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Case Studies

Talking casual gaming, passions and themes with Scott Jon Siegel

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This week’s case study is a real treat: we talked with game designer Scott Jon Siegel. Scott has worked in casual gaming since the industry really came to the forefront and is now working as a freelance consultant and contractor.

Scott’s website rocks our Vimes theme and looks amazing, so we had to sit down with Scott to find out more. Enjoy!

Hi Scott! Thanks for joining us. Tell us, who are you and what do you do?

Thank you for having me! I like this “talk show” approach to the case study. I just need a coffee mug and a comfy chair (and ideally an adoring audience).

So, I’m Scott Jon Siegel, and I work professionally and passionately as a game designer in San Francisco, California.

I’ve been in the game industry for over eight years now, and during that time I’m proud to have helped ship six wonderful games, several of which I contributed to as a lead or senior designer. They’re all my babies and I love them dearly <3

I’m currently freelancing as a consultant and contractor, and seeking talented programmers who might want to collaborate with me on prototyping and developing casual mobile games.

A screenshot from Gardens of Time, one of Scott’s favourite games he’s worked on.

You specialise in casual gaming and have worked for titans in that space, PopCap and Zynga. What is it that attracts you to the genre?

For me, casual games are games that anyone can play, and everyone can enjoy. A casual game is highly accessible and easy to pick up and learn, but still challenging and fun in all the best ways (think Solitaire, Tetris, Bejeweled, Crossy Road). The kind of game someone can play daily on their computer for years, but still not consider themselves a “gamer”. Those are the kinds of games I love, and the kinds of games I love making. That’s why I make games for everyone.

What’s been your favourite game to work on? What made it so interesting?

Oh golly, I can’t pick just one! There are two, for very different reasons.

Developing and shipping Gardens of Time was an incredibly positive experience with a wonderful team, and together we were able to pivot the game’s design in a way that was critical to its success. GoT was a major hit for Playdom and Disney Interactive, to the point of being directly called out by Disney CEO Bob Iger during an earnings call. Its success paved the way for a slew of hidden object games to make their way to Facebook, and eventually mobile. Getting to be a part of that experience was an incredible rush, and I’d love to do it again and again.

The other favorite of mine is a much smaller, less successful game called Boulder Goat. Boulder Goat was the result of a rapid prototyping process that I engaged in with an incredibly talented programmer at PopCap. Together we conceived, developed, and iterated on four playable game prototypes, and Boulder Goat was the one that generated a large amount of interest and excitement from within Popcap. As lead designer, Boulder Goat was my baby, through and through. We built up a small team of ten developers and soft-launched the game after less than a half-a-year in production. It didn’t perform well enough during soft launch to see a wider release, but despite the failure (and in some ways because of it), I learned a great deal about the entire process of rapid design and development. I’m hoping to share those learnings with more and more people.

Your site runs Vimes and shows off your portfolio really nicely. I understand this was your first premium theme purchase. What have been some of the benefits?

Well, first, thank you very much! I put a lot of work into getting my site to look and feel the way I wanted it to. Using Vimes really opened the possibilities for what I could with

I’ve used free themes for years, but with this latest update to my personal site, I wanted to be able to do very specific things that I struggled to find support for. Deciding to choose a premium theme had a lot to do with both the overall quality of the theme’s execution, as well as its flexibility. Customer service has also made a big difference in my success using the theme. Pavel was always very quick to respond to my support questions, and with his help, I was able to do everything I wanted with the site. Going premium was an excellent choice, and one I’ll make again in the future, I’m sure.

What advice would you give to aspiring game developers?

I have a lot of advice to give! I’ll try to keep it short and quick.

If you want to make games, start making games! Like, right now! Make games with whatever tools you have. Or learn new tools. Try weird things, make mistakes, put things online, have other people play them, repeat. Everything you make, everything that works, everything that fails, will teach you a great deal about design, development, your strengths, well before you’re looking for a job in the game industry.

But with that, I would also advise focusing on smaller things at first, and ship things fast. Don’t dive into ambitious, complex, years-long game projects. Think about your skills, strengths, and what you reasonably get done in a few month’s time. Always be conservative in your estimates; round up, and then double it.

More than anything else: BE PASSIONATE. Pour your heart into your work. Draw influences not just from games, but from EVERYTHING. Make games about parallel parking. Make games about eating melty ice cream on a hot today. Make games about twiddling your thumbs. Make things that aren’t like all the other things out there.

And, of course, make games for everyone. :]

Thanks so much for joining us, Scott! Some fascinating insights there – and stellar advice. You can see Scott’s website here and check out Vimes here.

Are you doing amazing work with a WPZOOM theme? Get in touch, we’d love to talk for a future case study!

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