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Nozyspy

A Nobody with a good idea - Why cant we have a crack at game design too?

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Greetings! Since this is my first post here, I am not sure what to expect. However, never fear as I did take the time to read several of the important posts including rules and FAQ’s! If I have posted this in the wrong forums then I do apologise and respectfully request that it be moved to the appropriate one. First of all I should probably enlighten you to my mental state at the moment, as you will likely understand better the position I am coming from if I do. Currently I am half way between crying tears of joy, having finally found a place like this where people with experience in the games industry actually visit, and crying tears of psychopathic frustration. Read the following paragraph and you will understand why. WHY is game design so difficult and complicated to get into?! I ask myself this question constantly, as it is probably the thing that annoys me most about the games industry. The thing is, everywhere I read says the same thing; go to a university, do loads of courses, become a lowly minion at an unheard-of games studio and then somehow work your way up into a decent position at one of the well known studios. All this must be accomplished before you die of old age, if you ever want a crack at designing your own game. It is this thing that infuriates me the most, because if you look at many other forms of artistic expression; writing books, painting, sculpture, film directing, they are relatively simple to get into and quickly become rich and famous. Obviously of course there is a great deal of chance involved in the ‘getting rich and famous bit’ as very few people get that far. However, nonetheless these subjects are easy to get into and do not require years of university study to become good at (though a lot of people do that, it isn’t a requirement). I wont name any names, but just take a look at the people who put a red circle on a blank canvas, or put a stuffed shark in a tank and them become fabulously rich from such things. Infact it is often people who have little to no experience in their chosen field who end up making some of the most successful things. A prime example of this is ‘Diablo Cody’ the ex-stripper, who, on her first attempt at writing a screenplay and within a matter of months at that, wrote the screenplay for Juno. You will most likely have heard of this since it has become a popular film and did very well both at the box office and in terms of awards. This goes back to my original question; WHY is game design so difficult and complicated to get into?! You see, the thing is that there could be hundreds of fantastic game ideas thought up by people who really have little to no knowledge of game design, and the infuriating thing is that 99.9% of these people will never even get to pitch their ideas to a games studio. Simply because they haven’t got lots of letters after their name and university degrees to wave around. Why cant there just be a system where people can just pitch their game ideas to a studio, similar things exist in terms of films, art and such. Why not games too? Why am I in such a stew? Well, I not only believe that many good ideas from all kinds of people are left in the dark, but I think I’m going to be in that 99.9% too. Considering the odds in getting your game idea published, this isn’t so unusual. But what really annoys me about this aspect is that I honestly think I have a good, original idea and most likely nobody will ever pay any attention because I haven’t been to university and don’t have lots of stuff I can pile on a CV to wave infront of the boss of a games studio. That is depressing… The bottom line is; I have a reasonably good idea (I think…) of an archaeologist / adventurer type game that is nothing like Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider. Something unique, blending actual history, real people and locations together with mystery and fiction in a deep story designed to cover an arc of three games / books / movies whatever. I play games obsessively, and often study the most tiny details like a misaligned texture on a tiny rock buried under a load of other rubble which most people wont be aware even existed. I have read multiple books, on ancient archaeological locations, people, and mysteries and I am pretty confident can give you more McGuffins and plot devices than you can shake multiple sticks at. Infact I am bemused as to why George Lucas and Steven Spielberg took almost 20 years to agree on a McGuffin for Indy 4. I really don’t want to sound arrogant or anything, because believe me that is not my intention at all, but I honestly think I have some knowledge that could be used to make an excellent story. I also do level design for Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy as a hobby. Now that’s obviously an ancient game engine by now, but it is still very flexible and mods come thick and fast. Listening to Eric Lindstrom talking about the difficulties in pinning down locations and connecting mythologies for Tomb Raider: Underworld nearly drove to eat my own hair. As much as I greatly respect that franchise and the people behind it, and the games industry as a whole, when I hear things like that I go bananas! :P Oh if only I had five minutes with one of those developers… They have all those people thinking up characters and locations, and even flying them out to Mexico to view some Mayan ruins, whilst I and my fellow modders on our Jedi Academy community site research our own locations, make our own textures, invent our own back stories and make our on levels often single-handedly. And mostly just for fun! Why don’t some of these studios go and have a look around these gaming community sites for talent instead of just looking for people with university degrees?! (No disrespect to those people who have worked hard for their position in the games industry, of course.) How do you get five minuets with the boss of a games studio? Please don’t think that what I am about to say I say out of arrogance or ignorance, I am not that type of person. What I say, I honestly mean… How do you get five minutes with the boss of a games studio, without resorting to kidnapping, bribery or becoming a multimillionaire? If anyone knows a way, please tell me! XD It usually takes a fair few people to come up with location ideas, characters, plot lines and plot devices, I honestly think I could do most of the brain work for that single-handedly. I think up stories whilst waiting at the doctors, before going to bed and whilst sitting on the toilet etc. and I am pretty sure for my chosen adventurer / archaeology genre I could give you; Characters – What they wear, what they sound like, where they come from, who their parents are. Locations – Rough concept sketches (I like to draw, but I am no-where near the kind of level of a proper concept artist!), location names, location architecture, texture ideas and examples, weather, lighting and mood. Plot Device / McGuffin – What it is, where it came from, what it looks like, what it does, history etc. Story – Overall story arc, covering multiple ‘episodes’ if necessary whilst still having each game as a story in its own right, a rough script with dialogue, rough storyboards, humour / wit etc. And probably some other stuff too…all within a week, or maybe two…And I mean a 90% finalised story by that! The only problems I have are; getting someone to take notice and having people who can make ideas into reality, since I lack the complicated programming skills to do that myself. Phew… I do apologise of that seemed a bit of a rant, but I have been holding that in for so long, and have only just found a place that may offer some answers to my many questions! To be quite honest, the frustration has reached such a point now, that I just feel like writing a few books. And that is something I really do have NO experience in, so I’m not sure that would go too well! Your candid thoughts, whether they be ones of encouragement, or if you simply want me to get lost, are all welcome! Right, my brain, eyes, and fingers need a bit of a rest now, I look forward with somewhat fearful anticipation to what you guys will say! Nozyspy

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Neither of those things are simple to get into.

Any jackass can sit at a type writer and write a book, but unless he has spent years honing his or her craft, and is very good with words and structure, the quality of the writing will be sub-par, and it will not get published.

That said, there is no reason you can't design your own game right now, you just have to pick up some programming skills. I've been designing games ever since I discovered a program called qbasic in my dos folder years ago. I never had to go anywhere, or do anything first.

You just have to have realistic expectations. You are working as a hobbyist, and what you create at first will be no different then the movie that some random guy creates with his consumer quality handheld camera.

A lot of people want to jump right in and suddenly start designing massive AAA quality games, with no experience or resources. This is no different than wanting to make an AAA big budget hollywood movie when you are just a random guy on the street.

If you want a great looking game, you will either have to posses the artistic talent yourself, or pay someone to create the talent for you. Same goes for sound, or any other asset you might need.

If you get good enough at whatever area you specialize in, you can team up with other hobbyists, and make something pretty cool.

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Original post by Nozyspy
It is this thing that infuriates me the most, because if you look at many other forms of artistic expression; writing books, painting, sculpture, film directing, they are relatively simple to get into and quickly become rich and famous. Obviously of course there is a great deal of chance involved in the ‘getting rich and famous bit’ as very few people get that far. However, nonetheless these subjects are easy to get into and do not require years of university study to become good at (though a lot of people do that, it isn’t a requirement). I wont name any names, but just take a look at the people who put a red circle on a blank canvas, or put a stuffed shark in a tank and them become fabulously rich from such things.


Not every game has to be a multi billion dollar mmortsfpsrpg. Just like your first book probably won't be simultaneously hitting shelfs across the world and your first move won't be chart topping. Check the gdnet showcase for what we call indie games.

EDIT:
If you want to get someones attention make a prototype in xna or game maker, thats how the team that created portal got in.

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Short answer: supply and demand. There's only so many design positions at big studios, and there's plenty of people who want to fill that job. So you're competing against a lot of other people who may have better qualifications than you.

If you're the hiring manager at a top game studio looking for a game designer, who are you going to prefer?
  • Alice, the experienced game designer from another company with many titles to her name.
  • Bob, the employee at your own company who has worked there for years, shown he knows how the business culture works for this company and has helped with the design on a couple of previous projects.
  • Or Nobby Nobody, some unknown person with naught more than a idea sketched on a few pages?


Game companies aren't going to risk going with the nobody if they've got a bunch of qualified proven applicants for the job. It's not like writing a novel or making a painting - an activity that the bulk of work can be done by one person. A large scale computer game requires millions of dollars and the effort of dozens of people, and you can't just hand the design off to an untested applicant.

Now you can start designing your own games if you're prepared to go down the indie path and do the development yourself, as either a hobby or as a small business. But don't expect to be designing for big teams without proving yourself first.

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For what it's worth, I believe game development will become easier in the future. Currently, we have game engines that can be purchased for use and recycled from game to game. That sort of reasoning could easily be broken down into something more useful to the industry, like a single free-for-use super game engine, in the spirit of an API like DirectX.

This engine would do it all, and programmers would be left with only the extreme specifics for their games. In some cases, non-scripting programmers may not even be needed at all. Two games, such as Half Life 2 and Doom 3, could have been seperated by external variable tweaks, rather than completely seperate engines. When a game comes along that needs more features, the ideas can be introduced into the super engine, and all future games would have access to it. Well, in an ideal world, anyway.

Sound effects aren't much of an issue. The quality of sound now is better than it was back whenever, but not in the way visual effects have changed. At some point in the future, I think visuals will level off in the same way. When that happens, games will be able share millions of common resource assets, like furniture, buildings, people, etc, between old and new games without much concern.

Considering even a modern engine like Half Life 2 being available for free use, if developers had access to free unlimited resource assets, hundreds of play-worthy games could be dished out by independent developers with minimal effort or technical skills.

Sorry for the meaningless euphoric rant.

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Original post by Kest
For what it's worth, I believe game development will become easier in the future. Currently, we have game engines that can be purchased for use and recycled from game to game. That sort of reasoning could easily be broken down into something more useful to the industry, like a single free-for-use super game engine, in the spirit of an API like DirectX.

This engine would do it all, and programmers would be left with only the extreme specifics for their games. In some cases, non-scripting programmers may not even be needed at all. Two games, such as Half Life 2 and Doom 3, could have been seperated by external variable tweaks, rather than completely seperate engines. When a game comes along that needs more features, the ideas can be introduced into the super engine, and all future games would have access to it. Well, in an ideal world, anyway.

Sound effects aren't much of an issue. The quality of sound now is better than it was back whenever, but not in the way visual effects have changed. At some point in the future, I think visuals will level off in the same way. When that happens, games will be able share millions of common resource assets, like furniture, buildings, people, etc, between old and new games without much concern.

Considering even a modern engine like Half Life 2 being available for free use, if developers had access to free unlimited resource assets, hundreds of play-worthy games could be dished out by independent developers with minimal effort or technical skills.

Sorry for the meaningless euphoric rant.


That is an excellent point, and something that i dearly wish would happen sooner rather than later.

The big point I am trying to make is that it is unfair that someone who has a pretty 'boring' (or whatever) idea for a game, can get it made because they have the experience or 'years in the biz', and someone who is otherwise unqualified but has a really good idea doesnt have a chance. The system seems unbalanced to me, as an outsider. I wouldnt mind as much if there was at least a way that you could pitch your ideas to game studios. At least then they can accept or reject your idea based on it's merits, rather than your qualifications.

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What you describe sort of already exists. Library for physics, rendering and scripting exist and can be joined with fairly minimal programming knowledge. The only problem is most of them, even commercial ones have a lot of trade offs between having the latest features and usability.

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The big point I am trying to make is that it is unfair that someone who has a pretty 'boring' (or whatever) idea for a game, can get it made because they have the experience or 'years in the biz', and someone who is otherwise unqualified but has a really good idea doesnt have a chance. The system seems unbalanced to me, as an outsider.

And because you are an inexperienced outsider, you probably don't realize that the "boring" game was probably someone else's great idea at one point, but that there are technical, logistic, and political influences on what the actual implementation of that idea actually ends up looking like. The inexperienced naivety that comes with being an outsider is why you will never get the chance to make your game--its the reason the "studio boss" isn't interested in what you have to say.

Great ideas are not hard to come by... great leadership is. Those people who show the initiative to actually go out and start implementing their ideas and making a game--rather than whining on a internet forum (no offense [grin])--and to convince others of their vision, and who know how to work with technical limitations and limited resources... THOSE are hard to come by.

Show some initiative and a willingness to work for it and you might get your chance.

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It is this thing that infuriates me the most, because if you look at many other forms of artistic expression; writing books, painting, sculpture, film directing, they are relatively simple to get into and quickly become rich and famous.


5000000% Pure Bullcrap. Its much harder than you think just earning a living from any of those professions, much less getting rich and famous.

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Infact it is often people who have little to no experience in their chosen field who end up making some of the most successful things. A prime example of this is ‘Diablo Cody’ the ex-stripper, who, on her first attempt at writing a screenplay and within a matter of months at that, wrote the screenplay for Juno. You will most likely have heard of this since it has become a popular film and did very well both at the box office and in terms of awards.


And Miss Cody spent YEARS as a journalist and even had a book in print before she even tried to write the screenplay for Juno.

Even the infamous 'rags to riches' story of J. K. Rowling is interwoven with a history of honing her craft before Harry Potter was ever published.

It takes work to be successful. period.

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WHY is game design so difficult and complicated to get into?!

All this must be accomplished before you die of old age, if you ever want a crack at designing your own game.


For an actual studio, yes. You don't need special tools to design a game; pen, paper, and probably a few friends.

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It is this thing that infuriates me the most, because if you look at many other forms of artistic expression; writing books, painting, sculpture, film directing, they are relatively simple to get into and quickly become rich and famous. However, nonetheless these subjects are easy to get into and do not require years of university study to become good at (though a lot of people do that, it isn’t a requirement).


Enh, writing, painting and sculpture take quite a bit of practice to do well, even for those with a talent for it. Directing also requires tools and a lot of extra skills from cinematography to personal relations to psychology in addition to artistic vision. Maybe not university study, but years and years of dedicated advancement.


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A prime example of this is ‘Diablo Cody’ the ex-stripper, who, on her first attempt at writing a screenplay and within a matter of months at that, wrote the screenplay for Juno.


A fine example. Someone who wrote at length as a child and went to college for media studies. Worked as a DJ, proofreader, journalist, and editorialist. Published a novel and made 2 widely read, regularly updated blogs. Years and years of dedicated advancement.

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This goes back to my original question; WHY is game design so difficult and complicated to get into?!

You see, the thing is that there could be hundreds of fantastic game ideas thought up by people who really have little to no knowledge of game design, and the infuriating thing is that 99.9% of these people will never even get to pitch their ideas to a games studio.


Which is good, because 99.9% of them can't take an idea and turn it into a game. Either their idea is crap in the first place, or not really that fun once implemented, or technically infeasible, or relies on the goodness of people (HAH!), or financially infeasible, or they can't make an idea into nice balanced rules, or they can't maintain and communicate their artistic vision, or...

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Why cant there just be a system where people can just pitch their game ideas to a studio, similar things exist in terms of films, art and such. Why not games too?


First things first, such things don't by and large exist in terms of films, art, and the such. You need to know someone who knows someone... And even then, a art house owner can take one look at a painting and know if it sucks or not. A film exec can look at a home-made video and script and get a good idea if it sucks or not.

Games don't work like that. You might think something is fun, but you don't really know until you play it. A non-trivial amount of design occurs after the game is already 'done'. Taking playtester feedback, doing balancing. Checking exploits, managing a playerbase (for multiplayer games). No amount of pitching can let a game exec know that you can effectively do that.

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Why am I in such a stew?

That is depressing…


If it makes you feel better, a doctorate isn't going to get you a pitch session either.

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The bottom line is; I have a reasonably good idea (I think…) of an archaeologist / adventurer type game that is nothing like Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider. Something unique, blending actual history, real people and locations together with mystery and fiction in a deep story designed to cover an arc of three games / books / movies whatever.


Which is the tip of the iceberg of a design. I mean does it play like myst, does it play like lego indiana jones, does it play like tomb raider, does it play like some of those edutainment piles of crap?

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I play games obsessively, and often study the most tiny details like a misaligned texture on a tiny rock buried under a load of other rubble which most people wont be aware even existed. I have read multiple books, on ancient archaeological locations, people, and mysteries and I am pretty confident can give you more McGuffins and plot devices than you can shake multiple sticks at.


Who cares? Plot is gravy for gameplay. If you have a good plot, write a book.


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Why don’t some of these studios go and have a look around these gaming community sites for talent instead of just looking for people with university degrees?!


Because they get 3 trillion resumes per job posting without really advertising them. They pretty much get their pick of the litter.

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How do you get five minuets with the boss of a games studio?

How do you get five minutes with the boss of a games studio, without resorting to kidnapping, bribery or becoming a multimillionaire?


You buy him a beer. You'll probably need to buy a few lower level guys a beer too, but plain social networking is probably the best way. Local IDGA meetings are good, trade shows are better, making a kickass mod doesn't hurt...

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*snip*


Again, a plot isn't game design. Game design is developing the rules of the game. Making the choices presented to the player interesting and balanced. Designing the interactivity that makes a game a game and not a movie.

No great offense meant, but this is pretty much exactly why nobody gives people with great ideas the time of day.


But there are many threads here which cover this topic and more. Welcome, and hopefully the resources here can help you make your idea into something playable.

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