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glhf

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

100 posts in this topic

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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[quote name='glhf' timestamp='1334886741' post='4933023']
So I really don't understand why people don't want a "idea guy" aka game designer in a team.
[/quote]
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 [i]don't[/i] 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 "[url="http://www.lostgarden.com/2011/05/game-design-logs.html"]design logs[/url]" 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.

[quote]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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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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[quote name='SimonForsman' timestamp='1334889209' post='4933035']
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.
[/quote]
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 [i]a lot[/i] 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 [i]great[/i] 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.

[quote name='peakdap24' timestamp='1334886925' post='4933024']
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.
[/quote]

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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[quote name='glhf' timestamp='1334890743' post='4933046']
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.
[/quote]

Not all games are about combat. Some games don't have combat. But, this applies to all mechanics.
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[quote name='peakdap24' timestamp='1334891098' post='4933047']
Not all games are about combat. Some games don't have combat. But, this applies to all mechanics.
[/quote]

I did say that not all games are about combat if you re-read what I said.
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[quote name='glhf' timestamp='1334890743' post='4933046']
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.
[/quote]
I don't think he was saying that he didn't need a GDD -- in fact I believe his point is completely unrelated to the presence or absence of a GDD -- because he's the programmer; he was saying that as a programmer, he also has design ideas and would rather work on his own than on an idea provided by someone else. He may or may not have written up [i]his own GDD[/i] describing said ideas.

This is a motivation that influences many (perhaps most?) hobbyist and would-be-indie programmers -- they have their own ideas that they want to bring to life, and they have (at least some of) the skills necessary to do so -- they might even be the designers we began the whole discussion with, who were forced to learn another skill because they couldn't find any team willing to take on someone who is a "pure designer".
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[quote name='SimonForsman' timestamp='1334891997' post='4933052']
A person who tries to pitch a game concept to find a team is not a designer, he is an idea guy, If you're a game designer and want to join a team then you should show that you have some design experience (a game concept or GDD is not design experience)
[/quote]

I'd agree with that -- much like [url="http://www.obscure.co.uk/articles-2/preparing-a-product-pitch/"]preparing a pitch for a publisher[/url], someone looking to join a team a designer really needs to do a good job both of pitching the idea in question, and of demonstrating their own skills and usefulness to the team. This should ideally involve a proven track-record of previous titles, but obviously everyone has to start somewhere, so those without a track record might show off a successful board-game design, prototypes put together with a point&click game maker, detailed documents and concepts, annotated sketches of maps (even better if you've put some together in an editor!), etc. If the project in question is planning to launch as a commercial indie effort you might go so far as to require a relevant degree.

A GDD alone proves nothing -- as glhf mentioned in the OP, many people manage to push themselves all the way through writing a completed screen-play, but that alone does not necessarily mean their work is of good quality or would make for a good movie.

[quote name='glhf' timestamp='1334886741' post='4933023']
So "the idea person" or rather the game designer an has insane amount of work.. [b]He just does most of it before a dev team begins working on it[/b].
[/quote](Emphasis mine)

I wouldn't agree that the majority of a game designer's work is done before developers start work on a project; there is still plenty to be done communicating to the team, clarifying anything that wasn't clear, making changes to the initial design where necessary, balancing game-play once you can test things, etc. Any so-called designer who approaches a team looking to hand over a completed GDD and expecting to do minimal or no further work is obviously not a real designer who will be a valuable team-member; (s)he is just an "idea guy" who happens to have taken the time to write up their idea in detail, in much the same way that an average-Joe who writes out a screen-play is not necessarily qualified to call themselves a screen writer.
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@simon
If you are using your own GDD as a programmer then your not only a programmer but a designer as well... That's two jobs.
And you don't have to have completed games to be a game designer.. that's just so others can know you're good at designing games without looking at your GDD.

@JBadams
A GDD doesn't prove anything but neither does previous completed games. Previous completed games (good ones) says that you can create good game designs but doesn't prove your next one will be good.. Just increases the likelyhood. A GDD says a lot even if you don't have previous completed games.

It's like... Would you buy a share in the stock market just because it's been climbing in the past? (previous games)
Or would you take a look at the GDD and see if it's a potential good game (Analyze the share in stock market to see if there's an incoming reversal or the company is having trouble etc)?

Both is better than none but I would for sure go with the GDD if I had to chose just one of these.
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Btw, I would like a list of all titles that fall under game designing?

There's sooo many titles and I don't know them all really.. but like there's creative director, level designer, story writer(?) etc..
I also think game designer should have marketing in the game design too.. How will it be marketed? Published? competition? potential revenue? Also think they should design the website as well.
So would be cool if someone can make a list of all titles that fall udner game designer and a short description of what each titles job is
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A good game designer is not necessarily skilled at marketing or at web design/development. These are different and very complex fields and would entail the designer taking on multiple (and not particularly related) roles, which you initially said was a bad thing. I would agree with your own initial assessment; ideally a game designer should not have to take on multiple roles, including marketing or web design. In reality of course they may well do so, as it is common in indie development to take on multiple disciplines.

Job titles vary from company to company, and there is very little in the way of any sort of standardisation; the requirements for a designer at one company may be very different from those at a different company. Case in point, "designer" can sometimes really mean "artist". You may however find[url="http://www.igda.org/sites/default/files/IGDA_CreditsSnapshot_Apr06.pdf"] this report from the IGDA[/url] to be relevant; pages 7-8 list various common "design" job-titles with a brief description of each.

[quote name='glhf' timestamp='1334894061' post='4933061']
A GDD says a lot even if you don't have previous completed games.
[/quote]
A GDD says that you can write a GDD; nothing more or less. Without that proven track record it may be completely worthless. To be clear, I'm not saying you should prefer a designer with a proven track record over one who has a GDD; I'm saying any designer worth having will have [i]both[/i], or if they are just starting out will have taken the time to produce something else to show you (levels or mods for an existing commercial game, "game maker" games, annotated sketches, a successful board game, etc.) in place of a track-record. A GDD is just a starting point, and just like your example of an average Joe who has taken the time to write a screen play, tells you near to nothing about the potential success or failure of the final product.

If I might reference Daniel Cook again:
[quote][size=2][i]from "[url="http://www.lostgarden.com/2005/08/why-you-should-share-your-game-designs.html"]Why you should share your game designs[/url]" (Lost Garden) [/i][/size]

[b]Your game design is simply a starting point[/b]
A game starts out with 1% game design and end up 100% production and polish. During the production and polish stages of the title, the game design is likely to change dramatically. For example, there was once a genre busting game design by a famous designer that involved a magic hammer and was described as an epic fantasy action RPG. Something very interesting happened along the way to creating the title. First, they did what every good team does in the early stages. They prototyped the concept and evolved what worked. The grand initial design ended up turning into an intense FPS shooter. What was this fantasy RPG? It was a little title called Quake.
...
A game design ends up being closer to a movie script than it is to a blue print. The director who executes your design has a major impact on the ultimate results.[/quote]
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[quote name='glhf' timestamp='1334894061' post='4933061']
@simon
If you are using your own GDD as a programmer then your not only a programmer but a designer as well... That's two jobs.
And you don't have to have completed games to be a game designer.. that's just so others can know you're good at designing games without looking at your GDD.

@JBadams
A GDD doesn't prove anything but neither does previous completed games. Previous completed games (good ones) says that you can create good game designs but doesn't prove your next one will be good.. Just increases the likelyhood. A GDD says a lot even if you don't have previous completed games.

It's like... Would you buy a share in the stock market just because it's been climbing in the past? (previous games)
Or would you take a look at the GDD and see if it's a potential good game (Analyze the share in stock market to see if there's an incoming reversal or the company is having trouble etc)?

Both is better than none but I would for sure go with the GDD if I had to chose just one of these.
[/quote]

a GDD doesn't say anything about a persons design skills, things that look good on paper rarely is as good in practice which is why game designs tend to change drastically during development, hand the same GDD to two different teams and you might end up with completely different games possibly even in different genres (Changes can be very drastic and good designers are probably more able to make drastic changes if they spot an opportunity for it) (id Softwares Quake for example is an excellent example, it started out as a fantasy RPG but ended up a sci-fi action shooter because the designer wasn't afraid to make drastic changes when testing revealed opportunities or flaws) (And the designer was obviously also good enough to realise that the game would be better if the changes were made)

This is why a GDD is nearly worthless as a basis to hire someone on, If i hire a designer i'm not interested in what starting point he can provide, i'm interested in the results he can deliver especially if there are technical or practical constraints to what can be done (For indies this is always the case) , a solid SC2 level says more about a persons design skills than any GDD ever will.

I wouldn't call myself a game designer even though i have designed games since its not what i primarily do, just like i don't call myself an artist or a composer even though i've drawn pictures, built 3d models and composed some music tracks. I would consider it extremely disrespectful towards those who actually dedicate themselves to those jobs.

Edit:

I think we are partially talking about different things aswell, If you are a designer trying to form a team then having a GDD is far more important than if you are a designer trying to join a team.

If you intend to join a team then your GDD will most likely not be used at all as the team has allready gone beyond that point (It might be a starting point for a second project though) and any decent team will be far more interested in what you can do with an existing concept.

If you intend to form a team then things get really rough as you have to not only sell your design, but also your ability to produce a finished product.
This is why most successful indie teams start out as 1 - 3 man projects, You cannot reasonably expect to attract talented strangers to your project unless it is at a stage from which the finish line is clearly visible.
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I just don't agree and I'm sticking with what I've said previously.

a GDD isn't just 1% of the development progress.
the GDD is what tells how good the game will be.. and if a GDD causes 2 different teams to create compeltely different games then it was either a badly detailed GDD or the teams didn't follow the GDD correctly.

In movies for example.. There is 1 director. Sometimes more but most of the time it's just one. He directs the movie not the actors (programmers).
Actors should follow the GDD to the letter, no arguments. Only reason to not follow the GDD is if the director says otherwise.

You're saying the GDD doesn't say anything about how good the game will be but that's completely false.
You think producers and actors who are looking for a screenplay only are like "oh it's that guy who made 2 good movies before, you're hired.. I don't need to read your new screenplay". That they've made good movies before only puts him on their radar.. so when he has new screenplays (GDD's) they will read it... and if they like it (if the GDD sounds like it will make a good game) then they do it.
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The major problem with game designers in indie games is, that you don't really need them. Before slapping me, let me explain:

Most people will think that the "idea guy" is automatically a candidate for the [i]role [/i]of the game designer, which is just wrong, because with this argument 99% of the world population would be qualified as game designer.

To be honest, a idea guy is not needed in a small indie team, [i]atleast in a team of unpaid individuals teaming up to create a game[/i], I'm not talking about independent game studios which will hire people. In small teams you have a idea leader and a idea team, because else you would never keep up the motivation as long as you don't pay them.

So, what is left for the game designer. The role of a game designer is important, but it is just a role and you don't need to have one unique guy to design the whole game. In small teams you can give individual member game designing competence, i.e. the artist who has made some cool looking monster which will get a special role in the game has designed the game this way. Or the coder which comes up with some cool shader effect which will be included in the game as special ability has taken the role of the game designer. Often the game design will be discussed by the whole team while drinking a cool beer.

The next point is, small teams are most likely not working with a waterfall development process (GDD->implementation->test->done), they will work in a more agile process (either chaos or smaller iterations).

That's the reason you don't really need a single person who has taken solely the role of the game designer. It is more or less a team task and every team has a natural fear of people who want to tell them what to do and don't do anything else, then to write down what the team members have to do.

The solution is to either study game design and try to get a job in the game industry, or to learn some other skills and participate in a small indie team, or to hire people and pay them to do what you have envisioned.
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[quote name='Ashaman73' timestamp='1334901136' post='4933084']
The major problem with game designers in indie games is, that you don't really need them. Before slapping me, let me explain:

Most people will think that the "idea guy" is automatically a candidate for the [i]role [/i]of the game designer, which is just wrong, because with this argument 99% of the world population would be qualified as game designer.

To be honest, a idea guy is not needed in a small indie team, [i]atleast in a team of unpaid individuals teaming up to create a game[/i], I'm not talking about independent game studios which will hire people. In small teams you have a idea leader and a idea team, because else you would never keep up the motivation as long as you don't pay them.

So, what is left for the game designer. The role of a game designer is important, but it is just a role and you don't need to have one unique guy to design the whole game. In small teams you can give individual member game designing competence, i.e. the artist who has made some cool looking monster which will get a special role in the game has designed the game this way. Or the coder which comes up with some cool shader effect which will be included in the game as special ability has taken the role of the game designer. Often the game design will be discussed by the whole team while drinking a cool beer.

The next point is, small teams are most likely not working with a waterfall development process (GDD->implementation->test->done), they will work in a more agile process (either chaos or smaller iterations).

That's the reason you don't really need a single person who has taken solely the role of the game designer. It is more or less a team task and every team has a natural fear of people who want to tell them what to do and don't do anything else, then to write down what the team members have to do.

The solution is to either study game design and try to get a job in the game industry, or to learn some other skills and participate in a small indie team, or to hire people and pay them to do what you have envisioned.
[/quote]

This sounds to be the way it is right now and is why I named the thread "Why dont game designers get respected in indy teams?"
Because they should get more respect.

Another thing is that just because it's indy doesn't have to mean amateur.
People can and should act professional and stick to their roles/jobs.

Have you ever seen what chaos and disaster it is when indy film makers team up and the director, actor, camera man etc they all want to direct and have their say in how to movie should progress. It just don't work.. It's like mixing food with other food that individually they taste great but when mixed together it's disgusting.

I've seen games that have had great potential be ruined because the devs didn't have a person in charge of the game design.
One of them was in favor of open pvp with harsh penalties and the other was in favor of consensual pvp with no punishments.. only rewards.
This leads to a game that both the open pvp players and the consensual pvp players hate.. zero playerbase.
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[quote name='glhf' timestamp='1334901738' post='4933087']
This sounds to be the way it is right now and is why I named the thread "Why dont game designers get respected in indy teams?"
Because they should get more respect.
[/quote]

Game designers do get alot of respect from indie teams, The problem lies entierly with the wannabe designers who really don't understand how game design works or the constraints of indie game development.

If you can point me towards one thread on these forums where a good game designer is trying to form an indie team but failing to do so i will not only rate you up, i will pitch in and help him/her out.
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[quote name='SimonForsman' timestamp='1334902419' post='4933088']
[quote name='glhf' timestamp='1334901738' post='4933087']
This sounds to be the way it is right now and is why I named the thread "Why dont game designers get respected in indy teams?"
Because they should get more respect.
[/quote]

Game designers do get alot of respect from indie teams, The problem lies entierly with the wannabe designers who really don't understand how game design works or the constraints of indie game development.

If you can point me towards one thread on these forums where a good game designer is trying to form an indie team but failing to do so i will not only rate you up, i will pitch in and help him/her out.
[/quote]

Well, I didn't say they were good game designers or good game concepts.
But the replies all those threads are saying that game designers need to do a second job as well is just wrong.
They should instead be replying that he is a bad game designer... or not post at all rather.
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[quote name='glhf' timestamp='1334902810' post='4933091']
[quote name='SimonForsman' timestamp='1334902419' post='4933088']
[quote name='glhf' timestamp='1334901738' post='4933087']
This sounds to be the way it is right now and is why I named the thread "Why dont game designers get respected in indy teams?"
Because they should get more respect.
[/quote]

Game designers do get alot of respect from indie teams, The problem lies entierly with the wannabe designers who really don't understand how game design works or the constraints of indie game development.

If you can point me towards one thread on these forums where a good game designer is trying to form an indie team but failing to do so i will not only rate you up, i will pitch in and help him/her out.
[/quote]

Well, I didn't say they were good game designers or good game concepts.
But the replies all those threads are saying that game designers need to do a second job as well is just wrong.
They should instead be replying that he is a bad game designer... or not post at all rather.
[/quote]

Can you atleast point out a thread or classified made by a game designer then ? (He doesn't even have to be good, he just have to actually offer to do all the design work) (i can rate you up for it but i won't waste my time helping out on such a project)
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