LearnSketchbook Spy: Ken Wong, Monument Valley

writes on May 22, 2014

Ken Wong, the designer who worked on the phenomenally successful game, Monument Valley, takes time out to show us his sketchbook and chat about how he put the game together.

Monument Valley is a departure in iOS game design, focusing on both the beauty of the design and playability, as well. Each screen was carefully designed to be a work of art. Players can even enter “camera mode” and zoom in to snap their own artwork.

The design of Monument Valley was important to the ustwo team, but it was the playability of the game that won over in the end.

Sketch showing how the moving staircases would work

“Our initial sketches were super rough, and usually a level would change so much during production [it would] become unrecognizable by the end,” explained Wong. “Our process was very organic with a lot of exploring and experimentation done within the game engine, rather than on paper.”

“Generally we don’t sketch a level properly on paper,” said Wong. “Designing a level is a bit like coming up with a dance routine. We may sketch rough diagrams just to get thoughts onto paper, then we sketch the level in the game engine, Unity 3D.”

This sketch shows how the sliders and rotators where designed

“It’s like building something out of Lego bricks that can do magic stuff. We try the levels out on each other, then keep iterating through this process until we think the level feels like a complete story. Then we try the level out on strangers or friends without giving them any hints or help. Based on our observations, we iterate more, and start adding and refining the artwork, using Photoshop for textures and Blender for 3D models.”

First concept art for Monument Valley from March 2013

Wong, 32, lives and works in London, but he hails originally from Australia, and has a BA in Multimedia Studies from University of South Australia.

“I learned the basics of design from my high school design teacher. I did a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Multimedia at university, but most of the classes were about learning how to use tools rather than learning about design.”

“Skills matter much more than software. The most critical skill for a game designer is being able to deconstruct an experience – to be able to figure out how artists convey ideas and emotions to other people, whether through film, photography, music, games, or any other art form.”

He believes that a formal education can be valuable, but isn’t always necessary. “A resourceful person who has taught themselves how to do amazing things is more impressive and employable than someone with a certificate and a by-the-numbers portfolio.”

You can learn how to build iOS apps by following the iOS Track on Treehouse, it costs just $25 a month and there is a free two-week trial to get you started.

4 Responses to “Sketchbook Spy: Ken Wong, Monument Valley”

  1. Great peace of designing by the author.

  2. Thanks, it was good to read!

  3. Gill Carson on May 23, 2014 at 12:41 pm said:

    Thanks – it’s so nice to see how something like Monument Valley was put together.

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