Working on Uncharted, 4-Day Work Week, Crunch, XTC, Psychology in Design, Sustainable Game Development, and the USC Games Program with Richard Lemarchand


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I welcome Richard Lemarchand from the USC Games program tonight. We begin by discussing his Associate Professor role in the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the recent release of his book, A Playful Production Process, for Game Designers (and Everyone). Hear about how he got his first job at MicroProse, the importance of psychology in game design, along with wishing he’d known how to manage projects better when starting. We discuss the effects of crunch, the importance of managing projects, and how his book is a textbook of his class covering intermediate level design and production.

We then share stories of outdated GDDs, Mark Cerny’s Game Design Macro format, and moving over to Crystal Dynamics in the mid-90s to work on the Gex and Soul Reaver series. Hear about going over to Naughty Dog to work on Jax, the critically acclaimed Uncharted series, and how the game industry is really more like a dozen industries.

Learn Rich’s advice for game designers to understand psychology, systems dynamics, along with having T-shaped skills. Hear how soft skills were taught back at Crystal Dynamics, cultivating empathy, and treating others with respect. We then discuss Uncharted 2, his favorite game to work on, how well the team worked together, and the quality of the storytelling and the cast.

Hear about his interests in VR, immersive design, narrative design, and storytelling that doesn’t involve violence as a core mechanic. We then discuss how crunch is the biggest threat to the industry, how it’s getting better, and studios moving to the 4-day work week. Towards the end we get into a great story about promoting Uncharted 3, trivia about Jake’s journal, and his recommended games - Subnautica, Boyfriend Dungeon, Beast Breaker, Jett, and Ring Fit Adventure. At the end we discuss music, the band XTC, the importance of audio, his book, how to get in contact with him, along with his parting advice.


Richard Lemarchand is an Associate Professor in the USC Games program at the University of Southern California, where he teaches game design, development, and production, and is working on a series of experimental virtual reality game design research projects as part of the USC Game Innovation Lab.

Previously he was a lead game designer at Naughty Dog and led the design of all three PlayStation 3 games in the Uncharted series, including Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, winner of ten AIAS Interactive Achievement Awards, five Game Developers Choice Awards, four BAFTAs, and over 200 Game of the Year awards. He also worked on Jak 3 and Jak X: Combat Racing for Naughty Dog, and helped to create the game series Gex, Pandemonium, and Soul Reaver at Crystal Dynamics. He is also the author of a new book, A Playful Production Process, for Game Designers (and Everyone), published by the MIT Press in October 2021.

Show Links:

* A Playful Production Process, for Game Designers (and Everyone) MIT Press

* USC Games program website

* Jason VandenBerghe’s 2013 GDC Talk YouTube

*Soul Reaver 2 wikipedia

* Game Design Workshop Amazon

* Mark Cerny wikipedia

* Naughty Dog website

* Jax X: Combat Racing wikipedia

* Uncharted wikipedia

* Thinking in Systems Amazon

* T-Shaped Skills wikipedia

* Young Horses website

* The Well-Played Game Amazon

* Subnautica website

* Boyfriend Dungeon website

* Beast Breaker Nintendo

* Jett: The Far Shore website

* Ring Fit Adventure Nintendo

* XTC Spotify

Connect Links:

* Richard Lemarchand Twitter

* Richard Lemarchand email

* Richard Lemarchand website

* Richard Lemarchand LinkedIn

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45 episodes