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Designer and Conceptualist

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Ok, we''re hear to discuss design but how about conceiving game idea''s, this has to be an extremely important issue too. As fun as it is conceiving fantastic new idea''s for games it''s also crucial to get it right - forthought. Who would want to work in this industry if there were no decent concepts for games being brought to light and all we saw was a battle between companies to design the same old games better and better and produce more effecient code and stunning graphics. So why isn''t the field of Game Concepting taken more seriously in this industry. Why don''t we have a specialised field for this area? I''ve also heard a lot of talk about team conceiving or having everyone in the "team" putting their bit into the game. This has to be the worst thing in the world one could do. Conceiving a game in most cases require a vision, it just seems ridiculas to say that a large number of people hold the same vision becuase this isn''t true and we all know that. You want to know why all the old games were so good - it''s becuase of the Concept and the concept was brought together by one person. Its always one person becuase that''s how it has to be if you want to be innovative. Sometimes that one person is a creative type or logical or even a little crazy or what not but when it comes to conceiving a game it has to be done by one person. 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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Paul,
Interesting point. What about the concept of many people inputing their little bit, but one person making the final decision? One person cannot know everything, but having one person get input from many sources before making a decision is logical. It''s sort of like in Star Trek where the captain gets many opinions from the crew before making a final decision.

Maybe I''m totally missing the point though.




http://www15.brinkster.com/nazrix/main.html

"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.

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Fair enough for those who like to work in this fashion Nazrix but these sort of setups can create vunerablity for the person conceiving the game. If you want to concieve a game you will know it - you know what i''m saying otherwise you''re just making a salad with the best bits available. What i''m more talking about is the whole picture. I''m a little worried at this point in time to say that this is a purely creative effort as its easy to argue that some games don''t require any creativness to make and i don''t want to get side tracked down that avenue.

Screw it, ok lets say for a moment that the game concepts has to come from creativity and game concepts a based on innovation. So what do we have now, well if you take the scenario of having a lead game conciever with random input from the team then what do you have. Well i guess this is where we can actually says that there is or could be some sort of technique involved in this process because the conciever could be responsible for putting these idea''s together in a way that they see fit or is proper. Although it''s not quite the same a being motivated by your creative spirit via a amazing idea, thought or concept.

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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I can see your point about if the game being a more "creative" or original concept, then perhaps one person being the game designer is a good thing. If the game is just another Quake clone then having only one person is not so crucial because the ideas have already been laid out by other game developers.

So, if a person is trying to design a more innovative game I can see why having only one game designer can be useful. Thanks. Now I don''t feel like such a control freak for wanting to my current project all by myself




http://www15.brinkster.com/nazrix/main.html

"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.

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I sort of agree with Paul on this one, having one person with a clear vision of the game is a definatly a good thing, that person (the conceptualist.. bit of a mouthful of a name isnt it?) would have a good understanding of the entire game, what it is supposed to "look" like, play like, etc...

There is however no reason why this person cant take other people''s ideas and either mold them to fit in his vision, or reject them out-right, I dont think taking someone''s suggestion as is and "adding it in" is a good approach, after all that person only has a small idea of the vision of the conceptualist, and no matter how well the conceptualist communicates his vision to the rest of the team, they are never going to have exactly the same vision it may come close, but still be off to some degree.

In the context of any game with a story, having one person with an idea of how the story fits into the world in which it happens makes the story far more believable from the players perspective.

The problem I think now-a-days is that games (especially RPG''s) and the teams producing them are becoming so large (rather than the 2 guys in the bask of a shed outfits that existed many years ago) that the conceptualist is having to try and communicate his ideas to so many people, and with everyone having a different view of that vision, that the vision is getting blured between the conceptualist and the player. Also with the small teams the conceptualist had more than one role, e.g. aritist or programmer, so where were he could have more control over how his vision was protrayed. Most of the games I consider great (all written for the old Spectrum btw.) were written by one, maybe two guys. (e.g. Lords of Chaos.. vision and game by Jullian Golloup... Dizzy.. Concept and Game by the Codemasters [when they were literally the Dar(l?)ing brothers]). The larger the team, the less "control" the conceptualist has over his vision. Ok so, yes he (or she lets not be sexist here) COULD stand over the modlers shoulder until he got that Droid EXACTLY right, but the modeler would soon become resentful...

I think, Paul dont know if u agree, that for the conceptualist to be effective in getting his vision across he MUST be involved with the development, and I mean activally produing something involved, rather than sitting back and commenting on whats produced involved. After all no-one knows his idea better than himself.

Just a point Nazrix, Kirk, or Picard, is trying to solve a problem, rather than creating a piece of sculpture (which is kind of like designing the concept of a game)..


I hope all that makes some kind of sence (its not easy posting when ppl keep bringing you work to do)

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I see what you are saying, yes. The conceptualist would be about on the same level as the director of a movie perhaps?




http://www15.brinkster.com/nazrix/main.html

"All you touch and all you see is all your life will ever be --Pink Floyd
Need help? Well, go FAQ yourself.


Edited by - Nazrix on January 29, 2001 11:01:41 AM

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Probably more Script/Screen Writer and Director, after all a directors job is in a way to interperate someone else''s vision.

A conceptualist should know all the tiny ins and outs of the world, whats possible whats not.. etc.

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Ugly truth time guys: The conceptualist idea is extraordinarily unlikely because game concepts themselves are a dime a dozen. I wish this was not true, as I''d love nothing more than to be a paid conceptualist.

You''ve got to put ego aside to see this. Otherwise you will not get this point.

Everyone has ideas. Everyone. Period. Even your granny and the neighbor kid down the block has ideas. Conceptualization is extraodinarily easy because it doesn''t face the rigor of proof. It is implementation that is the actual proof of a concept.

The world values results. Conceptualists / theorists project possible roadmaps, but they don''t take the hard journey themselves. This is why they are largely (and maybe rightly) undervalued. This gets worse the less value the end result has. Look outside game design to something like philosophy, or writing in the movie biz. Philosophers and writers are treated like crap, and paid / rewarded accordingly. Now game design, having a lot less value than, say, theoretical medicine or business planning doesn''t stand much of a chance.

As you move to designer, you get closer to actual results. But even most designers (AFAIK) aren''t kept throught the whole project unless they''re doing something else. Dedicated designers are so rare that we can probably name them all.

The more you actually produce results, the more you''re valued. The ugly thing about this is that some of the most vibrant and wildly creative minds are the dreamers, and some of the most boring and pedestrian minds are the actual doers.

In my experience so far, anyway.

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

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quote:
Original post by Paul Cunningham

I''ve also heard a lot of talk about team conceiving or having everyone in the "team" putting their bit into the game. This has to be the worst thing in the world one could do. Conceiving a game in most cases require a vision, it just seems ridiculas to say that a large number of people hold the same vision becuase this isn''t true and we all know that. You want to know why all the old games were so good - it''s becuase of the Concept and the concept was brought together by one person. Its always one person becuase that''s how it has to be if you want to be innovative. Sometimes that one person is a creative type or logical or even a little crazy or what not but when it comes to conceiving a game it has to be done by one person.




I want to tackle this one directly: I think Valve''s CABAL design philosophy disproved this philosophy, that "many cooks spoil the broth." Half-Life was inarguably was inarguably a well executed, creative and innovative take on the FPS genre. Whether anyone personally liked the game or not, you''ve got to give them this credit. Yet is was a product were everyone in the company purportedly contributed ideas.

I think it''s an ugly example of elitism to value one mind over many others. If your measure of value for a concept is sales, then the company secretary might have a better mind for concepts then the chief designers. This is because the cost to dream is cheap. (Execution and communication, however, are different matters)

I don''t think, btw, that the old games were better because they had a concept guru: They were better because the lack of distraction caused them to focus on essentials. They had to do less with more, and this inspires creativity.

Today, our games exist in a world of financial, graphical and audio excess. If this changed somehow, you''d see a lot more creativity.


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

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I think the future for game designers is very bright actually due to the fact that the role of Game Designers is becoming more and more mechanical/technical by the hour. This allows people the ability to measure their value more easily compared to the creative roles.

Being a Game Designer is not neccessarily a creative task at all and this is whats worries me. All jobs that pay well are one that (if you were good enough) could be done by a programmed robot almost. But Game Designers are like Doctors, they''ve got to use there rationale to overcome certain obstactles - this is the reason the future of the Game Designer has a bright and prospectus future because it''s provides the right environment for interlect to proper. The mechanical or knowledge base that game designers are starting to work off (systems,structures,models and the like) gives Game Designers foundations like a doctors education. The problem with conceptualist is that they can get hung up on an idea and sometimes never let go - this is a big problem for starters in the commercial world.

The way i''m visualising the conceptualist is like a writer/director rolled into one. Although the game designer is also a director in many ways. But this comparision is really the wrong thing to do becuase we are not talking about the movie industry we are talking about computer games here. I don''t think a conceptualist may never work, if you can work out some sort of code of ethics for professional conduct for a conceptualist then you''re off to a good start in providing acknologment for their value and application.

quote:
by Wavinator
I want to tackle this one directly: I think Valve''s CABAL design philosophy disproved this philosophy, that "many cooks spoil the broth." Half-Life was inarguably was inarguably a well executed, creative and innovative take on the FPS genre. Whether anyone personally liked the game or not, you''ve got to give them this credit. Yet is was a product were everyone in the company purportedly contributed ideas.

I agree and i did think of this while writing the original post. But what i need to see is whether or not they''ll keep up the good work with later titles. As i understand the history of the guys at valve was that they all came together in a rather planned fashion like a jailbreak one could say. These sorts of events can lead to suprising results. So as i just said, i for one will be watching how things turn out for them with game concepts down the line as things calm down over there. Was there one guy who had this concept and drove it home with everyone just listening and doing their bit becuase it sounded so damn good, who really knows.


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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Ooops i missed that bit about the CABAL design philosophy. Is that a term they made up or was it something else? In the sence of the word cabal?

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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Interesting post, Paul. I prefer to see conception as part of the design process. A good concept without good design is practically worthless. A good designer armed with a good concept, on the other hand, has immense potential. I''ll go even further and state that concepts are essential to design.

In my opinion the best thing a designer can do is to treat everything as one would treat a brand new concept. For instance, instead of expanding upon Red Alert when designing a new war game, do some research on everything war related and approach it anew. It might not result in anything revolutionary, but the end result is likely to be more harmonious than what is achieved through mere augmentation.

I''d like to add that I favor the egoistic approach to game design, at least during the process of developing a game''s foundation (design foundation, that is). Once the foundation is in place suggestions become less of a threat to the game''s essence.

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Ok, I see your point Wavinator, and I agree with you that a game''s company having one person with the job title of Conceptualist is wrong. The person with the role of conceptualist changes from game to game, and is the person who "came up with the FULL idea in the first place" and is therefore not just a theorist and as I said before should have more input to the production process than just the ideas and the concept. I emphasise the word FULL in the pervious sentence for a good reason, as Wavinator said, every man and his dog can have an idea, but whether that idea can then be translated (without additional big ideas) to a game or not is another matter.

Also (as I said b4) there is nothing to stop other people coming up with ideas to add to the game, but you DO need just ONE person (or maybe in some cases 2 people), who we are calling the conceptualist, to fit these ideas together into a cohesive idea, otherwise the game concepts just becomes a mess (how big a mess depends upon how well the team "thinks together").



NightWraith

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Only one game designer per game, but ideas are from all the team making the game.
The Game Designer role is to come up with the idea of the game, write the original design, and lead the creation process.
That doesn''t mean that only his ideas are put in the game, but rather than he chooses the ideas to be added and the way to add them.

Don''t forget you''re working in team and that each team member want to contribute to the game, which is perfectly understandable.

I think too many of you are not involved in real project and such lack ''on field'' experience.

I heard that most firm have a Lead Game Designer that write the design and sometimes ''give'' it to another Designer which will lead the creation part.
I also heard that firms have story writers and game designers, however I don''t know how they work together.

-* So many things to do, so little time to spend. *-

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Well then why aren''t we getting the original concepts for games any more. Is it becuase the boss always has to let there feeling towards what type of game to be made towards the game designer thus the big dark shadow hanging over us all. But not every company would be as conservative surely. Its obvious that creative freedom and discent is being supressed in this industry at the moment. Maybe its the hardware that''s to blame, maybe everythings just gotten so complicated that the creative types are being shun away due to the over technicalization of the industry.

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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Paul, I think you''re overlooking economics. The sheer reason why games are not as creative as before has to do with the market. We whine about lack of creativity, yet we pickup and play Diablo II or Red Alert 2 or --fill in the blank II-- anyway. If we did not buy, they would not make.

Most of what the industry releases is a failure. Creativity is rarely rewarded apparently because the audience has become more conservative. The number of gamers who want something new is outweighed by those that are happy with updated graphics.

The thing that we''ve wanted for years-- more widespread acceptance of the hobby-- has been our undoing. Now we expect multimillion dollar budgets, eye-popping graphics, and dialog by professional actors. By and large, we spurn titles with dated engines or substandard effects, even if it has superior gameplay.

We judge the book by the cover, and the publishers know this. They want to stay in business, so they keep giving us what we want.

Our games are less creative because the majority doesn''t mind that it is this way.

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

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Part of the reason there''s less originality than there could be is simply that augmentation seems easier and less risky than starting from scratch. We assign categories to games (FPS, RTS, RPG, etc) and guide ourselves by favorite examples of these. When we use other games as direct examples for our own designs we become little more than conformists. This is not to say that emulation has no place in game design, but rather that design benefits from a less explicit approach to emulation.

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I have many ideas that I think are pretty cool, but I would never think about selling them. I don''t think that anything save an entire welll written game plan (similiar to movie script) that is just as long as a movie script or actually longer and has everythign planned out in detail, and not some story or something written in 10 pages, would sell. Even then it wuold have to be one helluva a terrific idea. You think you have an interested idea then go and learn to code or draw or something, get a team together, be the leader, and have them create ur vision. Simply trying to sell it is (no offense) laziness.

I think that team projects need one person that runs the show in terms of story/concept/etc but that person must also be willing to listen to ideas, not only because he can''t possisibly know everything, but for the sake of team morale as well. People want to see they are appreciated.

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