Game Design Internship at EA Mobile

ELECTRONIC ARTS (EA) INDIA PVT. LTD.

EA MOBILE, SLINGSHOT GAMES

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NOTE:

This whole article has been heavily edited and tweaked to remove any discrepancies with the company. Everything mentioned here is an overview of what happened, and what you can expect from the studio / company. Hope the information you find here can come of any use to you in someway. With this out of the way, lets begin.

 

PART I: ABOUT THE STUDIO

1. COMPANY BRIEF

EA Games, is an American video game company headquartered in Redwood City, California.

Founded and incorporated on May 28, 1982 by ‘Trip Hawkins’, the company was a pioneer of the early home computer games industry and was notable for promoting the designers and programmers responsible for its games.

Currently, Andrew Wilson is the CEO of the company – and along with him, he introduced many values and objectives which changed how the company functions drastically.

EA HYDERABAD – SLINGSHOT GAMES

The Indian studio is setup in Hyderabad, the joint capital of two states – Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

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The studio is setup amidst leading Information Technology, Engineering, and Health Informatics companies in the heart of The Hyderabad Information Technology and Engineering Consultancy City, abbreviated as HITEC City.

The studio’s primary business is providing live services for EA titles.

EA Mobile India Pvt. Ltd. is well known for undertaking Live Services on mobile conversion of the widely known puzzle games like; Bejeweled into Bejeweled Blitz. Tetris into Tetris Blitz, and last one the Monopoly Slots.

 

2. STUDIO STORY

EA Hyderabad is home to both a dynamic business operation and a rapidly growing studio. The studio is home to talented and passionate individuals from India, as well as from the rest of the world, to come and work on varied domains. Hyderabad is India’s fifth largest city and a growing hub for IT and biotechnology. The country is experiencing significant technological growth, and it also has a distinct and wildly popular culture – as evidenced by Indian social networking sites and the “Bollywood” film industry. Combine a zest for advanced technology and a passion for high-concept entertainment, and you can see that India has immense potential to become a giant in the global gaming industry.

EA Hyderabad Studio is highly regarded throughout the industry for delivering high quality, engaging games on iOS and Android. We release new meaningful updates on a regular basis for our live mobile games. The Hyderabad office represents one of EA Mobile’s largest development organizations with more than 700 passionate mobile game experts involved in game development, testing, production and distribution.

 

3. WORK CONDITIONS

Slingshot studio is located on the seventh floor of a 13-storied building which houses another EA studio on the thirteenth floor. The studio envelopes the entirety of the seventh floor and is divided into the common studio floor, Finance department, HR department, IT department, the CEO offices, and a bunch of conference rooms. There is also an adjoining pantry which any person can access to take some time out.

 

PART II: INTERNSHIP RESPONSIBILITIES

1. PROJECT DESCRIPTION

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One-minute match 3 game where the objective of the player is to get the best score possible to post on a Weekly Leaderboard against your Facebook friends. A casual yet competitive game, but there are not many extrinsic motivators for it besides the inherent human will to compete and beat others through skill.

The game mainly monetizes on monthly content, weekly sales, and difficult to earn single currency sinks. Recently due to the latest update, the freshly introduced events system is also making a round in its monetization loop.

 

2. TEAM STRUCTURE

The team has divisions based on the role, which are listed below followed by my experience interacting with each of these teams.

THE PRODUCT MANAGERS

Whose key role is to oversee content creation to ensure that the product reaches the KPI (Key Performance Indicators) that have been set by the upper heads of the studios.

I worked very closely with the Product Manager team with everything I designed. I was also a part of all the Product Review meetings where they discussed the current state of the game and how recently launched features are performing.

THE PROJECT MANAGERS

Whose key role is of the planning of sprints and ensure the targets set by the team during each sprint are met. At the end of each sprint, they review the previous sprint and perform a post mortem with the leads from the other team, and take decisions in case the sprint goals are not met. [Note: In EA, a sprint is a duration usually lasting between 1-2 week during which the team must finish the tasks delegated to them]

THE DESIGN TEAM

Whose key role is to come up with features and content to keep the players engaged in the game for as long as possible. They work closely with the Product Manager team to make sure that each of these features can contribute towards the game meeting its assigned KPIs.

THE ART TEAM

Whose key role is to create assets and animations for all the content that goes into the game, by making concept art, storyboards, animatics, and finally moving on to finalized assets with approval from the Development Directors.

THE DEVELOPMENT TEAM

Whose key role is the coding of the various features into the game. This is further divided into two teams: Client Dev which works on the front end of features that the player can experience, which is for Facebook and Mobile, and Server Dev who work on the server side of things, and are also responsible for creating tools that the rest of the team can use.

THE COMMUNITY TEAM

Whose key role is to keep the player base engaged and interested on the game’s upcoming content. These are further divided into many sections, from people who are directly involved in contacting individual players, from people who keep gathering information on the market, to marketing artists who work on marketing art that is used to promote events and new features.

THE QUALITY ASSURANCE TEAM

Whose key role is the rigorous testing of all the features for bugs and stability. This is again divided into two teams: Core QA who ensure that there are no issues that the end user might encounter, be it bugs, performance issues, difficulty checks, gameplay loopholes etc, and the Dev QA who work closely with the Development team to ensure that the new/modified features that have been scripted are working as intended.

THE HR TEAM

Whose job is to manage the people in the rest of the company and serve as a link between the employees, the finance team, and the facilities team.

The Talent Acquisition team which is directly under the HR department helped me out in getting acquainted to the workplace, and were approachable in case of issues.

 

3. WORK PROCESS

BRAINSTORMING

Before anything, everything starts from ideas. However irrelevant, random they may be. They all start with ideas. And sometimes grouping them gives a better vision.

In game design, these ideas could be categorized / organized by techniques such as mind mapping and concept mapping.

MARKET RESEARCH

It is always essential to do market research on whatever project you are working on. It is crucial to know how your players might respond to changes before you already implement them.

GAME ANALYSIS

Mostly this is to understand the market trends. On why certain genres games follow similar game mechanics, and how they do it. Analyzing is also taking references from games in your market space.

CONCEPTION

Refining your ideas into something concrete, and usable. These ideas should follow your target based on your market research.

DISCUSSIONS / FEEDBACKS / ITERATIONS

Conception is only the first step of numerous iterations to come. Discussions and taking feedbacks is also a part of refining your concepts even further to your vision.

PITCHING

Involving the decision makers, you sit together to discuss about the concept, have further decisions on what is right and what needs to be done. Now, for this process it is pertinent to have a clear understand of the vision. Only then whatever discussions happen, are considered valid.

PROTOTYPING / MOCKUPS / PROOF OF CONCEPT

There are two ways to go about it here. One to jump directly into prototyping the concept. Or two, to gain the final vision to let start the prototyping process.

You usually begin the second process by making mockups, and proof of concepts, to showcase the vision to other dependencies on the team.

GAME BALANCING

Whatever has been done, it shouldn’t run on random values, rather on calculated ones. Again, these should be according to your target audience. This process usually involves designers in making rounds in excel. Trust me, it’ll be your new best friend.

ENGINE IMPLEMENTATION

Finally, you put everything into the engine. Make it ready for live. This process could involve multiple testing phases depending on the company. Here at EA, it goes through 3 different phases to make the concept ready, with no bugs.

LIVE ANALYTICS

After the concept is live, the real deal comes in reacting to it. Your decisions might not be well received by your audience (which is probably the mostly likely case, in most scenarios), but you should be able to adapt to it, while meeting your requirements and vision in process.

 

4. AGILE PROCESS

SCRUM METHODOLOGY

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Scrum is a framework for managing software development. It is designed for teams of three to nine developers who break their work into actions that can be completed within fixed duration cycles (called “sprints”), track progress and re-plan in daily 15-minute stand-up meetings, and collaborate to deliver workable software every sprint.

Approaches to coordinating the work of multiple scrum teams in larger organizations include Large-Scale Scrum, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and Scrum of Scrums, among others. This methodology is aimed to maximize a team’s potential with minimum stress.

WEEKLY SPRINT REVIEWS

Every week, the team comes together to have a meeting on the overall process towards a singular goal, led by the Project Manager. This meeting is crucial to check where we are, in terms of progress, and in terms of whether do we need course corrections are not.

DAILY STANDUPS

Every morning, the team comes together to have a small meeting on individual progress updates, and this usually dictates work organization towards individual employees.

 

5. END NOTE

There was a lot of self-doubt lingering in me whether I’m capable of doing certain things, whether am I good enough for this selection? But once I got into the work flow, I gained self-confidence in my skills and overall, in myself.

I started expressing more about me (which I’ve had difficulty doing it in the past), I’ve become more confident in my actions – and partly it is because I realised, whatever I learned wasn’t some child’s play. It had actual impact on my work. This internship has unquestionably helped me in reinforcing myself as a professional.

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