Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How to Be a Team Player as a Game Designer

Game development is a team sport. Multiple people working together towards achieving one goal, make a great game. It is rare to see a successful game made from start to finish by one person. Teams of people make games, and a professional game designer will work with many other designers, programmers, artists, audio engineers, producers, and testers through out the course of development. All these people have ideas on what will make the game they are working together on fun and successful. The responsibility of the game designers on the team is to not to just have great ideas and solutions to design problems, but to get the team to share their ideas. A designer needs to listen and go through their team's ideas and feedback, and to make sure the best and strongest ideas make it into the game. A designer needs to do more than solve design problems and come up with great ideas. A designer needs to facilitate communication and tap into their team's creative potential. It is important for a designer to check their ego at the door, and listen to their team.

A designer needs to foster an environment that promotes creativity and discussion. Team members need to feel like they can talk to the design team and give their own ideas and feedback on the design of the game. Having an environment that encourages people to contribute their ideas to the design is great for team morale. People feel like they are being heard, and will feel like they are owning a piece of the game. Having ownership will motivate people to work hard as they now have a personal investment in the design. A motivated team will be more willing to collaborate and help a designer arrive at better solutions to design problems. The more ideas and feedback a designer has, the better informed decisions they can make about where to take the design of the game.

Game development is a collaborative process. To make a great game, a designer has to be willing to hear the ideas and feedback from their team. Those ideas will not always be great, and the feedback will not always be constructive, but it's part of a designer's job to identify the good ideas and get them into the game. A strong designer is someone who identifies a good idea and executes on it. A strong designer does not come up with ideas and solutions on their own all the time. It can be tough to put aside one's personal feelings when it comes to their design work, as it is natural to be defensive of one's ideas. A designer has to work on letting go of these feelings, and has to keep their eye on delivering the best game possible to their customer. Game development is a team sport, and it's the designer's role on the team to identify best ideas and design solutions, no matter where they come from, and make sure they get into the game.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Being a Better Game Designer

I have been making games for about 7 years now, the last 4 which I have spent as a game designer. I have learned a good deal about being a game designer in that time, and I thought I'd share a few lessons that I think have made me a better designer.

Always Champion the Best Idea

One of the big differences between a junior designer and a senior designer, is the senior designer will try to champion what they think is the best idea for the game, not just their own ideas. A seasoned designer is able to spot and recognize good idea for a solution to a design problem, and they are comfortable with the fact that that solution does not have to be their original idea. Game development is collaborative effort, and everyone on the project has ideas on what direction the game should take and what makes the game fun. A designer listens to their team, gets their team's thoughts and feedback, and critically examines it. The job of a designer is to take the seed of an idea from where ever they get the inspiration for it, and make it grow into fun and polished part of the game. Sometimes that idea comes for the designer's own mind, but more often than not it comes from somewhere else.

Appreciate All Disciplines of Game Development
Game development can be seen as six general disciplines: Art, Audio, Design, Engineering, Production, and Quality Assurance. Learning to appreciate all disciplines a designer is critical. A designer works with some one from every discipline at some point throughout development. Having a fundamental understanding of each discipline helps foster good communication, which in turn will create a better end product. For example, if a designer has a better understanding of color and contrast, they can better understand where an artist is coming from when explaining their vision for lighting in a particular scene. The designer can give intelligent feedback to the artist about the lighting, explaining how they see the lighting working with the desired design for the game, and foster a constructive discussion where both art and design work towards delivering a strong presentation for the scene. As a designer, have a hungry mind and be eager to learn about the five other disciplines of the game development. The better a designer can communicate with their team members, the better chance the team has of seeing their vision for the game become a reality.

Live a Full Life
Get out there an live. Experience new things and have interesting stories to tell. A big part of game design is about delivering an awesome and captivating experience to the player. The more life experience a designer has, the more experiences they have to draw on for their designs. A designer could be sitting down to map out a level for a multiplayer shooter, and the idea for the level starts with inspiration from some city streets the designer was wandering through last weekend. The level may end up looking nothing like the city streets the designer walked through, but the inspiration for the idea came from real life experience. So as a designer, as human being, take breaks from playing and researching games and go experience some real adventures. It will help refresh the mind and inspire new ideas.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Failure to Plan

Today is the last day of March, I am sick, and I have not put together worthwhile blog post on game development. This purely due to my failure to plan accordingly. The lesson to be taken away from this is if you set a goal for myself, make a concrete plan so I can achieve that goal. Having an idea to do something is great, but it's abstract. Actually make a plan to realize that idea, and it will now feel more concrete and have a better chance of getting done.

In this case, my failure to plan as left me with nothing worthwhile to post. Funny thing is, I have learned this lesson before, but I still stumbled. Guess I have to learn this lesson one more time. Before the month of April is out I will have a worthwhile post up.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Looking back at this blog

I am taking a look at this blog for the first time in a long time. I've had this blog for 4+ years, and reading through my old posts brings back memories. It makes me remember of where I was in my life at the time of the post. It reminds how I was feeling at the time. My outlook on the world. My arrogance. My excitement. My disappointment. My sadness. Perhaps all those feelings do not come through in my posts, but I can remember how I was feeling when I wrote them.

I look back at a number of the of the posts, and I just think "what a jackass!" I guess I've grown up a bit. 28 year old Evan looks back on 23/24 year old Evan, and just kind of chuckles. I had no idea what my life had in store for me. All the ups and downs, twists and turns. One thing I wish I could tell my 23/24 year old self is to shut up and listen.

And I have shut up and listen, a bit. I'm not perfect, and I'm always working to be a better listener. Through listening, I tried to take away some lessons and practice on those lessons. In the process of listening and practicing I have gained a bit of knowledge over the last few years. I've learned to be more patient. To be more humble. To have more respect for those who have come before me. To relax. To nurture both body and mind. I'm sure I have learned many other things as well, but those stick out in my mind the most.

I think one of the most exciting things I have learned, though, is I still have no idea what life has in store me. It's quite a great feeling that there is still so much ahead of me. So much more to learn and experience. I look back at 23 as "my youth," but I recognize 28 is still pretty damn young, and I look forward to what is in store for me. Both the good times and the hard times.

I don't know if I should delete this blog, scrub my record of the stupidity of my youth, or keep it around. As a record, as a reflecting point. I think I'll keep it around for now. I like the history lesson.

Now to set a goal for myself. Actually write a worthwhile blog post about game development before the month of March is out. Lets see if I can hold myself to it.