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Why don't Game Designers get respected in indy teams?

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People say everywhere that "the idea person" can't be just that.. He has to do some other work AS WELL such as programming or art or sound etc etc.

If I understand correct Game Designer is the person who has the idea of the game, the vision what it will be and all the features and mechanics.
He has to create a conceptual design and a GDD (game design document) where he explains ALL features, mechanics, systems, buttons, EVERYTHING. I don't think most people understand how much work this is.
Just a button for example.. You can't just say "The game has an options button where he can change performance settings of the game and turn off sound etc".
You have to say where the button should be and what it should look like, How big is the button, Anything happens when you mouse over it? Can it be held down? Where on the screen will it be? What happens when it's pressed? A new window? What will that window look like? How big? Where will the new window appear? Will it be a popup window? Can you lose focus of the window or must you close it first? How do you close it? Explain everything about the button that closes it. Will the window have any buttons? You said something about turning off sound? How will that be done? What kind of button? A slider? A mute button? What will they look like?
Look how much questions a simple button brings up... Now imagine an entire game.

The GDD must be made so that the developers will have zero questions about what to do.
The artists shouldn't have to ask you how big an image should be.

So "the idea person" or rather the game designer an has insane amount of work.. He just does most of it before a dev team begins working on it.

So it's true that most people can think of an idea, But how many people can create a high detailed and well formatted GDD?

And not only does it take an insane amount of work..
It's also the most important part of the game developing process.

It's like people who make movie screenplays or write books.
It's so similar to making game designs..

Sure everyone has an idea for a cool movie.. But how many create a complete and properly formatted screenplay?
A lot of people try to but many don't ever finish it because it's so much work.

And even the people who do finish their books and screenplays.. They simply didn't have the talent to create a great book or movie.
They had the willpower and put in the effort and work to make it.. but it sucks or just isn't good enough.

So I really don't understand why people don't want a "idea guy" aka game designer in a team.
You want to make a movie without a screenplay? Just record it scene by scene what sounds good for the moment and work on the story and dialogue as it progresses?

If you don't have a GDD that is highly details and formatted sortof like an archtecture plan for a building..
Then you're just building a game blindly and it could turn out in a catastrophe.. you might have to redo huge parts of the game or everything.
You might come up with new ideas in the middle of everything and will have to change everything. It could all fall apart.
You don't have a set goal, you don't know how much left there is to work on.. just guesses with all your ideas floating around in your mind and new ones appearing all the time and some you forget.. some simply don't mix well which you notice too late.
You could build a house without an architect plan but it's just not going to turn out as good.

I think it's ridiculous people expect the game designer to be doing something else AS WELL.. TWO JOBS and only get paid as 1 person.. Game designers that do more than game design should get double payment or share of revenue.

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Game Designers do need more respect. Its not an easy job. Good games wouldn't be good without the designer. All the bad games are probably made by people with other jobs thinking they can design the game too.

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So I really don't understand why people don't want a "idea guy" aka game designer in a team.

In my opinion, the main reason for this attitude is that the majority of idea guys/"designers" looking to join hobbyist or start-up indie teams don't do all of that work you listed above, and -- unfortunately for the minority of designers who are actually willing and able to put a lot of difficult and valuable work into their discipline -- these people have therefore given "designer" as a stand-alone-job a bad name.


Good design has very little to do with simply having ideas -- it's true that almost everyone has ideas -- but is more about being able to refine those ideas into a useful form that can be implemented given whatever constraints exist, to foresee and deal with problems as well as dealing with unforeseen issues as they arise, and perhaps most importantly to clearly and accurately communicate their ideas and vision to everyone involved in a project. Good design is a difficult and challenging role, and not one that everyone is equipped to tackle.



Personally, I prefer Daniel Cook's concept of using "design logs" rather than producing a monolithic design document up-front, but even with this work-flow there is plenty of work for the designer to do, keeping the logs up-to-date, communicating with the other developers, testing and tweaking the design as the game is developed, etc. I have a huge respect for those who are able to act in a design role and bring real value to a development project, but the unfortunate reality is that these people are a tiny minority amongst thousands of would-be-designers who provide minimal (in any) value to the process.


An "idea guy" is probably useless, and simply isn't worth having unless they can offer additional skills to a project.
A true designer who is skilled at their craft is nearly invaluable, but thanks to the prevalence of "idea guys" may have trouble finding anyone to implement their ideas and prove their skills useful unless they're able to contribute in another role on their first few projects.

It's [writing a design document] also the most important part of the game developing process.[/quote]
Even acknowledging the value of a good game designer, this particular point is debatable; for smaller games such a document can sometimes be unnecessary, and writing one would in that case often be a waste of time. There are also alternative methodologies -- such as the concept of "design logs" linked above, amongst others -- which can complement or even totally replace a traditional GDD.

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I as a programmer have 3 options:
1) I can work on my own ideas on my own that i believe in (This gives me 100% control over the product and i can implement my own designs freely)
2) I can work on my own ideas but bring in others to help me, This however means that i either have to give up some creative control (Noone with a reasonable set of skills will work for free on another persons pet project) or i have to pay them.
3) I can work for someone else in exchange for money or creative control.

If anyone wants me to pick a fourth option:
Work on someone elses ideas without upfront compensation or some creative control they better have a pretty damn solid trackrecord. (People who have solid trackrecords however tend to have no problem getting payed gigs rather than having to resort to shady revenue share schemes/scams though)

Now actual game designers however are needed and have a place in most larger indie teams (i might even contract out some design work on my current project once i get far enough) but game design has very little to do with coming up with ideas. (a game designer is not an idea person)
(If i hire a designer it will be primarily level design work, the designer will have to work within the confines of my ideas allthough i'm always open for suggestions),

The problem is that Game designers are extremely rare, Most posts we see here are just wannabes with ideas that are pretty much impossible to implement on an indie budget and very often come in the form of "Take Feature X from Game A and mix with Feature Y from Game B, These people are not Game Designers, They are idea guys trying to get others to do the real work (including the actual design) while they expect to keep the majority of the profits (As they are the "owners").

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It's been my experience that presenting any creative idea to any audience will get less than 50% agreement that it is a good idea. So, I think the act of a designer presenting an idea inherently repels people, because an undefined idea seems like it has the potential to be cooler than any defined idea. The undefined idea will not actually turn out to be an organized game and will likely not turn out to be a game at all, but the fantasy of it is more appealing than the fact of making a game where the genre isn't your favorite, or the style is too dark or too light for your taste, or the story just doesn't catch your interest, etc.

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1) I can work on my own ideas on my own that i believe in (This gives me 100% control over the product and i can implement my own designs freely)
2) I can work on my own ideas but bring in others to help me, This however means that i either have to give up some creative control (Noone with a reasonable set of skills will work for free on another persons pet project) or i have to pay them.

These are particularly important points when discussing hobbyist or indie development. These are typically smaller teams and they're almost certainly less well funded than industry. This means that the involved programmers are more likely working on a project because they have a passion for it rather than earning money, and so even if a dedicated designer might have a "better" idea a programmer will often be more interested in pursuing their own pet projects, or perhaps taking turns working on an artists idea given asset production is a "must have" skill.

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The "idea guy," and Game Designer are not the same thing. That's like calling a screenwriter or a film director the "idea guy." Game design has a lot more to do than just coming up with neat ideas. It's putting those ideas into a formulated plan as well as creating the base mechanics to push those ideas into a practical setting.

however, I agree with you that it's a tad silly to demand that a game designer do something else besides design. In fact, outside of teams where multi-tasking is required, game designers rarely do more than design, with the exception of the odd bit of script here and there. For example, on most of your teams in YE OLDEN DAYS, designers would often wear many hats out of necessity. They would also be a level designer, or an artist, or one of the programmers (as was the case with ID and its humble beginnings back when they published under apogee). This has led to a belief by some that in order to be a good designer you need to do more than design.

Now, KNOWING more than design is another thing. A good designer knows design very well. A great designer knows at least the fundamentals of all the other fields so that he is better equipped to work with artists and programmers, level designers, etc.

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I gave everyone except Simon a thumb up..
I don't like his first point about not needing a GDD because he is the programmer and can do what he feels like.


Game Designers do need more respect. Its not an easy job. Good games wouldn't be good without the designer. All the bad games are probably made by people with other jobs thinking they can design the game too.


I agree.
And i mean I've already explained how hard it is to make a proper GDD.
Now multiply it by two times because you also have to design a great combat system for the game.

I've seen so many games that... Well I'm not sure if they had a GDD or not but their combat system and mechanics were terrible as if no thought or planning at all went into it.
It's like they just make a basic combat system as a placeholder so the players can complain and give feedback on how it should become once the game can goes into beta or release.

A combat system should be one of the first things you work on in your GDD depending on how important combat is going to be in your game of course.
Some singleplayer RPG's are for example more focused on the story, and roleplay, dialogues etc isntead of the hack n slash.

The combat system has to blend in and work well together with the rest of the games design.

Edit:
I know that "The idea guy" isn't really a game designer.
But most people seem to think so and I see it posted as replies in almost all threads I see where someone tries to pitch a game concept to find a team.

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I agree.
And i mean I've already explained how hard it is to make a proper GDD.
Now multiply it by two times because you also have to design a great combat system for the game.

I've seen so many games that... Well I'm not sure if they had a GDD or not but their combat system and mechanics were terrible as if no thought or planning at all went into it.
It's like they just make a basic combat system as a placeholder so the players can complain and give feedback on how it should become once the game can goes into beta or release.

A combat system should be one of the first things you work on in your GDD depending on how important combat is going to be in your game of course.
Some singleplayer RPG's are for example more focused on the story, and roleplay, dialogues etc isntead of the hack n slash.

The combat system has to blend in and work well together with the rest of the games design.


Not all games are about combat. Some games don't have combat. But, this applies to all mechanics.

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Not all games are about combat. Some games don't have combat. But, this applies to all mechanics.


I did say that not all games are about combat if you re-read what I said.

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