Hello! I'm Wyatt Waters.

Game Designer on The Walking Dead: Empires at Gala Games, Valedictorian of DigiPen Institute of Technology 2021

Contact Me:

Phone Number: (425) 443-6384

My Design Philosophy

Design for Resonance

"Resonance" is when a game feature or system evokes the feeling of something else, usually aspects of the game's narrative or real-world experiences. Some examples of resonance include the Greatsword of Artorias from Dark Souls, and the card "Run Away Together" from Magic the Gathering: Throne of Eldraine. 

I've made resonance a core part of my approach to game design because it works double-duty. It not only brings fantasy to life through gameplay, but it also makes game systems and worldbuilding easier for players to understand. As a Game Designer on The Walking Dead: Empires, I've had the amazing opportunity to create content for a world that is already rich with iconic characters and narrative moments. From the environment to combat encounters to player abilities, I've strived to build resonance into all parts of the project that I've worked on. 

Design for Choice

Player choice is the beating heart of most games. From deciding what stats to increase in an RPG to the color and texture of the drapes in your sim's house, choices can challenge and engage players is countless different ways. As a designer, I believe that my job is to build the right kind of choices into the content I build, so that it enhances the experience as a whole.

I learned this tenet from working on multiple types of content for The Walking Dead: Empires. While building skill trees, for example, I focused on giving players the ability to choose their playstyle. I tempered this, however, with the tension of opportunity cost, as I limited what skills players could access through their costs and placement on the tree. 

In contrast, creating combat encounters revolved around the moment-to-moment decisions and risk-reward calculations that players perform. This again considers playstyle, but now from the angle of how players approach enemies, where they prefer to position their character, and what enemy types they prefer. Additionally, I created encounters with a variety of challenge and risk-reward propositions throughout the open world. Some encounters might yield lots of loot, but occur on more dubious terrain and against harder enemies, asking players to consider if the resource cost of combat and the risk of death is worth the rewards.

Design for Mastery

As game avatars explore the game world, players simultaneously explore game systems and mechanics. Throughout their time with a game, players develop more skill and understanding, eventually shifting how they play on a fundamental level. This is known as mastery, and I believe in designing systems that account for it at all stages of the game.

I account for mastery in my systems by considering the "heuristic tree" for the content I'm developing. The heuristic tree is the sequence of mental shorthands that players use to play the game at different points in their skill development. In the early stages, for example, a heuristic for a shooter game might be "aim for the head." This strategy is far from nuanced, but it simplifies the game while players are still grappling with other elements, like the controls. As the player gets more familiar with the game, they climb the heuristic tree, mixing in concepts like "stay near cover" and "shoot at the same target as my teammates."

With a heuristic tree established, I then strive to build opportunities for depth into my systems, as learning how to interact with the depth of game systems is a massive source of mastery. Depth, in this context, is when the points of intersection and overlap in game systems open up new possibilities or decisions. For example, the basic shooter heuristic "aim for the head" gains depth when considered in the context of player's weapon choices, each of which having different strengths and weaknesses. They could have different levels of ease-of-use, range, or additional benefits, causing the player to approach the same basic strategy in many different ways. Further combine this with different environments and enemy types, and players now have a rich strategy space where loadout, playstyle, and moment-to-moment gameplay decisions all affect the player's success. Players express mastery when they make decisions that factor in these layers of depth, and experiencing achievement because of this mastery is a massive source of satisfaction.

Current Project

The Walking Dead: Empires

A Survival 3D MMO made in Unity and set in the universe of AMC's The Walking Dead. I've been on this team since the project began in early 2022. The game is currently downloadable as a Playable Development Build. 

I've worked as both a Level Designer and Game Designer on this project.

Since this project is still in development, most of my work is still under NDA. This site will be updated as more is revealed to the public.

My Responsibilities:

Download the Playable Development Build Here:

https://twdempires.game/


Gallery

Past Projects

Travel Crush

A match-three game for mobile platforms. As the sole game designer on this project, I worked on all aspects of the design, from level creation and balancing to writing specification documents for new mechanics, events, and features.

I worked on Travel Crush from July 2021 to February 2022.

My Responsibilities:

Download the game here:

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/travel-crush-match-3-game/id1184512462\


Gallery

Student Games