We’ve been celebrating Dragon City Mobile’s first anniversary all week. And what better way to conclude this special occasion than by introducing our Dragon City game designer? Manel Tso joined Social Point a year and a half ago as a game developer, but he was keen to move into design, and his natural flair and passion for dragons have seen him quickly take on the role of game designer for Dragon City across all platforms.
As our Dragon City Mobile anniversary celebrations come to an end, we took the opportunity to talk to Manel about the game, about Social Point, and about dragons. This is what he said…
Manel, you’re our lead game designer on Dragon City. Tell us how you ended up here!
Well, I’m a native of the real Dragon City – Barcelona. I grew up here and graduated in Multimedia Engineering at the Ramon Llull University. After college I headed to the States and took a Masters degree in game and inter-active media design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. When I finished college I worked on a couple of projects here in Barcelona: a startup with some friends, and a gaming project based on preventing children from taking up smoking.
So initially you came on board as a developer? How did you become a designer?
When I joined I explained that I wanted to be a designer, but I didn’t have the requisite experience to go straight into that. They guys at Social Point decided to take a chance on me and counted me in as a future member of the design team. So we struck a deal – that I would spend the first month in a kind of probation – proving my skills as a designer. It worked out really well, and I’ve been a designer ever since. We put out a game called Dark Warriors and I worked as a designer on that. Then I worked on Social Empires and Social Wars before moving on to Dragon City.
Can you tell us a bit about the role of the designer within the game team?
Well, creating a game can be divided into two parts, essentially. There’s the pre-launch where the designer defines the whole world, and how the player will interact with that world. And then there’s what happens after launch, where the role changes to ensuring that the game remains coherent and consistent as it evolves. Generally speaking, the designer is the person that dreams up the different features of the game, and its mechanics, and then creates them. It’s our job to ensure that the game is fun.
“It’s the designer’s job to ensure you keep having fun when you play.”
What’s your typical day like?
Ha! It doesn’t exist! In game design there really is no typical day. Every day is a journey full of problems to be solved, things to be decided and analyses to be made. The common element to each day is team work and communication. Those are the only things you know you’ll encounter day to day.
Have you always wanted to work in video games?
Not really. Initially I was more into mobile user experience. That seemed like a more fulfilling area to me at first, because it was about identifying specific problems and systematically resolving them. Over time, however, I became really interested in games, and particularly free-to-play games. Games are about creating joy in users. And challenges don’t come much bigger – or more rewarding – than that.
Dragon City has been a huge, worldwide hit since it launched back in 2012. Why do you think this is?
I think the game is just incredibly easy to engage with. The different elements it offers, from building, breeding, collecting and fighting are really rewarding for players. And we keep the game fresh and continuously evolving, based on user feedback and analytics – so there’s always something fresh to engage with. It’s really difficult to pin point what it is that makes one game rock so much more than other games. It’s a sort of magic formula that touches a bunch of things – it might be the basic concept, or the music, the cuteness of the graphics, or reaching the critical user base. I think it’s about the way that all these elements – and more – hang together as a whole, that makes a game a hit or not.
“It’s hard to know why one game rocks more than others – or what the magic formula is that makes is a hit.”
Are there any (other) games that you play to relax and unwind?
(Laughs). I can’t play games to relax any more. Honestly! I start analyzing what makes the game I’m playing work, how the designer has achieved a certain feature, or how they make it work. I still enjoy playing, but it’s a different experience for me now!
Alright then, what about a favorite dragon – someone that helps you relax or brightens your day?
No doubt about it. Spicy Dragon is my all-time favorite.
To be honest, I find all the baby dragons really cute. It sometimes feels like a shame to evolve them. Though there are so many of them to collect that you can keep some in different stages of evolution.
Put some spice in your life: Manel and Dragon Spice “chilli out” at Social Point HQ.
Manel, we launched our Fan Art Competition a couple of months ago and we just announced the winner of the April edition – Felidae Dragon by Kayla Sliger. Have you been impressed by the entries?
Oh wow. I mean you can really see the commitment, the passion and the talent in most of them. I think we have all been seriously impressed by the quality of the entries. And it’s incredibly rewarding to see how players around the world really enjoy the games and engage so deeply with them.
In a sense, you are the ultimate Dragon Master. Do you have any tips or advice for players wanting to get the most out of Dragon City?
Keep it simple. Focus on that one dragon that you really want. Keep trying to breed him. The more you try, the closer you will get and the more rewarding it will feel!