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How to Adapt to a Game Dev Leadership Role | Nathan Tiras | #12

Funsmith Fireside Chats Episode #12

Guest: Nathan Tiras

We had the honor of speaking with Nathan Tiras, a unique and thoughtful game tester and manager with one fantastic career! His lessons from past work and insights on being the best manager are priceless for anyone trying to succeed in the video game industry. 

Starting at Riot and working as the Director of Game Testing at Singularity 6, Nathan speaks to us about how he learned valuable lessons from his managers and teammates at both companies.

We also go in-depth about the best managerial styles for game development, new forms of revenue for gaming companies, trust between developers and players, and even his favorite games to play with his kids.

Additionally, Nathan offers a rousing review of the book Mindset by Carol Dweck.

This episode is an excellent conversation for listeners in the gaming industry and anyone trying to lead their team to better success.

After befriending Brandon Beck, CEO of Riot Games, Nathan Tiras landed a position as a game tester for League of Legends. His years of experience helped him build a reputation as a committed and passionate manager, eventually helping him become the Director of Game Testing at Singularity 6. 

Hosted by Alexander Brazie and Ariana Isbell

Watch or Listen to the Full Episode

Audio:

Other Podcast Platforms:

gds podcast listen apple podcasts min

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gds podcast listen overcast min

Referenced Links & Resources

Connect with Alex:

Twitter

Connect with Ari:

Instagram | TikTok

Free Game Design Learning Resource:

What is Video Game Mechanics (Beginner’s Guide)

How to Become a Video Game Designer

Functional Game Design Document Examples, Templates, and Instructions

Game Design Portfolio, with Examples (Guide)

Episode Chapters (with Timestamps)

0:00 – Introduction

0:51 – Meeting Nathan Tiras, Lead Game Tester for Riot and Singularity 6

2:15 – Welcome and Introductions

8:23 – How to Find Opportunities in the Video Game Industry

10:42 – The Dangers of Being a Game Developer

12:00 – Why Trust is Essential When Being Hired in the Gaming Industry

13:07 – What is the Ice-g Team Do at Riot? The Problems and Solutions.

15:23 – Lessons From Riot Game Testing Manager Ben Sypher

18:49 – What Happens When Game Developers Make Mistakes?

20:24 – Nathan’s Transformational Lesson From the Book Mindset

22:01 – What is the Infamous Hecarim Patch From League of Legends?

25:08 – Importance of Trust Between Game Designers and Players

26:51 – Is There a Better Revenue Strategy for the Gaming Industry?

27:37 – How Skins Affect Gaming Studios’ Revenue

29:51 – Nathan’s Mental Growth Milestones in the Gaming Industry

36:11 – How to Cultivate a Safe Space to Build the Best Game Development Team

37:15 – What is Singularity 6 and the Game Palia?

39:55 – The Different Types of Players in World of Warcraft

43:29 – How Social Dynamics Change Perspectives in the Gaming Industry

44:49 – Games Nathan Looks Forward to Playing With His Kids

50:12 – What’s at the Heart of Success in Life?

52:22 – How to Navigate Between Game Designers and Tester Teams

1:00:49 – Game Design Principle to Satisfy Player Satisfaction

What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

By the way, whenever you’re ready, here are 3 ways to help you start or level-up your game design career:

1. First Principles of Game Design: Skill Development Program: Join game devs who got hired or promoted across 51 AAA and Indie game studios including Riot, Blizzard, Ubisoft, Bethesda, and etc.

Improve player retention and word of mouth by learning to accurately diagnose why the players are losing interest in any game and how to adjust accordingly – one of the main skills studios hire for.

2. Game Design Mentorship – Get access to live weekly video calls and chat feedback support directly from veteran game designer with 25 years of industry experience (see example sessions).

3. Game Design Career Goal Strategy Workshop: A live workshop to help you figure out exact action steps to reach your goal, whether you aim to

  • Break into the video game industry
  • Get promoted (or pivot) from your current position
  • Ship a successful Indie game

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If somehow it turns out this isn’t for you, unsubscribe any time.

EXPERIENCE & BACKGROUND:

[STUDIO] Blizzard Entertainment: Content, mechanics, and systems designer

(Creator of Apex Legends & former Creative Director at Respawn)

[GAME] World of Warcraft: MMORPG with 8.5 million average monthly players, won Gamer’s Choice Award – Fan Favorite MMORPG, VGX Award for Best PC Game, Best RPG, and Most Addictive Video Game.

  • Classic:
    • Designed Cosmos UI
    • Designed part of Raid Team for Naxxramas
  • Burning Crusade:
    • Designed the raid bosses Karazhan, Black Temple, Zul’Aman
    • Designed the Outlands content
    • Designed The Underbog including bosses:
      • Hungarfen, Ghaz’an, Swamplord Musel’ik, and The Black Stalker
    • Designed the Hellfire Ramparts final bosses Nazan & Vazruden
    • Designed the Return to Karazhan bosses: Attumen the Huntsman, Big Bad Wolf, Shades of Aran, Netherspite, Nightbane
  • Wrath of the Lich King:
    • Designed quest content, events and PvP areas of Wintergrasp
    • Designed Vehicle system
    • Designed the Death Knight talent trees
    • Designed the Lord Marrowgar raid
  • Cataclysm:
    • Designed quest content
    • Designed Deathwing Overworld encounters
    • Designed Morchok and Rhyolith raid fights
  • Mists of Pandaria: 
    • Overhauled the entire Warlock class – Best player rated version through all expansion packs
    • Designed pet battle combat engine and scripted client scene

[GAME] StarCraft 2: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Diablo 3: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Overwatch: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[GAME] Hearthstone: Playtested and provided design feedback during prototyping and development

[STUDIO] Riot Games: Systems designer, in-studio game design instructor

(Former Global Communications Lead for League of Legends)
(Former Technical Game Designer at Riot Games)

[GAME] League of Legends: Team-based strategy MOBA with 152 million average active monthly players, won The Game Award for Best Esports Game and BAFTA Best Persistent Game Award.

  • Redesigned Xerath Champion by interfacing with community
  • Reworked the support income system for season 4
  • Redesigned the Ward system
  • Assisted in development of new trinket system
  • Heavily expanded internal tools and features for design team
  • Improved UI indicators to improve clarity of allied behaviour

[OTHER GAMES] Under NDA: Developed multiple unreleased projects in R&D

Game Design Instructor: Coached and mentored associate designers on gameplay and mechanics

[STUDIO] Moon Studios: Senior game designer

(Former Lead Game Designer at Moon Studios)

[GAME] Ori & The Will of The Wisps: 2m total players (423k people finished it) with average 92.8/100 ratings by 23 top game rating sites (including Steam and Nintendo Switch).

  • Designed the weapon and Shard systems
  • Worked on combat balance
  • Designed most of the User Interface

[GAME] Unreleased RPG project

  • Designed core combat
  • High-level design content planning
  • Game systems design
  • Game design documentation
  • Gameplay systems engineering
  • Tools design
  • Photon Quantum implementation of gameplay

[VC FUNDED STARTUP] SnackPass: Social food ordering platform with 500k active users $400m+ valuation

[PROJECT] Tochi: Creative director (hybrid of game design, production and leading the product team)

  • Lead artists, engineers, and animators on the release the gamification system to incentivize long-term customers with social bonds and a shared experience through the app

[CONSULTING] Atomech: Founder / Game Design Consultant

[STUDIOS] Studio Pixanoh + 13 other indie game studios (under NDA):

  • Helped build, train and establish the design teams
  • Established unique combat niche and overall design philosophy
  • Tracked quality, consistency and feedback methods
  • Established company meeting structure and culture

Game Design Keynotes:

(Former Global Head of HR for Wargaming and Riot Games)
  • Tencent Studio
  • Wargaming
  • USC (University of Southern California)
  • RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology)
  • US AFCEA (Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association)
  • UFIEA (University of Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy)
  • West Gaming Foundation
  • Kyoto Computer Gakuin – Kyoto, Japan