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RE: [gamedesign-l] Some questions

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  • philip.harris
    ... In my case I produce a small document which describes the concept, it s 5-10 pages and tells anyone interested enough to read it just enough to get a feel
    Message 1 of 13 , Oct 1, 2002
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      > 1) When is a design-concept exactly finished? Is it the point where I
      > can work no longer with paper or word-processors and need to use game-

      > programming software or graphic programs?

      In my case I produce a small document which describes the concept, it's
      5-10 pages and tells anyone interested enough to read it just enough to
      get a feel for what the game is. There's a one sentence summary of the
      game, a paragraph or two which expands on it a little, maybe a few
      comments on the game world, key gameplay points, a list of unique
      selling points for the game maybe some comparisons with similar products
      and why this one is better and maybe some budget information.

      The rest of the information you describe goes in what I would consider
      the game design itself. But...I come from the prototype school of game
      design. Rather than try and decide up front everything about the game,
      the design contains a relatively brief overview of the game. The details
      are ironed out and shown in prototypes and playable demos. Levels get
      their own micro-design docs but they are produced as the game progresses
      rather than all at the beginning.

      That said, other people prefer the big design doc route and try and plan
      everything up front in which case you might consider that the design doc
      isn't finished until absolutely everything is nailed down with enough
      information for the programmers and artists to produce the entire game
      without having to ask you a single question.

      At some point you have to switch from documents to the actual game, but
      where that point is is entirely up to you.

      > 2) Are there any companies that would show interest in a
      > game-folder on that level?
      > 3) Which companies would you recommend to apply with such a
      > `handmade` micro-management game concept.
      > 4) What should I expect from such a move?
      > 5)Assume they like the concept. Would they just buy it
      > and then say good-bye?
      > 6) What would they pay me for a good concept (assume
      > that both sides know that it is a good concept)?

      Without wishing to sound too negative...the chances of a publisher
      buying a concept are extremely small. They will have their own ideas,
      and hundreds of developers pitching ideas with prototypes.

      You *might* find a developer looking for the sort of game you've
      designed who would take it on to develop it but again is fairly unlikely
      because most developers will have their own ideas.

      There are a small number of companies who do exactly what you are
      talking about, they act as the design team and pitch a finished
      design/concept to a publisher. There aren't many of them and the chances
      of them wanting your idea is very small because...you guessed
      it...they've got their own ideas.

      > 7)What job would they offer me? :-)

      :-) The chances of you landing designer job without having a finished
      game under your belt are very small. It is possible but it takes a lot
      of luck.

      The problem is what your offering is an idea. Unfortunately ideas are
      easy, implementation is what counts. Take "Golf Resort Tycoon" and "Sid
      Meier's SimGolf", both the same idea, one sucks the other is (arguably)
      very good. A design doc goes some way to showing how good your
      implementation is but what you really need is something to show, very
      quickly, how good your game is. A prototype is really the only way to do
      this.

      On a more constructive note, your best bet is to pull together a couple
      of programmers/artists to help you produce a playable game. Then you
      stand a much better chance of selling the idea to the publisher. Or you
      might decide to produce it yourself and sell it on the web.

      Having said that, if you are just looking for a job, a portfolio of game
      designs is a good addition to your CV and will help show how
      enthusiastic you are about games. That might help you get a job as a
      tester (particularly if your communication skills are good) and from
      there into level design and so on.

      Philip Harris
      Batfish Studios Ltd
      http://www.batfishstudios.com


      -----Original Message-----
      From: turntabloidism [mailto:turntabloidism@...]
      Sent: 28 September 2002 10:30
      To: gamedesign-l@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [gamedesign-l] Some questions


      I would like to ask some questions. They might be not of great
      interest to the group members, for they are all advanced
      professionals in the game-biz. So I feel sorry for asking them here.


      I have 3 micro-management game ideas which I work on.
      The paperwork of one is finihed to 35%. The plot(s), the goal(s), the
      storyline (say the Three Act Structure) are outworked. I know what
      will happen and how it will happen, but must still decide concretely
      where I'm going to place some particuar events. The number of
      interfaces, the buttons (functions), the number of characters are
      decided, but I must still developed the characteristics of
      the "obstacles" (I know what problems they will cause, but I have not
      yet cleared what `knowledge` will be read on their `displays`. So I
      can say that I have a structure that stands on it feets and provides
      a game-like feeling. I also described the special features of the
      game which would carry the finished product beyond the definition
      `micro-management` game and would allow to make a lucrative thing out
      of it (online version, number of other related releases... expansion
      etc.)

      But now comes the point: The only thing I can do with a computer is
      writing and playing :-). Everything I prepared is drawn or written by
      hand. I might scan them and place them on the word-processor written
      copy of the design-paper, but this is almost all I can do with a
      computer.

      Now my questions are the following:
      1) When is a design-concept exactly finished? Is it the point where I
      can work no longer with paper or word-processors and need to use game-
      programming software or graphic programs?
      2) Are there any companies that would show interest in a game-folder
      on that level?
      3) Which companies would you recommend to apply with such a
      `handmade` micro-management game concept.
      4) What should I expect from such a move?
      5)Assume they like the concept. Would they just buy it and then say
      good-bye?
      6) What would they pay me for a good concept (assume that both sides
      know that it is a good concept)?
      7)What job would they offer me? :-)

      Thanks

      tt






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    • turntabloidism
      Hi, thanks a lot for your detailed information. It is very useful to get examples on how other people manage their work and it helps to orientate oneself. I
      Message 2 of 13 , Oct 2, 2002
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        Hi,

        thanks a lot for your detailed information. It is very useful to get
        examples on how other people manage their work and it helps to
        orientate oneself. I think the way I do my work was maybe
        not "professional", but at least not too bad.

        I started by buying a 500 pages notebook and a set of color-pens and
        noted or draw down everything that fell in my mind about the game-
        idea. After a couple of weeks I had nearly 250 pages full with
        notes, drawings and pictures related to the subject. Meanwhile I
        played a lot of games from the genre I try to contribute, but with
        an different eye... no longer to win, but to see the relations
        between items of and events in the game. At least I collected tons
        of details, prepared huge lists of menu buttons, functions and items
        etc... The structure, storylines, characters and the basic features
        of the game were cleared. I know all the features of the game. Even
        what will be added to the expansion pack(s), what will be the
        internet features and how all that should be promoted and released ;-
        )

        Then I started to write my idea on the word-processor. The result
        was at first that 5-10 pages document you were talking about. It
        includes almost the same informations you advised me to give. But I
        couldn't add any budget information for I have no idea what is all
        needed to produce a game and how much the staff would demand ofr the
        workload. In the "small concept" I used a flashforward-technique to
        explain the feel and the world of the game: invented "players in a
        not so far future" described their experience with the game and what
        they find so amazing about it. This also helped me better to
        understand why I like this game so much to be realized.

        At the moment I describe the functions on the "pre-game" interfaces.
        For example I explain what the exit button is good for and what
        happens under what conditions when the button is pressed :-) I have
        finished about 45 pages (not only about the exit button). Then I
        will start to describe the function buttons within the game itself
        etc...

        I have the feeling that all that I did is not too bad. But what I'm
        really concerned about is the question if all this will come to an
        result. Am I only amusing myself with a childish play or will it
        turn into something more serious?: a job I'd really love to do (I
        have a good one at the moment, believe me, but I realized that its
        not what I want to do)

        >everything is nailed down with enough
        >information for the programmers and artists to produce the entire
        >game without having to ask you a single question

        Well, that is the thing I am trying to do, because I am not able to
        explain how the game has to be programmed (what "codes"
        and "engines" have to be used )so the only thing I can do is to
        describe precisely what it looks like and what I want it to perform.

        > Without wishing to sound too negative...the chances of a publisher
        > buying a concept are extremely small. They will have their own
        ideas,
        > and hundreds of developers pitching ideas with prototypes.

        Yes I know, but my idea is sooooo different :-))

        >A prototype is really the only way to do
        > this.
        >your best bet is to pull together a couple
        > of programmers/artists to help you produce a playable game. Then
        you
        > stand a much better chance of selling the idea to the publisher.

        Are there programmers and artists to do a "pro-bono" job? And in how
        far should I reveal my idea? Well of course, that's the point where
        money and courage counts... The first I don't have. The second one I
        could show: with the right people at the right time...

        > Having said that, if you are just looking for a job, a portfolio
        of game
        > designs is a good addition to your CV and will help show how
        > enthusiastic you are about games.

        It's not "just" a job I'm looking for. It's "the" job.

        Thanks again. All this helps me so much to understand what I want
        and should do. I hope you (and others in the group) don't mind if I
        ask other questions in the future.

        -tt-
      • margalisix
        Let me echo some of what Phil wrote. Good ideas are NOT a dime a dozen. Good ideas are rare. However, figuring out if an idea is good on paper is very
        Message 3 of 13 , Oct 2, 2002
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          Let me echo some of what Phil wrote.

          Good ideas are NOT a dime a dozen. Good ideas are rare. However,
          figuring out if an idea is good on paper is very difficult.

          A lot of being a designer is what happens after the initial spec. If
          team members have questions how well can you communicate answers to
          them? How can you convey things like feel? How good are you at
          identifying design problems early and correcting them?

          If you take a game like Mario, and change the control to be less
          responsive, you might go from a great game to a lousy one. Even
          though you might have had a 100 page document, that one change can
          make the entire difference.

          It is rare for someone to walk in, drop off a finished design and
          then walk out the door to their next job. Generally designers stick
          around and fix problems, revise things, etc.

          In the end what companies are interested in is games, not designs.
          Yes, designs can end up as games. But unfortunately a lot of the fun
          of games is in "intangibles" that are difficult to communicate in a
          design of any length. How to evaluate if a design is good at all is
          not a standard process, and the relationship between good design and
          good finished product is not well established.

          That is a function of immaturity of industry in general. But it is
          also because there are so many types of games, that derive their fun
          from very different places. The fun in one game or type of game may
          be totally different than the fun in another.

          So what places are looking for is people who have demonstrable
          success. A nice design MIGHT indicate they can create a good game,
          but a good game is absolute proof of that.

          You have to get yourself into a situation where you are working on
          some aspect of design and prove yourself. This means you probably
          aren't going to start by producing some monolithic document and
          selling it to someone. Rather you work as a level designer or
          scripter and come up with some really neat levels. On the side at the
          coffee machine you schmooze with the designer and throw out a few
          suggestions. People take notice and you are on your way.

          You have to think of designer as something like a project manager,
          technical director, etc. You don't start as a technical director, you
          work up to that. Same with designer. The job of producing the game
          spec from top to bottom is at the end of a chain of jobs that
          includes lackey/gofer, playtester, level designer, etc.

          So you can get that job, but not to start out with. You wouldn't walk
          into a company fresh out of college and expect to be hired as a
          techinical director, you can't expect to be hired as a designer
          either.

          You can't think of designs as scripts. You can write a scipt and sell
          it to someone. Rare but it does happen. That isn't going to happen
          with game designs.
        • turntabloidism
          Hi, ... I agree absolutely. At least one never could be sure if the game works good until there is a prototype availlable of it. ... What is the procedure of
          Message 4 of 13 , Oct 2, 2002
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            Hi,

            --- In gamedesign-l@y..., "margalisix" <jsm16@c...> wrote:
            > Let me echo some of what Phil wrote.
            >
            > Good ideas are NOT a dime a dozen. Good ideas are rare. However,
            > figuring out if an idea is good on paper is very difficult.

            I agree absolutely. At least one never could be sure if the game
            works good until there is a prototype availlable of it.

            > A lot of being a designer is what happens after the initial spec.

            What is the procedure of the initial spec.? And what happens after?
            (I am a plague, I know)

            If
            > team members have questions how well can you communicate answers to
            > them? How can you convey things like feel? How good are you at
            > identifying design problems early and correcting them?

            But arent there some teams in the industry that rely on the co-
            operation of people with very different skills but who understand
            each other perfectly? I mean having clever programmers or artists
            with whom I am on the same frequence would be a way to solve an
            important part of the problems you mention. At least one can ask
            questions, let explain himself the options and their possible
            results... The Baudelairean way is to believe that communication is
            not possible. Well, actually it is: although almost through
            misunderstandings :-) Well, I dont expect the industry to be a
            pationate place, but humans are interesting beings and they can
            develope relations that seem impossible to work but result in amazing
            products. Dont think I want to say you are wrong, no you are
            absolutely right, but see, I have to believe that I would have a
            chance... I want to keep an open door for myself... pure wishful
            thinking, but I need it...


            > If you take a game like Mario, and change the control to be less
            > responsive, you might go from a great game to a lousy one. Even
            > though you might have had a 100 page document, that one change can
            > make the entire difference.

            The crucial parts of developing and designing consist of things I am
            not able to understand and evaluate... yet :-)

            > It is rare for someone to walk in, drop off a finished design and
            > then walk out the door to their next job. Generally designers stick
            > around and fix problems, revise things, etc.

            It would be great not being sent away and kept there for a while:-)

            > In the end what companies are interested in is games, not designs.
            > Yes, designs can end up as games. But unfortunately a lot of the
            fun
            > of games is in "intangibles" that are difficult to communicate in a
            > design of any length. How to evaluate if a design is good at all is
            > not a standard process, and the relationship between good design
            and
            > good finished product is not well established.

            Its the same for a screenplay and the film made out of it. In a way I
            know that those problems will be there that one would have to face in
            all kids of arts and crafts.

            >
            > That is a function of immaturity of industry in general. But it is
            > also because there are so many types of games, that derive their
            fun
            > from very different places. The fun in one game or type of game may
            > be totally different than the fun in another.
            >
            > So what places are looking for is people who have demonstrable
            > success. A nice design MIGHT indicate they can create a good game,
            > but a good game is absolute proof of that.
            >
            > You have to get yourself into a situation where you are working on
            > some aspect of design and prove yourself. This means you probably
            > aren't going to start by producing some monolithic document and
            > selling it to someone. Rather you work as a level designer or
            > scripter and come up with some really neat levels. On the side at
            the
            > coffee machine you schmooze with the designer and throw out a few
            > suggestions. People take notice and you are on your way.
            >
            > You have to think of designer as something like a project manager,
            > technical director, etc. You don't start as a technical director,
            you
            > work up to that. Same with designer. The job of producing the game
            > spec from top to bottom is at the end of a chain of jobs that
            > includes lackey/gofer, playtester, level designer, etc.
            >
            > So you can get that job, but not to start out with. You wouldn't
            walk
            > into a company fresh out of college and expect to be hired as a
            > techinical director, you can't expect to be hired as a designer
            > either.

            The only way I have for now to proove myself is to finish a design-
            document. I am thousands of miles away from any succsful game company
            or programmers I could rely on... and I know about my limits. What I
            can do is what I told you about. So this is a starting point to force
            my way through. I could stuck in somewhere. But it would hurt too
            much to accept that I cannot manage my way. I am not prepared to face
            the fact that it is to late for anything in the game=biz.

            I want my ideas produced, I wanna play them and I want people to play
            them, being captured and amazed by them as I am when I am conquered
            by a game that others produced. Thats is all I know.

            > You can't think of designs as scripts. You can write a scipt and
            sell
            > it to someone. Rare but it does happen. That isn't going to happen
            > with game designs.

            Maybe Ill have children and theyll develope an interest in learning
            how to programm. Boy, if theyll going to like my designs...:-)

            -tt-
          • Brandon J. Van Every
            From: margalisix [mailto:jsm16@cornell.edu] ... It could happen some day, but not today. Film has an incredible amount of industrial maturity over games in
            Message 5 of 13 , Oct 2, 2002
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              From: margalisix [mailto:jsm16@...]
              >
              > You can't think of designs as scripts. You can write a scipt and sell
              > it to someone. Rare but it does happen. That isn't going to happen
              > with game designs.

              It could happen some day, but not today. Film has an incredible amount
              of industrial maturity over games in this regard. A screenwriter only
              has to write *how*. "Why" a screenplay is generally 90 pages, generally
              has Three Act Structure, generally is 1 minute per page, generally isn't
              chatty or verbose, generally has a lot of whitespace on the page,
              generally doesn't instruct the cinematographer how to do the camerawork,
              etc. is well known. Almost overbearingly and suffocatingly so. In
              contrast, a game design still has to argue for *why* each and every bit
              of it is to be included or specified. There's a tremendous variety of
              processes and genres, we have no maturity of standards for what needs to
              be specified and what doesn't.

              This is ultimately why my "5 page design doc" for TBS games was doomed
              to failure. There's no way I could sum up all the implicit information
              in so short a space. We'll keep on having to write everything out in a
              longhand explicit format until some kind of industry consensus emerges
              about certain processes and genres. Hopefully, as the thinking bunch we
              are, and the medium being as flexible as it is, we won't ever get so
              ossified in previous forms that we never create new processes and new
              genres.


              Cheers, www.3DProgrammer.com
              Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA

              20% of the world is real.
              80% is gobbledygook we make up inside our own heads.
            • Brandon J. Van Every
              [Moderator s note: I d like to point out that this is Brandon s opinion, and not that of gamedesign-l.] From: turntabloidism [mailto:turntabloidism@yahoo.com]
              Message 6 of 13 , Oct 2, 2002
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                [Moderator's note: I'd like to point out that this is Brandon's opinion, and not that of gamedesign-l.]

                From: turntabloidism [mailto:turntabloidism@...]
                >
                > Are there programmers and artists to do a "pro-bono" job?

                Nope. Game development isn't a mercy mission for homeless bums needing
                legal representation or some such. It's a luxury. The only thing you
                can do is find people who are willing to partner with you in a project,
                or not.

                I think others have succinctly spelled out the commercial realities,
                that established developers and publishers will simply not buy your
                work. Really your only option is to gather technical people around you,
                such as your friends, and say "Are you guys willing to build this thing
                for an equal equity stake?" Whether you can convince your friends
                and/or associates totally depends on who you are and who they are. If
                they already have programming skills and their own game design ideas,
                they will rightly ask what value add you'd be bringing to a project?
                Your best possible partners might be people who have a lot of
                programming, artistic, and audio skill, but *don't* have much game
                design skill. Then you're a value add and you can shepherd your game
                design ideas with less interference and watering down.

                The problem is, I've noticed that almost everyone who wants to program a
                game, thinks they can design a game also. So along with equal equity,
                they want equal authority over the game design. The way I hope to get
                around this is to build a fairly complete prototype myself, then seek
                partners later. That way I'm in authority about what the game design
                is. They'll have input about how to best realize the game, but the game
                is the game, and it's clear who created it and what it's supposed to be.
                I don't feel like arguing with anyone over basics, it's nonproductive.

                There are of course financial realities to convincing other people to
                work with you. You won't be tested on simply whether you're a good game
                designer, but whether you're also a good manager, businessman, and
                diplomat.

                You could go the freeware route, where you get a bunch of random people
                on the Internet to work on the game under a Copyleft GNU Public License
                or some such. Basically, that the whole world will get to use the
                source code and art assets. This usually runs a "Gee, wow!" lifecycle
                that ends in failure. Freeware developers are usually young,
                idealistic, and have yet to figure out that in life, you have limited
                time and have to pay bills. Predictably they get some stuff done and
                then the project falls apart as real life pressures take over. You
                can't get continuous high quality work out of volunteers who don't stand
                to ever make any money.

                > And in how far should I reveal my idea?

                That's a judgement call. It depends on if you think your idea is so
                original that nobody else has ever done it, or would do it, if you
                weren't there to spell it out for them first. For instance, I don't
                feel too talkative about my Sims-like game ideas right now. Part of
                that is because I've got a current TBS project that I'm committed to,
                and the only thing I can do by talking about The Sims is help other
                people make a game before I can. The Sims currently has no commercial
                competitors, and while I'm busy, I'd like to keep it that way until I
                have time to deal with it!

                On the other hand, if your game idea is merely a much better idea of how
                to do an existing genre, you should talk about it. Probing the
                collective memory will give you the antecedants of the game, and the
                mistakes, so you don't repeat history thinking how brilliant you are. I
                talk about my TBS "Ocean Mars" a lot because it's definitely chasing the
                SMAC / Civ III genre.

                Also I don't think anyone is realistically going to do things the way I
                do them until I actually do them, until I've proven their commercial
                viability. I think game companies are too risk-averse and interested in
                milking their franchises to radically depart from previous formulae
                along my lines. Also, I'm counting on my actual implementation to be
                difficult, to curb people from easily cloning it. I don't think working
                with icosahedral hexagon topologies is trivial programming work.
                Someone will have to be *really* determined to clone it to make it work,
                it's not trivial coming up with a good computing architecture for that
                stuff.

                My strategy is I'm not trying to protect the idea, I'm trying to protect
                the concrete implementation of the idea. I'm not going to hand out
                source code for icosahedral maps, nor art assets, nor my specific game
                rules, etc.

                At any rate, you should *definitely* be aware of game history before
                swearing yourself to secrecy. Wouldn't it be embarrassing to think
                you're so great, only to discover belatedly that the exact same kind of
                title was made 5 years ago and failed? Not that you'll fail, but you're
                wasting design time if you're not availing yourself of the antecedants.

                Can you tell us what your game genre is?

                > It's not "just" a job I'm looking for. It's "the" job.

                If you cannot find a satisfactory employment situation, you have to
                become independent and self-employed. That's my route. Let you know
                when I've shipped, I've done a lot of bumbling the past 4.5 years, and
                gone into a lot of debt.


                Cheers, www.3DProgrammer.com
                Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA

                20% of the world is real.
                80% is gobbledygook we make up inside our own heads.
              • Brandon J. Van Every
                ... Yes, that s pretty much why teams are assembled... ... Not if you read the postmortems! Life Is Hard. Communicating well is a competitive advantage, not
                Message 7 of 13 , Oct 3, 2002
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                  > But arent there some teams in the industry that rely on the co-
                  > operation of people with very different skills

                  Yes, that's pretty much why teams are assembled...

                  > but who understand each other perfectly?

                  Not if you read the postmortems! Life Is Hard. Communicating well is a
                  competitive advantage, not something that everyone does well
                  automatically.

                  > Dont think I want to say you are wrong, no you are
                  > absolutely right, but see, I have to believe that I would have a
                  > chance...

                  The variable here is establishing credibility. Without a complete, good
                  title under your belt, you have none. If you had some programming or
                  art skills, you could manufacture certain kinds of credibility, but
                  again, without them you have none. Nobody has credibility for being a
                  game designer wannabe. You have to be a game designer who has
                  successfully produced a game.

                  Sound like chicken-and-egg? It really isn't. The industry is simply
                  saying, someone else has to foot the bill for your initial successes or
                  failures. That person could be you yourself, if you want to put your
                  money where your mouth is and assume all of the risk. I'm not trying to
                  be irritating, I'm just saying what the reality is. There's really no
                  such thing as an "entry level game designer" who gets training until he
                  is trusted. That person has to be a level designer, or playtester, or
                  something else first. They move on to game design when they know the
                  ropes.

                  > I want my ideas produced, I wanna play them and I want people to play
                  > them, being captured and amazed by them as I am when I am conquered
                  > by a game that others produced. Thats is all I know.

                  Um, where are you at career-wise? What skills do you have? Are your
                  skills completely irrelevant to game development?


                  Cheers, www.3DProgrammer.com
                  Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA

                  20% of the world is real.
                  80% is gobbledygook we make up inside our own heads.
                • philip.harris
                  ... I d make that Great ideas are rare . There are plenty of good ideas around but what we need is great ideas. Great ideas that make people like Sid Meier
                  Message 8 of 13 , Oct 3, 2002
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                    > Good ideas are NOT a dime a dozen. Good ideas are rare. However,
                    > figuring out if an idea is good on paper is very difficult.

                    I'd make that "Great ideas are rare". There are plenty of good ideas
                    around but what we need is great ideas. Great ideas that make people
                    like Sid Meier bang his head on the desk and say "Why didn't I think of
                    that!".

                    Philip Harris
                    Batfish Studios Ltd
                    http://www.batfishstudios.com


                    -----Original Message-----
                    From: margalisix [mailto:jsm16@...]
                    Sent: 02 October 2002 10:10
                    To: gamedesign-l@yahoogroups.com
                    Subject: [gamedesign-l] Re: Some questions


                    Let me echo some of what Phil wrote.

                    Good ideas are NOT a dime a dozen. Good ideas are rare. However,
                    figuring out if an idea is good on paper is very difficult.

                    A lot of being a designer is what happens after the initial spec. If
                    team members have questions how well can you communicate answers to
                    them? How can you convey things like feel? How good are you at
                    identifying design problems early and correcting them?

                    If you take a game like Mario, and change the control to be less
                    responsive, you might go from a great game to a lousy one. Even
                    though you might have had a 100 page document, that one change can
                    make the entire difference.

                    It is rare for someone to walk in, drop off a finished design and
                    then walk out the door to their next job. Generally designers stick
                    around and fix problems, revise things, etc.

                    In the end what companies are interested in is games, not designs.
                    Yes, designs can end up as games. But unfortunately a lot of the fun
                    of games is in "intangibles" that are difficult to communicate in a
                    design of any length. How to evaluate if a design is good at all is
                    not a standard process, and the relationship between good design and
                    good finished product is not well established.

                    That is a function of immaturity of industry in general. But it is
                    also because there are so many types of games, that derive their fun
                    from very different places. The fun in one game or type of game may
                    be totally different than the fun in another.

                    So what places are looking for is people who have demonstrable
                    success. A nice design MIGHT indicate they can create a good game,
                    but a good game is absolute proof of that.

                    You have to get yourself into a situation where you are working on
                    some aspect of design and prove yourself. This means you probably
                    aren't going to start by producing some monolithic document and
                    selling it to someone. Rather you work as a level designer or
                    scripter and come up with some really neat levels. On the side at the
                    coffee machine you schmooze with the designer and throw out a few
                    suggestions. People take notice and you are on your way.

                    You have to think of designer as something like a project manager,
                    technical director, etc. You don't start as a technical director, you
                    work up to that. Same with designer. The job of producing the game
                    spec from top to bottom is at the end of a chain of jobs that
                    includes lackey/gofer, playtester, level designer, etc.

                    So you can get that job, but not to start out with. You wouldn't walk
                    into a company fresh out of college and expect to be hired as a
                    techinical director, you can't expect to be hired as a designer
                    either.

                    You can't think of designs as scripts. You can write a scipt and sell
                    it to someone. Rare but it does happen. That isn't going to happen
                    with game designs.




                    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gamedesign-l/

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                  • turntabloidism
                    Hi, you might think that I take it all too easy. Some of you even might feel offended because my e-mails deliver a feeling that I do not respect your skills
                    Message 9 of 13 , Oct 4, 2002
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                      Hi,

                      you might think that I take it all too easy. Some of you even might
                      feel offended because my e-mails deliver a feeling that I do not
                      respect your skills and profession or underestimate all the work
                      that lies beneath a game. But don't think that. I am an admirer of
                      what people like you are doing and, see, it is absolutely human that
                      one would like to be a part of that what he/she finds so great.
                      Maybe I should express this in a more calm way.

                      >Communicating well is a
                      > competitive advantage, not something that everyone does well
                      > automatically.

                      Saying "they communicate perfectly" was wrong. I didn't mean that.
                      Thanks god, this mistake did not happen during a planning session
                      with the game-programmer ;-)

                      > The variable here is establishing credibility. Without a
                      complete, good
                      > title under your belt, you have none. If you had some programming
                      or
                      > art skills, you could manufacture certain kinds of credibility, but
                      > again, without them you have none. Nobody has credibility for
                      being a
                      > game designer wannabe. You have to be a game designer who has
                      > successfully produced a game.

                      I agree. I am not surrounded by conditions in which I could proove
                      any game designing skills. Not to talk of lead designing at all. As
                      I said before, I am thousands of miles away from any game-company
                      etc... so I started with the thing I can do... that is writing and
                      drawing. Since yesterday I read books on C++ and Direct X (can you
                      believe how green I am?), and believe me, in my situation there is
                      not much more to do. If there would be any programming courses here
                      around I would join them. I hope that in the future I'll get access
                      to a more "wanna-be friendly" physical environment, where I can find
                      the chance to establish credibility. And the designs I develope now,
                      may help me to do that. I hope it... See, its the only way. Sounds
                      all poor, and -such a pity!- it is.

                      > "entry level game designer" who gets training until he
                      > is trusted. That person has to be a level designer, or
                      playtester, or
                      > something else first. They move on to game design when they know
                      the
                      > ropes.

                      I never said that I believe that I can just "enter" as a lead
                      designer. Wanna-be or hope for that is totally my way to express my
                      excitement. I wrote a thesis on the film industry and I know about
                      ecomomic rationales and risk-reducing and production-design and lots
                      of other things that profit-oriented enterprises care about.


                      >What skills do you have? Are your
                      > skills completely irrelevant to game development?

                      If I finish the design-doc, we'll see ;-)

                      ----------------

                      >I totally disagree! In mainstream Hollywood cinema you've got 10
                      >minutes to explain yourself, and it had all better start out with a
                      >BANG! What you say is true of older movies that didn't have the same
                      >focus on pace as current movies do. They tend to meander about what
                      >their point is.

                      I should avoid to generalize. James Cameron would prefer to set up
                      the conflict in Minute 1: He does so in Terminator II (although by
                      using the overvoice of an narrator, what is not the best way to
                      expose the plot). But there a lots of films that use more than ten
                      minutes either. I think we both know what difference I am talking
                      about. A game rarely would show us a 3 or 5 minute scene to set up a
                      single character. Or the BANG would be placed somewhere in the demo.

                      The beginning sequence of Terminator II consists of 7-8 scenes: The
                      first one explains the problem. The following four scenes introduce
                      us the main characters and their relations to each other. Then
                      follows a scene that sets two subplots or tasks, by providing
                      additonal back-story elements: The role of sky-net, the task to free
                      mom from the hospital etc. And of course the inserts that remind us
                      the main problem: The terminators are getting closer to John every
                      minute. I think it is one of the neatest and best structured
                      beginning sequences you can find in Hollywood action movies. It does
                      not loose any second. But still it is damned long! Far too long for
                      a game.

                      I think that Diablo had an extrtaordinary long exposure part. But it
                      was clever designed cause while getting information from the town-
                      inhabitants, you also could buy items etc. So it was not
                      just "listening", it was already "action", because preparing for
                      battle is part of the battle. Some RPG designers fall so much in
                      love with their story that they forget to think about how to expose
                      it without making the player wait. Sometimes it makes the whole
                      difference between "a" game and "the" game.

                      >You're
                      >you; you're now you in an airplane. Airplanes either fly or crash.
                      >Them's your choices. Not a story, just a physical reality.

                      An illusion of physical reality, convertible into a story about You
                      in an airplane.


                      >I've wondered if you can achieve a more cinematic effect, by
                      >providing
                      >an interface that is so obviously simple, immediate, and
                      >transparent for
                      >a given scene, that no instructions are needed and the player simply
                      >performs an action as a matter of course.

                      The example that falls in my mind is maybe not exactly what you are
                      talking about, for the environment and the particular goal of the
                      games are different, but Max Paine's beginning scene where "You"
                      finds women and children executed, was kind of that. At least from
                      an narrative aspect it was really cinematic. So was the interface.
                      It communicate and reacted to actions, but it was still keeping you
                      on track to reach the first antagonists to shot down and even
                      exposed some essential knowledge. Was quite good I think.


                      >What's the result though? In the Russian lunar lander case, you land
                      >somewhere on Mars. What were the alternatives? Crash?

                      Which one to chose? It would depend. But even if this "scene" would
                      be designed just to get the player on the surface of Planet Mars in
                      an exiting way for him and its task would be to get him
                      psychologically prepared for the conflict or straight pulled into
                      the action, still both ways -crashing or landing- could be applied.
                      What counts really? That we get him on planet Mars without revealing
                      him that this must be done to get him at the entrance of the
                      adventure? Then it would be great to arrange an irritating landing-
                      scene that almost results in an unavoidable crash, for it would be a
                      Bang, would create mood etc, and would him absolutely make forget
                      that this is just created by programmers... What do we want this
                      scene to perform? maybe all of it.

                      >Basically a difference of passivity vs. activity. Films have a maxim
                      >compared to books: "Show, don't tell." I'm wondering if games should
                      >have a maxim compared to films: "Play, don't show."

                      I rather would say different activities, but anyway I basically
                      agree with the distinction you make.

                      "Play the Show" would be also a nice maxim. :-)


                      All just thoughts...

                      -tt-


                      > Cheers, www.3DProgrammer.com
                      > Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA
                      >
                      > 20% of the world is real.
                      > 80% is gobbledygook we make up inside our own heads.

                      -------------------------
                    • Brandon J. Van Every
                      From: turntabloidism [mailto:turntabloidism@yahoo.com] ... Possibly. ... Not at all! I don t get those feelings from your e-mails one bit, and I seriously
                      Message 10 of 13 , Oct 4, 2002
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                        From: turntabloidism [mailto:turntabloidism@...]
                        >
                        > you might think that I take it all too easy.

                        Possibly.

                        > Some of you even might
                        > feel offended because my e-mails deliver a feeling that I do not
                        > respect your skills and profession

                        Not at all! I don't get those feelings from your e-mails one bit, and I
                        seriously doubt anyone's taken any offense from anything you've said.

                        > or underestimate all the work that lies beneath a game.

                        Again, possibly. :-)

                        > so I started with the thing I can do... that is writing and
                        > drawing. Since yesterday I read books on C++ and Direct X (can you
                        > believe how green I am?),

                        Whether you're willing to learn to program was going to be my next
                        question. Starting with C++ and DirectX is an awfully horrid, painful
                        way to begin. Can I recommend that you start with www.pygame.org
                        instead? This will give you the technology and skills to get a simple
                        2D game done. Also the Python language is a viable resume skill, you
                        *can* get work for knowing it. Python has seen a reasonable number of
                        industrial uses in the games industry, for instance Bruce Dawson gave a
                        talk at GDC 2002 about how they use Python for all their adventure game
                        development at Humongous Entertainment. I think Ultima Online also used
                        Python if memory serves.

                        > I should avoid to generalize. James Cameron would prefer to set up
                        > the conflict in Minute 1: He does so in Terminator II (although by
                        > using the overvoice of an narrator, what is not the best way to
                        > expose the plot). But there a lots of films that use more than ten
                        > minutes either. I think we both know what difference I am talking
                        > about. A game rarely would show us a 3 or 5 minute scene to set up a
                        > single character. Or the BANG would be placed somewhere in the demo.

                        I agree that while moves *may* be agressive as to how quickly they
                        begin, games are always aggressive about how they begin. I say this is
                        not because games have some inherent nature requiring fast play
                        dynamics, but because games usually have no compelling story or
                        characterization to them that affects the gameplay. The exception to
                        this rule is the adventure game, which usually *does* start slower than
                        other genres. CRPGs also start a little more slowly to some extent, you
                        are given time to equip your character and explore the starting town
                        before rushing off to battle.

                        > The beginning sequence of Terminator II consists of 7-8 scenes: The
                        > first one explains the problem. The following four scenes introduce
                        > us the main characters and their relations to each other. Then
                        > follows a scene that sets two subplots or tasks, by providing
                        > additonal back-story elements: The role of sky-net, the task to free
                        > mom from the hospital etc. And of course the inserts that remind us
                        > the main problem: The terminators are getting closer to John every
                        > minute. I think it is one of the neatest and best structured
                        > beginning sequences you can find in Hollywood action movies. It does
                        > not loose any second. But still it is damned long! Far too long for
                        > a game.

                        We must not have prejudices that a time sequence is "far too long" for a
                        game in some absolutist sense. Rather, we must look at why the game
                        player becomes impatient. You might want to check out the newsgroup
                        rec.arts.int-fiction. They're one of the more sophisticated groups
                        about the interaction of story and gameplay. One of their maxims is
                        that an adventure game doesn't exist to shout a story at a player while
                        he's tied to a chair. The player needs something he can take action
                        about, even if it isn't immediate violence. Again, CRPGs give you all
                        sorts of time to select your initial equipment.

                        > >I've wondered if you can achieve a more cinematic effect, by
                        > >providing
                        > >an interface that is so obviously simple, immediate, and
                        > >transparent for
                        > >a given scene, that no instructions are needed and the player simply
                        > >performs an action as a matter of course.
                        >
                        > The example that falls in my mind is maybe not exactly what you are
                        > talking about, for the environment and the particular goal of the
                        > games are different, but Max Paine's beginning scene where "You"
                        > finds women and children executed, was kind of that.

                        It certainly did blend the cutscenes well with the game's action.

                        > >What's the result though? In the Russian lunar lander case, you land
                        > >somewhere on Mars. What were the alternatives? Crash?
                        >
                        > Which one to chose? It would depend. But even if this "scene" would
                        > be designed just to get the player on the surface of Planet Mars in
                        > an exiting way for him and its task would be to get him
                        > psychologically prepared for the conflict or straight pulled into
                        > the action, still both ways -crashing or landing- could be applied.
                        > What counts really? That we get him on planet Mars without revealing
                        > him that this must be done to get him at the entrance of the
                        > adventure? Then it would be great to arrange an irritating landing-
                        > scene that almost results in an unavoidable crash, for it would be a
                        > Bang, would create mood etc, and would him absolutely make forget
                        > that this is just created by programmers... What do we want this
                        > scene to perform? maybe all of it.

                        Yeah, I figure I'd have to just implement the scene and see what it does
                        in context. I think the main idea here is "cutscenes do not have to be
                        passive." We have the 3D horsepower to render them realtime now, and
                        thus to take some player input.

                        > "Play the Show" would be also a nice maxim. :-)

                        Hm... it loses the parallelism to the cinematic maxim, which I think is
                        important to understanding the motive for it. But it also has a certain
                        validity in its own right.


                        Cheers, www.3DProgrammer.com
                        Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA

                        20% of the world is real.
                        80% is gobbledygook we make up inside our own heads.
                      • philip.harris
                        ... Sound ideal to me. ... It is possible to put together a team (probably via the Internet or using friends) and then produce a game in people s spare time.
                        Message 11 of 13 , Oct 6, 2002
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                          > Then I started to write my idea on the word-processor. The result
                          > was at first that 5-10 pages document you were talking about. It
                          > includes almost the same informations you advised me to give. But I
                          > couldn't add any budget information for I have no idea what is all
                          > needed to produce a game and how much the staff would demand ofr the
                          > workload. In the "small concept" I used a flashforward-technique to
                          > explain the feel and the world of the game: invented "players in a
                          > not so far future" described their experience with the game and what
                          > they find so amazing about it. This also helped me better to
                          > understand why I like this game so much to be realized.

                          Sound ideal to me.

                          > Yes I know, but my idea is sooooo different :-))

                          :-) That's a good start then.

                          > Are there programmers and artists to do a "pro-bono" job? And in how
                          > far should I reveal my idea? Well of course, that's the point where
                          > money and courage counts... The first I don't have. The second one I
                          > could show: with the right people at the right time...

                          It is possible to put together a team (probably via the Internet or
                          using friends) and then produce a game in people's spare time. It's not
                          easy though and more often than not it ends up stalling along the line.
                          You need someone (you perhaps) who really drives the project forward and
                          keeps everyone focused. You can then release it yourself and if the
                          resulting game is *really* good then it might get picked up by a
                          publisher. A lot of Mods for games like Half-Life are done this way.
                          Most of them never get finished. Some do though.

                          > It's not "just" a job I'm looking for. It's "the" job.

                          In that case be prepared to start at the bottom (say in testing) and use
                          your designs as a way to show people you know what you're talking about
                          when it comes to games.

                          Philip Harris
                          Batfish Studios Ltd
                          http://www.batfishstudios.com


                          -----Original Message-----
                          From: turntabloidism [mailto:turntabloidism@...]
                          Sent: 02 October 2002 08:33
                          To: gamedesign-l@yahoogroups.com
                          Subject: [gamedesign-l] Re: Some questions


                          Hi,

                          thanks a lot for your detailed information. It is very useful to get
                          examples on how other people manage their work and it helps to
                          orientate oneself. I think the way I do my work was maybe
                          not "professional", but at least not too bad.

                          I started by buying a 500 pages notebook and a set of color-pens and
                          noted or draw down everything that fell in my mind about the game- idea.
                          After a couple of weeks I had nearly 250 pages full with
                          notes, drawings and pictures related to the subject. Meanwhile I
                          played a lot of games from the genre I try to contribute, but with
                          an different eye... no longer to win, but to see the relations
                          between items of and events in the game. At least I collected tons
                          of details, prepared huge lists of menu buttons, functions and items
                          etc... The structure, storylines, characters and the basic features
                          of the game were cleared. I know all the features of the game. Even
                          what will be added to the expansion pack(s), what will be the
                          internet features and how all that should be promoted and released ;-
                          )

                          Then I started to write my idea on the word-processor. The result
                          was at first that 5-10 pages document you were talking about. It
                          includes almost the same informations you advised me to give. But I
                          couldn't add any budget information for I have no idea what is all
                          needed to produce a game and how much the staff would demand ofr the
                          workload. In the "small concept" I used a flashforward-technique to
                          explain the feel and the world of the game: invented "players in a
                          not so far future" described their experience with the game and what
                          they find so amazing about it. This also helped me better to
                          understand why I like this game so much to be realized.

                          At the moment I describe the functions on the "pre-game" interfaces.
                          For example I explain what the exit button is good for and what
                          happens under what conditions when the button is pressed :-) I have
                          finished about 45 pages (not only about the exit button). Then I
                          will start to describe the function buttons within the game itself
                          etc...

                          I have the feeling that all that I did is not too bad. But what I'm
                          really concerned about is the question if all this will come to an
                          result. Am I only amusing myself with a childish play or will it
                          turn into something more serious?: a job I'd really love to do (I
                          have a good one at the moment, believe me, but I realized that its
                          not what I want to do)

                          >everything is nailed down with enough
                          >information for the programmers and artists to produce the entire
                          >game without having to ask you a single question

                          Well, that is the thing I am trying to do, because I am not able to
                          explain how the game has to be programmed (what "codes"
                          and "engines" have to be used )so the only thing I can do is to
                          describe precisely what it looks like and what I want it to perform.

                          > Without wishing to sound too negative...the chances of a publisher
                          > buying a concept are extremely small. They will have their own
                          ideas,
                          > and hundreds of developers pitching ideas with prototypes.

                          Yes I know, but my idea is sooooo different :-))

                          >A prototype is really the only way to do
                          > this.
                          >your best bet is to pull together a couple
                          > of programmers/artists to help you produce a playable game. Then
                          you
                          > stand a much better chance of selling the idea to the publisher.

                          Are there programmers and artists to do a "pro-bono" job? And in how
                          far should I reveal my idea? Well of course, that's the point where
                          money and courage counts... The first I don't have. The second one I
                          could show: with the right people at the right time...

                          > Having said that, if you are just looking for a job, a portfolio
                          of game
                          > designs is a good addition to your CV and will help show how
                          > enthusiastic you are about games.

                          It's not "just" a job I'm looking for. It's "the" job.

                          Thanks again. All this helps me so much to understand what I want
                          and should do. I hope you (and others in the group) don't mind if I
                          ask other questions in the future.

                          -tt-






                          http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gamedesign-l/

                          Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to
                          http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
                        • Brandon J. Van Every
                          ... You are losing a *lot* in the creativity and coordination department not having people face to face. Most of the people I ve heard of who did projects on
                          Message 12 of 13 , Oct 6, 2002
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                            > It is possible to put together a team (probably via the Internet or
                            > using friends) and then produce a game in people's spare
                            > time. It's not
                            > easy though and more often than not it ends up stalling along
                            > the line.

                            You are losing a *lot* in the creativity and coordination department not
                            having people face to face. Most of the people I've heard of who did
                            projects on the notion of "hey! we could do this virtually!" have in
                            hinsight said "we really wish we hadn't done this virtually." Stalling
                            is too kind, failure is more accurate about how these projects usually
                            go.


                            Cheers, www.3DProgrammer.com
                            Brandon Van Every Seattle, WA

                            20% of the world is real.
                            80% is gobbledygook we make up inside our own heads.
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