Meet The Team is an offbeat interview with the studio’s talents. Get to know us, discover our backgrounds, our favorite games, our life at Ubisoft and our hidden talents! This time let’s meet Lara Rogonja, Junior Level Designer on Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope.
Do you play games?
I started playing games when I was 5 and got a GameCube for my birthday – I spent hours on Mario Sunshine, Double Dash, Wind Waker. As a kid, I had a great time playing and I think it’s part of what made me want to work in this field. I found recently a game design I did when I was 9 years old. It’s a one-pager for ‘Magier 1’, which means ‘Magician 1’ in German. It only shows how to save it but not what the game is about. I think back then I was scared of forgetting to save a game since there was no autosave.
First Game Design by Lara as a child – Magier 1
As an adult, I’ve been very into indies games, they bring something new, fresh and surprising. Recently, I’ve been playing a Metroid-like called Gato Roboto which is about a cat in a mech suit. I also loved Minit which is like a 2D Zelda but with an interesting time loop twist. I really enjoy platformers like Ori & The Blind Forest as well.
What is your best encounter in video games?
It’s a bit cheesy but it’s the truth – that would be the friends I made while playing. Some of them I’ve known for 8 years. Whenever there’s a convention, we try to go and meet there. We even decided to participate in the Splatoon World Championship in 2018. We didn’t win but it was an amazing experience. I really hope we can do it again for Splatoon 3. They’re definitely my best encounter because we grew together while playing games. I love to think that video games are compatible with meaningful friendships.
How did you end up in our studio?
This is quite the story. As I was graduating from my game design school in Berlin, my dream was to work at a Triple A studio, but it felt impossible because there’s so much competition. There are more Mobile studios than AAAs in Germany, but I wanted to go for Triple A because that’s what my heart burns for.
A classmate shared a contest for Future Women In Game program, hosted by Ubisoft Paris studio, so I decided to go for it since the winner could get a 6-month internship. We were given 3 months and 3 rounds challenge to design a prototype based on the experience you have on your morning routine. So, I worked on a one-pager pitch, presented my project and built my prototype.
My game was a puzzle 3D platformer experience on Unity and the goal was to finish your dream before you wake up. I had lots of freedom in doing the level design and suggested a surreal dreamworld where snooze alarms make you slowly wake-up.
I was part of the 10 finalists and the Paris Studio invited us to visit their offices. My goal was really to get something cool on my portfolio, take on a challenge and have fun, but I won and got the internship! Then I had interviews with the Level Design director and the producer of Mario + Rabbids Sparks of Hope and they decided to keep me as a Junior Level Designer working remotely from Berlin.
If you could describe your job in one image or meme?
As a level designer, I feel connected to blocks. I know it’s weird. But doing a block out is one of my favorite things in my job. It’s the first time you can navigate through the levels. It’s crazy how using geometry you can convey emotions.
If you could work on any other Ubisoft game, what would it be?
I think I’m already very lucky working on Mario + Rabbids because I love the world itself. The game features both, combat and exploration. I am part of the exploration team and I really enjoy the world building. But out of level design curiosity, I would pick Assassin’s Creed because it’s an open world level design. That would be a lovely challenge to take.
How is life in Paris?
I really wanted to meet and finally work together with my team in real life, so I was glad to move to Paris in October 2021. I really love the city! Paris is so pretty, it’s a clash of arts and culture with so much to see and do. The pastries and chocolate are amazing too! Laughs.
Moving to Paris during the pandemic wasn’t easy, but the Paris studio was very helpful. They offered me a relocating service and helped me through finding an apartment and the process to get here. It’s also my first time living abroad, so I’m happy I took my GameCube with me to Paris so I can play with my mom when she’s here.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I have a hard time creating a routine. Depending on my mood, I draw, play music, Ukulele, or get out to discover Paris. I love documentaries about the Deepsea. Or telling my friends about random fish facts. I get fascinated by random things like Rubik’s cube, juggling. I’m never bored. I like to engage in creative activity. I also have an Instagram aacount where I post about pop art.
What song is guaranteed to get you going?
Because it’s a meme song, Dagothwave (by Young Scrolls) – 3rd game from Elder Scrolls. It’s super silly but every time I listen to it, I feel so happy. A colleague sent it to me, and I will never forget when we listened to the one-hour version of it.
Editor : Jennifer Lufau
Graphist : Stéphanie Guérin