Snapshot: Torus Games' Trent Kusters

trentSnapshot is all about giving you a glimpse into the lives of the people who make the games you play. Think of it as Cribs, but with fewer obnoxious celebs and more development geeks.

Every Snapshot will see us ask five questions of a game developer, hopefully providing you with a little insight into what they do and why they do it. Also, we show you their desk.

Today, we travel down to Melbourne and rummage through the desk of the very chatty Torus Games designer Trent Kusters.

Who Are You? Trent Kusters, Game Designer, Torus Games, Bayswater, VIC.

What Work Did You Do Today?

This is hard to talk about due to the highly sensitive (secretive) nature of a lot of my day-to-day work... but I’ll say what I can.

Since the studio is wrapping up Scooby Doo: First Frights (a title we’ve been working on for over a year now), naturally we’re in the pitching process at the moment. So along with a few others, I’ve generally been working on new development opportunities. Also, constantly building our tech and IP library is important, so we work on in-house prototypes as often as possible. At this point in time we’re lucky enough to be able to do that, so I’ve been maintaining a design presence on two of those teams – which can include anything from decision making, creative direction, documentation, coordination, etc.

How'd You Get Your Job?

A lot of hard work and a truckload of luck. Whether you’re self taught or institutionally educated (Uni, etc) you’ve got to have what it takes, and game developers won’t hire unless they know that. I was no exception.

I used to be a game journalist and so relationships built with local and international developers taught me the importance of professionalism, passion and ongoing personal development. I went to any game related event I could; I told everyone there my dream was to become a game designer; thanks to the wonders of the internet, I taught myself the various programs Designers need to be proficient in (Maya or 3DS Max, QA software, Photoshop, Illustrator, Microsoft Office Suite); I had a professionally presented resume (complete with folio) ready to go and after a year and a half of game-related events and hundreds of introductions later I was given my first break – so I made sure I wouldn’t need another.

If there’s any advice I can give to people who want to get into games this would be it:

Know your stuff – we’re a technical industry, you will need to be able to exhibit both the comprehension and ability to perform technical tasks and problem solving with a range of various software.

Know the industry – designers especially, need to know the current climate in the industry at all times. It’s ever changing and if you don’t have your finger on the pulse, you can miss a lot.

Be professional – we have a LOT of fun in the games industry (I mean, come on... we make games), but we are no longer guys in a basement eating pizza. We’re one of the world’s most profitable and innovative entertainment industries, designers especially will need to exhibit professionalism that reflects this.

Get out there – getting a job from your couch or on the tail end of an email is considerably rare. Get out there and meet/talk to developers. Gold stars for any budding developers with social skills.

Passion – the workload in the games industry (particularly in Australia) can sometimes be brutal, and without a continuing passion for games you will burn out. Before seeking a career in games ask yourself; do I love games enough to work on Barbie’s Super Happy Party Adventures for the Nintendo DS for 18 months or will I shoot the entire team?

Secondly, understand that to work on your ‘ultimate’ game it will most likely take years (possibly well over a decade) and as the industry’s talent/personnel matures, it will constantly be harder to work at the top studios or on the top games. If you can’t find a sense of ownership, reward and satisfaction in EVERY PROJECT YOU WORK ON then think long and hard whether this industry is for you.

And of course… the internet can teach you everything!

What's The Last Game You Played And How Was It?

Mario Kart Wii – The only video game my housemate will play. But if we’re talking the latest game I’ve played... Prototype.

It blew me away when I played the opening sequence. Incredibly cinematic. As a developer I was baffled at how their animation system coped with so many possible contextual inputs so quickly. I thought I’d found a diamond in the rough. Then I found myself quitting the main game simply to replay the opening sequence and after doing that a few times I put down the game. All in all a fun game, but a lacking sense of progression, muddy upgrade system and overly sporadic storyline left me feeling disconnected from the game world. Some fantastic technical achievements though and criminally fun in short bursts.

What's On Your Desk?

Ok, I’m ashamed, my workspace comes nowhere near the fame some developers deserve.

* A Lego AT-ST (complete with a Bowcaster-wielding Chewie hijacking the shit out of it… Wookiees FTW) * A pair of Lego Speeder Bikes (complete with Scout Troopers) * A Han Solo figurine (he may be a scruffy nerf herder, but there’s something soothing about his eyes) * A Pip-Boy bobblehead (excellent bobble) * A Clone Trooper bobblehead (bobble is quite lacking actually, this guy’s days on my desk are numbered) * Big Daddy and Little Sister figurines (posed accordingly, of course) * A tin of Torus mints (still full, I think they’re fluoride tablets) * A Hot Wheels Grave Digger replica (memories from our work on the Monster Jam series) * Latest issue of Edge Magazine (off-screen, my fave industry read, er… after Kotaku of course) * My design journal (where the madness becomes method) * Various Post-it Notes that help me perform my ‘design sanity checks’ * A parking fine from the City of Port Phillip (It was 11:15pm! Come on! Seriously?) * Faithful Torus stubby holder for beer o’clock

Then of course all the normal paraphernalia found on a designer’s desk… PC, Monitors, Keyboard, Mouse, Various console controllers, Nintendo DS, Wacom, Pads, Stationery, Documents, Phone.

desk

If you’re a game developer who’d like to be featured in Snapshot, we’d love to hear from you. Just answer the above questions and send us a photo of yourself and your desk to the usual address.


Comments

    I was lucky enough to work with Trent on some titles at Torus, and he is one of the most inspirational people I have worked with in the video game industry. And yes, he is Very chatty :)

    Trent rocks! But who's the human he's sitting on? :D

    Awwwww, our little boy's growing up. Nicely put curly. It's a pleasure to work with you during all the ongoing insanity (that I like to contribute to)

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