Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why did I become a Game Designer?

I ask myself this questions because from my experience so far everyone seems to be a 'game designer' of sorts. Of course all the artists you speak to are game designers, and don't forget the programmers and animators all throwing in their "two cents worth". If everyone knows design and can implement it on their own what is the needed for this overpaid, unskilled, subordinate of the team??

The problem lies in the mentality that everyone thinks they're a designer at heart. But when have you ever heard a level designer telling an animator to move the key frames because "it doesn't feel right". Or a programmer that his line of code becomes obsolete because the For loop negates the... well you get the picture. But when it comes to design everyone has a hundred different ways to solve your problem.

Designers are good at creating work (problems) for others. Designers are bad at providing the tools necessary for solving these problems.

And I couldn't agree more. We know how to create all the design documents and say what we want to happen, but when someone encounters a problem we're also the first to find an excuse. "Don't worry I'll design that part later" or "I'll fix it when we have a full game built". The reason we have this issue is because a lot of the game designers are actually bad designers. No matter how many times an artist does a concept (taking practice out of the equation) a bad drawing is a bad drawing. However when designing everything is 'theoretical' and if given a choice between design A and design B you just pick the better of the two. It doesn't necessarily mean its better, or indeed a good design. We shouldn't rely on other people to have to implement ideas, we should be there with a solution to that idea even before it arises. We should have the skill set so that when people come across inevitable problems, we have tools to fix them. After all Design and problem solving is why we got into this game, isn't it?

"Given enough time and resource a bad designer can make a good design."

So we've identified the problem, now where do we find the solution? Looking on the back of your hand won't help with this one. The sweat has washed away any chance you had a looking credible and now you have to rely on your design knowledge to fix it. I guess when it comes down to it, there is no definitive answer. As a designer we have nothing to measure or compare our work with. I can put in my 10,000hrs in and read as many books and articles as my brain can digest and know that I am a better designer for it. But how do other people see this or even measure the improvement? As you see an artist's portfolio expand you see their skills expanding immensely, you see their colour palette broaden and the light sources fill the scene with subtle highlights. A designer on the other hand has no visual aid to fight their corner or shout support in your time of desperation. You can argue of course that a beautifully crafted design document in Google Sketchup will do the trick, but who knows if it's actually any good?

There is a light on the horizon however, and with light comes excitement.

With games courses (including my own) ever expanding on the teaching and practice of games design. And with industry professionals joining hands with academia, we can work together to identify exactly what a game designers is and should do. In the industry we are not graced with the time to take a magnifying glass to the design closet pinpointing exactly what a games designer is and should be. But in this creative academic environment we are given the precious time to teach and evolve our skills and toolset ready for the industry. With these tools we gain from academia we can throw the students into the deep, ever expanding pond of talent and hopefully we can see a real change in how people view games designers. Not as an accessory to the team. Not as a person with all the ideas and no solutions. But as the true bond that holds the team together. Who has all the solutions before the ideas are dreamt. If a member of the team needs to know exactly how something works, we should be the ones to answer as we know the game inside out and back to front. We set the pace, we "achieve the most with the least". Nothing will be accidental and every item placement and chainsaw will run more like a finely tuned machine than an ever expanding snowball of unknowns.

I highly recommend reading this design article too which inspired the post.

Long time no post

Apologies all for the lack of content uploaded to this blog, I've been busy working on other projects and you can find all the information on my other 'blog' here


But I'd like to resurrect this blog as more of an opinion piece than a work in progress update. I think writing more about my trade will allow me to develop my skills and hopefully share some knowledge along the way.

Stay classy.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Feels like the final stages...

I was in a bit of a dilemma about what to do with this map. It feels like I have invested far too many man hours in to this project and maybe its time to move on. The level as a whole feels pretty complete but there are still lots of pickups to be placed, and trims to be fitted. Along with a few extra textures I have created, just not imported.

These are the shots so far, let me know what you think. Is it time to move on? Or is it better to 100% complete the project..whatever 100% completion may be..

These are 3 outdoors shots. In the second image there are 2 green lights (if you can see them) When shot, these shut the doors on the upper floor and kill anyone inside. There is a redeemer weapon in this room if players can make it out alive.

The red base. A lot less detailed than other areas of the map I know..

And these are the central joining sections. I feel these are the places where the most game play will take place. There are hints at different types of game play in the images but I think there needs to me much more, especially in corridors.

So if anyone has any feedback on the map and whether its worth pursuing or starting something fresh with the skills I've learnt.



Wednesday, April 20, 2011

UT3 Crevase update

Hey guys,

Firstly apologies for the delayed update. I've been busy blocking out the level and there wouldnt have been much to talk about with lots of default chequred textures plastering the walls.

I've finished fleshing out the majority of the level and now its mainly lighting, details and game play.. I say it like its a small amount! There is still lots of work to do but I'm glad I've been sticking with it and I've definitely learnt a lot about BSP blocking in! I've also only used 3 or 4 different Unreal Meshes.

These first two shots are how the level looks from the outside. I've been playing with the Post Process effects and I'm happy with the outdoor look.

Below, shows inside the two central icebergs/refinery type areas. These two sections are the parts that join the blue base to the red base.

The images below are the results of starting the red base (the last bit I have left to block). Im happy with the flow, however the Post Processing here might be too harsh. What do people think? It kind of reminds me of old school Quake stuff which I love, but if people don't like it, I will probably end up changing it. 

I also played with the blue base Post Process. Do people think its an improvment or that the PP takes away all the bold light from previous updates?

Cheers for reading and welcome any kind of feedback. Especially on the post processing.



Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Deathmatch is Alive!

Hey guys,

Just a quick update of some screenshots I took of my level this evening. Im getting there with the textures, using purely BSP is a tricky thing, aking sure you have the correct sizes in all the places to make you materials fit in there nicely! I've tried and tested textures..some worked..some didnt, but I'm happy with the progress so far. I'm still playing around with lighting and materials so if anyone has any recommendations for me please fire away!

This is main room I've been playing around with today. I really like the towering structure. It has a lift inside it with a UTDamage pickup at the farrrr top indicated by the purple light. This is a tricky lift jump to achieve, it takes perfect timing and the lift only moves for .5seconds. Its tough, but worth the reward!

Kinda just an overview of the top section of the room. If the player reaches this point there is a sniper rifle waiting for them. Once collected they can double jump on to the top of the lift section and make their escape along the rafters to a large outdoor snow storm where they can pick players off. 

This is the top-tier again showing off lots of nice pretty orange lighting leading to the sniper rifle

Final shot is just the floor, a nice flow to this section I think but it needs something else to bring it alive. The weapon pick-up here is a link gun, any better suggestions of weapon choice? Also a string of health vials leading out

That's all for now folks, doesn't look like much progress but I have been blasting it pretty hard this evening!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Apologies about the oversized images!

These are the final submission screenshots for the World of Level Design contest. Let me know what you think!

Tombstone, Arizona


Gold Rush

Thursday, March 24, 2011