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Pirate_Lord

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I’m going to try this again, and hopefully this time around I will at least be allowed to speak. I’ve let some time pass, and let the holidays be far past us, before coming back in the hopes that this time around I will be allowed to have a thread to say what I have to say. Last time around I was told that nobody would have a problem with me criticizing the industry. I doubt that is true. I imagine this thread will be closed almost instantly just as the last one was. But I’ve been giving the computer game industry the benefit of the doubt for over 20 years, and I can do it one more time even though that hasn’t ever worked out well in the past. Based on the last time around, I think it would be a good idea for me to explain at least a little bit of my thinking before starting back in on this. It seemed obvious last time around that most, if not all, of the people who were responding just did not understand where my “attitude” comes from or what I am trying to achieve. That is understandable. Of course everyone assumes that I am trying to get Pirate Dawn made, or trying to find employment. Really, honestly, I am not. I would love to see that happen, but I am certain that it won’t. I am just as certain that I will never be hired by the computer game industry to design games, but after 20 years I know why that is now. It’s because the computer game industry doesn’t hire professional game and simulation designers (…but more on that later). They don’t even know what one is. I am not trying to make Pirate Dawn. I am absolutely certain that will never happen. Producing Pirate Dawn would make far too much sense for any publisher to actually do it. As I said last time around, this is my “retirement plan”. I’m not trying to make the game, although I would be very receptive too that. I am not looking for advice for getting into the industry, either. I’ve already spent 20 years following all of that very same advice. I heard it all many, many years ago. As the younger generation sometimes likes to say… “been there, done that”. What I am doing is simply speaking out now that I am certain that the computer game industry, in its current state, will never even consider hiring a pure professional game and simulation designer like me. By your ridiculous definition of “game design”, an actual educated professional “doesn’t know what he is talking about”. That’s what happens too the professionals when amateurs are allowed to reinvent a 300-year-old wheel, I guess. There is more too it that simply speaking out. I have a great deal of real knowledge of game and simulation design that pre-dates the computer game industry. It’s hard to describe “real game and simulation designer” without sounding “arrogant” to those who are arrogant enough to believe that they are the experts even though they don’t have the knowledge. This is the best I can do, sorry. But the other side of my speaking out is that I am betting there are half-a-dozen or so people left working in the computer game industry who also have this knowledge and if they encounter me and what I am saying, well, that is a part of my 1-in-a-million last chance at making computer games. That there are at least a half-dozen or so competent people still left out there who might recognize many of the things that I am saying and want to talk too me based on that. Of course there is also the “other track”, a far more likely chance, wherein the right person out there fully takes-in Pirate Dawn to the point of truly understanding it… that should work, too. But I don’t expect either of those things to happen. I expect to spend the next year speaking out, and then “retiring”. Really, I am just making sure on my way out that what I have learned in over 20 years of this is correct. So far, so good. So far my conclusions have been confirmed every step of the way, so I seem to be on my way to retiring peacefully without ever giving a second thought to whether there might have been a chance had I kept going. So far (this plan started slowly and has been in motion for about five months now trying all of the things I’ve always wanted to try but couldn’t because they would be so controversial, or just plain insane) the industry has reacted as my theories would predict every step of the way. So, at the very least, in the end I will have proven too myself that I am right about these things, that I have been wasting my entire life up until now, and that there is no reason to continue trying because the industry is too clueless about game design to even know what a game designer actually is. So, that is “what I am up too”. It’s not much, I know, but it is all that I have left. I have tried everything else already. Many times... for a little over 20 years. So below are the 5 articles that I had been mentioning the last time around. I have not edited any of them at all, and they had all been submitted to Gamasutra before I had started the first thread. That is important because they directly address the original thread in many ways, before the fact, and even some of the reasons given for closing that thread. Most of them had actually been written months before I started that thread, but the people over at the article submission section of Gamasutra could confirm that they had these before I started that thread (about 10 minutes before, actually). Particularly ironic was the demand that I shorten the Pirate Dawn design document to 50 pages or less before I be allowed to discuss it again. I don’t think the irony of that demand will be lost on anyone after having read the 5 articles below… particularly the one called “They Can’t Be Serious”. I have some more articles for later, but I am only posting the ones that existed before the first Pirate Dawn thread for now. I am posting all 5 at once because I actually expect this thread to be closed almost instantly. I doubt that I will be allowed to speak with people who may resemble my remarks holding the power to silence me, but I’ll give it a try since I was told that nobody would have a problem with me criticizing the game industry. -- Marc Michalik (A.K.A. Pirate_Lord) Lost Art Studios – www.piratedawn.com

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The Industry Method

There are many different ways to design a game. The computer game industry settled into their way of designing games many years ago. The method they settled on was known to real game and simulation designers long before the computer game industry ever even existed. The method they settled on is known as “design by committee”. The ironic (or is it pathetic…) thing about this is that the phrase “design by committee” held a very specific meaning among professional game and simulation designers long before the computer game industry even existed. The phrase “design by committee” famously translates as “the worst possible way to make a game”. This is the method that the computer game industry has chosen to institutionalize. And they wonder why game design seems so “risky” for them?

“Design by committee” essentially means that you don’t have a game designer. You might have someone with that title, but they are not acting as a game designer. They are more of an assistant designer, or level designer. The game itself is essentially designed through a democratic process. There is a reason why Hollywood does not make movies this way, and the computer game industry really should pay attention too that. They like to compare themselves too Hollywood, well, can anyone tell me the last time that Steven Spielberg was over-ruled by his Key Grip or outvoted by his cameramen? Of course not, Hollywood isn’t that incompetent. They know better than to attempt to direct a movie by committee. This is a lesson that the computer game industry truly needs to learn.

When it comes to certain creative endeavors such as writing books, making movies, or designing games a single vision will utterly destroy “groupthink” every single time. Hollywood clearly knows this. Sid Meier is, of course, a perfect example of this in the computer game industry. The fact that his games were not “designed by committee” is actually the primary thing that sets them apart from most other games that the industry has produced. It is the source of that “thing you just can’t quite put your finger on” that make his games stand out. Sid’s games were, largely, his vision. There are a very few others like him, you know their names because they all stand out… because their games are the result, for the most part, of a single vision. That’s why their games stand out. That really is just about the only difference between them and the rest of you, their games are the result of a single vision and yours are not. But you still don’t see it.

There are many ways to make a game. “Design by committee” is famously the worst way. The method that game and simulation designers had, long before the computer game industry even existed, come to a general consensus on as being the best method is known as the “benevolent dictatorship”. It was a very famous quote, and one that I know at least some of the older people in the computer game industry have heard before because I’ve heard them use it. “Game design is a benevolent dictatorship”. In most cases, if this phrase does not apply to your game designer when it comes to the actual design of the game (not to be confused with the production of the game) then you are using a substandard method. This method allows an experienced professional to create a game with a single vision. It allows that professional to do new and innovative things that would otherwise have been shot down in the “design by committee” process. It allows a true artist to do their thing, without that art being muddled and watered-down by people who are working outside of their field and don’t really know what they are talking about. It allows the resulting game to be unique, and not just an imitation of existing games. They even have the proof of this in their own industry, where they idolize people like Sid Meier and Will Wright. The only real difference between Sid and Will’s games and theirs is that Sid and Will’s games were largely the result of a single vision and their games were not. But they still don’t see it.

The “design by committee” method always results in an imitation of an existing game. It works just fine if you are making a clone of a previous game, but it can’t achieve anything else. “Groupthink” will always gravitate towards the familiar. This is the primary reason, by far, that the computer game industry has been stuck in a 20-year long rut of crawling forward at a snail’s pace in imitating their own past games. Imitating existing games is all that their method can achieve. The method they use is actually incapable of doing anything truly new. There are very few computer games that are the result of a single vision, and those games serve as almost the entirety of the source material that they have to work with. Hence the snail’s pace of advancement.

Where the computer game industry has wound up after over 20 years of almost exclusively designing by committee is not pretty. “Game Designer” has become a bastardized term in their industry. With very few exceptions, they don’t have game designers. They have people who have been given the title of “Game Designer” but don’t actually know the first thing about the subject. These people are actually more assistant designers, or level designers, the “game designer” is essentially everyone involved with the project in any way, shape, or form. They pretty much all have an equal say. In the end this group of people, that in most cases doesn’t include a single person who actually knows anything about game and simulation design, inevitably wind up “blindly blundering forward through trial and error, praying that things work out well in the end”. Then these same people explain to real game designers how “risky” making games is. I would agree completely, actually, it is very risky to make games if you are “blindly blundering forward through trial and error, praying that things work out well in the end”. It is far less risky, of course, if you just let a professional do it. But they don’t see that. You’d think that they would have a frame of reference to “get it”, since they would surely balk at the artists voting down the programmers on how something will be coded… but apparently they just don’t get it.

The ugliness continues… in fact it gets handed to the gamers. Actually finishing a game or simulation is, by far, the hardest part. Starting about 10 years or so ago the computer game industry finally found a way to address this problem. They don’t finish their games anymore. They can’t. It is, by far, the hardest part and very few developers have a professional game and simulation designer who would be capable of achieving such a thing for them. Their very method precludes them from being capable of finishing a game; by that stage of the project there are too many visions in place for them to ever resolve them all. So they gave up trying about a decade ago, and they let the gamers finish designing their games now. They get it as far along as their amateur abilities are capable of and then they release the game. They plan, right from the beginning, on a series of patches that will complete the design of the game. They need the gamers to tell them how to finish designing the game, because they don’t have anyone who knows how too and the method they use makes it practically impossible for them to do it by themselves. This only further exacerbates their “design by committee” problem because it greatly expands the committee… to the entire audience. There is a difference between incorporating player suggestions into a published game and having the gamers finish designing the game for you. Computer game developers have the gamers finish designing their games for them because they are incapable of completing games on their own due to their method, and the fact that they don’t have a real game designer who is capable of doing the job.

So here we are, after 20 years of “design by committee”. The people who so foolishly have devoted their lives to the study of game and simulation design are working in offices, driving cabs, and delivering pizzas. Meanwhile, groups of programmers and artists “blindly blunder forward through trial and error, praying that things work out well in the end” telling everyone else how “risky” making games is. Then when they get the game as far as they can, they release it to the gamers so that the gamers can finish designing it for them. All this to wind up, in almost every case, with games that would be considered “B-Games” in comparison too the ones that those office workers, cab drivers, and pizza delivery drivers who should be leading such efforts would be making if only the computer game industry were not so totally and completely clueless when it comes to game and simulation design.

-- Marc Michalik (A.K.A. Pirate_Lord)
Lost Art Studios – www.piratedawn.com

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A Thousand Pictures Tell the Same Story

If there is one thing that the computer game industry is good at, it is imitation. Whether that be imitating their own previous games, or the games of professional game designers looking for work, they have imitation (and in some cases plagiarism) down to a science. They really do love to imitate. But then, they have little choice, their method of game design is incapable of doing anything other than imitation. This is part of the reason why there are so many FPS and RTS games, but it is certainly not the whole reason.

Another part of the reason that there are so many FPS and RTS games is that neither of these types of games requires a game designer. I don’t think that they realize that this is big a part of the reason that they make so many FPS and RTS games. It just happens naturally. If you don’t have a game designer, you are likely to gravitate towards games that don’t require game designers.

An FPS is actually not a game, it is a simulation. There is a specific difference between games and simulations. From one perspective “all games are simulations, it is only a matter of the level of abstraction”. From that perspective, for example, even Checkers is a simulation… of warfare. It is a highly abstract simulation of warfare, but a simulation of warfare none-the-less. But even by the normal, “less advanced” understanding of the difference, an FPS is still clearly a simulation. An RTS is not a simulation, and is just as clearly a game. A complex simulation is generally harder to design than a game, but a simple simulation is actually generally easier to design than a game. An FPS is such a simple simulation, in fact, that a game designer was never required, not even on the very first FPS ever made. There are very few elements of simulation design involved with a first person shooter, and it doesn’t actually have to function well as a simulation… it really is brain-dead simple. Anyone can “design” an FPS game, and that’s been true since before they existed.

RTS games are a little different, but at this point are in the same boat with FPS games. Anyone can design a very good RTS game. The earliest RTS games could have used game designers. In most cases they did not have them, so the industry instead crawled at a snail’s pace and took 10 years to get where a professional would have got on his first or second attempt. But today, having finally worked out what an RTS game actually is, they are in the same boat with FPS games. Everyone already knows what an FPS or RTS game is. They don’t need a game designer because the specifics of the game, its general structure, all of the game elements involved, and even how it should play out in the end are already known to everyone involved with the project. Any group of people can get together and “design” either an FPS or RTS game because everyone is automatically on the same page in a general sense. Everyone knows what the game they are making is going to be like. They aren’t actually “designing” a game… they are re-making a game that has already been designed.

So a big part of why the industry makes so many FPS and RTS games is because anyone can make an FPS or RTS game. Any group of programmers and artists can just get together and immediately start working on either an FPS or RTS game. They all know exactly what the game they are making is. And since it has become the industry’s standard method to bring the game to what a professional game designer would consider to be “beta” (at best) and then releasing it and let the gamers finish designing it for them, they don’t even have to finish the game. Nobody has to make any difficult finalizing game design decisions, since those will simply be left to the gamers to make for them.

Many of the reasons that the industry cites are certainly valid. FPS and RTS sell well, for one thing. They are said to be “popular”, although the truth of that theory cannot be known since FPS and RTS games combined have to represent about 70% of the games they make. You can’t truly claim these types are more popular than other types of games that aren’t even being made. If you take into account the “big budget” and marketing aspects, almost no competitive games are made that are not either an FPS or RTS. So claiming that they are “popular” is somewhat misguided. There would need to be a sufficient number of equally supported non-FPS/RTS games to make that judgment, and there are not a sufficient number to do that. Many of their reasons are valid, but one of the primary reasons they make so many FPS and RTS games is because it is the only thing they feel confident in doing.

As an aside that I just can’t resist, most RTS games are actually misnamed. They are actually RTTA (Real-Time Tactical Action) games, which is a huge difference from any type of “strategy” game. I know many have brought this up before in different veins, I just wanted to point out that the proper term for what the industry calls a “Real-Time Strategy” game should actually be “Real-Time Tactical Action” game. True “Real-Time Strategy” games do exist in several different forms, for example the RTS term is accurately applied to a game such as Hearts of Iron which runs in true real time (i.e. 1 second = 1 second) and is represented at the strategic scale. But the typical “RTS” game would be more accurately termed an “RTTA” game.

There are a lot of reasons that so many FPS and RTS games are made. One of the biggest reasons, which is never mentioned, is that you don’t need a game designer to make such games. And in almost all cases, they don’t have game designers. So they don’t really have much choice. They have to make these games because they aren’t capable of making any others. They are only capable of imitating previous games. They can’t do anything new by their “design-by-committee” method. So they gravitate towards the games they think that they can make, and that they believe will be successful. So they wind up making an FPS or RTS, because those are the only games they have confidence in… because they don’t actually know what they are doing.

-- Marc Michalik (A.K.A. Pirate_Lord)
Lost Art Studios – www.piratedawn.com

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Rationalizing Professionalism

What would you say about an athlete who never practices? Or a scientist who has never studied science? Would you hire a lawyer who had not passed the Bar Exam? These are all silly questions, aren’t they? Not so silly in the computer game industry, though. In fact, when it comes to game designers it’s the norm.

There is no question about it, most of the best programmers and artists in the world work in the computer game industry. They are truly the best in the world at what they do. But what they do is write code and create art. They aren’t game designers. Being both a programmer and a game designer would be akin to being both a doctor and a lawyer. That’s a lot of study to squeeze into a single lifetime. “Asking a programmer to design a game is like asking an author to paint a portrait.”

In an industry that claims to take their projects so very seriously, and is so obsessed with how “risky” making a game is, it should come as quite a surprise that they allow themselves to “rationalize professionalism” when it comes to the most important part of producing a game. Any professional game and simulation designer is capable of designing complete games and simulations on paper. That’s the mark of a professional. That’s how a professional proves that they are, in fact, a professional. More importantly, it is how a professional proves that the game works, and then not only that it works, but that it is actually good. A professional game designer provides something that the industry should consider to be invaluable… proof that they will be making a great game before any significant amount of money is spent on that game.

But the industry has, since its inception, rationalized professionalism. They have a nearly endless list of excuses why a design document is not necessary. My personal favorite was the amateur who had the nerve to say “I consider not having a game design document to be a badge of honor.” I’ve got news for you, that’s not a badge of honor you are wearing… it’s a badge of incompetence. Since almost none of them actually know what they are doing, it is very easy for them to get together and agree that a vital (…and, not coincidentally, the most difficult) aspect of the job is unnecessary. The only real reason for all of these excuses is, of course, that they are amateurs and they are incapable of designing the game ahead of time. So they, as a group, rationalize away the need for a design document… because they can’t create one. In reality, there is no reason why a design document is considered unnecessary other than the fact that they are incapable of creating one. And as long as they can maintain that myth, the pretenders can all keep their jobs.

Anyone who is being honest with themselves, and understands the process and costs of producing a computer game, can easily see how critical having a complete design document beforehand is. Would you risk $20 million based on 20-40 pages of vague notes? They do. Every time they make a game. When a developer starts on a game they have almost no idea where they are going. They have only a vague idea, based on their “design document” which consists of 20-40 pages of vague notes (often mostly story that has nothing to do with the game itself) of what the game will be when it is finished. Because they don’t have a design document, they don’t have a plan. They don’t know where they are going. They are simply “blindly blundering forward through trial and error, praying that things work out well in the end.” That’s the computer game industry method. And these same people then have the nerve to lecture you about how “risky” it all is. For them, of course it is exceptionally risky by their “blindly blundering forward” method. What else would any rational person expect?

I was once asked to review most, if not all, of the “design documents” of one of the largest publishers in the world. I reviewed 8 design documents, which I believe represented every game they had under internal development at the time. They never received my review. I never wrote one, because there was nothing to say and I didn’t want to offend them. Without exception, every design document I was given was “20-40 pages of vague notes”. They proved nothing, they demonstrated nothing. They were simply vague ideas combined with irrelevant story. Anyone might have written them, not a single one of them showed any hint of actual knowledge of game design. Not a single one of them was useful at all for any purpose other than the enjoyment the author might have had in writing it. Every one of them was written by a person who didn’t know the first thing about designing a game, or writing a game design document. Keep in mind, this was most likely every single English language game under internal development at the time by one of the largest publishers in the world. Not a single one even hinted at competence, and a couple of them were from developers who were just plain famous.

Making games is far less “risky” than the industry believes. Making games designed by rank amateurs is very risky, I would agree. The industry has over 20 years of evidence to support that at this point, as well. Of course, if they were to stop rationalizing professionalism and instead require that their game designers actually know something about game design, they could greatly reduce that risk. Most of the “risk” they perceive comes from their own rationalizing professionalism and allowing amateurs to design their games. They “blindly blunder forward through trial and error, praying that things work out well in the end” and then have the nerve to endlessly drone on about how “risky” making a game is. That is the state they are in because they rationalize professionalism. They have only themselves, and their method, to blame for most of that “risk” (their euphemism for admitting that they usually fail). If they were to try using actual professionals for a change, they would find that a large portion of that “risk” they are always babbling about would disappear overnight.

Of course it is risky to throw $20 million at 20-40 pages of vague notes… how many more decades will it take them to stop doing it? And is there any way that we can get them to stop babbling about how “risky” making games is until they do?

-- Marc Michalik (A.K.A. Pirate_Lord)
Lost Art Studios – www.piratedawn.com

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They Can’t Be Serious

I’ve been trying to get various computer game related projects made for my entire life. I’ve had contact with people who make those decisions off and on for my entire life. These people claim to be very serious about making games, and to take their “serious business” very… well… seriously. After a lifetime of hearing their words, surely, they can’t be serious.

One of the consistent refrains that I have heard throughout my life from these people is “nobody is going to read a 200-page design document”. So, really, come on… how serious can they be? They will drone on and on about how “risky” and “serious” their business is. Lecture you endlessly on the millions of dollars it takes to make a computer game. But when the time comes to decide which game to actually make… they may as well just flip a coin. That really wouldn’t make any difference. It would not be a change from whatever the indiscernible method they use now is. The end result would be the same.

How can they possibly claim to be so very “serious” and in the next breath tell you that nobody has the time to read a 200-page design document? Unless I missed something, it is GAMES that they are making… right? They, as they so endlessly point out, are going to risk $10 million or more on making whatever game they make. It’s all so very “serious”… and yet nobody will have the time to read a design document if it is longer than 50 pages? They can’t be serious.

How can they claim to be serious?

Do they do this in any other industry? Do civil engineering firms say “nobody will have the time to review the plans for that bridge; you’re going to need to re-do that as a rough sketch.” I can’t think of any other industry where nobody has the time to actually take a look at what it is that they are actually going to be doing.

They can’t be serious.

They claim to be serious. In fact, they lecture endlessly about just how “serious” it all is. But they can’t possibly mean it. I honestly believe that maybe the computer game industry should try flipping coins to make these decisions… things might actually work out better for them that way.

They just can’t be serious.

-- Marc Michalik (A.K.A. Pirate_Lord)
Lost Art Studios – www.piratedawn.com

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Still 270 Years Behind The Wheel

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who had an interest in games and didn’t think that they could design them. Most of those people are wrong. Simply playing computer games doesn’t really teach you how to make them. In fact, what someone who has just played computer games thinks they know about how those games actually work is very much a “voodoo” level of knowledge. It usually doesn’t work the way most people envision. That’s actually a mark of a well-designed game, fooling you into believing that there is much more too it than there actually is.

This was even true with board games, although somewhat less so. With board games you had to actually know how everything worked, because in the end you were responsible for making it work that way. So board games, if for nothing more than that reason alone, teach a lot more about game design than a computer game possibly can. But even so, just because you’ve played a lot of board games doesn’t mean that you would be good at designing your own games. Try it yourself if you really want to understand what I am talking about. My bet is that you start to get it at the point that you were thinking you’d be finished… and then realize that you aren’t even half way there yet. That experience is the very first lesson of game design that everyone who actually attempts it learns during their first effort.

Even being a truly great player does not necessarily mean that someone will be good at designing games, and conversely a great game designer isn’t necessarily a great game player. Two very old terms used in describing this concept are “Ace” and “Rules Lawyer”. A great “Ace” player might dominate on the game board, but not be able to answer what many might consider only intermediate questions about details of how the game actually functions. Conversely, a great “Rules Lawyer” may have every tiny detail of how the game functions memorized… and yet be a below average player. The two skills really are not related.

It’s bad enough that nobody seems to understand any of this in terms of what they are looking for in a “Game Designer”, but a lack of understanding of these concepts leads pretty much everyone in the industry to believe that they are game designers, too. One of their mantras is, paraphrased as it is said in many different ways, “everyone’s opinion on the game is equal”. You can’t help but be left speechless, can you?

If you were lying on an operating table, and they were about to put you under, how would you react if one of the nurses said that and then started telling the doctor how he should do his job? Would that be just fine with you? These people endlessly drone on about how much it costs to make a game… how “risky” it all is… and then they have this belief that anyone who has played a game is equally qualified to design them as anyone else. Am I the only person who sees a serious flaw in their logic?

I hate to be the one to break this too them, but this “game design” thing really is fairly complex and everyone’s opinion is not equal. Game design is not politics. Your opinion on your health is not equal to your doctor’s opinion. Your opinion on the nature of the universe is not equal to a person who has a PHD in Physics. Your opinion on the structural integrity of a bridge is not equal to the opinion of an engineer. Why do you think your opinion about game design is equal to that of a real game designer? Or is it that you honestly do not believe that we exist? You started re-inventing that 300-year-old wheel in the mid-1980’s and you still aren’t far enough along in catching up yet to realize that we exist? Is that it? How many decades should we expect to have to wait for you to “discover” us?

This is why they wind up with former programmers and artists as “Game Designers”, because “Game Designer is not a valid job description within the computer game industry”. Because they believe that anyone who plays games qualifies. So they just pick a programmer or artist who plays games a lot and “promote” them to “Game Designer”. That’s no different than “promoting” a Lawyer to Doctor. And these people just can’t figure out why most of their games fail. Why it’s all so “risky” for them. Are monkeys in charge of this business… is that what the deal is?

As a Public Service Announcement, I’d like to offer some advice to any kids out there who think they want to be a “Game Designer”. My personal advice, based on my 20+ years of experience with this, is that if you want to be a “Game Designer” you should become a programmer or artist. I know that sounds insane, like telling someone who wants to be a doctor to go to law school… but I can assure you that it is some of the best advice you will ever get if you want to be a “game designer” and make computer games. In the computer game industry you really do have to go to law school to become a doctor… thank God they aren’t performing surgery, huh? You will never get there as a “Game Designer”, because “Game Designer is not a valid job description within the computer game industry”, but you might as a programmer or artist. I know it sounds insane, but it really is some of the best advice that you’ll ever get.

-- Marc Michalik (A.K.A. Pirate_Lord)
Lost Art Studios – www.piratedawn.com

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So, what then is the purpose of this thread? What's the topic of discussion / the question you want answered? Or do you just want to throw out your ideas, open up the doors to feedback and that's that?


[EDIT: random comment]

Quote:
Original post by Pirate_Lord
There is no question about it, most of the best programmers and artists in the world work in the computer game industry. They are truly the best in the world at what they do. But what they do is write code and create art. They aren’t game designers. Being both a programmer and a game designer would be akin to being both a doctor and a lawyer. That’s a lot of study to squeeze into a single lifetime. “Asking a programmer to design a game is like asking an author to paint a portrait.”


Not sure where you've worked but every company I've been at has people that are strictly designers (they don't program and they don't do art). Many have backgrounds in math/statistics/game theory. The ones I work with first design the game as a board game to prove out their ideas. we're also required to publish a design document before we're allowed to go into "production". Just pointing this out because your generalities about the industry don't match up with my experience.

-me

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I can empathize with a lot of your comments. I've been all over the internet searching out the industry and it really is quite bizarre. You have the irony of game design courses being offered, then everywhere you go people recommend that you learn either c++, 3d modeling or concept artistry. I can see the benefit of understanding the processes as a game designer but to the same degree it's ludicrous that being a qualified designer should take second place to the opinions of those who make it. Like a cathedral being designer by a mason.

Secondly, I did some case work for my uncle, who is a partner in one of the largest corporate law firms here in Aus. I was paid $10,000 to review and write a report on the case. The number of files I had to read amounted to 700 pages. Again, I can understand that a 200+ page game design document needs to be heralded by a brief project overview, but the old adage comes to mind - "a camel is a horse designed by committee". I was told that a 200 page document was inaccessible, as "everyone else will want to decide what goes into the game". Now, logically, it makes sense to spend a year or so constructing an intimate, complex and visionary (in the sense of a single vision) document and then to summarize it, hand it to a publisher, (hopefully) get the go ahead, and THEN hand it to the rest of the design team to modify and think tank. THEN it should be handed to the programmers to consult on technological boundaries and THEN to the artists on the creation of a game aesthetic. I can only assume that the nature of the industry is immature in the sense of job description and clarity.

OF COURSE I understand that it may not be like this all through the industry and that my opinion may be invalid due to my outsider status, but all my research and talking has come around to what has been touched on above. That a company essentially can't be bothered to read something over 50 pages before committing money to it. If this is the case, then of course the industry will always be risky. I'm more or less happy to put up with this, but it will result (and is resulting) in a list of cliched games (like Richard Garriott believing he is a pioneer because he is setting his mmo, Tabula Rasa, in space - good heavens! The man's a genius!) and a very cloistered atmosphere dominated over by a single demographic.

I'd like to point out that I'm not attempting to spar with anyone, just share my thoughts on what I've been seeing.

I'm just going to be making my portfolio as impressive as possible!

EDIT: In general, this is the most fascinating prior-to-entry industry research I've ever done!

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Quote:
Original post by Palidine
Not sure where you've worked but every company I've been at has people that are strictly designers (they don't program and they don't do art).

QFT.
The last company I worked for had two dedicated designers (who, by the way, did not "design by committee" - invalidating your entire second post it seems).

I pointed this out during Pirate_Lord's previous rant, but his experiences in 'not being hired' make him much more correct than our experiences of 'working with "game designers"'.
Quote:
Original post by Pirate_Lord
I am certain that the computer game industry, in its current state, will never even consider hiring a pure professional game and simulation designer like me.
Well, you're wrong; the current company I work for has over two dozen dedicated designers, most with a background in maths/psychology/game-theory, situated in three regional offices.
Quote:
Original post by Pirate_Lord
It’s because the computer game industry doesn’t hire professional game and simulation designers (…but more on that later). They don’t even know what one is.

Le me get this straight: You think you are a brilliant design genius, and you failed to get a job as a (video) game designer, therefore it must be impossible to get a job as a (video) game designer?
Maybe, just maybe, instead of the position not existing, you're just not the right person for the job?

Again, the arrogance meter has just gone off the charts - that is your problem, and these deep-seated attitude and communication problems might also be why you have difficulty finding jobs.
[edit]Also, the fact that you typed this whole thing up in MS Word before posting it makes me think that you're more interested in sharing your opinion than having a discussion - which makes you seem like you're suffering from egotism, which again makes you unsuitable for employment (even if you are super-talented)...
[edit2]
Quote:
Original post by Pirate_Lord
I actually expect this thread to be closed almost instantly. I doubt that I will be allowed to speak with people who may resemble my remarks holding the power to silence me, but I’ll give it a try since I was told that nobody would have a problem with me criticizing the game industry.

You're threads didn't/won't get closed because of your opinions. There were/will be closed because you're posting opinions as fact, which then goes on to cause flames, which get threads closed. Again, thinking that you're being silenced for speaking out is just another symptom of your egotism....

[Edited by - Hodgman on January 30, 2008 8:07:48 PM]

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I was a little wishy washy on whether or not I wanted to respond to this thread. As others have said, it seems like this thread was started simply for you to vent your ideas and it doesn't really appear you are looking for any constructive input. If that is the case (and it appears it is) then the GameDev.net forums are not the place to do so, a LiveJournal is.

I would retaliate with how I think different things you wrote in your rant are completely preposterous, but I'd have to write as much as you did to do so. This thread doesn't come across at all as a constructive criticism of the industry, but moreso as a grown man whining that he couldn't make it in the industry because he wasn't willing to play by its rules.

Oh, and for the record, I am one of those dedicated designers that you claim don't exist.

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For the record, I too work at a company with several dedicated designers.

Edit: I tried reading over all your "articles" and really couldn't do it. You provide no facts. You do not cite any tangible experience other than "trying to get into the industry for 20 years". You don't seem to have the necessary credentials to comment on any of this (after all, how can you know so much about an industry that you can't even get into), and if you do you certainly don't present them. You keep referring to "real game and simulation designers"; are you one of these? If so, what qualifies you as such? Articles should be objective, informative, and backed by solid, provable facts. Editorials should be subjective, but written by those with enough experience and credentials to make worthwhile and accurate points. This drivel is neither of those things. It just reads as the angsty whining of someone who couldn't cut it.

In short: Who are you, and why should I give a damn what you have to say about the industry?

[Edited by - Driv3MeFar on January 30, 2008 9:50:19 PM]

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It's encouraging to see that designers do function as an autonomous role. I would really like to know, from those designers here, how much input the graphics and programming departments have in the design themselves?

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I'm closing this thread due to its inane amount of material and Pirate_Lord's inability to differentiate between 'to' and 'too.' Pirate_Lord, you're going to get a surprising PM from me.

Also I disagree with almost everything you wrote on a fundamental level and I will enjoy discussing it when you post your articles individually at a place of my choosing.

Finally, the reason that Gamasutra would never print "They Can't Be Serious" is because I, nor I imagine Gamasutra nor its readers, give a crap. People aren't not reading your 200+ page design document because they aren't serious about their craft. They're not reading your 200+ page design document because no one wants to waste their time with what is, clearly, tripe in electronic paper form. If someone can't explain their design document to me in a summarized form, then they either don't know what the hell left from right is or they have an overly strong and prescient opinion of themselves which is manifested in their design document. A design document is not a Book of Lore, it's a gameplay documentation. Planescape: Torment's design document is under 75 pages, from what I recall, and that was a document given to a professional team that had already begun work on their project in some form. It's also absolutely hilarious. Yours, however, is about as funny as a stump. A very unfunny stump. A Hillary Clinton stump.

xoxoxo,
mittens hugmuffins.

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Just in case there was any remaining confusion, I'd like to clear something up:

This is the Game Design forum, not the Post Enormous Uninformed Rant About How The Gaming Industry Ruined Your Life forum.

This is why this thread is closed, this is why any future threads you post along the same lines will be closed, and this is why you will be banned if you continue to post them.

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