Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

December 28, 2007

It has been a while since my last post, as anyone that has been reading my blog can tell. There’s been a lot of things going on in my personal life that have just kept me busy enough to not be able to make a post. Hopefully within the next couple of days I’ll be able to put a post up of a couple of game reviews and let everyone know what I’ve been doing. Until then, you will all just have to chew your fingernails in anticipation.

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Much Love for Game Design Professors

December 10, 2007

I was sitting here, thinking about game design as I often do, and I had one of those little insights that become blog worthy. What should a game designer study? Obviously, there is the standard knowledge of game design that should be known such as theory and crafting. Also game design history, knowing who the important figures in the industry are. That only covers about 40% of the game design process though. There’s so much more besides things like MDA and iterative design that are a part of the entire process. Just to mention a few things:

  • group management
  • scheduling
  • knowledge of technical capabilities
  • knowing your team’s capabilities
  • and a whole slew more

How difficult must it be for a Game Design Professors to try and instill all of this into students. I still think the biggest thing about higher level education isn’t so much what you learn, it’s learning to learn. Learning how to go through a process in order to find new information and absorb it. That piece of paper at the end of four years doesn’t really equate to anything more than you just got through four years of academics. You should also pull out more from it.

I often think of all of the things outside of game design that help game designers. Knowledge of storyline development, character development, the technical process such as programming and modeling, the cognitive process, etc. The list is humongous.

I’ve often heard of physics as the meta-science. It’s the science that covers all other areas of science, from biology to chemistry to genetics. Physics has bits and pieces of all of the other parts of science as part of it’s core. This is how I think of game design. It’s the meta-artistic medium. It’s the one medium that has to take into account so many different mediums, whether they relate directly to game design or not. Think about it. Psychology, sociology, art history, sound theory, graphic design, physics, mathematics. All of these and more go into game design.

Perhaps that’s why it’s so difficult for game designers to develop a core vocabulary. We have to pull from so many other areas to describe what we are making, that it’s hard to create something all our own.

Just a random thought…


Not about the Benjamins

December 10, 2007

There’s an interesting series of posts over on Brenda Brathwaite’s blog where she answers the search engine terms that lead people to her blog. One of the recurring themes recently seems to be pay in the industry. What do designers make? What seems to be the average? What about for entry level positions?

While it’s good to hear about all of the different ways that designers get paid, from salary (which is deemed as the average format) to hourly, with lots of benefits like health, 401k, stock, etc, I found one of the best statements to be made in her comments section.

“…compensation isn’t even the most important thing to consider when looking for a job!”

Out of all other types of payment I plan on getting for working, the intrinsic value of the job I’m doing is the most rewarding. I’ve worked many different jobs in my life, especially since I took time off between high school and my college career. The way I see it, there are two different kinds of jobs: ones you do for the money and ones you do for intrinsic value.

Game design definitely falls into the second category for most. I don’t think many people say “I want to be a game designer because I’ll make lots of money”. It’s just not in the nature of the beast. Most of the people currently in the industry could make a lot more money working outside of the industry, except for the rock stars of course. Why do they do it then?

It’s because they enjoy the work they do. They find it fascinating. They find it challenging. They find it fulfilling. They get job satisfaction. That is the biggest thing you could ever ask from any job, be it game design, working at the local Wal-Mart, creating your own business or even doing volunteer work.

Maybe that’s just me, but it is why I went to school for game design instead of engineering.


Blog Technical Issues

December 10, 2007

It seems that WordPress doesn’t like me some days. I use Safari instead of Firefox on my Mac; call me crazy, but I enjoy it more. However, WordPress’s built-in posting system doesn’t work with Safari well. Anytime I write a post using it, I lose all of my formatting code and end up with just a big block of text.

I downloaded a trial version of a program called ecto. I’m liking it a lot so far, but one issue seems to be the editing feature. If I make a post, then go back and post an update, my original post disappears.

Does anyone have a recommendation for a good third-party blog client for use with WordPress?


Gender Inclusive Games and the Three Stooges.

December 10, 2007

What? What kind of topic is that? How does this have any correlation at all?

Well, let me explain…

I just read Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding The Market by Sheri Graner Ray, a great book about creating games that appeal to both males and females. The problem is that the genders have different concepts and procedures when it comes to game play. One of the many issues covered in the book, which I recommend everyone interested in game design reads, is that of violence. In a study, according to Graner Ray, females said that violence wasn’t what turned them away from a game as much as violence without reason or plot.

Recently I was talking to my SO (significant other) about the Three Stooges. I forget exactly how the conversation started, but she made the following statement during our conversation: “I have never met a woman that enjoys the Three Stooges. It’s a guy thing.” She’s right, of course (She usually is). I don’t ever recall meeting a woman that enjoyed the slap-stick antics of those three knuckle heads. I’ve met plenty of guys, but I doubt I’ll see a woman that would willing go to a three hour marathon of the Stooges.

This conversation led me back to Graner Ray’s book. It seems that the dislike of non-plot based violence is cross medium, and not just limited to the video game genre. Look at all of the shoot-em-up, big explosion movies. They have little to no female appeal, from my own conversations with the opposite sex. This, I feel, is why it’s so important to read Gender Inclusive Game Design. It covers all of the issues that arise from developing a game with blinders on towards the opposite sex. That’s cutting out 50% of a possible target market; not a smart business decision.

Any females out there love the Three Stooges?

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Game Sketch: The News

December 7, 2007

In an ongoing series of exercises to work on game design skills, I will be finding a random article on Wikipedia on which to create a game from. This sketch’s article was The Linfield Review. Again, I want to say this is a sketch of a game, and in all honesty, I’ll probably only get around to explaining the core system, so that there isn’t a massive post explaining an entire game.

The News

Overview

The News is a simulation game based around running a successful news source. The player will act as the CEO of a start-up news outlet, focusing initially on printed material. As the game progresses, new areas such as online and broadcast capabilities will be added. The player must maintain a successful outlet by maintaining credibility, increasing circulation and building revenue through advertising.

The player is given a limited amount of space in order to run their news outlet. As their circulation increases, along with their revenue, they can purchase larger spaces, more equipment and more employees. Their is a finite number of equipment and employees that can fit in any particular space.

Credibility

The main resource of the game is the outlet’s credibility rating. The credibility rating is used to determine the amount of increase or decrease in circulation per distribution cycle the outlet gets, i.e. How many readers the paper gains or loses each time they publish a piece of news. It is affected by three categories: truthfulness, spin and popular opinion. Each one of these three categories affect what demographic will use the news source.

Truthfulness

Truthfulness is rated based on the amount of fact checking the news source goes through. The player may add or remove fact checkers from the news process to increase or decrease this rating.

Spin

Spin is a rating that the player can affect based on a per published setting. Each time the news source releases news, the player can choose to put spin on it to have to go in a certain direction. The larger the difference is between spin and truthfulness of an article, the larger the amount of credibility change. This can be positive or negative.

Popular Opinion

This is the theta factor of the credibility system. The player has no control over this rating, but can check it’s feedback after each publishing. The amount of difference between the published news and popular opinion determines the number of “Letters to the Editor” that the player will receive.

Circulation

Player’s must purchase and maintain publishing equipment in order to circulate their news information. Their are fixed publishing cycles which are tied to the size of the player’s housing facilities. As the player increases the size of their business, they are expected to get news out faster. Each circulation, depending on credibility, will have a certain amount of actual purchased/viewed copies.

Advertising/Revenue

As the circulation of the news source increases, the player can increase their advertising rates. This revenue is used to purchase larger spaces, more equipment, more/better employees, etc.

Further Explanations

There are many things I didn’t want to bother formally explaining, so they go here.

  • employee wages are tied to employee efficiency. The more an employee costs, the more efficient they are at their job.
  • advertising rates are controlled by the player using a slider. Increasing higher may drive away advertisers, too low means you are undercutting your prices. This is determined by circulation rates.
  • as the publishing cycle progresses, players could click individual articles as they come across their desk. Using a spin slider (or a fixed setting towards a certain political view, etc) the player would see different versions of the same article, ie 100% truthful vs 100% spin and everything in between.
  • as circulation increases employee retention gets easier. Employees that have been around longer will ask for raises and internship programs (free labor) can be instituted.
  • their will be many charts and diagrams to explain all of the detailed systems in the game.

Qantm Education?

December 5, 2007

According to an interview with Tom Misner, CEO and founder of the SAE group, I just wasted four years of my life getting a degree that wasn’t from Qantm, an Australian based college. There seems to be quite an uproar over the statements made in Mr. Misner’s interview. Many industry veterans turned academic professors, including Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schrieber, have posted about how they feel about the statements made in this interview.

As a current student in a game design curriculum outside of Mr. Misner’s college, I feel that his statements were…well…totally and ridiculously unfounded in the world of reality. While I try to create virtual worlds for others to explore, it seems that Mr. Misner has created one inside of his head to justify these outrageous statements. The largest part of his interview that is upsetting to me his is notion that it takes “three years for a college to change a course“. I’m not sure what university he attended, but it must not have been a very good one to have to take three years to update a course.

There are many courses taught here at SCAD that offer not only up-to-date practical, technology based teachings, such as using the latest version of popular modeling programs like Max, Maya and ZBrush, but also the newest theoretical teachings on the game design process. I have never once felt behind the curve so much that when I got out of school I would be unprepared. Even if colleges are “behind the times”, a three year delay is ridiculous. If I ever attended any sort of educational institution that was that far behind, I would consider my time a waste.

Many colleges with a focus on training individuals entering into technology fields understand that the industry drives education. It’s usually not the other way around, and especially not in game design, where academics are so young. I would be wary of schools, or individuals, that don’t understand this.