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A picture of Scott Jon Siegel

Scott Jon Siegel

Game designer

in designer, game, mac

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Scott Jon Siegel! I'm a game designer currently residing in Oakland, California.

I've spent the last decade making free-to-play casual games, primarily for Facebook and mobile. Some of my most successful projects were Zynga's Café World and Playdom's Gardens of Time, both of which had millions of people playing them every day, which still blows my mind. My proudest work to date was iterating on a variety of game prototypes at PopCap/EA, and I've given talks on supporting active prototyping efforts within large game companies.

As a designer of casual games, I like to tell people that I make games for everyone. My favorite experiences are those that everyone can play, and anyone can enjoy. This means that I prioritize experiences that are delightful in their simplicity, but offer satisfying and accessible challenge for players of all ages.

These days I'm consulting and contracting, working with some truly great clients on a variety of exciting projects. I also sing karaoke mashups, which is exactly what it sounds like.

What hardware do you use?

My main computer is a 13" 2014 MacBook Pro, which I strongly feel is "peak Apple": Fantastic back-lit keyboard (that doesn't get jammed); Trip-proof MagSafe power connector; glowing Apple logo on the lid. With an SSD and maxed-out RAM, it's still lightning fast even after four years, and I'm in no rush to upgrade.

Scott's MacBook Pro.

At home I have a 21.5" 2017 iMac with a second monitor, which acts as home base for all my media, and for more memory-intensive projects like music and video. My phone's an iPhone 7, since I've become somewhat allergic to early adoption.

I do a lot of commuting to and from San Francisco by BART and bicycle, and spend most of my time working either out of coffeeshops or clients' offices. I haul my gear around in a Timbuk2 Command Backpack, which has a gloriously excessive number of pockets and compartments. One constant in my backpack is a portable 14" whiteboard, because I can't imagine working without a whiteboard and get kind of salty when a client doesn't have one.

And what software?

Some game designers are numbers-focused, with a lot of the design work focused on tuning variables within spreadsheets. Because I'm an experience-focused designer, my most important tools are those that let me explore interaction concepts, and help visualize and share design direction with others.

Sketch has quickly become the most important piece of software I have. I use it to create mockups, wireframes, and even to just play around with game ideas. Since I design most often for mobile, I use Sketch Mirror to see how the designs look on my phone, and use Sketch's simple prototyping features to test UX flows. For sharing prototype flows with others I use Marvel, which lets me easily send direct links to prototypes that can be easily viewed on desktop or devices.

I use OmniGraffle when I need to visualize how game systems connect together. Most games I work on have interconnected "metagames" around the core gameplay, and part of design and documentation is visualizing how those systems interact with each other (e.g.: which features generate which resources, and what those resources are used for). I can't figure out the best design without drawing the arrows, so Omnigraffle's the perfect tool. Those same flow charts become an important part of documentation when describing the game's structure to the rest of the team.

Scott's Gardens of Time flow chart.

My design specs are usually written in Google Docs, or on a Confluence wiki, where I can spread out more complex feature documentation over multiple pages that can reference each other. Recently I've actually been using Google Slides for simpler specs, since it forces me to organize the documentation into sections on different slides, and encourages me to use more visuals and fewer words. (Though I'll always use Apple Keynote for actual presentations.)

I save most of my files in Dropbox to keep them synced between my desktop and laptop, and to give me easy access to everything from my phone. Since my desktop also has all my media I use BackBlaze to run regular backups.

My brain lives in the cloud. I use Wunderlist to keep track of all my tasks. 1Password remembers my umpteen-million logins so I don't have to. And I've been using Simplenote to take notes on literally everything for the past ten years (which reminds me I really should backup my Simplenote archive. brb)

What would be your dream setup?

Portability's the most important thing for my current work dynamics. Give me a fast laptop, a comfy bag, and an easy way to doodle ideas, and I can be productive from pretty much anywhere.

If I found myself tethered to a single office for a while, I'd love to have a fast desktop machine, a convertible standing desk, and a real good chair.

Oh, and and whiteboards. I'd cover every surface with whiteboards. Whiteboards for days.