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Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2010 11:46 am
by Zilla
So, Jenn, you were in the game industry a while back (don't know if you still are)... I'm currently going to school to become a game designer, but I'm considering jumping in and dropping school, for financial and soul-saving reasons. I want a project to dedicate to instead of trite assignments and stuff...

So, I wanted to know, what advice can you give for getting into the industry? I'm fine with entry-level work, and I do have an internship as a game designer at the moment, though I'm looking for something more involved than the internship...

And if it helps, how did you get into the industry yourself?

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2010 2:41 pm
by masstreble
*Jumps in for no reason*
Remember, she left the industry because of how it changed while she was in it.
*Jumps back out*

...

*Jumps back in*
I like indie games! More and more people are playing them, too, and they look good in a portfolio. I'm going to be selfish and encourage you to do those kinds of projects!
*Jumps back out again*

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2010 5:19 pm
by Zilla
(I didn't know that, though I understand it)

Well, yeah, I too have a lot of issue with how the industry has changed over the last 10 or so years. Around the time Sega dropped out and Big Business dropped in...

Things are shaking up a bit at least, just a bit. There's new fields of game design emerging. Social-mechanics and "mid-core audience" seem to be the buzzwords of the day, but unfortunately, zynga seems to be monopolizing that market, and the actual "industry" as I remember it circa early 1990's is now dominated by "triple A titles" made by huge, publisher heavy businesses with tons of "market research" to stymie innovation and water down a great product for a mass market appeal, where the love isn't in the mechanics but the money they can rake in by designing toward huge audiences.

My ambition is to make games that I don't care about how popular they are, but express what I want them to express, and deliver and experience that I find fun. I don't have any delusions of grandeur about it, I don't expect to be the next Sid Meier or Shigeru Miyamoto, I'm not even shooting for profitability, really. That's going to turn publishers off, I know, but with the rise of digital distribution, I think I have a shot at dodging those needs.

On the flipside, I'd like to gain experience by working on low-level things with almost any company. I don't mind doing the minutia like level design, character design, balance tweaking, etc. I actually had a ton of fun balancing the prototype we were working on for my internship.

As said before, programming is my weak area. The main reason I need a team together is to compensate for my limited code experience.

I actually don't know when Jenn left the industry, but even learning about how it was in the past might help me now.

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 07, 2010 7:29 pm
by Coda
I'm not familiar with the modern industry, either; I've always been a maker of toys with aspirations to produce a grand console-style RPG. But as I've said before, I have the tech skills, but I lack creative design talent or experience in 3D code.

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2010 1:14 am
by Zilla
3D is a level above 2D, but it's not THAT much more complex. It's mostly about projections onto a plane and more advanced linear algebra with matrixes.

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2010 6:00 am
by Coda
I know the THEORY. I've dabbled in it before and I know all of the math. But I don't have any REAL experience in it, so I can't just sit down and write or debug 3D code and expect it to work like I can with 2D (or backend) code.

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2010 1:49 pm
by masstreble
I have a good friend who's been trying to get a game design group going. All we're missing is, yeah, the programmers. Very strange: in the industry itself, there are practically too many programmers, and they are treated poorly by their employers.

Me? I'm an artist. I draw shit. I'm not terribly good at it, I'm far from a professional level, but I'm creeping up on it, like a cheetah stalks up to a gazelle.

I'm gonna eat that gazelle someday.

Ahem, anyhow, I CAN 3d model, if you give me a way to download Blender and a couple of months to learn the different interface and brush up. Also, I've taken a beginning programing class, so code isn't alien to me, but I don't know the first thing about computer graphics, per se.

I have a lot to learn before I can help my friend. Yeah. So there's me.

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2010 5:17 pm
by mwchase
I'm mocking up the UI of one of my ideas right now (in Scratch, which either means that that's a good idea, or I'm completely insane), and, if I can turn it into code, I'll consider myself okay. If that works out, who feels like glomming on first?

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Fri Apr 09, 2010 10:06 am
by draque
I'm just making the obligatory "stay in school!" post here. This is the best time to be in school/racking up debt that you're going to find. Being a full time student in a recession means that you're skipping a period where you would have low earning potential anyhow. Also, dem lernin's are important.

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:25 am
by Ashes
Stay in school. I wasn't able to, and have huge regrets over that. You've already shelled out a lot of money -- get your money's worth by getting a diploma. As nice as having an indie game on your resume looks, having an indie game and a diploma looks even nicer. You can finish your game after college, but if you drop college now you wouldn't be able to get a diploma without nearly starting all over again at the beginning.

Plus everything Draque said.

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Fri Apr 09, 2010 11:46 am
by Plasman
>.< (is sorry he didn't study IT and software design while he had the chance)

I thought you might be interested in reading this - it's the Accursed Toys' Philosophy of Game Design. Jennifer included it in her essay hidden inside Boppin'; not sure if her and Stephen still adhere to it, but it's food for thought nonetheless.

Accursed Toys' Philosophy of Game Design


1. A Game should be written for the benefit and comfort of the Player, not the Programmer.
2. A Game should always have AT LEAST a Two Player option, A Game is a social activity.
3. The Player should be given the maximum power to control and configure the game possible. The Player can be trusted to decide their own pleasure.
4. A Game should be both Playable and Fun before ALL else. Nothing is as important as this. A beautiful Game that cannot be enjoyed is an abomination.
5. Never create excitement cheaply. A Time limit or clock cannot save a stupid game. Excitement must come from the challenge to the mind not only the reflexes.
6. The Player has the right to be treated intelligently, and with respect, as an equal. A Game exists to pleasure and challenge, not to thwart or frustrate.
7. The Player has the right to the fruit of their actions, thus they must be provided with the capacity to Save, Load, and Delete their efforts, and manage their affairs.

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Fri Apr 09, 2010 3:06 pm
by masstreble
Oh, yeah, those rules are totally awesome. I mean, you can follow them the best you can and still have a mediocre game at the end, but... Still, those are really good ideas.

The only one I have any issue with is the multi-player thing. I mean, it's certainly not a bad idea, but I know a few people who actually avoid all multi-player content. Me, I love to play with friends, or at least to have the option, but it just doesn't work for certain types of games. Rather, they do fine without.

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 1:09 pm
by flammifer
I work in the game industry :D Though I'm in France, so I can't say much about how things work in the states. Also, I didn't have any formal game design education, and though I was hired as a game designer, I eventually moved on to programming, which is a lot of fun too :D

Make little flash games! It doesn't require too much programming, and makes something you can stick on the net for everybody to see.

Or play around with RPG maker, or some other game creation tool - or make mods and shit. That always looks good, and may not require any programming.

Learning how to program is a plus - if it's not your weak point, how about fixing that? I know some game designers who can program pretty well, being able to make flash mockups of ideas or interfaces is always a valuable skill - it's a way of cheaply testing things before implementing them in a "real" game engine. Learning basic programming is pretty easy these days; you don't need to go into the fine points of engineering like making elegant, reuseable code that otherpeople (or you in three weeks) can understand. Being able to hack stuff together is enough all that's needed to make a neat prototype; overengineering (something I'm often guilty of) doesn't make a better game. Plus, learning to program may make it easier to communicate with programmers.

Or if you really don't want to program, how about designing board games or card games? There are some common bits in the design of both (how to balance systems, how to explain a system to the player, how to fit mechanics with "athmosphere" ...), it doesn't require any computer skills and is *fun* :D

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 1:25 pm
by masstreble
Nice to hear from somebody in-industry, Flammifer. At least in this thread directly, anyhow. You're so relaxed and happy! Most people I've talked to working in the digital game industry here spend most of their waking hours on it, and they don't seem very happy about it all. Something I hear a lot is that, "this stopped being fun many years ago". It's also competitive to the extreme. Reading what you have to say, though, it doesn't have to be that way. Good to know.

Also! What you said about Flash does seem to be pretty accurate from my research. A lot of setting up a game is in the back-end architecture of it, the hierarchies of the system, and Flash tends to handle most of that for you. Except everybody complains that the native hit detection essentially doesn't work, so they all have to make their own? (It's Adobe, they don't care anymore, they've won as far they're concerned.) I know of a couple of people who are moving into professional-level that started with lots of Flash toys.

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 1:38 pm
by Coda
That comment about hit detection really extends to most rapid-development tools like Flash and RPG Maker and such, and extends beyond hit detection; the problem with tools like that is that no matter how proficient you get you're always going to be limited by them.

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 1:48 pm
by masstreble
Well, maybe I like to be limited by my tools. WHAT IF I'M INTO THAT CODA?? ;]

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 2:16 pm
by Coda
More power to you; I used to do that too -- doing things with Visual Basic 6 that people didn't know you could do with Visual Basic (like 3D!).

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 2:33 pm
by masstreble
Coda wrote:More power to you; I used to do that too -- doing things with Visual Basic 6 that people didn't know you could do with Visual Basic (like 3D!).

Holy f-- I'm impressed. :kiss:

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Sat Apr 10, 2010 3:35 pm
by Coda
masstreble wrote:
Coda wrote:More power to you; I used to do that too -- doing things with Visual Basic 6 that people didn't know you could do with Visual Basic (like 3D!).

Holy f-- I'm impressed. :kiss:

Visual Basic could load DLLs, even in VB2, so that means it has access to everything any other Windows programming language can do.

Re: Questions about game design.

PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 1:36 am
by flammifer
masstreble wrote:Nice to hear from somebody in-industry, Flammifer. At least in this thread directly, anyhow. You're so relaxed and happy! Most people I've talked to working in the digital game industry here spend most of their waking hours on it, and they don't seem very happy about it all. Something I hear a lot is that, "this stopped being fun many years ago". It's also competitive to the extreme. Reading what you have to say, though, it doesn't have to be that way. Good to know.


I guess I was lucky - I haven't been in too many death marches, and I still find it fun to work on my own games at home :D

Also! What you said about Flash does seem to be pretty accurate from my research. A lot of setting up a game is in the back-end architecture of it, the hierarchies of the system, and Flash tends to handle most of that for you. Except everybody complains that the native hit detection essentially doesn't work, so they all have to make their own? (It's Adobe, they don't care anymore, they've won as far they're concerned.) I know of a couple of people who are moving into professional-level that started with lots of Flash toys.


I hardly never did any flash, so I don't know that much about the pros and cons - I just know that it's a good way to get something pretty done quickly enough. I'm not surprised about hit detection - collision handling in general is hard to get right, and often a good 50 % of bugs have something to do with collisions.