Behind the Scenes (A2M) — Ash Ismail

Ash Ismail.jpg

This week’s Behind the Scenes is with Ash Ismail from A2M. If you missed it yesterday, he recently appeared on G4TV to show off WET.

What’s your job at A2M?
I am the Lead Game Designer on WET

What other games have you worked on, and in what role?
I’ve worked on skate, FIFA Franchise and NBA Live Franchise games in producer and programming roles.

What is the best part about being a Designer?  The worst part?
The best thing about being a designer is that you are at the forefront of giving the player a worthwhile experience. And a “worthwhile experience” can come in the form of great gaming moments, ideas, inspiration, emotion and/or memories. As a designer, striving to give someone this lasting impression is what drives me. Knowing that we’ve succeeded is the best part.

In a much lower level view, the best part about being a designer is that you’re constantly facing challenges. Creative, technical, artistic and production challenges keep you on your toes and really make you flex your problem solving skills. Its incredibly rewarding to solve an issue and have the solution improve the end game.

The worst part is all the documentation, the game is constantly shifting, everything is always out of date and you have to keep up.

How did you get into the industry? Do you have any tips for breaking in?
In grade 10, I took my first programming course (which also happened to be my first time dealing with computers). Our teacher decided to teach us programming through games. One of our first projects was to create a hangman game. I spent my first 2 days creating the basic game and then spent the next 12 making it more “fun” and giving it frills. I loved the concept of making it feel rewarding or heart-breaking based on your success. I loved it so much that I gave up on my dream of being in NASA and decided that I needed to be in games.

Knowing that my foot-in-the-door to gaming is in programming I went to the University for Software Engineering. In my spare time I worked on games/mods (notably Checkmate for UT2004). This helped me get into EA as an engineer. It was my foot-in-the-door that I needed to get to what I truly wanted to do, which is design. Having said that, my engineering background and experience is an incredible asset to my design skills.

The best tip I can give to breaking into the industry as a designer is to get experience making games. This means creating your own games, going to school for it and analyzing other games. Being a designer means that there is a lot of trust given to you, so before you are given that trust you must prove that you are worthy of it.

What would you say is your personal favorite game of all time?
Super Mario 64 – truly the first game that inspired me, I had so much fun playing this game. And now as a designer I can truly appreciate how this game created standards and mechanics that have defined 3D platforming and 3D games in general. Its really incredible to think about the influence this game has had on this industry.

Shadow of the Colossus – the first game in a long time that affected me on an emotional level. It opened my eyes on how far games can be taken on philosophical and emotional terms.

Soul Calibur, Diablo 2, Counterstrike – these games took up so much of my time that they had to be put on this list

What games are you looking forward to?
Diablo 3, Assassins Creed 2, and the next Mario/Zelda games.

What makes you get out of bed in the morning?
An alarm clock and a full bladder. Once in a while it’s a need to give something back to gamers, the industry and maybe one day the world,… but usually it’s a full bladder.

Worst job you’ve ever had?
I was a channel programmer for an internet radio site where I listened to music all day, setup up rotations of tracks, worked with really interesting people, made up my own hours and got paid fairly decently. A terrible, terrible job. Ok, so it wasn’t so terrible, in fact it was awesome. I really just wanted to brag.

Any other hobbies and interests? What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Aside from being a gamer I love sports, reading (currently reading the Game of Thrones series… incredible) and working on stories, game mechanics/ideas.

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