Ninja Gaiden Z: Yaiba

Ninja Gaiden Z: Yaiba

Lead Technical Designer

Koei Tecmo, Spark Unlimited

April 2012 to May 2013

New IP spinoff for Ninja Gaiden franchise, developed using Unreal Engine 3 

  • First level design department hire to establish pipelines, and get a team that was entirely new to Unreal up to speed
  • From a blue-sky concept created a fully playable prototype demo level running on console in two months
  • Prototype was showcased at Tokyo Game Show without modification, and green-lit the project for pre-production
  • Helped design core systems, gameplay mechanics, campaign, characters, enemy and boss types and mechanics
  • Trained new designers in both Unreal and proprietary tech, and provided technical assistance to all departments
  • Helped design and author a pre-production core gameplay demo, which gained the project green-light from publisher
  • Establishment of level design and art interface pipelines for the project, and best practices for the project's production
  • Production planning of milestones and level design processes, staffing consultation for new design hires

Recommendations for this work:

Joe made a tremendous difference to the quality of our game! Without a doubt one of the best technical designers I have ever had the pleasure of working with. His engagement in many aspects of our project was approached with a solid knowledge base and experience. His feeling for game play and passion for the technology is so inspiring that working with him is a privilege. He always made that extra effort to making life easy for the me and the rest of the team. I look forward to working with Joe in the future.

Joe goes to the top of my list of good designers I've worked with. He was a creative designer, but beyond that he was able to use his creativity to get the most out his tools, getting them to do what he wanted by using what he had. When he came to us (the engineering department) with a request, he knew what he wanted and was able to articulate the specifics of what he needed instead of vague high concepts and open questions. Joe was an expert with Unreal tools but it was clear to me that he has the competency, work ethic, and most importantly imagination to not only learn any new system, but to bend it to his designer will.

Joe is an amazing technical designer. Joe was instrumental to create, adjust and fix our tools in Unreal. He is an expert in Unreal and Kismet and great for optimisation and fixing issues we were encountering. Joe was always ready to help with a smile.

Joe is an excellent designer to work with - his technical knowledge of Unreal combined with his creative approach to problem solving saved me countless times and helped the productivity of the entire team. On top of that, he's friendly, funny and always willing to help. I'd absolutely work with Joe again and would consider him a valuable addition to any project.

Joe DiDonato is an incredible Designer and Tech Wizard. I had the pleasure of working with Joe on the upcoming Ninja Gaiden Z: Yaiba at Spark Unlimited and his input and implementation were both a great pluses to our project.

Joe is consummate professional and pushes himself incredibly hard to drive the iterative process. Through the course of our project and demos at Spark, Joe was always available to help the team through the thick of the UDK pipeline. A real go-getter, Joe drives the focus of the team to great heights. I'd count myself lucky to work with him again, a true asset to his next team.

Joe is an excellent resource for level design and game design. Joe's logical and practical perspective on addressing complex game design systems would be an asset for any video game studio. His energy and passion toward game design showed throughout his work.

Joe's strong understanding of game level construction, game engine limitations, and technology design assisted in delivering strong level assets to our client.

Joe is a self-starter, who is very solution oriented, and wholeheartedly believes in creating viable and long-term solutions for our game needs. This was best showcased in Joe's expertise with the UnReal engine and developing kismet solutions or providing the programmers with sufficient direction to create tools and systems for the game.

I recommend Joe for any design needs that your team would need- level (creative and technical), systems, features, and game mechanic design.

Joe is an amazingly talented and knowledgeable Designer. I had the pleasure of working with him on the Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z project.

Joe's vast knowledge of Unreal, as well as game and level design always allowed me or anyone else on the team to be able to quickly and creatively complete the task at hand. No matter how complex, deeply technical or daunting an issue would be, you could always count on Joe to have a creative solution. It couldn't have been easier and more fun to collaborate with him and achieve the best looking visual effects on any level. Every time I got to work with Joe I would come away having learned something new, while also having a smile on my face. Joe would be a great addition to any team and I hope I get to work with him again in the future.

I worked with Joe for over a year at Spark and he was known as the Unreal guru on our team. Joe was great at interacting with all departments and getting everyone on the same page in dealing with the UDK pipeline. He wrote tools that made the whole team more efficient and helped out the animation team greatly by assisting in the creation of the cinematics pipeline in Unreal. Always helpful even in the midst of crunch time, I hope to work with Joe again in the future.

Joe is a master of Unreal. I can't count the number of times he was able to come up with a fix, hack, or workaround that elevated the game from a rough prototype to a really enjoyable experience. He has a knack for fun, an eye for details, and a creativity that will not be stopped. He's one of the most technical designers I've ever met, and would be an asset to any team.

Joe was a key component to our development of Ninja Gaiden Z. He helped accelerate the development of design tools used for our project and was the go to guy when running in to technical issues with in UE3. Joe furthered my knowledge of design and helped me blend that with my current skillset. It was a pleasure to work with a resourceful designer such as Joe.

Joe is the consummate designer. He is fast, efficient, always delivers high quality and has a very high attention to detail. He was always the guy I would ask about any problems I had with Unreal and he always knew the answer, It's not very often you can feel totally confident in a person to always deliver high quality content and be on time, Joe is that person. Would work with him again anytime, anywhere.

Joe is a talented designer with great analytical skills and tons for Unreal (UE3) experience. He communicates well, is easy to get along with and can do unimaginable things using Kismet!

Joe is a talented designer who brings passion and a great deal of technical expertise to his work. Joe is able to take tools and make them work. I very much enjoyed working with Joe and would be happy to again.

I worked with Joe at Spark since 2012. He is the go-to designer for the team for any Unreal/Kismet technical questions. Joe can do all the amazing tricks in Unreal, and happy to teach others how to use Unreal. Joe takes ownership on his work, he tests, maintains, and optimizes his scripts. I really enjoyed working with Joe.

Joe is extremely knowledgeable and talented at using the Unreal Editor and in particular setting up anything in Kismet. Joe without hesitation would help show me how to setup anything from simple scenarios to complicated setups.

Joe is a great designer and very easy to work with. He has a clear vision for what he wants, but is open to suggestions if he thinks they will improve the level. All in all a great designer who's very easy to work with.

I have worked with Joe on “Ninja Gaiden Z” game for almost a year. As a senior designer he always knew what tech he needed, and how it has to be designed and implemented. During the important milestone days he was the go to guy for closing the project, and making sure all the departments work integrated properly together.

He has an extensive knowledge of Unreal Engine, and the tools. As a designer he is always flexible to find solutions to make the game work while tech is getting implemented.

He is also very generous with sharing his strong skills and knowledge with team members. During the time we worked together, I witnessed that he helped people who had very little experience with Unreal become experts with the tech.

Working with Joe has made me a better engineer since he always knows exactly what tech he is looking for, and won’t be satisfied until it has been implemented properly in the highest quality possible.

I worked with Joe for about a year and realized he was not only one of the top designers on the team at Spark, but he is probably the most technical designer I have worked with. Joe was THE 'go to guy' for most of the studio for anything that was Unreal. He trained anyone (including the senior staff) who needed help. I worked directly with him on multiple scripts for automation that greatly enhanced the the studio performance as a whole. He is approachable and knowledgeable, a great combination. He is very dedicated to whatever project he is working on and I often saw him working late into the night when most everyone else had long since gone home. I would not hesitate and would consider myself lucky to work with or recommend him in the future.

Joe is one of the finest designers I have come across in the 14+ years I've been in the game industry. His work is passionate, thorough and solid, from the inception of a project to its ship date. He hybrids his technical expertise with his love of games, which equates to design production of the highest quality that incorporates the latest trends and delivers the freshest gameplay. I would work with him at any time, anywhere in the world.