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Joel Beardshaw of Ustwo Games on the importance of design pillars

Joel Beardshaw shares the development process behind the mobile first title Desta: The Memories Between
Joel Beardshaw of Ustwo Games on the importance of design pillars

One of the talks at Develop Brighton this year saw Joel Beardshaw of Ustwo Games take to the stage to discuss the studio's popular game Desta: The Memories Between. Desta has moved on to various other platforms since launching as part of the Netflix games lineup.

During the talk, named 'Approachable tactics and how to adapt complex genres, ' Beardshaw shared some of the development processes behind the game, noting that "Desta was made during lockdown, so there was lots of learning to be done."

Desta's core concept was based on an old prototype model. Beardshaw remarks, "It was an old prototype which was basic and based on dodgeball, but it was something that we knew we wanted to come back to and see what we could make out of it."

Multiple tracks across Develop mentioned the importance of prototyping, particularly for Indie developers who could gain a lot from prototyping and playtesting each game iteration.

An early Prototype of Desta
An early Prototype of Desta

Deconstructing and reconstructing a genre

"A really important point for me is you have to playtest and look to your target players when you run into problems. You have to also look toward your pillars when facing challenges because it's likely the information is out there, you sometimes just need to look at a problem from a different angle, so design pillars are important," comments Beardshaw.

Development diary showing each iteration of the game
Development diary showing each iteration of the game

When creating Desta, the team used these pillars to create a gameplay loop that presented "problems to solve, not puzzles" With this loop, the hope would be that players gained a sense of mastery. Since the game was originally intended for mobile, you can see design choices that reflect this well, such as the target audience being first time tactics players and the title having an easy to understand design.

"You're able to see everything on the board in just one look. You could take a call mid game, come back and still understand where you left off," remarks Beardhsaw.

Desta: The Memories Between may have started as a basic prototype based on dodgeball, but after a keen focus on design pillars, various builds, extensive playtests, and reassessments, it became a unique tactics game that was user-friendly enough to capture a mobile audience without losing its sense of challenge.

We listed Ustwo Games as one of the top 50 mobile game makers of 2022. We'll be unveiling our list for 2023 in the coming months.