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T O P I C
Does the game industry still need designers?
December 14th 2002, 03:40 CET by JP

I'll start with a few questions for any 'Crap folks employed in the game industry: is there anyone on your project with the title "designer"?  If yes, what does his / her job consist of?  If no, who takes care of game design on the project?

Some clarification of terms: by "game design" I don't mean story, or game universe, or character concept drawings, or art style... although ideally those relate as closely as possible to the game's design.  Semantic confusion aside, I also don't mean level design - many modern level designers spend 80% of their time on art content creation, 20% on design.

By game design I mean the conception and implementation of a game's mechanics and their organization into systems.  By mechanics - let's paint in broad strokes here - I mean anything from player vocabulary (movement, interaction and attack methods) to environment interaction (how does the environment affect what the player is doing, and to what extents can the player affect the environment?) to game rules to goal structure to interface (what feedback does the game give the player, and how does the player express himself within the provided vocabulary?)... to name a few.  I wish I could cover it all but that's rather beyond the scope of this article.  Of course it's also a designer's job to keep an eye on the integrity of these mechanics on a macro as well as micro level - do all of the game's mechanics fit together cohesively, and in a way that expresses what the designer wanted to express?  And on the other end of the scale, does the moment-to-moment input/output loop of player and game function efficiently and enjoyably?

To put the question another way, in the development of typical FPS X, when code gets written to express how typical FPS weapon Y functions, whose idea is being executed?  In many cases, it's solely the province of the programmer writing the code.  Weapon Y is in the design document, and/or it was dreamed up at a meeting, and now it's time to make it a working reality.  Everyone on the team - programmers, artists, level designers, sound and music producers - is responsible for their little corner of the game, and they execute it how they see fit.  In any game with a development team of more than one person, that's how things happen, and I'm not saying that's a bad thing.  At the end of the day, though, whose job is it to look at all of these things and assess their integrity / quality as parts of a larger whole?

Some teams don't have any people functioning in a dedicated capacity as designers.  The danger there is that, while everyone has design input, nobody is calling the shots... so if you have an opinion about the design implications of something someone else has done, it's up to them to deal with it.  Why?  Art and Programming are always important enough to justify having someone in a "lead" position.

Other companies - often large, moneyed development houses with big command structures - do employ designers, but often said designer concerns himself with only the most high-level decisions and keeps an eye on the game's "high concept" (which often entails story and style as well as raw design).  Miyamoto and Molyneux are examples of designers who occupy just such a lofty position, and while high-level decisions are important the actual impact of these designers on the final product is unknown.  It's also probably worth noting that at these bigger companies, more money is at stake and so less chances are taken and a designer's power is similarly undermined.

A designer doesn't have to be some loopy idea-man, meddling in the efforts of the technicians and content creators.  A designer can be a programmer, an artist, or a level designer.  In fact that's often a plus, as those skills give the designer a perspective on development they wouldn't otherwise have, and when it gets down to the nitty-gritty of implementation they'll be able to hit the ground running and create exactly what they envisioned.

In recent years as the game industry's production methods have become more refined, artists and programmers have embraced the ideas of structure, scheduling, and talking about what they do in a mechanistic way.  Art and programming leads distribute work in a way that maximizes efficiency and maintains flexibility.  So why are quantitative discussion and process ignored when it comes to design?

Imagine a scene from the very earliest days of film making.  Let's say this is before the term "cinematographer" was even coined... thus film makers had very little concept for what one might be, and thus there were no cinematographers.  A crew is in the studio, with actors and equipment and personnel.  They're trying to decide where to point the camera for a particular shot.  The director has one idea about how to go about it, but the camera operator has another opinion, and the actor wants something different still.  Or perhaps nobody has any particularly strong ideas at all.  "Oh well", says the director, "we'll just do it by feel, and muddle through, and things will turn out all right."

I guess what I'm getting at is this: people still don't take videogame design seriously enough to consider a formal vocabulary for talking about it.  They don't take it seriously enough to justify putting people in charge of it, and creating some structure in which it can happen.  It barely even exists at all to some people, who see games as little more than interactive films or technological curiosities.  Nobody wants to spend time on design when they could be writing code or creating art, or something that you'll actually be able to see in the finished product.

In closing I can't help but inject some of my own personal venom on the subject.  The game industry doesn't seem, to me, to have much need for actual game designers anymore - especially as the industry becomes ever more hit-driven, tends ever towards larger teams, larger budgets, more movie-like "experiences" that even at best play like B-grade action movies in which the player hasn't been given the script.

I base this largely on my experience with a disturbing majority of recent games, in which I play, and I see plenty of art and programming happening, but I don't see design happening.  In the ensuing fit of pettiness I want to know who - if anyone - is to blame anytime I encounter nonexistent and / or bad design.
C O M M E N T S
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#1 by TheTrunkDr.
2002-12-14 03:42:27
no

She has a 286, Windows Millenium Edition, 2 gig.  I think that is all I really need to go on, right?
#2 by JP
2002-12-14 03:43:48
glad that's settled, then!  i'm off to aruba.
#3 by TheTrunkDr.
2002-12-14 03:44:13
enjoy your trip... I wish I was going

She has a 286, Windows Millenium Edition, 2 gig.  I think that is all I really need to go on, right?
#4 by Sgt Hulka
2002-12-14 03:45:48
Let's all chip in and buy JP a crap icon.

Got DOOMED? - Videogames do bad things to good people
#5 by Bezzy
2002-12-14 04:05:10
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
I LOVE YOU JP

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#6 by Dethstryk
2002-12-14 04:07:13
jemartin@tcainternet.com
Post six!

"Rome had Caesar, a man of remarkable governing talents, although it must be said that a ruler who arouses opponents to resort to assassination is probably not as smart as he ought to be."
#7 by Dethstryk
2002-12-14 04:07:43
jemartin@tcainternet.com
How about you chip in and pay off PlanetCrap so it will allow me to even use a damn icon.

"Rome had Caesar, a man of remarkable governing talents, although it must be said that a ruler who arouses opponents to resort to assassination is probably not as smart as he ought to be."
#8 by TheTrunkDr.
2002-12-14 04:08:25
Deth your icon (or rather mysterious lack of) rocks!

She has a 286, Windows Millenium Edition, 2 gig.  I think that is all I really need to go on, right?
#9 by Dethstryk
2002-12-14 04:09:54
jemartin@tcainternet.com
I'm going to try once again to store an icon.

"Rome had Caesar, a man of remarkable governing talents, although it must be said that a ruler who arouses opponents to resort to assassination is probably not as smart as he ought to be."
#10 by Dethstryk
2002-12-14 04:11:16
jemartin@tcainternet.com
Goddamnit.

You click browse, pick the image, and hit store. Fucking hell, what can be going wrong?

"Rome had Caesar, a man of remarkable governing talents, although it must be said that a ruler who arouses opponents to resort to assassination is probably not as smart as he ought to be."
#11 by Mank
2002-12-14 04:11:20
I'll take "On topic Posts" for $500 Alex.

"A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep."
#12 by Dethstryk
2002-12-14 04:12:05
jemartin@tcainternet.com
Games need designers, or we'd have nothing but tech demos.

"Rome had Caesar, a man of remarkable governing talents, although it must be said that a ruler who arouses opponents to resort to assassination is probably not as smart as he ought to be."
#13 by One-Eyed Jack
2002-12-14 04:20:55
c:\pr0n
many modern level designers spend 80% of their time on art content creation, 20% on design.


sure, but soon I would think that the design part of their job will increase as things like meshes get adopted. and we're seeing companies now looking for "enviromental artists" who'll create the art stuff for the level designers.

Or perhaps "enviromental artists" will phase out level designers altogether.

Games need designers, or we'd have nothing but tech demos.

I thought that that was his point-- all we have now are glorified demos
#14 by Bezzy
2002-12-14 04:23:46
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
It's possible that anything I say here that's on topic would be redundant. JP knows my stance on most subjects, and they're inseparable from his own, on the whole.

I will add that the first step to having design respected as more than just an starting idea mixed in with common genre dogma, there needs to be reform of design methodology. We need something akin to Standard Game Notation, which explicitly details the vocabulary, rules and feedback in a game (as well as the environments' populating entities, which is already documented to a respectable degree).

If we don't respect game design, and apply it with some amount of taste, then ideas will be in the domain of any old knuckle fuck, regardless of understanding of the medium.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#15 by Bezzy
2002-12-14 04:31:30
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
The second step is to prove that such methodology works in a project. It's unfortunate that a critical success alone won't be enough to convince the block buster game makers. It'd have to be something financially successful, too.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#16 by Bezzy
2002-12-14 04:32:01
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
MAYBE THEN I CAN GET A JOB.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#17 by Matthew Gallant
2002-12-14 04:34:55
http://www.truemeaningoflife.com
FINISH SCHOOL BEZZY

"Is the internet making people less intelligent?"
"You mean like how video cameras cause thrown objects to hit men in the crotch?"
#18 by Bezzy
2002-12-14 04:37:38
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
I wish you were my mom!

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#19 by Your Friend
2002-12-14 04:39:48
Dethstryke,

Try uploading a proper image.  If the problem were planetcrap's issue then how did everyone else manage to upload an avatar?


Miyamoto [...] examples of designers who occupy just such a lofty position, and while high-level decisions are important the actual impact of these designers on the final product is unknown.


If you think Miyamoto only concerns himself with the high level issues, you are mistaken.  I'd say the impact of Miyamoto on the final product is pretty well known to anyone who has played "his" (of course, they are the product of many people, just as a movie is made by more than the director, but you get my meaning, I hope..) games extensively.

2000/XP is better than Win9x in every way.
#20 by Bezzy
2002-12-14 04:50:22
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org

"his" (of course, they are the product of many people, just as a movie is made by more than the director, but you get my meaning, I hope..)

This is also something that has to be accepted. A designer needs to operate a lot like a director, maintaining vision, calling the shots and being a general shit filter. It's not meant to be deminiutive to the other contributers, but design by commitee is just going to suck, (unless you've got Will Wright, Warren Spector, Dougy Church and Chris Crawford in a room all at once). Suggestions should always be welcome, but if a designer happens to shoot them down if they are crap, he/she shouldn't be labelled a big meany.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#21 by Foodbunny
2002-12-14 04:51:47
foodbunny@attbi.com http://www.foodbunny.com
Would that make me your dad?

It won't have any impact on DNF.  Nothing really does.
#22 by One-Eyed Jack
2002-12-14 04:55:14
c:\pr0n
Bezzy
perhaps I'm missing something, but you're against "common genre dogma", but are in favor of creating a standard methodology? wouldn't that be just trading in one set of constraints/building-blocks for another.

If we don't respect game design, and apply it with some amount of taste, then ideas will be in the domain of any old knuckle fuck, regardless of understanding of the medium.

I think you have it the other way around. If you don't have the understanding, then the methodology will only get you so far.
#23 by Bezzy
2002-12-14 05:05:18
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
The methodology would be to do with the conceptual presentation of any game design. It would neither impose dogma or impinge it either. It wouldn't necessarily have any natural defenses against implementing bad ideas, but since it would require the design to be explicitly planned, it might help highlight places where the design is weak.

It's exactly the same principle as designing code as opposed to hacking it.

I am against the not questioning current dogma (some of it does work, after all), and I believe a refined approach to design will help people weed out the bad from the good.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#24 by Bezzy
2002-12-14 05:11:51
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
You are cool Foody, but my dad is a good dad. You can also replace my mother, if you want.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#25 by Bezzy
2002-12-14 05:26:16
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
Okay, I think I see your point better now, Jack.

I would say that many developers are caught up in bad dogma due to other reasons than their talent at game design. I know that a lot of developers are forced into making sacrifices, and I would not want to label them with rude words. Greater general acceptance of design as a "proper" job would give them more freedom... while film producers often have to have their way, some of them can find it in their hearts to give directors the benefit of the doubt.

The acceptance of old, possibly outdated standards is the same problem as actively attempting to make formal sense of game design. I do not think it's a case of trading one set of building blocks for another. Dogma is born out of ritualism. By understanding why these rituals have been adopted we can better harness the power of the medium. you described dogma well as a building block system for game design... take a little RTS, add a pinch of FPS, and you have C&C Renegade. I'm not trying to imply that such use of common standards can't work, but that understanding these things at a more atomic level (rather than always taking the higher level metaphor to be true) will result in more powerful and varied constructions of games, so long as we have a decent weilder of the potential :).

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#26 by TheTrunkDr.
2002-12-14 05:29:08
Working on a project with no design sucks, I've done it. I'm not sure the industry can support 'designers' as a single role for an individual, unless of course they work on several projects at once (a la Miyamoto). I believe that 'designers' need other skills to contribute otherwise they'd be spending much of their time doing nothing. There should definitely be someone in charge of the design of a particular game/poject, someone needs to have a vision of what the game should be like, and make the arbitray decisions that sometimes need to be made, it's very hard to take a trip without a destination.

I believe desgin by commitee can work, I remember reading the post mortem on half-life, they very much used a design by commitee scheme and look at what they produced. I think it depends on who's on your commitee though, in the case of valve they used the dev. team (gamers obviously) and the commitee changed frequently giving everyone equal input.

She has a 286, Windows Millenium Edition, 2 gig.  I think that is all I really need to go on, right?
#27 by Caryn
2002-12-14 05:40:49
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
I don't really feel qualified at all to comment insightfully on this topic, but it really, really interests me and I'm hoping the pros here will contribute with some really intelligent discussion on it. And I'm going to give it a whirl myself.

I'll start with a few questions for any 'Crap folks employed in the game industry: is there anyone on your project with the title "designer"?  If yes, what does his / her job consist of?  If no, who takes care of game design on the project?


For the games I'm working with, there is and there isn't. There is one person who calls the shots, and he does that with the input of the producers and other members of the teams associated with the game. He's not a designer in that that is his only title -- he's a developer who's main focus is one particular aspect of the game (such as art or level design), but he's also a designer in the sense that he's the one who decides -- with the input of others -- what the gameplay will entail, and he makes sure that the game as it's created is cohesive. On the games I'm working with, I believe that the design is somewhat done by committee, but the person taking the reigns as designer makes sure that this doesn't result in a disjointed, non-cohesive game.

In closing I can't help but inject some of my own personal venom on the subject.  The game industry doesn't seem, to me, to have much need for actual game designers anymore - especially as the industry becomes ever more hit-driven, tends ever towards larger teams, larger budgets, more movie-like "experiences" that even at best play like B-grade action movies in which the player hasn't been given the script.


I'm actually wondering if it's the opposite. I'm totally open to having the possibility I'm about to present being shot down, but back in the days of DOOM, did you really need someone to be the designer you're talking about? I know that Romero, Hall, and Co. were the game's designers, but compare what they were designing to games like Deus Ex or Black & White (slags on the gameplay on that one aside for the moment). DOOM's gameplay was fairly simple; the team could design the gameplay through their respective job positions -- the level design, for instance, was probably the most crucial gameplay aspect of DOOM. But look at much, much more involved games like Deus Ex and you see the need for someone like Warren Spector to be at the helm. And lo and behold, he was -- a very strong game designer who definitely, I would say, fits the role of THE game designer you're talking about.

I agree that many games are becoming much more like epic interactive movies. I don't necessarily like or dislike that (it works for some games and doesn't work for others). I think that much like well-done and/or large-scale movies and contrary to your point, these games actually DO require a game designer. I don't know that they're filling the role that you think they should be, however. I'm beginning to see that people like Warren Spector (who I have a lot of respect for) and Peter Molyneux are the Spielbergs and Coppolas of games -- the works they produce are viewed in much the same way as movies are by these directors.

That kind of rambled, but I guess if I had to sum up I would say that yes, games need designers, because I think that people like Spector show that the best games are STILL those with a true game designer at the helm who also understands the individual processes involved in creating a game. But then, that's pretty much your point, I think. I hope I didn't miss it entirely.

"Ahh, arrogance and stupidity in a single package -- how efficient of you."
#28 by Bezzy
2002-12-14 05:43:15
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
TrunkDr.
As JP suggested, a multi role Designer is a great thing since it gives insight into other elements of development. And isn't it equally rare for film directors not to have landed their position from areas of expertise within the film industry? It's important to know your limits and all. So, I don't think anyone has a problem with there rarely being single role designers, just that the design role itself can be treated in a painfully adhoc manner. Design isn't (or shouldn't be) as trivial as it is treated in a great number of studios. That's the problem. As JP said, in many recent games you see artwork and plots and general presentation in high regard, but hearing "PANZER, DEAD AHEAD!" and spontaneously exploding every time you don't do what's explicitly requested of you in MoH: SpearHead just shows how little thought is given to design.

I guess it's not true everywhere, since by Sturgeon's Law, 90% of everything is, after all, crap. But even the cutting edge of game design development feels blunt at the moment.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#29 by Bezzy
2002-12-14 05:53:59
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
Caryn
I hope I didn't miss it entirely.

It doesn't matter that you missed JP's facetiousness , because you displayed great design acumen! Well done!

I'm not sure that the complexity of a game is any way to decide whether or not a full time designer is needed. Even the simplest baubaul can be crafted into an elegant masterpiece by a skilled and resourceful designer.

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#30 by Greg
2002-12-14 06:17:09
I know this isn't game design related, but it is design related.

The next version of our "venerable" product has already had two separate design phases. The first one was shortchanged by need for cash, and the design was scrapped so that I could get to writing additions to the current version. We had a four member team, one programmer (me), a (sorta) sales person, a training person, and a technical writer. We followed a methodology similar to what Alan Cooper talks about in The Inmates are Running the Asylum. Our first priority was to come up with a singular target user, or one for each section of this new app. This doesn't really apply to game design, but perhaps it could. Our goal for the target user was for them to fall in love with the application. The concerns of other users are largely ignored, with the logic being that if the target user feels totally comfortable with the application, then other users will probably feel the same as well.

We finished the target user phase and came up with three main users, each one for a different phase of our app (configuration, local user, remote user). With these users, we started coming up with different screens and interactions about the new application. Unfortunately, due to outside issues, we pretty much stopped working on it.

Our current design of the new application has been a bit different. For one thing, the features of the application have changed a bit as we've learned what we can and can't do, and also what direction the company wants to proceed in. Luckily, there are still plenty of similarities so the previous work hasn't completely gone to waste. Secondly, we are also using a new strategy for designing the application.

The first step was to define a set of use cases for the product. These use cases are step by step details of how a user would perform a particular task. They are detailed enough so that a reader understands how the application would work, but vague enough that it doesn't explicitly define what the user interface will look like. This is quite applicable to game design, in that the designer can generate many scenarios for a game without actual images, making an abstract design. This allows the designer to think through interaction problems without being constrained by existing artistic design.

Now we've moved ahead and are producing concept images that make the use cases more tangible. The interesting thing is, that three different people have come up with three different user interface designs that all fit the use cases. We are debating back and forth which one was should choose, or if there is happy mediums somewhere. This is almost analogous to the design-by-committee, because even though three people have created their own user interfaces, 7 people are working together to decide. At points we have been concerned that this actually interferes with the creative process, since having more people involved in the creation increases the likelihood of a less creative product. That said, the three people creating their own UI designs have had a lot of freedom to do so, and hopefully we'll end up with a better product for it.

Phew.

#31 by Caryn
2002-12-14 06:30:23
carynlaw@pacbell.net http://www.hellchick.net
Bezzy:

I'm not sure that the complexity of a game is any way to decide whether or not a full time designer is needed. Even the simplest baubaul can be crafted into an elegant masterpiece by a skilled and resourceful designer.


Agreed, and I didn't mean for my comment to suggest that the designers of DOOM were not designers or that it was such a simple game that there was no design involved. Clearly there was, but it was a different kind of design. I think a lot of gamers would say that DOOM's simple gameplay wouldn't fly today (except for rare titles like Serious Sam that pull it off) because game design has evolved. I think back then game design was done on a much less macroscopic level than it needs to be done today. Games have evolved both technologically and in complexity, and yet I think that the industry's perception of the role of a game designer hasn't evolved with it.

But I say all of this with a background extremely skewed in FPS' only, and design there is so radically different (I think) than for games such as console titles like Super Monkey Ball.

(I'm an armchair designer and all comments should be taken as such. Your mileage may vary, see dealer for details. Void where prohibited.)

"Ahh, arrogance and stupidity in a single package -- how efficient of you."
#32 by jafd
2002-12-14 06:33:58
okay, re: design, let me run this past you.

I'm playing Prime during most every moment of my free time now. Still. It's very good, etc., etc. But there are troubles. There are all these color-coded doors. They open when you shoot them with your color-coded guns. Fine.

The lowest level doors, open when you shoot them with any beam. The highest level doors only open when you shoot them with the highest level gun.

Now then. Shouldn't the highest level gun open all the doors? Doesn't that make sense? Once you reach the pinnacle of power, you can't just wantonly carom through the halls of the game. You have to stop and make sure you're using the right color gun just to walk through the door. It can literally take more time to discern and select the right coloured gun, than it takes to whip out the highest level gun and kill the entire room. Twice.

Shouldn't there be a guy who plays the game several times before it goes gold, finds 'issues' like these, and decides what's to be done about it? Shouldn't that guy be called 'a designer'?

There's a nifty feature in the options that lets you swap the controls used for swapping your guns and swapping your visor. Very handy, as there are parts of the game where you need to swap your view more than you need to swap your gun, and you clearly don't want to take your thumb off the movestick. Who decided to code in the Swap Beam Controls toggle? Was it 'a designer'?

Thinking about this topic makes me think of the movie "Big", which I'd rather not ever do, frankly, so it's away with me again.

Freedom from the Ass of Doom is the treasure you will win.
#33 by Greg
2002-12-14 06:44:05
jafd:

Shouldn't there be a guy who plays the game several times before it goes gold, finds 'issues' like these, and decides what's to be done about it? Shouldn't that guy be called 'a designer'?

That kind of an issue really can be worked out before there is any level to play. That is the point of good design. If you work through scenarios and interaction, somewhere along the way an issue like what you described would be addressed and dealt with.

For example, if I was the designer on MP and I encountered this situation in coming up with the design and the rules of the game, I would probably change it so that once a door is opened with the gun that is meant to open it, any gun can open it afterwards.

#34 by Greg
2002-12-14 06:49:01
Just want to add one more thing about the design of our next product.

The interesting thing is that we spent many more hours working on the first design cycle than the current cycle, yet the current design is much further along than what we had in the first cycle when it was disbanded. Of course, it could just be relative, and I'm only accounting for my hand in the second cycle; or it is just an implication that certain design methodologies take time to come up with a good solid product.

#35 by jafd
2002-12-14 06:53:34
I would probably change it so that once a door is opened with the gun that is meant to open it, any gun can open it afterwards.

It'd have to be Battle of the Designars in the parkinglot afterschool, then, as I think that's a horrible way to address the problem. The doors should remain a navigable obstacle until you get the super gun, then the player should really never ever have to use any other kind of weapon. On DOORS, anyway, I mean, whafuck. "Plasma Beam! I HAVE THA POWAR!! Shit, where's the purple codekey? Oh yeah, here it is. AGAIN."

It doesn't matter. I've had a lot of time to think about it, however, as the 0.23 seconds it takes to switch guns to open a door adds up when there are doors every 30 seconds over a span of... durr, when was Tuesday? The counter says 45 hours, and that can't be right. Feels like forever.

Freedom from the Ass of Doom is the treasure you will win.
#36 by Greg
2002-12-14 07:03:11
Er, precedent has been set in old Metroids that opening a "locked" door keeps it unlocked forever. Also, what is the purpose of having a certain gun open a door? Yes, that's right, to keep you out until you've found the proper weapon. Once you've accomplished that task there's no need to keep repeating it unless you like banging your head against the wall.

#37 by Bezzy
2002-12-14 08:03:20
painberry@hotmail.com http://www.antifactory.org
Caryn
I think a lot of gamers would say that DOOM's simple gameplay wouldn't fly today (except for rare titles like Serious Sam that pull it off) because game design has evolved.

Actually, I would almost say that Serious Sam is a game that blows a notable hole in the idea that games have to get progressively complex to be recognized. I think there will always be room for simple games - perhaps not in the mainstream so much. Joe Gamer is easily impressed so he'll naturally flock to the game of the week... so, basically, yeah, you're right :).

Something that annoys me about complexity vs. simplicity is that jagged inelegant intricacies designed into games (like lots of "different" machineguns, or the redundancy of more than one type of sniper rifle) sells really goddamn well. I mean, a game with 20 similar guns has to be better than one with 5 various ones... right? Psha.

If bad design has such a potential to sell, do we really have much hope?

My only problem with Bezzy is, truly and honestly, about one third of his longer, passionate posts make no sense to me.  I don't necessarily agree or disagree, I just literally can't parse them.  - Hugin
#38 by Mank
2002-12-14 08:33:30
As a layman, I'm more fascinated with the way games are developed based on the Genre they will be supporting. It would seem that at the earliest points of origin, a game idea is had by a sole individual, and somewhere along the line a "fleshing out" occurs in which other people are brought in to help make the idea a reality. I've seen a few discussions on some related gaming forums, and it seems that as a team comes together, the actual process of design falls into everyones lap as they each try to maintain focus on the orignal concept when creating content for the game.

I wonder how much control a person like Gooseman still has over a project like Counterstrike, and whether or not a "professional designer"  could, or should be brought in as the game progresses and  becomes more complex? I may be wrong, but it seems that most development teams elect someone from the team itself as "Lead Designer" who is responsible for overseeing the project thru to completion, and that any decisions have to be made in a team setting, because a little change here, could mean a very big change elsewhere.

Myst would be a prime example of how the design process worked extremely well when those who had the original idea were behind it all the way. Then look at Riven, and see what happens when outside design teams get involved. I seriously doubt that a "professional designer" could just be appointed to any project and somehow think he/she would be the magic bullet in making a sucessful game.

"A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep."
#39 by Charles
2002-12-14 08:40:10
www.bluh.org
So for a bit of an industry view...

That kind of an issue really can be worked out before there is any level to play. That is the point of good design. If you work through scenarios and interaction, somewhere along the way an issue like what you described would be addressed and dealt with.


Perhaps it's my background as an avid pen and paper roleplayer, but whenever I think about any game feature, I play the game using that feature in my head.  Then I try to come up with as many scenarios to break it and make it not fun as possible.  When I can't come up with anything, I make an initial decision that it's a good idea.  However, I find that almost no one in the game industry does that.  I've met almost no one who does that.  Everyone just thinks up a cool feature, and thinks of one specific scenario where it would be 'fun', then goes full boar ahead trying to get it implemented.

I must be looked at as the resident devil's advocate at brainbox, because I'm constantly poking holes in people's 'good' ideas.  Someone will say "you know, we should have this!  It'll be so cool!", and with less than a minute of thinking about it, I can usually poke so many holes through it that they'd never even considered.  

I think that pretty much sums up all that is wrong with game design.  A feature will seem cool in one given scenario for which the original idea was conceived, but in the end, that feature sucks overall in practice, because no one put any thought in to it.  

On the same note, those features tend to stick around and end up in the final game because developers approach their games the wrong way.  They know what they want, so they use the feature the way they want, and then when it works they call it good.  What people need to do is try and break that feature.  Try and fly against it.  Do everything you can to try and make that feature not fun in practice.

Sounds odd... consider this.  Why can you grief in MotoGP?  It's a fucking racing game!  Griefing shouldn't really be a part of that.  Yet there is a huge flaw in the game... you can join a multiplayer game and then drive backwards on the track, ramming people, and in general making the game not fun for other people.  Why did something like this get through?  They flash the 'wrong way' icon; why can't they just reset you so you face the right direction every time you try and drive backwards in a multiplayer game?  I'll tell you why:  it's because when the developers were testing the game, they were playing it properly.  They were racing, they were trying not to hit people, and they were playing the game the way they meant it to be played.  So as soon as someone tries to play it a way it wasn't meant to be played, they can ruin the experience for other people.

It's like trying to prove a scientific theory by collecting supporting evidence, rather than trying to disprove the theory by searching for evidence that is contrary to the hypothesis.

This topic was a good idea.  8)
#40 by TheTrunkDr.
2002-12-14 08:44:02
Couple of things regarding metroid, to keep it consistent with old metroid games, only the specific required weapon will open the corresponding door, that's been there since the nes days. I'm sure it was the intended design, as it always has in the metroid series. As for the doors staying unlocked, that was probably more of a tradeoff decision, since none of the doors require perishable items (like missles) there is no gameplay impact on not storing whether it's been opened or not, however they would have to save that information to the memory card and load it as necessary, taking more space on the card and more RAM on the system, though if done properly the system RAM should be a fairly negligable amount. I'm not aware of how the memory card for the gamecube was designed, but I'm sure space is a premium, and storing the state of 200 or so doors might not be trivial there. The metroid games have always been great with their design and this one is no exception, the design of several aspects of the game strike me as pure genious, they've taken things that could have been horrible for the player and made them fun. It's probably one of the best series to make the transition from 2d to 3d in my opinion.

She has a 286, Windows Millenium Edition, 2 gig.  I think that is all I really need to go on, right?
#41 by JP
2002-12-14 08:46:31
I mean, a game with 20 similar guns has to be better than one with 5 various ones... right?

IT'S A "THINKING MAN'S GAME"!!

re: metroid: shooting a red door with the red gun for the first time (proving to the game that you have that level of access) should make the door change to non-colored status, so from then on it can be opened with any weapon.
#42 by Charles
2002-12-14 08:50:29
www.bluh.org
Also, a little closer to the topic:

Bioware has 'producers' on each project who essentially fit the term 'designer'.  They are responsible for the high level overview, they have a huge hand in creating the design doc for the game, and they are in charge of supervising everything and making sure that required elements get implemented, unfun elements get removed, and everything is constantly under scrutiny.  They are usually talented individuals who have proved themselves on one aspect of development on a previous title.  They usually also have a level head when it comes to games, and support the ability to think through any ideas before blindly green lighting them.  

People tend to think of 'designer' as an empty role which you can't fill up a day with.  That is so pathetically obtuse.  One dedicated designer working full time on a game design (either before or in parallel with the development) can make a huge difference.  Not only can this person keep the team focused and on track, but  they should be able to spot problems early, and come up with solutions.  With a dedicated designer you'll almost never back yourself in to a corner with the game design, the design itself becomes the designer.  A living breathing entity that adapts to the situations as necessary.  You'll never have people wondering what needs to be done, priority of features will become apparent, and the rest of the team will feel better because they'll never feel lost or aimless.

In a way, producer is a better title than designer, because it implies the power needed to get the job done.

This topic was a good idea.  8)
#43 by Charles
2002-12-14 08:52:42
www.bluh.org
I'm not aware of how the memory card for the gamecube was designed, but I'm sure space is a premium, and storing the state of 200 or so doors might not be trivial there.


Yeah, 25 bytes is such a huge amount of memory for all that data.

This topic was a good idea.  8)
#44 by Charles
2002-12-14 08:53:13
www.bluh.org
re: metroid: shooting a red door with the red gun for the first time (proving to the game that you have that level of access) should make the door change to non-colored status, so from then on it can be opened with any weapon.


Which is exactly what every other metroid did.

This topic was a good idea.  8)
#45 by LesJarvis
2002-12-14 09:01:23
TheTrunkDr.

I think you're misunderestimating what jafd said, and this is a point where I agree with him 100%.  We are not advocating that doors simply remain open.

In MP, you get the weapons in a linear order.  Once you have a weapon of a certain color, you can open a door of the same color.  This is one of the mechanics that allows you to progress through the game.

So, given that the red gun is behind a white door, I can't possess the red gun without first having acquired the white gun, which opens white doors.  Given those two facts, why not allow me to just go ahead and open white doors with the red gun, since it is assumed that once I have the red gun I also have the white gun.

This would require no extra RAM or space on a memory card.

"The internet has gone all fiddle faddle foo."
-lwf
#46 by LesJarvis
2002-12-14 09:02:57
Oh, what the hell, keep em all open, like Charles said, it's 25 bytes.

"The internet has gone all fiddle faddle foo."
-lwf
#47 by Charles
2002-12-14 09:03:08
www.bluh.org
I still wish Metroid Prime had just layered the weapons like the other metroid games.  Switching weapons was lame.

This topic was a good idea.  8)
#48 by JP
2002-12-14 09:03:51
Everyone just thinks up a cool feature, and thinks of one specific scenario where it would be 'fun', then goes full bore ahead trying to get it implemented.

that's one incredibly common scenario that would fall rather quickly at the hands of a formal taxonomy for talking about (and a generally more serious attitude towards) game design.  a feature might spring from someone's head as "fun" but if they can't articulate it in any better terms than that it's probably a good sign that they should ram it.

"fun" is merely an end effect.  it's what people feel when they're playing the game; but to developers in a design discussion context it's a useless and rather ineffective term.

while it's still very much an art, game design is much more of a science than most people give it credit for.
#49 by Charles
2002-12-14 09:04:28
www.bluh.org
Well, you can't keep them open open.  Unlocked open is easy though.  Open open would require that you can always see the next room immediately, which is contrary to how the metroid prime loading system worked.

This topic was a good idea.  8)
#50 by Charles
2002-12-14 09:08:38
www.bluh.org
I dunno JP, there are downsides as well.  Game development can't be run like a democracy.  Just doesn't work.  Meetings can be as bad as helpful.  When I finally decided to bail on bioware, they were in a habit of calling a meeting for every little question.  Not only was it tiring, but I'd bet that easily 10 hours a week was wasted going to meetings where if one person had just gave three seconds of rational thought to the question, it could have been answered and implemented before the meeting was even started.

This topic was a good idea.  8)
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