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# How misunderstod do you think designers are?

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how misunderstood do you think designers are in the industry? I think designers are pretty misunderstood, a lot of people think that all they do is create ideas (not speaking for anyone). Well thats not all they do. They''re also the people that hold the team together, the game would pretty much fall apart without designers.

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quote:
Original post by XvDragonvX
how misunderstood do you think designers are in the industry?

I don''t care how misunderstood they are. This isn''t a sympathy party, it''s a development effort. Do your job and leave the weenies to underappreciate your efforts. The people who work with you know what you do, and how well you do it.

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I think designers are pretty misunderstood, a lot of people think that all they do is create ideas (not speaking for anyone). Well thats not all they do. They''re also the people that hold the team together, the game would pretty much fall apart without designers.

First, your assertion is flawed, at best. The game would pretty much fall apart without the programmers. The game would pretty much fall apart without the artists. The game would pretty much fall apart without the designer(s). The game would pretty much fall apart without the producers. The game would pretty much fall apart without outsourced talent, if used. In other words, all parts are necessary to build the whole.

What, you feel "misunderstood" in your current job/team? Get over it. If it''s a job, take it up with your superior (they know that morale is important). If it''s a team and some ignorant programmer punk is trash-talking, ask him to switch roles for an afternoon and then pepper him with the kinds of structural questions you answer.

That said, I fail to see the point of your thread, particularly on a forum called Game Design.

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It seems to me that misunderstanding is indicative of poor design.

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Just out of curiosity to go along with this...how important do programmers feel that the Designers should understand programming? At what competence level should the designer know programming? Other than Wil Wright, I can't think of any top-tier game designers that know no programming.

Frankly, I started learning programming so that I could talk on the same level as the programmers. I still have a LONG LONG way to go in terms of becoming proficient at programming, but I think I at least have a good notion of some of the fundamentals. It's funny though...sometimes just when I thought I understood something and I try to code it...my mind just goes blank and I have absolutely no clue what I'm doing

And since Designers are sort of the "visionary" behind the game, how much should they know about writing, music and art? Afterall, a game is the sum of its parts. A director of a movie doesn't have to play musical instruments, know carpentry to create sets, or know much about fashion...but he does have to have a good idea of how they all fit together. And while a director may not know how to act, he has to be able to get across to the actors the emotions they should be conveying.

So, how much should a designer know ideally? While personal communications skills are important, I would think a certain amunt of common ground in technical terms must be established to communicate effectively.

[edited by - dauntless on March 17, 2003 1:02:14 PM]

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Professional designers recommend that you have some skill in everything. They recommend that you try to master programming. Designing is the most missunderstood but I think programming is by far the most important. I''m learning programming for the same reason you are Dauntless.

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Ideally you should know everything. Since that is not an option your minimum requirement in every field is that the respective specialist can communicate with you efficiently and effectively. That means some programming, some art (including 3d skills), some music.
Design skills shouldn´t really have to be mentioned, without them there´s nothing (and yes, it is a skill that can be learnt, it has nothing to do with vision).

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They are plenty misunderstood, but for the reason that most people simply don''t understand the design process. And it is true that you should not let it bother you, but project management skills proscribe (at least in my book) that you communicate clearly enough so that nobody has room for criticism that is anything other than constructive.

I think game designers are coming to light more and more as the key individual in the game creation process, and that means that a lot of prima donna programmers (who may not, and often don''t possess design skills outside of software design skills and perhaps some graphic design skills in a 3-D modeling package or photoshop) will have to take second chair for once.

Since programmers mainly created alot of games from the infancy of this industry, that is going to be a bitter pill for them to swallow, but if they want the industry to make better games, they will accede.

Why? Because design, good and complete design and it''s relevant and associative skillsets simply are not in the skillsets of anybody else except designers (with the rare exception here and there, I agree).

Don''t think so? Spend a few years studying architecture (the mother of all arts) and find out how deeply aesthetic and structure permeate in very subtle ways *all* design. It''s not just squares and sticks, nor it is either levels and targets in games.

In Game Architecture and Design, arguably a classic in this field, without hesitation explains that programming is actually only 20% of the game making process. If you were to add in modeling, animation and other art assets, you would still not get to a hundred percent of the process, and I am not even counting what happens when you get to gold master.

The designer is responsible for the whole aesthetic, detailing and every design choice (unless delegated to a sub designer like a level designer or a graphic artist) in the entire game. If you think programming, modeling and animation and art is all it takes, you are wasting your time in this business.

The future of this business demands more complex and sophisticated games, and that means massive design development on the pre-production levels, including the documentation demon. I didn''t set these criteria in front of us all, our bosses the customer did. Has you heard the idea in the publishing world that you sell to a publisher because you have his audience wired?

I love to write, and have been writing and desinging for a very long time. I can deal with these pre-production aesthetic demands, and I believe it will give my game design it''s best chance of success. I know very little about programming, but I bet you your compiler of choice I can describe documentatively everything a programmer needs to know in advance so they can plan the software efficiently. I know a ton about architecture, but am not a licensed architect or ever formally studied it in school. Yet I build all of old town san diego (to the tune of 2 billion dollars) by intelligently managing an architect, an engineer and an attorney. Oh, let''s not forget political management, probably the least understood key skill.

The bottom line is I know a great programmer will get and execute in code what I want the game or particular object or asset to do. I know I can do the same with an animator and a graphic artist and a level designer, because I know the goal and total concept of the gameworld and it''s play objectives.

That means I know the story, the gameplay and the interactive objectives, as well as the scale, architecture and aesthetic of the project overall. You won''t see me cutting a single line of code, nor will you see me pretending to know how to do so.

But my programmer will be satisfied, because I articulated a clear and accurate picture of what is happening on the screen, and how it relates to the big picture of the game. Every other professional will respect the vision I create for the game, for if they don''t I''m not a very good designer, or didn''t design for success, and shouldn''t be in that position of decision making.

The reason all of the people on my team are happy to carry the responsibilities of their particular discipline (whether art, code, model or hull) and are willing to use their expertice to guide me making design choices in the pre-production proofing stage of the project, so they had a chance to weigh in and understand the overall theme of the game.

But above all, I as a designer must also communicate to my team that I have thought about the most important thing in the game design process, the player, and that is an argument even the publisher cannot say no to if you have done enough research and thinking. Team members know they are onboard with a winner, because you have control of the process of creation of games.

It''s about the players who plunk down money and sell more units by word of mouth. Publishers can''t logically argue against this, nor can a team member, unless the designer has forsaken one of their jobs responsibilities by not thinking every single aspect of the game through, getting feedback, rewriting and redesigning, and then doing what creative people do; they make the choice that after all the refinement, this is how it is going to go together.

If you are willing to live with the responsibility and workload that kind of development requires, then you can succeed in this business.

There is an old business adage, "Don''t think about the competition, think about the customer." I guarantee the publisher does all day long, or pays somebody to do that all day long. That is where yes and an inked deal lies.

FWIW,

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I can''t disagree with you on anything you said adventuredesign and I don''t think anyone here can either.

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i to am learning programming... i''m just not sure from what

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I'm trying to learn as much as I can before I go to college, the main things i'm focusing on are Designing and producing/marketing. As for the rest of it, I'm not sure.

[edited by - xvdragonvx on March 17, 2003 11:49:44 PM]

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quote:
Since programmers mainly created alot of games from the infancy of this industry, that is going to be a bitter pill for them to swallow, but if they want the industry to make better games, they will accede.

What this to me shows is how important it is for the designer to know the positives and negatives of the computer medium or whatever medium they work on for that matter. Many of the earlier games are still being brought back from the dust today because people are realising the brilliance in these old games.

You can''t call yourself a game designer if you can''t make a simple card game from a pack of 52. Similarly if you can design a good game on an old 8bit computer then how much better are you than someone who cant do crap with all the lastest whiz bang''s.

A game designer these days must choose first how big they want to go. You can be a game designer on many scales of work its up to you to make the desicion of what will satisfy you.

Adventuredesign is either a dam good designer or he has read a lot on game design or both . What is this design process he is talking about i would like to know. When working in teams for the \$ there is no doubt that communication skills are the most important skill a game designer can have.

Everyone has their limitations on what they can do today, these limitations WILL NOT make you a bad game designer. Its whether or not you are willing to accept your limits and those of your team and enjoy the fun that can be had making a game. Skills and improvement come from the effort!

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The designer is responsible for the whole aesthetic, detailing and every design choice (unless delegated to a sub designer like a level designer or a graphic artist) in the entire game.

Negative, on this basis i must doubt your experience and say you''ve just read a lot. There is no way you could say this if you were working in a commercial game development house as a game designer. Why put the extra work load on your own shoulders? If you''re going to concern yourself with the "whole aesthetic''s and detailing" your artist are going to think you''re a nazi. Allowing the team to contribute in these area''s is what they work for.

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You must have on the job experience paul. A lot of people consider me to be a bad game designer (I'm in the amateur industry) because I have to have support from my team or I woun't be any good at all.In my opinion I think designers have to have support from their team or they woun't be as good as they usually are because of how important communication skills are in designing. But I have seen some great designers that don't have a whole lot of communication skills though (mine arn't really that great but everyone that's seen me in action said I'm pretty good)

[edited by - XvdragonvX on March 18, 2003 6:05:43 PM]

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Speaking as a wannabe who has studied fairly voraciously what he can of the industry and its history, good and bad, past and present, I would agree that there has been this slow process of the programmer=designer position slowly being given up as more and more specialization(or, at the least, a more powerful set of tools) is required to make the most of the technology available.

Learning something of every skill seems very applicable to the design process, if only because it helps with communicating to the rest of the team(but also so that realistic expectations, particularly technical ones, can be set).

Right now, I push myself to develop a wide range of skills for my own project(no team) and can''t really profess to a mastery of any one of them. This is frustrating, because it makes me wonder to myself if my plans are "real" or if I''m kidding myself and should just focus on making great sprites or sketches or programs or music, rather than an average job on all four.

Also, getting into a team for a mod or other stepping-stone type of game project as a designer is the most frustrating task in the world in my experience, because the times I tried, there was a lack of clearly defined roles for the majority of the members, or a lack of all the talent needed - usually nobody to code, and I took a look at jumping into using MSVC for a Half-Life or Serious Sam mod and backed away quickly, because I don''t know very much of C/C++ and all the stuff used to make the 3d part of the game fairly scared me - I don''t know how to cast rays for shooting attacks, just to start. So I would start a design document, maybe putz about with mapping(it was worthwhile, at least to make me have a go at those things).

The result, anyway, with these projects was that they degenerated into a bunch of people who had nothing to offer besides such words of wisdom as "itd b coo l if u had a m4 /w teh 100 round drrum mag," or such skills as joining and then disappearing forever. The people that were useful were too few in number and we lost our morale because of this, eventually causing everyone to abandon it one by one after some drama and infighting. Maybe I was just on some bad teams...

Making the world furry one post at a time

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I hear you there RTF, I''ve had those same problems too. I joined a team a while back with like two other people and the team leader (he was on on-line friend of mine) woun''t let me do anything at all, he thought everything he said about the game was the absolute best and didn''t listen to me at all. I eventually quit and as soon as I did a week later their project died (very promising game actually). So not too long ago I started another project with my friend and my cousin and the people that we described the game to loved it (all of them), but the problem is, is that we never have the time, right now I''m the only one that does stuff for the game (my friend is lazy and my cousin has a family). I''m sticking with one though, I have to get some experience before I go to college and join the professional industry.

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Original post by Paul Cunningham
quote:

What this to me shows is how important it is for the designer to know the positives and negatives of the computer medium or whatever medium they work on for that matter.

I think it is worth suggesting that technology and it''s attendant growing capacities and refined maturities of function are reducing at a rapid rate negative limitations. An example of this would be: about four years ago, a world class animator told me if I knew how hard it was just to model a tree. Over a year ago, a CD of premodeled Max trees became available, and a few months ago, an editor for the models was developed so you could make any kind of tree you wanted quicly and easily. Another example would be that now you can get a desktop P4 chip and a 128 Mb Radeon Graphics card in an alienware laptop.

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You can''t call yourself a game designer if you can''t make a simple card game from a pack of 52.

I didn''t realize there was a litmus test for game design. What if you are not a card player at all and still can design a FPS? If anything, the litmus test is the phrase uttered joyously from the mouth of a playtester, "That was fun!"

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A game designer these days must choose first how big they want to go. You can be a game designer on many scales of work its up to you to make the desicion of what will satisfy you.

Scale is usually the first choice in design brief specs. Sometimes a designer who really knows themself will understand the level they work best on, and go in at the size of project they know they excel and thrive in. Just because they chose not to start small and work their way up in no way suggests that the large scale design will be a bad design. Walking before you crawl belongs in the preceeding century, imho. There are thousands of robots to help you run fast metaphorically speaking, Stephen Hawking is a good example. I can walk into a design studio almos anywhere and say, "I want this and that and this" and not know how to make it myself, but somebody will gladly take the money to do it for me, and when I sit down and look at the finished product and am satisfied, is that not then how value is created? Value and satisfaction go hand in hand in perception land of the warm upright homonid.

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What is this design process he is talking about i would like to know.

It''s a formalized process I learned in architectural design. It begins with determining what you have to work with (the size of the parcel of land minus it''s legal setback percentages gives you the permissible workable land area; this is synonymous to the size of the gameworld that suits the setting that backdrops your game story) and then determining the environmental factors (going to the site and seeing how it is oriented to the sun, seasons, grade, elevation, topography, soiltype, drainage pattern, utility locations, and other associative basic functional and aesthetic preexisting factors). It''s got a lot to it, but it''s very powerful as a tool. It''s also very demanding of the output of the tool user.

Once you have a clear and detailed to scale and format drawing of your basic ''this is what we have to work with'' elements, then you begin to think about the occupant of the dwelling structure that does not exist in reality yet.

You tie together the best elements of the existing survey (such as: this is the best view from here and there and there, this is the best light from this direction at this time of day, this area indicates the largest square footage of level ground, this area is the strongest subsoil composition thus will make the best structure footing support) with the realistic life elements of the occupant (what time of day they get up, and would this view and this light from that direction suggest the best place for the breakfast room, how many kids do they have and what area would be best for the backyard playground) -- you get the idea - it''s about the ''use'' of the ''user/occupant''.

This is why the call it "land use" at the aesthetic level, and at the technical level it''s about how many kilowatts or flushing capacities a family of four generates per year average.
Both criteria are as important for the overall design, it''s just that the former is artistically compelling to create, and the latter is blandly looking up statistics in pre-existing building and land use standards archives.

Or, on the other side of the equation, this area gets very little light during the day, so all the windows on that side of a structure would be small (so as not to lose the thermal heat mass you want a comfortable interior environment to contain).

It''s very much an aesthetic synthesis of all available elements, including the occupant (synonymous with ''user'').

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Everyone has their limitations on what they can do today, these limitations WILL NOT make you a bad game designer. Its whether or not you are willing to accept your limits and those of your team and enjoy the fun that can be had making a game. Skills and improvement come from the effort!

I agree with this, but there is a part of design that has to do with personal limits that is what the learning challenge to grow into as a designer has that is of value.

A good designer who is competent in basic skills who gets hooked onto a massive project will be no less worse a designer than a great designer who has very little emotional investment in the project, as it may only represent a paycheck. Most money people buy people as well as ideas; and they protect the investment in the person by having expert liases available should they be needed for troubleshooting. Often, these liases are attorneys and engineers. Remarkably corrolary, don''t you think?

The great designer who is not onboard on other levels would be a bad investment, imo. I started in architecture on basic little things like foundation plans and plot plans, but three years later I was managing dozens of hotels under reconstruction simultaneously, and had entirely forgotten, nor did I need to remember, because a civil engineer had been retained, about how a foundation was designed. Today, though I can still not remember how to exactly draw a footing type, yet you can drive through Old Town San Diego, see my work and know the buildings are safe to sleep in.

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The designer is responsible for the whole aesthetic, detailing and every design choice (unless delegated to a sub designer like a level designer or a graphic artist) in the entire game.

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Negative, on this basis i must doubt your experience and say you''ve just read a lot.

I have. But you cannot in every case generalize in specific circumstances. The particular game I choose to design has as it''s constituent gameworld components previously existing terrain that has been surveyed for decades to a very high degree of 3-D accuracy, and is retained in survey archive repositories in digital formats easily importable into a 3-D graphics program.

If I were designing a game that had no specific or relative identicism to the real world (say for example a space based game with different planets), then my land use experience would be only somewhat of use (but even then physical criteria for planetary and asteroid formation would be consistent in the physical materials and formation senses; this comes from the old school notion that nature is a pretty incredible designer as well as just the plain facts of physics).

But my gameworld is exactly like the real world in a strict topographical and survey sense; there is very little that I have to create or make up for my levels that doesn''t already exist in reality, with the exceptions of gameplay elements and interstitials/cutscenes and a few other things.

They are already in existance, and I just made the jobs of my modelers and animators a whole lot easier, quicker, and less costly to the overall budget in that budget category. I''d say that gives me a commercial advantage over competitors, though I subscribe to the notion of paying more attention to the customers than the competition generally.

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There is no way you could say this if you were working in a commercial game development house as a game designer.

Since I have plenty of preexisting things to design my world and levels with (in fact, you could almost say that for other than the interactive and story elements, the levels actually are in pre-existance digitally) why would I want to blunt the skills of my level designers by taking away their focus from designing interesting puzzles, traps, tricks, foos, challenges, NPC''s, bosses and subbosses, etc.) for simple topography arrangement?

That would be counterproductive. And, if you take a look at commercial game houses out there today, as an indie developer, why would I want to be involved with those organizations anyway, their market position notwithstanding?

I, and many other people in this business think they are the bane of the business, so why not do it myself If I can find a practical and affordable way that meets a competitive standard?

Most people who take on entreprenurial risk know that if you wait to have 100 % solid information, it''s already too late to begin because of time to market, besides other factors. They also know that if they have 80% solid data, they have the wit, flexibility and contingency funds to deal with the surprises in the other 20% as they come up.

I suggest reading a book called "Doing Business Boldly: the art of intelligent risk." It will surprise you about what you think you may know about risk in business and markets with new and untried brands or even established ones in trouble. The story about coca cola''s formula change is worth the cost alone, but the cleverness of genentech is also rich material.

Maybe I was not clear when I said every little detail, but the truth is, if you were to examine the specifics of my overall design production approach, you would see that I can design far more of the gameworld than an ordinary game designer would simply because of the choices I made from the get go, when I did my theme and aethetics comparisons and evaluations (I liken this to the old database designer''s axiom that you think about your data before ever creating a single table).

I did not mean to create a misimpression, but I think a level designer''s time and efforts are best spent thinking about how to challenge, motivate and cathartize a player through the avatar''s and interactive environment''s available actions; not plopping in a wall here and a puddle there (though I am in no way saying either that level design in a traditional sense does not have value). Just as music moves movies, environment and objective moves kinaesthetics.

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Because now that I have illustrated how (relavity) easy it is for me to handle those parts of the design personally, or through others if the project management workload analysis indicates production timetables require the capacity of more than one person of a particular skillset, I can save money in the budget, a.

B, there is a complicated (highly structured and complex, not confusing-complicated) mystery story central to the gamestory that has it''s own contstruct demands, and I need the creative control over the level design to choose where, how and what exposition is revealed so the overarching theme of the solving of the mystery construct demands (which is fundatmental to winning the game) is done to the standard I set.

I''m not saying I can''t get somebody else as a level designer to be on the same page, and indeed they may improve things, and if I can get that budget funding, I would be smart to have that objective input, but for now, the money is not there, so a project manager says, "hmm, how can I set up my production methodology in such away that I can get the most amount of work completed with the least amount of resources spent while still meeting aesthetic production level standards?" This is called ''designing for design''.

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If you''re going to concern yourself with the "whole aesthetic''s and detailing" your artist are going to think you''re a nazi.

Or, the artists are educated enough in design (as a field of approaches, styles and techniques) to understand that if there is *not* a consistent, homgenous overarching theme that is the core structure of the design, and the aesthetic and creative choices that were selected as it''s primary supporting elements are not judiciously and consistently supported and revisited, then how good a design do you really have?

And, what are the chances of critical and financial success of such a design? I am not saying this would be true for all design, I am not the uberfather of design, but it is true for my particular design, which is uniquely unlike anything out there today.

The reason I chose this theme and approach is because not only did I choose wisely that I wanted it to be different from an artistic standpoint, but also that it played to a few of my best creative design strengths (outdoor adventure and mystery, for examples), and I felt as a businessperson it had the best chances of success.

It is a perfect example of alternative marketing. This is also known as the ''uncola'' strategy. Seven-up once commanded 13% of the entire cola market simply by presenting themselves as an alternative. The sugar and lemon-lime did the rest. I think the lack of caffiene was also a factor, but it was not a negative brand attribute in the minds of consumers so much way back then when the brand was introduced to it''s market category. This is the great marketing trap -- to not think category, but to think brand.

I think you have to be able to not only create a good design, but make the case this good design is a seller also.

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Allowing the team to contribute in these area''s is what they work for.

Perhaps, but I never had any engineer, painter, hod carrier, general contrator or political figure ever ask me why I chose a particular design function or form, they just knew intrinsically the second they looked at it whehter or not it blew up their skirt in an aesthetics appreciation sense; if that ever even came to their consciosness.

I will not say this is the case in game design, that would be a stupid comparison to advance (but maybe I already stupidly advanced it, lol; you tell me, I respect and value your opinion and experience), but most people want to know exactly what you want them to do on this job spec, not the big picture of why.

This in no way means I would cut myself off from the opportunity of taking advantage of the particular expertice of an artist, modeler, animator or programmer if they felt their idea was valid and would improve the quality of the project. But then, that person would have to have the motivation to advance it also. We all know about levels of motivation in humans generally, much less in a professional working design environment.

I always (always, always, always) tell the people who work with me on a project the why before the what. It''s not only a way to get the best out of them technically, and gives them a chance to emotionally enroll in the project so they care more about what they do and just don''t show up and do what they know how to do for the paycheck, it''s a sign of respect for their intelligence, creativity, and a good litmus test on how to tell the best and the brightest out of a pool of seemingly similarly qualified candidates.

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Sorry about the double post, I got an IE error the first time, so did it again. The second post is the valid response.

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quote:
Sorry about the double post, I got an IE error the first time, so did it again. The second post is the valid response.

You can delete a post by clicking on the "Edit" button in the upper-right corner of each post''s header (right next to the "Quote" button). I already deleted that one for you, though (moderators and staff can delete other people''s posts, but no one else can).

Very interesting and thoughtful piece. I hope I have the time later to come back and really digest it.

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Litmus test, nice term. Every new game whether it be conventional or not writes its own litmus test i''d presume. Whenever i start working on an idea for a game the first thing i try to do is sniff out where the fun in a game will be drawn from. Although a big lesson i learnt doing some speeches for the first time was that no matter how well you plan something to be fun or humourous people will always find something in there you didn''t see and seize on that.

The only real solid rule that i can abide by when making any kind of work that will relate enterntainment to the user or listener is that the more deep and thought provoking the idea is the less likely people will stray to find their own entertainment in your work. A good analogy would be water flowing down a channel, the channel being your work and water is the peoples attention.

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Sometimes a designer who really knows themself will understand the level they work best on, and go in at the size of project they know they excel and thrive in. Just because they chose not to start small and work their way up in no way suggests that the large scale design will be a bad design.

If you''ve got the clear picture of what the player is going to experience then yes i would agree now. Such advantages i can see from this approach would be that you''ve always got something for someone to do as well so no one would have an excuse for not being busy.This would be taking game design to the managerial level.

Question: What is the design process?
quote:

It''s a formalized process I learned in architectural design. It begins with determining what you have to work with (the size of the parcel of land minus it''s legal setback percentages gives you the permissible workable land area; this is synonymous to the size of the gameworld that suits the setting that backdrops your game story)

This has me beat. I can''t quite picture the perspective you''re coming from. Are you taking about a script put together by a story writer then deciding how big a world you need for it to work at best? I would agree on the basis that all you make is adventure/story based games.

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The particular game I choose to design has as it''s constituent gameworld components previously existing terrain that has been surveyed for decades to a very high degree of 3-D accuracy, and is retained in survey archive repositories in digital formats easily importable into a 3-D graphics program

Sounds like the quirks and perks of coming from a architectural background Good for you although not all of us have these resources or the experience to apply them.I''d doubt too that there''d be many game designers with this ability.What type of 3d program r u talking about, CAD?

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by XvDragonvX
You must have on the job experience paul. A lot of people consider me to be a bad game designer (I''m in the amateur industry) because I have to have support from my team or I woun''t be any good at all.In my opinion I think designers have to have support from their team or they woun''t be as good as they usually are because of how important communication skills are in designing. But I have seen some great designers that don''t have a whole lot of communication skills though (mine arn''t really that great but everyone that''s seen me in action said I''m pretty good)

No i''ve just read a lot and worked in the 90 odd percent of game developers that don''t make money - for about 12 years. I''m dedicated to distinguishing the difference between game designer, map designer, programmer, architectural landscaper and what not although i don''t refuse myself to learn from them.

Just to rehash on communication issue, i''ve seen team leaders with shocking comm skills although for one reason or another they hold the team together wonderfully. How well these teams do though is another issue.I guess you could say that if your working in a team and you don''t have to think about your comm skills then you don''t worry about it but you never know, they could be more of an insurance policy.

My next step is to get back involved with map designing probably for doom3 mods. Try to build a team of just map designers then see where peoples interest move to and hopefully keep the team together. It may work, it may not but at least i''ll be trying and staying up to date with the industry.

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It''s a formalized process I learned in architectural design. It begins with determining what you have to work with (the size of the parcel of land minus it''s legal setback percentages gives you the permissible workable land area; this is synonymous to the size of the gameworld that suits the setting that backdrops your game story) and then determining the environmental factors (going to the site and seeing how it is oriented to the sun, seasons, grade, elevation, topography, soiltype, drainage pattern, utility locations, and other associative basic functional and aesthetic preexisting factors). It''s got a lot to it, but it''s very powerful as a tool. It''s also very demanding of the output of the tool user.

Once you have a clear and detailed to scale and format drawing of your basic ''this is what we have to work with'' elements, then you begin to think about the occupant of the dwelling structure that does not exist in reality yet.

You tie together the best elements of the existing survey (such as: this is the best view from here and there and there, this is the best light from this direction at this time of day, this area indicates the largest square footage of level ground, this area is the strongest subsoil composition thus will make the best structure footing support) with the realistic life elements of the occupant (what time of day they get up, and would this view and this light from that direction suggest the best place for the breakfast room, how many kids do they have and what area would be best for the backyard playground) -- you get the idea - it''s about the ''use'' of the ''user/occupant''.

This is why the call it "land use" at the aesthetic level, and at the technical level it''s about how many kilowatts or flushing capacities a family of four generates per year average.
Both criteria are as important for the overall design, it''s just that the former is artistically compelling to create, and the latter is blandly looking up statistics in pre-existing building and land use standards archives.

Or, on the other side of the equation, this area gets very little light during the day, so all the windows on that side of a structure would be small (so as not to lose the thermal heat mass you want a comfortable interior environment to contain).

It''s very much an aesthetic synthesis of all available elements, including the occupant (synonymous with ''user'').

That''s a very interesting design process, but how do you apply this technique to the game design?

Current project: 2D in Direct3D engine.
% completed: ~20%

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Original post by alnite
That''s a very interesting design process, but how do you apply this technique to the game design?

By blending it with the principles I learned screenwriting, or writing for that matter.

In any story is a setting(s), that setting is appropriate and relevant to the exposition criteria, those criteria can be as simple as, what has to be communicated to advance the story, how it is communicated, who is doing is, and where.

It can be more detailed if necessary, the stage of plot progression you are in is the general guide. Two factors influence this. One, of the threads you are weaving along (plots and subplots and foreshadows), which are coming together where in resolution of the open issue that was driving the plot to begin with (as it has relevance to the basic conflict that is the heart of the main plot), and, two, what is the actual location chosen in sequence all have a lot to do with how you choose the scale of the representation of the reality in the shot. Multiple shots are considered scenes, and multiple scenes are considered sequences. A feature script has an average of 22 to 27 sequences.

I am using the shot term here specifically to indicate this is what you would see onscreen. This would be similar to what you would see on the computer screen in a game with the exception that what you see onscreen may be only what is currently in view from the camera pov of the what you are pointing the avater at, when the entire level may also be loaded to render the second your eye (the camera) is directed that way through input devices.

A more clear and graphical description of this I can draw from my latest script, then I will draw an example from my game to show differences, because through line plotwriting and interactive storytelling are two different things.

In the script, the protagonist starts out in France, goes to Portugal, then to Africa, and then back to France. Different logical places that I could choose in that main route to expose different data are: While he is still on french soil and has not learned yet of why he must leave, or, he has learned he has to leave and he is in the process, or, he has already left and somebody says, "Whew, we just got out of france in time, I''m glad we were warned by so and so!"

Logical settings for any of these exposition choices relative to plot would be: the guy''s home before the news comes, the guys car as he is leaving but still in france, and the destination as he gets out of the car having left france. Anywhere in between would have been a relevant place to expose the data, you are the creator must choose which is the best setting to expose it. As you can see, the range of choices can create the level of tension from ''we found out in plenty of time, so no biggie'' to, ''man, we just got out of there with our skins.'' If the data to be expositioned was ''hey, my gf wants to meet me in spain'' then we have low tension and it can be exposited matter of fact (though something exciting better happen with gf later if we want to keep the audience hooked). If the data to be exposited is, "The whole assasination squad will be here in five minutes, and I could lose my life for telling you this!", then, a more active expositional setting would be warranted, such as hauling along the road out of france in your porche doing 100KPH.

The choice will have specific physical criteria that determine the scale of the shot. If it''s at the guy''s house, and he gets the news early cause that''s your creative choice, the viewer will still have to be visually oriented to the setting (you just can''t jump to the guy on his couch getting the news and cutting to him closing the door to his car at the destination outside of france, unless you want a huge disjoint in the continuity of perception of the viewer; but they don''t like that and will leave the theater post haste and call you an amateur) so you would have an establishing shot almost always an extremely long shot or a long shot (say the guy''s house from the road and the buddy with the bad news arriving, walking up to the door, knocking and getting let in), and then bring the aspect ratio of the image down in stages as you choose (the usual suspects are establishing shot, long shot, medium shot, close up, and so forth) until the major information is imparted in the tightest shot available to make it''s impact the greatest.

In a game of the same scenario, the player could materialize on the level behind a hedge that he moves out from, and the only thing to see as a major object in the field of view is the house in front of them (though they could choose to look at the ground or the sky or all around the house before going in, the scale will eventually be served as positions are taken to interact with the level, such as following the man to the door, going in unseen behind him and listening from a position of espy unseen as he hears he has to leave france) The point is, visual continuity must be served in both mediums, unless you want the yard to be only front door to be five feet away from the road, and the player''s own sense of ordinate perception says to him, "hey, this is not realistic and I can''t believe this", but you don''t want to do that for obvious reasons.

Other factors to consider is the type of characters involved (not every game character or NPC is young, handsome and brilliant and dangerous; life is variety), environment (is it a blinding snowstorm, tropical thunderstorm, hot day, cool evening; there is a thought in storytelling about the kind of news and the time of day, but that is when you have a choice, if the bad guys are coming, and the characters must react quickly, then that will influence setting as well. Action shooting and sequencing have some particulars to them, but you wouldn''t want to see a brutal swordfight from a thousand feet, it would be useless and boring. Nor would you want to see it from six inches away because you''d see very little action and the audio would be deafening. Nor would you want to see it from a constant few feet away unless that is the way you choose to control the avatar and just hack at the opponent mercilessly.

Since the player has control over the avatar, and that is a great influence and contro over POV, the you would want scale and proportion to help the player make movement choices. It''s the difference between a store front that pulls you in off the mall main drag because of the way the space is arranged, compared to a storefront that is so busy you look at it from across the mall.

Scale, proportion, mass and negative space, color choice and lighting choice can literally lead people around an area subcosciously. I suggest creating standard area cubes in MAX, drop classic three camera lighting into them (spot, flood and fill), and toy with the size and shapes of basic objects (not necessarily all primitives; some should be complex shapes) and add or subtract warm or cold colors.

You''ll learn real fast what looks good and what is visually tweaky. Remember that even in a true to scale 3-D environment (or in a 2-D one for that matter) orange and blue can force perception of 3 dimensionality).

Even in an interactive story, where the player chooses where to go and what to see, they are not in control of the entire gameworld, the designer is. The illusion of control is what they think they have, imo. I try to mix up close in scenes (say the player has to work a computer on a desk) with transitional and exterior or large interior areas, so the visual flow has got it going on. If I leave a cramped office with the driver on floppy I need for an unnetworked computer on the other side of the planet, I am a happier player if I a, leave the cramped office for a transitional image (hallway, tunnel, or however I got in) logically graduate my environments until I get to my big image of my jet on the runway, and then cut to a transitional cutscene of the jet hauling tail around the planet, and then perhaps my landing approach to the country where the destination computer is.

Now, you can throw in all kinds of complications, but I am not sure about burdening the player with complications or challenge once they have the foo that has to be transported until I have a clear change of scene or level. But I am not an experienced game designer, I am however, very expert in creating positive and negative spaces that don''t distort people''s senses endangering suspension of disbelief, and pacing of action and reflection elements so the perception we are trying to preserve the suspension of disbelief for is not exhausted.

So if I am expositing a major plot point such as the point of no return (the hero could not give up even if he wanted to; for destiny has him in it''s sights), or, something subtle like the first time the girl you just rescured looks at you without fear and with curiosity; the pitch, tone, direction of the exposition (does it help or hinder, I mean) all have indirect yet powerful inflence on where you set the shot up at in terms of design elements.

As the film industry brings more and more of it''s power to bear on our industry, more and more of these cinematographic techniques will be in games, and we have all read more than our share of articles on how to use film technique in your games from the camera position point of view (remember the camera is the eye), that I don''t think it will disserve the project not to allow for them when appropriate.

Now, I don''t mean overture the flowery violins just because the woman your avater just freed from the bad guy is feeling greatful, that would be corny, but it could be handled a variety of ways to express the same sentiment, that could be seen is a very action filled moment, or as a denoument if you chose to close the level out knowing you just had your player hooked for four hours, and they gotta mentally have a break sometime.

As for my approach, I use scale, time of day, texture of the level or scene objects (whether mountain ranges, houses, two chairs and a table, a single finger reading a ancient scroll on that table) and pace of exposition all are determined by what you want your player to know and when.

In my game, there are levels deep underground in catacombs of caves, and once in awhile I bring the person through a very tiny hole or a long tiny hole, into a relatively spacious interiro cavern. The tiny hole they just crawled through may be mud brown, so the large cavern has luminous stalagmites or stalagtites, so you can turn off your lamp and save battery power, or, I may have you come out of a cave to the surface only to climb a large peak that has the same cave trail continued at the top of the hill. It''s about visual balance in scale, form, and light and shadow. These are the principles that bring about believability, and that helps keep the player''s attention, and perhaps serves anticipation as well, even if the alien that is around the corner in that perfectly groomed grove of tress is horribly featured to the point that you are laughing at it''s design like you would at a horror movie.

Though there is a design disjoint there unless your game is about alien invasion of the earth. So theme is form and function follows it. Environments are a subset of the functions of the theme. In my example, the house, the car, the roads driven on, the country the road drives through, the landtype at the destination. These all will flow from the theme. After all, the theme is not crystallized until you have a character, time, place, setting and conflict.

Now, right here I want to deal with the notion that games and stories are different. They are and they aren''t. Each has a beginning middle and end, and each has a conflict and an objective. That is about where the similarity ends, because in the game, you can go anywhere you want, but sooner or later, you are going to have to deal with the theme (that has a beginning, middle and end) if you want to finish or win the game.

Some of the brightest writers on the planet will say that it is like a string of pearls for a story, and a plate of pearls for a game. In both cases, you are going toward a goal, and it''s the how you get there that is substantially different, as well as what you can do while you are going along.

But the going towards a goal, whether in film or a game, is what your player is thinking about, unless of course, they are on brain low-res mode like me, and are just running around in the gameworld with no particular need to go anywhere special. I call it discovery for the sheer joy of no expectations, and I think it is an untapped move to make in our industry, but hey, let me risk my money on proving that; ya''ll can imitate me later if it works, and buy me a beer to cry in if it doesn''t.

Getting to that goal is going to influence the design, the type of goal is going to influence the size of the game, and, well, I just dropped out of high res brain mode, so shoot back some q''s if I missed anything, like the point of your question.

HTH,

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Original post by Paul Cunningham
Litmus test, nice term. Every new game whether it be conventional or not writes its own litmus test i''d presume.

That may be true, but generally, the litmus test is "is your game fun?" the derivations begin when you examine the player, and what their expectations and contextual or associative response system is, but game psychology I am not expert in, though I study it and people. It''s that old writer''s are loners thing, so why not enjoy the time.

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Whenever i start working on an idea for a game the first thing i try to do is sniff out where the fun in a game will be drawn from.

Almost always that will be a derivative of the challenge or conflict inherent in the situation that suggested the game to your in the first place as a active mental image or passive non-imaged notion.

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Although a big lesson i learnt doing some speeches for the first time was that no matter how well you plan something to be fun or humourous people will always find something in there you didn''t see and seize on that.

Perhaps that is because people are different in some respects, but similar in the majority? I try to design for the 85% that react and think like a pack when the material is not exotic like macabre fantasy or sci fi. Remember that old axiom, 85% of people don''t know what is happening, 10% can tell you it''s happening, and 5% can say, it''s about to happen. I think there is a micropercentage in there that says, does this really have to happen? :D

This variance drops off to where everyone is 100% captivated and identical responses are elicited from everyone when the content and context are so carefully designed and abstracted simultaneously so that no general inferences can be drawn upon and the audience or user must rely solely on the references of what you choose to exposit.

Shakespeare was a master at this. Seinfeld is a contemporary example. Almost everyone laughs about the same thing the same way with his work, because he limits the context (his place, kramer''s place, the diner, etc.) and he limits the content (elaine''s perennial character issues, kramer''s get rich quick vien, george''s love life) all carefully chosen and all carefully constructed. It seems like spontaneous improve becase of the familiarity with the technique and style, which is why the littlest aspect of mundane life can be hysterical (elaine dancing comes to mind)

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The only real solid rule that i can abide by when making any kind of work that will relate enterntainment to the user or listener is that the more deep and thought provoking the idea is the less likely people will stray to find their own entertainment in your work. A good analogy would be water flowing down a channel, the channel being your work and water is the peoples attention.

I think I just paraphrased you.

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Sometimes a designer who really knows themself will understand the level they work best on, and go in at the size of project they know they excel and thrive in. Just because they chose not to start small and work their way up in no way suggests that the large scale design will be a bad design.

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If you''ve got the clear picture of what the player is going to experience then yes i would agree now. Such advantages i can see from this approach would be that you''ve always got something for someone to do as well so no one would have an excuse for not being busy.This would be taking game design to the managerial level.

Isn''t it all management, just the altitude changes? A lofty sentiment within a concept still has to be articulated so it reaches the most it can (understanding being the objective of communication), as well as a stock setting or character needs to be raised to uniqueness so it will not be percieved as something you have seen before in a world that is clamoring, "Show me something I haven''t seen before." (add the ''wah, wahh, waaaahhhhh!!'' and traybanging at your own discretion.)

Question: What is the design process?
quote:

It''s a formalized process I learned in architectural design. It begins with determining what you have to work with (the size of the parcel of land minus it''s legal setback percentages gives you the permissible workable land area; this is synonymous to the size of the gameworld that suits the setting that backdrops your game story)

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This has me beat. I can''t quite picture the perspective you''re coming from.

Theme (form) follows --> expositionChoice (function)
where
Choice=(a mini design of setting, time, character and action)
and
action=(ORchallenge, conflict or resolution)
and
character=(ORattitude, pov, experience, emotions, intelligence)
and
time=(ORday, night, dawn, dusk, sunset, sunrise, history, contemporary time, future time)
and
setting=(ORinterior, exterior, weather, topography, luxury, poverty, mayhem, war, status quo, tranquility, peace)
if yes
then
The End / You Win

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Are you taking about a script put together by a story writer then deciding how big a world you need for it to work at best? I would agree on the basis that all you make is adventure/story based games.

Not really, but possibly it applies consistently. Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice was told primarily in one room (it was a mass market film; not a ''specialty segmentation'' audience). 1492 was told on the sea and two continents. Tombraider 3 was told on several continents, chess is told on 16 x 16 tiles. Scale of story is not always, but can be told consitent to scale of world. Chess can be elevated to Hamlet, but then it''s surrealism, not realism. Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice could get the hots for Laura Croft and chase her around the world trying to get her into their lives, but the conflicting goals would cause confusing scales/objectives, confusing the viewer or player.

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The particular game I choose to design has as it''s constituent gameworld components previously existing terrain that has been surveyed for decades to a very high degree of 3-D accuracy, and is retained in survey archive repositories in digital formats easily importable into a 3-D graphics program

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Sounds like the quirks and perks of coming from a architectural background Good for you although not all of us have these resources or the experience to apply them.I''d doubt too that there''d be many game designers with this ability.What type of 3d program r u talking about, CAD?

It was amazingly hard work over years alongside a grandmaster, Thomas Kress, apprentice of Hal Pierera. I would characterize it more like commitment to discipline; and it''s not for everyone (exhaling) In retrospect, I recognize anybody can find these principles of design, you would have to teach or learn how to use them once you did tho. I do think though your quirk characterization is particulary meritorious since it was a quirk of luck I was able to con him into giving me a job. LOL

There is an english firm that sells a plugin that allows you to pull a topography wireframe file format (Not sure if it is cadfile format, just know the surveyor who uses the archive, and I am pretty sure he uses CAD; most architects, land use planners and civil engineers I have known use CAD) and the plugin imports the cadfile and converts it to a MAX editable/exportable wireframe. I will try to find the url for you and will post it. I think it is called cadport or something like that. It''s likely googleable.

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