a great deal from growing a creative team from five to fifteen people while directing Plants vs Zombies Adventures for Facebook, and she says, “I am looking forward to applying those lessons to my next games, but for now, I am enjoying being able to get my hands dirty and having a lot of creative freedom.”
The time she feels the most pride in her career came with designing Baking Life, a sim game for Facebook. It reached the top 25 by DAU and entertained 10 million players without the company ever buying a single ad. She believes, “What made Baking Life successful was a mix of skill and luck. The game was a good balance of innovation and iteration at a time when a Facebook platform could still be viral, though most people thought it couldn’t be.” For her, the greatest fun about being in the games industry comes from seeing players’ faces light up when they play a game she created.
Its All About Discovery
Pignol sees the biggest challenge in the game industry today as discovery, especially on mobile platforms, with many great games never being seen. So she feels it is critical for a small games company to distinguish itself from the rest by taking just the right amount of creative risks and working on innovative games that are neither too niche nor derivative. She will also be responding to this issue by building the online audience first.
During the next few years, she expects to see what happened with mobile only social networks in Japan to emerge in the West – a network built for mobile phones will emerge and dominate, the way Facebook has on PC. This will provide a new platform for game developers to experiment and define new rules for player acquisition. She looks to the Asian markets for inspiration and examples of what will come next. Being nimble when it comes to platforms and being on mobile are the ways she plans to keep up with emerging trends.
Pignol owns several consoles and wishes she had more time to play on them, as well as on her Mac. She owns a PS3 which she bought to play Journey, a Wii that she still sometimes uses for playing Wii Play and Mario Kart and an Xbox 360. She hasn’t yet purchased any new generation consoles; she is waiting for more great games to come out.
She finds it much easier to find time to play on her iPhone, so that is where she does most of her gaming. She loves Disco Zoo, a great free-to-play game with a fun but light game mechanic and a healthy dose of quirkiness; she truly enjoyed spending money in it. She also considers Monument Valley a wonderful game; it makes a great artistic statement that reinforces its very original puzzle mechanic.
When she is not involved with her work, Pignol enjoys ballet, although she no longer has much time for performing. But she has discovered that performing requires much of the same thought processes involved in creating a game. You have to give the audience an experience they find both enjoyable and moving.
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.