In her session at Casual Connect Europe 2015, My N. Tran showed us how Storm8 brought Castle Story back from the dead and soaring into the iTunes’ Top 100 Grossing charts. A piece of knowledge she offered was this, “When you have a limited number of actions in your game, a compelling narrative is essential for maintaining player engagement”.
If My N. Tran could meet her childhood self and show her what she’s doing now, the two just might high-five. Why? Because Tran is doing exactly what she wanted to do as a kid — designing games.
Even back when she was younger, Tran would create her own games on paper and try to get friends to play them with her. She also played games with her cousins — which didn’t always work out for her. “They would always make me play as a healer, tank, or some sort of meat-shield while they got to be the hero,” she recalls. “Not anymore, now that I am the one designing games!”
Going for it
Getting into the game industry took a little more effort than making paper games and playing with others though. Since she graduated with a degree in Linguistics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, Tran was intently focused on going into gaming all throughout her college life.
When My Tran would tell friends about her post-graduation plans to make a living creating games, many of them were skeptical, urging her to be more serious about her future plans. “I said ‘I (am), this is the plan, and I am going to laser focus on it,’” Tran recalls.
In the Storm
Tran has now been in the game industry for four years and has done work at Red Robot Labs and Kiwi Games. She has deeply immersed herself in start-up culture, donning many hats and learning a variety of skills. Her tireless efforts and natural talent have even earned her recognition — with free-to-play game design legend Scott Foe calling her “one of the brightest young stars” in the game industry.
Currently Tran is a game designer at Storm8, which was a bit of an unexpected surprise when she got the job. “I submitted my resume to Storm8 on a random day during the summer of 2013 and they emailed me back within a few hours. That was really cool to see, I did not expect them to respond to me at all.”
Tran continues to elaborate that the job allows her to be creative every day and gives her the opportunity of seeing her ideas come to life. She particularly enjoys being able to see how players react to new content immediately by looking at game forums. “The most rewarding part (of the job) is seeing people play your game and laughing at all the corny jokes you wrote,” she noted.
It’s clear that people love her work, as all of the games she’s worked on have made it into the Top 100 Grossing Titles in both Apple’s and Google’s App Stores, something she considers one of the highlights of her career and “definitely very cool.”
Among the most challenging aspects of her job are bringing game teams together and getting all the resources necessary to make a game. Tran is also no stranger to creative blocks either, however, she finds that by talking to other people and explaining her ideas to someone else, she can begin to figure out the problems and overcome them.
The Developer Lifestyle
In addition to her work at Storm8, Tran also runs a website she started called the24bit.com — a site dedicated to celebrating the game developer lifestyle. Tran interviews other game developers and does all the writing and photography herself.
As she looks at these developers, her job, and the game industry as a whole, she can’t help but wonder what the future holds. On the horizon, she envisions well-knownintellectual property being made into games and high quality games that could pass for a console title being played on mobile devices.
Throughout any predictions or musings though, there’s one thing she is sure of, “Mobile games are here to stay — and I am excited to see how the industry grows.”
Casey Rock is the Contributions & Studio Spotlights Editor for Gamesauce. He loves rock climbing, hiking and singing in rock band Open Door Policy. He streams games under the moniker The Clumsy Gamer. You can catch him on twitter @caserocko and @realclumsygamer.