Lead Game Designer for TinyCo Rich Marmura knows his stuff when it comes to product/design pillars for creating events that delight players, while still focusing on retention, monetization and increasing the strength of the core game. At Casual Connect USA, during his session Moblie Game Event Design, one tip he related was this: “During time-limited events, yes you need new content. We try to also add new gameplay.”
Rich Marmura is a Lead Game Designer at TinyCo, a San Francisco game company of 130 employees making games for iOS and Android. For most of Rich’s career he has been developing toys, games and attractions based on popular intellectual property. He had been interacting with TinyCo for some years, and in 2014, the time seemed right to join them. His skills and experience have been a great fit for working on their mobile games, such as Family Guy: The Quest For Stuff.
What he most enjoys about his job is working with so many talented people across many disciplines. He insists, “There is something magical about putting highly skilled and highly creative people together and seeing what they create.”
It should come as no surprise that Rich’s major hobby is playing games, lots of games! But he also enjoys running, reading, cooking and woodworking.
Interestingly, one of the jobs Rich imagined for himself when he was a child was closely related to the work he does now; he wanted to design theme park attractions. On the other hand, he was also drawn to becoming a carpenter or a Ninja Turtle.
A complex Path to Game Development
He was an avid player of all kinds of games: board games, video games, sports and even games he invented. But, although he did think it would be great to make games. It didn’t become his focus until much later in life.
Rich describes himself as being an artistic and inquisitive kid whose parents encouraged him in art classes, making costumes, various music lessons and many theater performances. He says, “I am incredibly thankful that my parents were so supportive of my eclectic interests.”
His inquisitive character led him to take everything apart to see how it worked – radios, space heaters, power tools, toys, and whatever else sparked his interest. His parents were less supportive of this pursuit, especially when he took apart things they all used on a regular basis.
His interest in theater continued into his college studies, where he was attracted to on stage performance and the technical aspects of set design and construction, lighting and sound.
All of these interests combined to move him along a path toward his career in theme park design and game development.
During Rich’s first year of undergraduate studies, he was first inspired with the direction for his career. He attended the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival at Carnegie Mellon University. Professor Don Marinelli and Dr. Randy Pausch presented a workshop about their dream of creating a dual masters program centered around games, interactive technology, amusement park attractions and related subjects. And, he says, “I was hooked almost immediately.”
The Creative Process
Rich begins his creative process by defining the parameters of the design: the time budget, the available resources and the overall goals. He has discovered that having this framework in place at the beginning helps to give direction to the initial brainstorming sessions.
Creative blocks inevitably occur. When one does he starts the process of getting through it by running his ideas past someone else, believing an outside perspective is invaluable. Then he takes a walk because a change of venue allows him to think about the problem in a new way. Finally, if he can’t overcome the block, he simply moves on to something else. He has discovered, “My brain will usually come up with a solution at some random time down the road when I’m not obsessing over it. The key with this is to keep a notebook handy – nothing is worse than coming up with an idea, but forgetting it.”
He has no shortage of ideas, but one of his greatest challenges is choosing between equally strong concepts. As he says, “It’s like choosing between your children.” And, although he is getting better at it, he continues to find it difficult.
The game he would like to create if money and resources were not an issue reflects his interest in theater. He would make a game about putting on famous Broadway musicals and plays. The player would manage everything from casting the actors, to promoting and selling tickets, to directing the characters live.
Play, Play and Play Some More
For people interested in game development as a career, he advises, “Play, play and play some more. And not just the games you like, but games that are outside of your favorite genres.” He also recommends watching others play games; how they play, when they play and what their reactions are as they play. It will be incredibly valuable to understand why people play the games they do and how they derive enjoyment from them.
“Build something the players love. Player love makes you feel fantastic!” he maintains.
In the next few years, Rich believes we will see continued blurring of the line between casual and hardcore games. The spread of mobile devices will lead to more opportunities to create experiences that players of varied skill levels can enjoy together.
The rewards come when you realize the difference you are making in people’s lives. As he relates, “Every so often you get a note from a player thanking you for making the game or saying how much they enjoyed it or how it gave them an escape during a particularly rough patch in their lives. To make something that entertains people or gives them a needed escape, even if only for a few minutes, is just wonderful.”
Catherine Quinton is a staff writer for www.gamesauce.org. Catherine loves her hobby farm, long walks in the country and reading great novels.