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Gaiiden

Role of the Designer

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I'm bringing this up because we have a similar discussion going on in the IGDA forums, and I wanted to see what all you thought. This is the original post: Originally posted by Warden As the industry evolves and molds, we're seeing a change of genre, a change of jobs, a change of termonology, technology, as well as many other changes. One thing that has changed very little is the fact that the title of "game designer" is in many ways (at least as I've seen it) very anomolous. For adventure games, the designer was the person who worked on the story, puzzles, and script. For games like Civ, the designer was the person who made the rules and the interface, or comes up with the basic premise. For first person shooters, the designer is the groups of people that do the level design or plot design. Some genres mix any of these jobs or even all of these jobs. So my question is, what is the job of the designer, and what will it be in the future? Will we see the designer as the man who came up with the idea, the person writing the script, the person designing the levels, the peron in charge of the interface, or none of these? Current designers in the industry, what does your job entail? What do you do all day ? And what could you see yourself doing in the future, and what would you rather have other people do? What would you like to focus on? Those of us that want to be designers, what would you like your job to be, and how does this compare to what the reality currently is, or what it will be? My response: Originally posted by Gaiiden I'm a designer, and these are my thoughts. I see the designer as an active player in everything. Most of the time it's the designer who came up with the game idea, so it's his baby, and it's his job to see that it's made correctly. However I see the designer not as a do-it-all, but an overseer. For example at one time the designer may have scripted out stories and such, but these days it would probably be better to bring in an experienced writer and the designer would oversee the work and approve it to his liking. This would be the case for everything else, artwork, gameplay issues, control, music. All these would be done by other people as the designer watched over them, making sure what they created fits the image that is in his head. So in short the designer is the inspiration, nothing more. He lays the groundwork (general stuff, not nitty-gritty details) that a team then starts to build upon as he looks over every step to assure that things are coming together as he wants. Again, in other words, the designer creates an idea, and then hands that idea over to people with greater experience in individual fields, and lets them run with it, tweaking things here and there to fit his image, while a majority of the game ideas themselves (storyline, music composition, artwork) are coming from people who know what they are doing. This approach to game making requires a very general yet specific design document (gotta love the oxymoroness of it all) as well as a team that communicates well together, because they will have to constantly hold meetings to brainstorm ideas and the designer will have to be able to tell people what he wants changed or different and people will have to listen to the designer and not argue with him (unless he is making an obviously anal mistake that he doesn't realize due to lack of knowledge or inexperience in a field). So basically I see the future of a Designer as more of a film Director, or the guy that oversees the work of other people and tweaks it to his vision (George Lucas is an excellent example, if you've ever read or heard about the way he makes his movies). I know that this makes the games industry even more similar to Hollywood and some people may resent that in favor of their own "industry style" but tried and true methods are best. Hmmm.... does anyone think all this expanded would make a good paper? I like the ideas I came up with Let me know what you think. Then I also outlined my idea of what a Producer does: Originally posted by Gaiiden To me, the Producer is the guy who keeps the Designer grounded in reality As far as i'm concerned it's the designers job to come up with all these wild ideas that sound great, and then the Producer comes in and says "Oh well we don't have the time..." or "Sorry, but the budget is too tight..." and stuff like that - "The technology just isn't feasible...". Of course I'm not saying that all the Producer does is shoot down the Designer But that the Producer simply grounds the designer in some cases and if not totally rejecting the idea, then telling the Designer why it won't work so maybe the Designer can rethink it and come back with a revision of the idea that [i]would work. Also the Producer would be in charge of publisher relations and scheduling and working with the marketing department... all those things that a designer shouldn't have to worry about as he crafts his game, or "masterpeice", if you will. And also I would use the methods I've defined for these roles (Designer and Producer) in like a small independant company-type environment. In a larger corporation of course the job profiles would probably be more constricted... prob why I hate large companies Let the festivities begin! Drew Sikora A.K.A. Gaiiden ICQ #: 70449988 AOLIM: DarkPylat Blade Edge Software Public Relations, Game Institute Staff Member, GDNet Online column - Design Corner at Pixelate 3-time Contributing author, Game Design Methods , Charles River Media (coming GDC 2002)

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Is that a little better. You''re right, reading large quotes (specially late at nite) is nothing if not hard on the eyes, but I kept the italics so you could seperate my posts from the other board. You can also just visit the thread over on the IGDA board

Drew Sikora
A.K.A. Gaiiden

ICQ #: 70449988
AOLIM: DarkPylat

Blade Edge Software
Public Relations, Game Institute
Staff Member, GDNet

Online column - Design Corner at Pixelate
3-time Contributing author, Game Design Methods , Charles River Media (coming GDC 2002)

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Hey, Gaiiden!

Yes, I think this would make a good paper. Actually, I''m very interested in hearing about your personal experiences as a designer as well.

I know what I would like a designer to be, and how I would like to work on a game. But, not being an industry professional, I really lack a full understanding of how things actually work. (Sorry about the funky text!)

I would also like to hear any stories of problems you encountered while working on a project, and how you overcame them (or how you failed miserably. )


Jonathon
quote:
"Mathematics are one of the fundamentaries of educationalizing our youths." -George W. Bush

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It seems to me that the Designer will indeed be taking a role more like a Director in a movie, but the Producer could go ahead and receive a change of title to "Project Manager." And that would be the guy handling the task of keeping everyone else on task and keeping the Designer grounded. In the meantime you have the salesman who handles the job of maintaining publisher relations and acquiring project capital. Then lastly you have the marketing department responsible for ad creation if that''s not being handled by the publisher.

That''s my slant, anyway.

Charles Galyon

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It might hurt the games industry to consider games more like movies and less like little (or possibly huge) team projects.

Granted, I''m generally not inside the development team itself, so I could be wrong. My understanding is that there is no translation between making games and making movies, moving from passive to active entertainment is not without a step in a completely different direction.

At least one of the teams I''ve worked for has programmers contributing to design and vice versa, it seems that the best people for a game creation job are those people who can do it all. Because they really know what is needed and what is possible. Which is why it helps to study both computer science and art before trying to move into a design position. Psychology is also a plus.



- God created the world in seven days? I think I can one-up him!

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Well... I think the script should be the job of a writer, first of all.. and I think people who disagree suck. Its no fun trying to be a writer and work in the game industry, because no one really cares about the script, just the gameplay. Therefore, you could hire someone with down syndrome for 25 cents and have him write the script, and your game will sell.

Anyway, the designers job should be to organize the development of the game, basically. You should provide a short but detailed explanation of the game that will allow the team to start and finish the game with little trouble.

Thats the basic purpose for a designer... but right now, Dragon ball Z is on so I need to go watch it

"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster... when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you..."~Friedrich Nietzsche

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Dammit I''ve gone too far again and sounded too professional Do you have any idea how many people misconstrue my ideas and thoughts to be that of a professional developer? Hey - maybe that''s a good sign

Anyways I was thinking of discussing this topic in my next issue of Design Corner over at Pixelate (see my sig), so I wanted some opinions.

Drew Sikora
A.K.A. Gaiiden

ICQ #: 70449988
AOLIM: DarkPylat

Blade Edge Software
Public Relations, Game Institute
Staff Member, GDNet

Online column - Design Corner at Pixelate
3-time Contributing author, Game Design Methods , Charles River Media (coming GDC 2002)

IGDC - the International Game Developers Chat! irc.safemalloc.com #igdc

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Seems to me that your idea of what a designer should be is more like your idea of what you''d like a designer''s job to be. Sure, the designer is tasked with coming up with the storyline, puzzles, units, world, etc., but I don''t think their role is quite as ''managerial'' or ''authoritative'' as you suggest in your post.

As with any large-scale creative project (and by large scale I mean a project that involves more than just one person...a sole writer composing poetry or an artist painting something, etc.) the process is a team effort. The designer is there as a resource, to set down the initial concept for the game (derived through team work) and by the custodian of that vision across the different components of the team. But the designer is in no way the overseer of the project with coders and artists as his subserviants to "unless he is making an obviously anal mistake that he doesn''t realize due to lack of knowledge or inexperience in a field". If the designer lacks the knowledge or experience than why should they be holding such a vital position as you describe?

I think it would be interesting to read more on the typical role of a designer in a team setting, as a component of an overall team effort. There are books on game design that outline this dynamic very well. But I would appreciate gaining this knowledge through interviews with people who are actually active and established in the industry. Don''t mean for this post to seem nasty...I just would prefer to learn from experienced people who actually come from within the industry.

Just my two cents...

R.

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Heya All, good thread going here.

Just a disclaimer: I''m not employed in the game development industry currently but I have been a project technical lead for an accounting software company in the past and I am currently an operating systems programmer for a large corporation. So take my advice with a grain of salt because I''m not familiar with the game industry''s usage of software engineering.

My undergraduate honors thesis in college was titled "A Case Study In Software Engineering." It was an analysis of the software engineering that took place in the accounting software company where I worked as project technical lead.

What I found from this case study and from analyzing other first hand accounts of other people''s experiences is that the usage of software engineering is very rudimentary in most dev shops and its usage industry wide is sporadic. You never know where you''ll find good practices being used.

So what does this have to do with this thread? Well, responsibilities and job management is part of software engineering. From my research and my personal experience this is how I''d characterize the roles

Producer: Oversees all aspects of production. His immediate subordinates are: Project Manager, Sales Manager, Distribution Manager, and Marketing Manager, Financial Manager.

Financial Manager: Manages the money involved with the project.

Sales Manager: At this point this is out of my realm, but I''m sure they have subordinates, such as the sales team.

Distribution Manager: Manages distribution issues such as hardware and packaging, etc. He has a team as well.

Marketing Manager: He has a team that works closely with artists and the project technical lead.

Project Manager: He is responsible for schedules/timelines at project level, resource acquisition, organization, communication facilitation. His major responsibility is the coordination of all of his subordinate''s timelines and schedules. His subordinates are: Project Technical Lead, IT Lead, Website Team Lead, Design Team Lead, and Documentation Lead.

Project Technical Lead: He is responsible the main technical decisions on the project such as, technology usage, major design decisions, problem decomposition, resource allocation, resource acquisition (hardware, software,) timelines/schedules at software level, design documentation, meeting coordination, technology exhibitions, design cost analysis, etc. His subordinates are: Test Team Lead, Programming Team Lead, Tech documentation Lead.

IT Lead: Responsible for handling project hardware and software resources such as desktops, servers, source repositories, etc. He has a team of IT people under him such as system admins, etc.

Website Lead: Responsible for website design, customer communication, schedules/timelines. He has a team underneath him.

Design Team Lead: Responsible for schedule/timeline for concept design responsibilities, Managing concept design teams, art teams, writing teams, music team, and user interface design team. Final decision maker on design issues and initiates first level of design. Communicates with customers about design. Subordinates: Design team, writing team lead, art team lead, music team lead, and user interface design team lead.

Programming Team Lead: Traditionally the strongest programmer on the team. Responsible for laying down major infrastructure pieces of code and tackling the most difficult elements of coding. Helps project tech lead distribute team responsibilities. Helps other programmers with problems. Helps project tech lead with major design decisions.

I could keep going with the others but I won''t. In my current job we have all levels of what I have described but on an even larger scope. This is what I think an ideal team layout would be based upon my experiences and research.

RandomTask

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From what I''ve seen thus far it is basically the same in the game''s industry with some title changes and, in general, a little less redundancy (I don''t mean that in a derogatory manner!).

A lot of game development teams don''t have the capital that a major software engineering firm does, thus they cannot afford to hire as large of an administrative staff. Consequently you have:

1) Producer handles most things a project manager would and there is no project manager.

2) Finance has to be handled by the Producer in a smaller company, but larger companies usually have a Finance (or Accounts) department.

3) Marketing and Distribution will often be handled by the same person and some of the duties of Distribution will be handled by the Producer as well.

4) Resource acquisition is usually handled by the Producer as well.

5) There is almost always a Lead Programmer heading up the Programming Team and this programmer is typically the most senior but must also have management capabilities and keeps the code in an organized format for quick editing.

6) Game Designer handles the game design: this does not just mean he/she comes up with a neat idea and some cool characters. Game Design requires architecting an entire system and working closely with the programmers to ensure that the system is translated into code. Additionally the Game Designer often (but not always now) writes the script and works closely with the artists to ensure that the visuals match the idea.

I believe that covers all of the responsibilities of game development from my own experience. Presently my own group contracts out the artwork and the Game Designer doubles as the Producer. Such is life in a small start-up group. Only programmers need to be kept on staff. In fact, I''m willing to bet that if one got a good enough group of programmers together one could make a company that simply programs for design groups by contracted labor. Probably could be very lucrative as the programmers set their own terms.

Charles Galyon

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CGalyon,

Unfortunately, as you were saying most companies don''t have the resources to have the redundancy that I articulated. I believe that the important thing though is to realize that even if your company or group does not have enough bodies to fill these positions, the responsibilities of these people must still be met.

I have worked in a company that couldn''t afford to fill all the positions so it happened that certain things weren''t getting done, like project timeline tracking.

It is interesting how you talk about redundancy in my model. Tis true, but for good reason. Schedule slip is one of the most prevalent things in the industry and as you can see from my model the major project leaders don''t actually have any design or coding requirements put upon their work time. They are simply there to coordinate schedules with other managers, organize data, track progress and facilitate communication and engineering process.

I think that even without all these people the projects can get done. Every member must be organize, professional and tireless in their duties. I know a lot of people don''t see the value in formal engineering practices but I''ll tell you from my own experience, once you are a project technical lead and are responsible for more than just your own block of code you begin to see why it is important to have to other people working above you.

I would say that where I''ve worked communication breakdown is the leading cause of project failure.

Cheers all,
Great post CGalyon,

RandomTask

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Tacit:

Sorry I made the Designer sound like a dictator, I don''t think of him that way. No one can know everything about every field, and more experienced people shuold take the reins in certain areas. So I guess a better way to say it would be the Designer has to communicate a lot with the dev team and listen to their feedback closely in case he has overseen something that needs changing.

Drew Sikora
A.K.A. Gaiiden

ICQ #: 70449988
AOLIM: DarkPylat

Blade Edge Software
Public Relations, Game Institute
Staff Member, GDNet

Online column - Design Corner at Pixelate
3-time Contributing author, Game Design Methods , Charles River Media (coming GDC 2002)

IGDC - the International Game Developers Chat! irc.safemalloc.com #igdc

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Gaiiden:

You have the longest profile signature I have ever seen


The game industry insists on not hiring writers.... right? So, I guess they should pay the designer for doing the writers job if they want him/her to do it.

The only thing worst than Micerosoft are the gaming companies...

"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster... when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you..."~Friedrich Nietzsche

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Gaiiden, no need to apologize. I was just throwing in an alternate opinion.

Drizzt, I like your new sig much more than your old one. Do you know Nietzsche?

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Personally? Impossible... he obviosly died before I was born.. he died in 1900.

He is my idle.. that quote was the one I heard most recently. I love his views on religion.. he has a powerful mind. He confuses me sometimes. If you like him... check this page out:

http://www.rpi.edu/~macphm/Nietzsche/doomsday.htm

I love that.

"The story I have to tell," he wrote, "is the history of the next two centuries... For a long time now our whole civilization has been driving, with a tortured intensity growing from decade to decade, as if towards a catastrophe: restlessly, violently, tempestuously, like a mighty river desiring the end of its journey, without pausing to reflect, indeed fearful of reflection... Where we live, soon nobody will be able to exist."


"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster... when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you..."~Friedrich Nietzsche

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I know... I was only joking around.

I think I should post that site in the "Religion and Programming" post in the Lounge.


"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster... when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes into you..."~Friedrich Nietzsche

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Well Drizzt, the art of writing goes far beyond simple scriptwriting. A game needs a good script, don''t get that wrong, so you can''t just hire a bum for 25 cents to write your script because it would be trite and nobody would play your game. I believe that a designer''s role in the development process overlaps a writer''s role in most cases. Think about it for a moment:

The primary job of the game designer is to create a vision for a game from scratch. This means that the designer can''t just say "Hey, let''s make a racing game" or "How about a role-playing game?" The designer not only has to decide on a genre, but on a storyline and how that storyline will fit in with the gameplay. A design document is supposed to include a huge backstory, the characters and plot of a game(not necessarily irrelevant in FPS or Racing games), how the player interacts with these elements and an ultimate conclusion. It''s the designer''s job to create that and that makes the designer a writer, whether he likes it or not. At this point, it could become a professional writer''s job to create a script from this rather narrow definition of what the designer wants, or the designer could simply write the script himself(especially since I don''t know many professional writers who would agree to restrict their own artistic invention this way). A designer, therefore, must be a good writer, because that''s an integral part of his primary job.

Similarly, a writer could write the entire script for a game, but in order to do so, he needs to create the same kind of backstory, characters, plots and conclusion that the game designer does for his design document. This would make the writer the game designer, also whether he likes it or not.

In conclusion, Writing and Design tend to overlap so much that many smaller game teams feel they simply don''t need a writer so much as they need a designer who writes well

Paradigm Shift 2000

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Agreed, from my own experience as a designer I''ve had to write every single script. However after I''ve completed the script (which serves more as a skeleton than anything else) I usually either go back over it myself or have other people go over to make the conversations more interesting and fluid.

Writing runs dry after the first hundred pages or so, so you''ll typically need to just finish fleshing out the story and the bones of the dialogue and then rework the dialogue to something more interesting. Otherwise you''ll end up with some of the horrible dialogue I''m sure everyone has seen in other games. Having the whole team occassionally contribute to the dialogue is not a bad idea at all. An idea is to actually have different team members who "fit" a role best to review and contribute to all of the dialogue for a certain character.

Keep in mind that laying out the framework is a long process and is generally up to the designer only. But finalizing the script is often best done as a group effort.

Charles Galyon

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If the project allows for it, I don''t see any reason why a designer and a strong writer could work together to come up with the story. As you say, game writing involves a lot more than just writing the scripts. It includes having a fundamental understanding of how to craft a story so that it will be interesting for the player. So, why not, if the designer (who knows a lot about how games work) is not also a strong writer (who knows a lot about how plots are devised, characters are brought to life, and themes are explored), why could they not work in tandem to come up with a truly interesting piece of work?

Half-Life was created this way. Also, many of the Tom Clancy titles. The Myst series uses professional writers as well. And let''s not forget ''I have no mouth and I must scream'', Ellison''s book turned interactive fiction.

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Yeah, that could be done, the only thing is that they really do have to be able to work together and if you have a small development group, then that''s another person taking a cut of the money. What it really boils down to is the cost efficiency. If you want an estimate of cost efficiency you can graph the number of people and the time gained with the additional people and then compare the amount you are paying them to the amount of time saved. Then you''ll see whether or not adding another person is worthwhile or if it will just cost you too much.

Charles Galyon

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Of course that''s true...but you also have to factor in that for some game projects having a well-written story and script might not be a luxury but a necessity, and the chances of a designer being excellent at both game design and writing seems rather slim. Not impossible, but slim.

But I agree with you Charles, that in some cases the game''s budget will not allow for this, although there is no real reason that you couldn''t use a professional writer as a story consultant on a project and pay them through a contactual agreement, as you might for artists or coders as necessary.

R.

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Which is what the company I work for does.

And before you mention credibility, we are currently working on a contract to present for Blizzard Entertainment. So it's not a concept to scoff at either.

EDIT: spelling error (oops)

- God created the world in seven days? I think I can one-up him!

Edited by - symphonic on October 19, 2001 1:25:20 PM

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