Tom Boggis, principal game designer at Ubisoft Reflections, tells us how he balances his responsibilities at a massive games industry company with also working as an author.
What is your job role at Ubisoft, and what do you do?
I am a principal game designer at Ubisoft Reflections, and on our current project I am responsible for designing the player 3Cs (which stands for Character, Camera and Controls) as well as our AI functionality (such as enemy types and their behaviours). My day to day job includes a mix of documenting designs, communicating with other stakeholders to ensure the design vision is being carried through as intended, and tuning gameplay in our editor.
How did you land a publishing contract while also working full time in the games industry?
I’ve been writing in my spare time since I was a kid and have even written scripts for a few of our games (Driver San Francisco Wii, The Crew and Grow Up!) which was great fun. The original manuscripts that became the first two books in my debut action-adventure fantasy trilogy – The Hirono Chronicles: Meera and The Hirono Chronicles: Wolf Warriors – were written in around 2005 and I then spent years searching for a publisher with no success.
After many redrafts I eventually struck gold early in the pandemic and found my publisher Markosia, but they wanted a trilogy and so I first had to write a final book! So – mid pandemic and with little else to do in my spare time – I sat at my laptop and planned, wrote and redrafted the entire novel in about five months. It was intense but hugely rewarding and the resulting novel The Hirono Chronicles: Spirit War is my favourite piece of work to date. My most recent book The Final Page is an action-adventure epic set during a WW2-inspired conflict about a young boy trying to return a lost diary and prove he can overcome his fears.
How do you balance being an author with your responsibilities?
I try to be pretty strict with myself when it comes to work and writing to avoid burnout and so during the pandemic I got myself into a healthy but productive routine where I would do my full working day, take a break, then write between 500-1000 words a night of the book, with a goal of a few thousand words at weekends.
This may sound a lot but I found that the two disciplines fed off each other well, so if I’d had a tough day at work I could unleash myself on my book, or if I was struggling with writer’s block I could throw myself into my designing. I am currently working on a few movie projects alongside my design work that I’m hoping may someday see fruition!
What qualifications and/or experience do you need to land this job?
Personally, I have a degree in Creative Writing and a HND in Game Design, but it is a misconception that you need a degree to get a job in game design. At Ubisoft Reflections and Ubisoft Leamington, we’re always looking for new ways to bring fresh talent into the industry!
If you were interviewing someone for your team at Ubisoft, what would you look for?
Continuing on from the above, to be a good designer you need to be able to analyse and deconstruct game mechanics to understand their components, how they fit together and why they work well. If you can do this then you should be able to clearly and precisely outline how a feature should be assembled and produce production-ready documents that other team members can work from to bring that feature to life. Besides looking for this in interviews, a healthy appreciation and love of games is required and at least some level of technical know-how i.e. use of game editors is generally expected. Finally, we want to see if people will be a good cultural fit for life at Ubisoft, so we look for people that are creative and collaborative.
The Hirono Chronicles and The Final Page can be purchased at Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, The Book Depository and more!