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Why there are no real or very few "game designers"....yet

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I read one of the other articles on here the "What should a game designer know?" article and found it very interesting. Drew, from Irrational Games, pretty much had the entire thing pegged and pretty much what he said is. What I want to talk about is this, in this industry there are few to no real game designers, why is that you ask? Simple, most so called game designers these days are guys with one or two good ideas, that is not a game designer, that is a guy with one or two good game designs, big difference. A true game designer has no limitations, and is at least in my opinion able to design if not all then most genres...period. Doing the same type of RPG or Strategy game for years on end doesnt make you a game designer, it makes you a guy with one good idea rehashed a thousand times. When will people realize that the game designer, is the most important part of the team, you can have average programmers, average artists, and average anything else, but have an average game designer and the entire game suffers. Want an example take the Tenchu series on the Playstation, average everything, but about average game design, what happened, it still turned out to be a good game. Another example, "No one Lives forever" on the pc, above average game design, average everthing else, result, four stars in Next Generation. I myself am a game designer, I have had ideas stolen from me when I was younger (been designing since I was 7 years old). I can and have designed titles in nearly every genre, and have had offers for them once I got older (but I declined and wanted to start my own company instead) Shigeru Miyamoto is not a good game designer, he is a guy with two good ideas, Mario and Zelda, but he is a fantastic game tester who knows what should be in a game once he starts to play it. Yu Suzuki is a game designer, he has designed things from Altered Beast, to Hang On, to Space Harrier, Sword of Vermillion, and lately to Shenmue. The man has and was able to cover his bases and was sucessful each time. He doesn''t bog down his time programming, because he is not a programmer, but he understands how code works, me myself, I learned how code works and how to write psuedo code for my programmers to understand as well as several math based AI logic routines, but I dont know programming, not a lick, nor do I care to learn about it. I do my own networking, my own human resources and my own funding, in which has resulted in me having a team behind me now, ready to be started on an official level very very soon. Point is its a shame that this industry doesn''t take game designing seriously, the way companies seem to just whip up ideas out of the blue is appaling and that is why many of them suffer with bad sales in the end. No over hyped over marketed piece of shit is going to ever beat the design and sales figures of what Nintendo does, ever, but that is how Nintendo operates, everyone else cannot follow the same example. American companies sorry to say with a slim few who are trying, (mainly on PC) and Crystal Dynamics and Oddworld Inhabitants on console, (you guys do try, much props) don''t seem to really care, and that is why America''s biggest sellers will continue to be movie adaptations, or some other commerical adaptations and sports games whether is football or skateboarding, and they have the nerve to wonder why. Where is the American company who has the talent to challenge Squaresoft, or the American company who can give Namco and Sega a cold sweat in the morning?, there aren''t any and there won''t be for some time. What American company will ever have the balls to try to challenge Nintendo in the kids department? Then you have publishers like Interplay who specialize in rpgs for the PC (Bioware), who then try to challenge EA in sports but not Square in RPG''s, what the hell?, there isn''t even a second place holder in the RPG category on consoles, but you have a company known for its RPG''s on one platform and then deciding to challenge EA for sports, there is no excuse anymore about why this is because RPG''s are flourishing on consoles now, and there is no second place holder (hint hint). The answer is none, most are too content with letting the Japanese companies like Nintendo just have their audience and pumping out garbage at their respective employer who really doesn''t give much of a inkling of a damn about making a quality game, that is what happens when people like game designers are thought of as "unescessary".

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I think you''re forgetting politics. Interplay makes PC games, because they have PC programmers. To become a console programmer, you have to sign contracts. You have to exclusively make that game for that console. It''s not a big market like the PC market. First, you have to find a suitable console to make a game on. Secondly, you have to make a game workable on that console.
Try going from PC to console and see what problems you hit.
A) No mouse
B) No keyboard

Two of the biggest reasons why PC designers are NOT console designers. Two totally different spheres of power there.
Now account for graphics. Sure, PS2 has decent graphics. But look at any PC game and it''s got the PS2 whooped. I admit, nothing has come out to fully show the PS2''s power yet.. and i''m eagerly waiting for it. But look at the difference tween a PC RPG and a console RPG. The console has less control. I''ll give Summoner the top props for RPG on a console. You had a lot more options than the typical RPG. It''s downfall? the load times sucked! You couldn''t navigate through a city like you could in BG2, either. So you''d wait 20 minutes for it to load, then you walk to the next place, and wait.. and walk and wait.. and walk and wait. When going into the main city and to the palace from there, you had to wait for it to load FIVE TIMES before you finally got to the place! FIVE! that''s insane. And each wait takes on average 3 minutes. Slow load times will kill the PS2.
Suddenly, i''m missing cartridge systems so much more.

But back to your point.. simple games, kids games, with simple controls are about all you can easily make for a console. If you go too far, you have too many buttons.. and players get confused. It becomes like a clickfest. Hit R2, L1, right, A, B, B, L2 to perform the super duper double whammy combo mega hit! And who wants to do that?
Summoner was great cause it had MENUS! It allowed you to pause the game, look at the menu, pick an action, and then perform it. And the chain attacks was a very well thought out system. And it was all clear to the player.. no hidden BS. You advanced skills, you gained levels, and overall it was great fun. The story was really involving, and had a nice plot twist to it. But the game wasn''t impossible to beat. They didn''t keep throwing more and more monsters at you to try and kill you right up until the very end where there were just a bit too many monsters. The random fights were even done in a halfway decent manner. Certain enemies lived in certain areas, and you would only encounter things from that area.
But, don''t take my word for it.. go out and play it

J
p.s. let''s face it, you can design more complex games on the PC, with better graphics, better sound, and a MUCH better interface then you can on a console. And no, zelda isn''t an RPG.. and shenmue sucks.

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Hmmmmm... really have you ever played the Persona series on console my friend? Play it and tell me why complex rpgs with simple interfaces arent working on console

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The game designer role has been taken over by that of programming and development. The designers are basically just programmers who have ideas. But, being one of those, I herald it . Anyway, as a specialist designer, you are always going to be attacked in some form of critical way. What do you have to show for your brilliant game idea anyway (well, there are some things, but anyway)? A programmer who is a game designer will be able to make the jump from the design to code, and will know what is feasible and what is irrational.

Game Designers do not necessarily have to be programmers or lone sharks though. They could be the muso''s or the artists as well, or instead of that.

Either way, it is very rare to find a game designer as an independant role in most teams (note that I say ''most''). For this reason, it is best to have skills in other areas, and be a ''guy with a couple of good ideas''. Without at least some idea of implementation, a designer can (note that I say ''can'') become next to worthless in a team.

Ultimately, the team will choose an idea and a design to suit them as a group, and this may not suit the individual game designer. Another reason why it is a good idea to have lots of ''guy''s with a good idea or two'' in one group than ''one unlimited resource of game ideas...'', because in a legion mindframe ''the whole is much more than the sum of its parts''

Being on GDnet (and specifically in this forum) has taught me one thing. Lots of guys that you can bounce ideas off is much better than having all sorts of whacky ideas yourself. Naz will back me up on this. If you have a whacky idea, you need a co-conspiritor to advance and mature that idea into a workable solution to a problem in your game. Otherwise the idea may end up being unworkable.

Anyway, I think that I am just ranting now. What was the post about?

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche

          

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From your defintion, a good game designer is one who has designed for many genres of games. Does this mean that people who has just started off don't have good ideas for game designs?

A good idea is a good idea and it doesn't have to depened on whether the designer has designed for many genres does it?

But I do not disagree with you that people with as much experience as you would do better. People like you would probably be thinking of something new everyday.

But there will come a time where there wouldn't be a need for designers, or artists, musicians or even programmers. The time where programmers are able to produce every image that would be possible to create. A program that produces every song possible.
After all, images are just a series of pixels and music a series of notes. Then, imagine produciing a every executable possible...
There wouldn't be a need of programming would there? Or painting and composing for that matter.


Edited by - Darkor on January 14, 2001 7:45:17 AM

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Guest Anonymous Poster
From your defintion, a good game designer is one who has designed for many genres of games. Does this mean that people who has just started off don''t have good ideas for game designs?

A good idea is a good idea and it doesn''t have to depened on whether the designer has designed for many genres does it?

But I do not disagree with you that people with as much experience as you would do better. People like you would probably be thinking of something new everyday.

But there will come a time where there wouldn''t be a need for designers, or artists, musicians or even proghrammers. The time where programmers are able to produce every image that would be posibble to create. A program that produces every song possible.
After all, images are just a series of pixels and music a series of notes. Then, imagine produciing a every executable possible...
There wouldn''t be a need of programming would there? Or painting and composing for that matter.

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That sounds like a very archaic system. And program for that matter. Just imagine the number of virii'' that would be produced daily.

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche

          

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I think we may have to wait until computer systems become extremely powerful before game designers get the credit they deserve. It''s going to be a long wait still but time will be the the official on that matter.

A designer doesnt need to know everything about code, they just have to have an appreciation for its limitations and how those limitations affect features they may wish to include in their design. - Drew

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Advise to Game Designers of today and tomorrow though; Get some experience in doing something other than game design... Like Programming for example. It is a long and lonely road otherwise

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche

          

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Guest Anonymous Poster
dwarf, game designers don''t always have to do something else. In a small outfit, then yes, it would be practical. If you have a large team of programers and artists, then dosen''t it become neccisary to have a seperate group of designers? I think it would be optimal to have a team of designers who share a vision, and then communicate it to a producer/technical producer who can make it all come together.

To say that all designers have to be programers/artists etc, doesn''t make sense to me. No offense, but how do you know this? Do you work in a large development studio? I''m not trying to be insulting, I''m just trying to understand where your coming from.

To that kid who said that programmers/artists won''t be needed in the future... what are you talking about? I mean, did print artists exist before and after technology like Photoshop? We will always need creativity and artistic talent, no?

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Notice that I never said "ALL DESIGNERS HAVE TO HAVE SOMETHING BETTER TO DO WITH THEIR TIME" because that would be foolish. I am sure I specifically underlined (though not literally) points like "SOME" and "MOST"... Never in my argument did I ever say "YOU AINT GOT NO HOPE UNLESS YOU HAVE PROGRAMMING OR ARTISTIC TALENT"

Anyway, before I start getting a little bit agressive, I just have to say that I stand by the comment that if you wish to get into a game design job, it will be much easier if you had other skills that you could bring to the development team. Nuff said, and that can''t be argued

I agree about the programmer and artists not not (damn double negatives ) being required. That would just be a foolish assumption. Who is going to be continually debugging the program that creates these programs and art? PROGRAMMERS! And who will be fixing up the blemishes in the art? ARTISTS! You can''t send a machine to do a humans job . But you can use one to help out the human in their job

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche

          

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Oh and I agree with what youre saying dwarf, and that is the reason why this country still doesnt have anyone who can mess with Yu Susuki on the design level and be sucessful. Jack of all trades is great for some things but not for others. Would John Carmack be as an effective programmer if he was designing, but then if you look at Id all they will be releasing from now on is Quake or "Almost Quake" or "Quake+++++" because they look down on designers, sooner or later people will get sick of them. Play of either of the Medal of Honor series or the Perfect Dark series and tell me which are more innovative...ahem when you have real game designers kiddies innovation happens. Not when you have some Jack of all trades with a few good ideas, but im glad that you feel that way, it will make my road easier when I prove the idustry wrong, and everyone is out looking for REAL GAME DESIGNERS, not just Joe programmer with this kinda cool idea. The best ideas come from one person, but they are augmented with little details from other people (ahem EVERQUEST anyone?)

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quote:
Original post by AngelStar

Would John Carmack be as an effective programmer if he was designing, but then if you look at Id all they will be releasing from now on is Quake or "Almost Quake" or "Quake+++++" because they look down on designers, sooner or later people will get sick of them. Play of either of the Medal of Honor series or the Perfect Dark series and tell me which are more innovative...ahem when you have real game designers kiddies innovation happens.



Problem is AngelStar, innovation sometimes doesn''t mean jack. In fact, too much of it can make your game so foreign that even hard core gamers won''t pick it up. They can''t relate.

quote:

Not when you have some Jack of all trades with a few good ideas, but im glad that you feel that way, it will make my road easier when I prove the idustry wrong, and everyone is out looking for REAL GAME DESIGNERS, not just Joe programmer with this kinda cool idea.



Be careful of Little Napoleon Syndrome: You''re unlikely to be the next messiah (unless you actually are). After you break into the industry you''ll have such an appreciation for this. As you can see with just this thread, not everybody likes what you think is the next big thing.

Even the most innovative idea can buckle under a countless different business, market, technical, and timing problems. That doesn''t mean you shouldn''t try it. But it''s easier to recover if you don''t have to eat crow.


--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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dwarf, what would you suggest I do? I like programming, but I''m horrible at math... so I can''t really excel there. All I''ve ever wanted to do was to design games, their function and content. I''ve never wanted to be that involved in the actual programming or engine work. I''m 19, I''m in college and I want to know what path I should take to design games... what do I do?

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Have you read much material on game design? Also do you know anyone who makes or has made games? Another option is to get a small group of friends together and try to make a very simple game. This will allow you to have insight into what the general knowledge parameters are of making games.

A designer doesnt need to know everything about code, they just have to have an appreciation for its limitations and how those limitations affect features they may wish to include in their design. - Drew

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AP, I think I will shake the boundaries of what most people believe programming to be about but, maths is NOT ESSENSTIAL TO PROGRAMMING. You don''t need to be an advanced math wiz, but you do need to know how to add and multiply, subtract and divide. All you need to do, is learn how to manipulate structures and data. I don''t actually use any advanced mathematics in my programs. If you can figure out algebra (which all people who end up passing high school should... because otherwise they have no chance in any job, let alone programming) then you will be fine.

Don''t let anybody tell you that you have to be a mathematics genius to program. Hell, I absolutely flunked out on Integration and all of that, so I myself am proof. I can program better than all of my Uni friends (well, except for one of my new ones).

Anyway. Learn the code, and it is all good. Pointers and structures in C++ are much more important than math

-Chris Bennett of Dwarfsoft - Site:"The Philosophers'' Stone of Programming Alchemy" - IOL
The future of RPGs - Thanks to all the goblins over in our little Game Design Corner niche

          

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Dwarf is right.. you need to be a better math wiz to design than to code To design.. especially complex 3d type games, you need a big handle on calc and physics. Now work on something like particle acceleration, or a real physics engine.. then you''ve got the hardest bit of math work. Most developers contract others to do this.. which is why they end up being decent. If you try to do it and you don''t know about it.. then it''ll flop.
Don''t try to program graphics.. lighting effects, things like that.. require some good math skills But core programming is merely memorization of the language to manipulate data in such a way as to create predictable outcomes. That''s about all you do to program

J

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Aaaahhhhh!! We keep going over the same stupid ground with the same old naive opinions sprinkled in around those who actually know what they''re talking about.

There are more programmers than designers involved in actually making games, because a programmer with no designer can copy an existing game, whereas a designer with no programmer can''t really make anything.

People will realise that the designer is the most important part of the team if and when the designer actually becomes the most important part of the team. Until then, it''s going to depend on what kind of game you''re making.

There is little point arguing what a designer is and what a designer isn''t. Each company has a different job description. Design is a vague term.

Many of the best designers have a background in programming. Several great designers do not. Understanding the components that go into making a computer game (programming is one, art is another, psychology is a third) is going to help a designer. Being naive of the basic components that go into making the game, or worse still, thinking that the other parts of the team are irrelevant when compared to the designer, is going to be a hindrance.

This industry does take game designers seriously. See paragraph 2 and 3 above. It does not take ''Idea Guys'' seriously, and rightly so. There are 100 ideas for every person that is capable of putting a good idea into practise. Once again, see paragraph 2.

Why are we covering this old ground/whipping this dead horse yet again? *pleads to moderator - can''t we start closing some of these... it''s getting pointless...*

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Thanks last poster, that is exactly what I meant, and anybody who took the time to read everything that I wrote would see that. I do remember saying I help out in the logic routines, provide the artists and keep a constant line of communication with my programmers, I also make sure that even though I dont program I know what they are talking about. I know my craft, through and through, and I strive to keep learning things about them everyday, I can pretty much do a little bit of light everything on my team to get my point across. I know how and regularly do apply things such as psychology, marketing and business to my ideas. I make sure I constantly do market research on my products to make sure that they will be the most commercially viable, why, because I dont carry that type of power yet, and besides I still need to eat. Never once in my post did I claim I was any Messiah, all I wanted is for people to take a look at the current crop of designers, and wonder why do they have their job, If Game Designers were taken seriously then there wouldnt be so much garbage, and American game companies wouldnt be considered the bottom of the barrel in the game industry compared to anyone else. From the immortal words from a friend who was once at Electronic Arts, "I work at the largest games publisher in the world, making billions annually and all we can still be courageous enough to make is overhyped (sports/movie/media) translations, we should be trying to make Japanese companies like Square and Nintendo sweat icicles in the morning, trying to really show what we can do, but because our investors dont understand a damn thing about this business, nor care to we continue to release dogshit in a box" He said this right before leaving Electronic Arts, he now works for Retro Studios, a second party of Nintendo how ironic. I personally am thinking long and hard about getting a deal with a Japanese company, for I have no desire to constantly be putting out three and a half star games, because I have fought too long and too hard to be here, dont mind eating the crow when i have to, but I know I am a five star designer, and I want to be under a publisher that will allow me to do that (in realistic terms no doubt), any suggestions on who that publisher could be folks?

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Niphty... on the ''originality'' argument... it has been claimed that there are only 36 different basic plotlines for stories. That implies that all new stories are just retellings of old ones. I think the same goes for games... there can be no true originality past a certain point.

And simply having ideas that relate to multiple genres doesn''t make someone ''more'' of a game designer or a ''better'' game designer than someone who has great ideas relating to one genre.

Anyway, on with the useless debating once again...

quote:
Original post by AngelStar

If Game Designers were taken seriously then there wouldnt be so much garbage, and American game companies wouldnt be considered the bottom of the barrel in the game industry compared to anyone else.


There is a lot of ''garbage'' for two reasons:
(a) garbage sells, and (b) everyone has a different idea of what makes a good game. For example - I actually like playing some of these sports and movie games you talk about, and I don''t like playing all those Japanese RPGs you obviously admire.

It''s nothing to do with designers not being taken seriously. I don''t know where you get this idea from. For example, Lands of Lore 3 had more designers on the team than programmers. Plus 3 ''design consultants'', and a dedicated writer. Yet you''d be hard pressed to find a good review of it, despite the fact that they took design ''seriously''.

Sorry if I make any sweeping generalisations here, but it only seems to be Americans who consider American game companies to be the bottom of the barrel. More specifically, in the UK and Europe we don''t idolise the Japanese companies the way you do. As an example, we get an American gaming magazine in a local store, and for each of the last 4 months running, the cover has featured some manga-style Japanese artwork from some Japanese game. But, that''s just you guys. Over here, we''re more interested in American and British games. When in the US, people were obsessed with Final Fantasy, over here we were more interested in the Ultima series.

So any judgements such as ''US companies are behind Japanese companies'' are all just down to one''s own cultural bias.

quote:

From the immortal words from a friend who was once at Electronic Arts, "I work at the largest games publisher in the world, making billions annually and all we can still be courageous enough to make is overhyped (sports/movie/media) translations, we should be trying to make Japanese companies like Square and Nintendo sweat icicles in the morning, trying to really show what we can do, but because our investors dont understand a damn thing about this business, nor care to we continue to release dogshit in a box"


Ah.... and of course, it''s more ''courageous'' to release Manga/Anime RPG By Numbers over and over again than to release sports franchises? Or Yet Another Platform Game? Just seems like the same thing to me... spot a market, and exploit it.

You don''t get to be a big games publisher by taking big risks. Eidos took a big risk on Daikatana (because it had a legendary designer heading the team... go figure) and it contributed to nearly putting them out of business. You get to be rich (which is what the shareholders care about) by capitalising on your steady and guaranteed sources of income. That''s why the Japanese companies keep making the same kinds of games, just like the American companies do. It just seems like you have a personal preference for those games produced by Japanese companies, and that is up to you.

quote:
but I know I am a five star designer, and I want to be under a publisher that will allow me to do that (in realistic terms no doubt), any suggestions on who that publisher could be folks?


Your arrogance will be your undoing. What makes you think you are ''five-star''? Where are your published games or ideas? (And let''s not have the old ''people have stolen my ideas since I was 3'' argument from yet another person, please.) By what objective measure are you so good, and the designers who worked hard on games that you call ''garbage'' so bad?

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Rhino, sorry about that, my email address is madnon@hotmail.com or Gamer Spirit at aol.com. It has always worked in other postings, and I havent changed it. Now back to the other postings, first of all John Romero in my eyes is not a legendary designer, he is a guy with one good idea, Wolfenstein, which was recycled into Doom, into Quake, then Daikatana, then so on, different day same bullshit. Now, what I was talking about in reference to the Japanese companies, take Square for example, their main bread and butter is Final Fantasy, they rely on that game to feed them. A company always needs things like this, there is nothing wrong with putting out commerical titles for purely benefit of primarily making money. Again I am not a fool, stop thinking I dont understand anything about this buisiness, and please read everything I say, not just snippets and answer to those. Now, what I was talking about with American companies, is that there is nothing wrong with putting out money titles, nothing at all, but you still have your titles that you are trying to do something new with. Electronic Arts for example has its sports titles, aka its money titles, John Madden Football will forever be its money title as well as its other sports titles, first and foremost, but there is nothing wrong with backing it up trying to take a chance with something different, otherwise youre just pumping out just one type of specific title. I do not idolize any company, I idolize comapanies that are willing to take chances, but again BE REALISTIC ABOUT IT (how many times must I say this?), a company that doesnt have its bread and butter title is a fool, plain and simple.

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quote:
Original post by AngelStar

Now back to the other postings, first of all John Romero in my eyes is not a legendary designer, he is a guy with one good idea, Wolfenstein, which was recycled into Doom, into Quake, then Daikatana, then so on, different day same bullshit.


Again, this is just your opinion that someone has to come up with lots of different types of game to be a great designer. Whether you are right or not isn''t really relevant: the point is, Eidos invested a lot of money in a development team because they were serious about someone they considered to be a good designer. Contrary to your opinions.

quote:
Now, what I was talking about in reference to the Japanese companies, take Square for example, their main bread and butter is Final Fantasy, they rely on that game to feed them. A company always needs things like this, there is nothing wrong with putting out commerical titles for purely benefit of primarily making money. Again I am not a fool, stop thinking I dont understand anything about this buisiness, and please read everything I say, not just snippets and answer to those. Now, what I was talking about with American companies, is that there is nothing wrong with putting out money titles, nothing at all, but you still have your titles that you are trying to do something new with. Electronic Arts for example has its sports titles, aka its money titles, John Madden Football will forever be its money title as well as its other sports titles, first and foremost, but there is nothing wrong with backing it up trying to take a chance with something different, otherwise youre just pumping out just one type of specific title.


Electronic Arts do try some different things. Ever heard of Maxis (SimCity etc), or Bullfrog (Syndicate etc), or Origin (Ultima)? (Bullfrog may be called EA Europe now or something.) All Electronic Arts companies, both making fairly innovative and different games. Please check your own facts before making claims...

To sum up: these companies do take game designers seriously, and they do invest considerable amounts of money in developer teams that do more than just churn out sports and movie games.

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Yes and when was their last ground breaking world beater? The only ones I can think of is Ultima Online and the Sims, and ahem, you arent gambling much with PC games (the Sims), (Cept for Ultima Online 2, which needed to be made since the original is getting smoked by Everquest) they dont really gamble much on consoles, which was one of my original points in the first place.

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