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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: Becoming a Designer - Part One

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43 posts found
  Alverant

Hard Core Member

Joined: 3/12/07
Posts: 382

4/16/13 10:20:36 PM#21

Well the small town question made me think of where my grandparents lived for a while. The poor town is down in population from where it was a century ago (189 residents). I couldn't see much of their house. Anyway I thought it would make a good place for the fight.

I made backgrounds for all of my CoX characters. My first hero was a tanker who was (to be brief) a humanoid military drone using the war walls to carry the signals. (Of course this was before drones were commonplace.) He was Inv/SS so the "final version" could be armed with a sword and rifle. My first villain was an alien robot sent to collect the different technologies of earth. After being captured and put in (and escaping from) the Zig he learned how to make battle drones to fight for him. I had a dragoness who was pulled in from her home dimension to Earth's by the Circle of Thornes and put into a human woman's body. The problem was that the dragoness was too strong and large (spiritually) to fit and slowly had to regain her powers in an effort to get home. She eventually decided that forcing the CoT to send her back wasn't working so she had a plan to switch sides because heroes were more likely to help each other. Her plan was to use Oroborus to erase her past evil deeds and replace them with heroic deeds to give her a good reputation. While the game was active I pretended the CoT cursed her to take the form of different fantasy creatures to justify different costumes. She was a fairie, WoW style purple troll, and a siren.

  Wizardry

Elite Member

Joined: 8/27/04
Posts: 7026

Perhaps tomorrow will be better.

4/16/13 10:20:40 PM#22

Creativity has not been seen in games,so not sure why they woudl run a test such as the one used.Further more creative thoughts on gaming would be tons of infdormation locked away in the person's mind,you can't simply hand overa timed test and expect results.

They should be going aboput it in an entirely creative way.Come up with the base setting,including the story,a plot for your hero and others.

Then you ask for all the basic concepts,like npc>player interaction,simply done with generic linear questing or more advanced ideas?

Weaponry ideas,example space aged,mixture,versatility of weapons,ammo types ect ect.

Combat,this section would need so much depth to be any good,there is no way you could possibly convince anyone through some timed test.

OTHER types of content,be it puzzles,timed ideas,co op ideas,player+npc interaction type contnet,Arenas ect ect.

Peripherals ,housing,pets,mounts,plots and other ideas that players might like to have in their game.

Crafting.HUMONGOUS aspect in a gsme,well it should be,not the cheap ideas i have seen so far.Everything in game should be crafted.How do you craft,attain recipes,learn through trial and error,what kind of mats are needed,rares, and do you use nodes or other means.Hidden rare crafts?So much you can do with it.

I just named SOME of the DIRECT ideas that a developer SHOUlD be worried about,not some test to tap a person's mind with roundabout questions.

We all know the REAL truth,they send out job requests and people answer them with reumes.Then what happens is they look for the experienced people,that means you get more of the same old same old ,already done before.You knwo whjat else you get?Oh sorry we can't do that,takes too much cost and time and would be too costly to run in the game.Instead we are looking for more generic easy to make and operate ideas to meet our deadline.

 

http://www.youtube.com/user/Napolianboo#p/u/15/rCYLLQCNc1w
Samoan Diamond

  mmoguy43

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 3/31/09
Posts: 2354

4/16/13 10:37:55 PM#23

I did the questions as a personal challenge. They were fun to do and a little difficult to do in much detail. Slowed down at polearm attack #12. I came up with a cyborg that was attempted to be resurrected by a demonic shaman that went all wrong, thus a dark magic robot. And for the defense game, the enemies are ants(heros are tiny). Where stealth and not disturbing them is is key. Boss- a kid poking holes in the ant nest. Suffice to say, I'd probably only average at best. I'm not exactly endlessly flowing with great ideas to take it to the professional level.

Let's build the ultimate MMO 1 feature at a time
http://www.mmorpg.com/discussion2.cfm/thread/398555/page/1

"blocked nariusseldon since forever"

  Draemos

Advanced Member

Joined: 2/20/10
Posts: 1477

4/16/13 11:22:05 PM#24

Where designers really lack, and this is pretty much across the MMO genre... Is understanding of creating symbiotic relationships between different game systems... Along with understanding the intricate balance between systems and how tweaking one thing affects another  Instead everything is disjointed and  duct-taped together.

Instead of silly nonsense like dialects, which should honestly be something a writer worries about... Or powers names, which is trivial and easily fixed with a quick google search or a quick brainstorming session at a daily meeting, Game designers should actually be focusing on actual complex design and integrated systems that make people feel like the game has a solid direction and overall design goal.

It's embarrassing how common it has become for the gaming community to understand the intricacies of a games combat, interlinked systems, and overall balance than the people who designed the game do.  And part of it is because so much focus of game design is n trivial nonsense instead of actually designing an intelligent system. 

Seems to me way too many of the game design community are old tabletop GMs who have never quite stopped beyond a relatively simple game design mindset.

  maplestone

Novice Member

Joined: 12/10/08
Posts: 3109

4/17/13 12:13:02 AM#25

Doesn't everyone have an entomologist or two in the family? :)

As for character backstories, not only do I have them, but they are all part of the same backstory, a fellowship of alts being tossed from world to world by forces unknown, arriving scattered and disoriented each time, making friends in the local culture and eventually learning trades suitable to their memories while quietly searching each other out.

(a little storytelling hobby that was inspired by Lord British's backstory in the Ultima games)

  BahamutKaiser

Novice Member

Joined: 3/08/13
Posts: 297

On hiatus for a while guys, MMOs still aren't interesting me.

4/17/13 3:01:27 AM#26

LOL, it's funny because I was a biology nut when I was a kid, and knowing what I know about insects and spiders ( I know, not an insect), I'd just say... yeah, what kind of super technology do these "midwesterners" have to withstand the outragiously superior carnage a giant insect can deliver... being a realism nut, I'd probably spend half my time looking up some obscure weakness which would unilaterally impare most insects enough for there to even be a realistic match between giant insects and anything.  The speed, senses, reaction time, tenacity, and physical durability and hardness of any insect on a giant scale, even on a house pet scale, would be utterly insurmountable by anything other than conventional weaponry LOL.

Boss insect would have to be praying mantis, OMG, you are so F***ed, the thing is so intense it can challenge it's own preditors several times it's own mass, beast mode!, I mean, insect mode! god, giant insect are mini monsters :]

"Praying Mantis darts down the street so fast you can barely react and rips tank in half effortlessly while giving no sh*ts about your gunfire which mostly missed his impenetrable carpace" LOL

Yep, that would require some creativity, to give players any kind of realistic chance.

Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes.
That way, if they get angry, they'll be a mile away... and barefoot.

  Scot

Elite Member

Joined: 10/10/03
Posts: 5421

4/17/13 3:36:31 AM#27
Great insight, hopefully players will realise the work that goes into desgining.
  Po_gg

Elite Member

Joined: 5/12/10
Posts: 2224

4/17/13 4:15:21 AM#28
Originally posted by Torvaldr

One of my pet peeves is the word 'toons'.  It's weird but I've always preferred to think of my avatars as characters and refer to them as such.  Toons, to me has implied a throw away avatar without depth or thought put into it.  I always cringe a little when I hear someone say, "Yah, I rolled a tank 'toon so my guild could raid ."

Nice column with an interesting question on the end (especially with nowadays focus change towards mmo from rpg)

I put Torvaldr's post up here, because when I red the question, exactly that jumped in mind, character <> toon...

 

Back in the p'n'p days I loved to write nice, detailed origins to my characters, and I brought that into crpg's and mmorpg's as well. But, as an altoholic, it turned to be a huge task to launch everybody with a fully detailed one. So I narrowed it down, in every game I have 1-2 main character with origin (and maybe +1 rp character, naturally also with origin), those are the ones I usually think of when I discuss a game, they are the in-game 'me' - we can call them avatars even. (hi there, Garriot :) )

Then there are the many other characters, the toons. Not throw-away ones though as Torvaldr wrote, I play them regulary and develop them as usual, only they have almost no backstory (just a few thoughts during the character creation). Sometimes they are 'click' to me well (really fun to play for example), then they become a main too, and then they get a nice origin :)

  terribl4

Apprentice Member

Joined: 4/17/13
Posts: 1

4/17/13 5:59:37 AM#29

The questions are intriguing in how they allow for creativity and lateral thinking to be revealed. They also leave me wondering, beyond the level of environment and gameplay quirks, what kind of thought a potential designer might be giving to questions about immersion, game-play that aligns with a specific world concept, and storytelling as a way to allow meaning to be associated with the game context? 

 

In other words, what is beyond the immediate presentation of the game?

 

What are the motivations for the players?

 

What elements are included to foster engagement?

 

Does the world hold together, or fall apart into disparate pieces?

 

Coherence is something that is not easily achieved, unless someone has spent a lot of time really fleshing out a concept or setting. And it is made tougher in computer gaming, because the techinical systems do not always align with the milieu being presented.

 

Game Design can exist at different depths. And some games are great with a what you see is what you get gamestyle. But there can be deeper goals. How do you find out if a person has a deeper insight? (If that is what you want in a designer.)

 
  Senadina

Hard Core Member

Joined: 4/16/06
Posts: 895

4/17/13 8:42:55 AM#30
While I have created backgrounds for numerous table-top RPG characters, the only MMO that has moved me to do so is SW:TOR.  Because I want a viewpoint for my toon to answer the conversations from, I give them a small backstory and a starting personality.Then I  try to respond to NPCs appropriately to the individual's personality. It just makes that game so much more enjoyable for me that way.

  Nikaas

Advanced Member

Joined: 4/18/12
Posts: 45

4/17/13 9:05:02 AM#31
The small town aspect played a big role. It immediately meant a contained play area, and most everything you needed had a place you could deduce to find it in town. This made the map super-important, because if you needed weapons and items from 4 different locations and the map had them scattered all over town, then the players would spend most of their time going back through locations they have already been. Even if your game feels open-world, having a good linear path draws the player in more as they feel like they are always making the right decision in where to go next. The Left 4 Dead series of games are masterpieces in this line of thinking.

Reading this I just realized how right was Jonathan Blow in this video Jonathan Blow: How Mainstream Devs Are Getting It Wrong (between 4:00 and the end). As a gamer i never ever want to feel in a tunnel and would like the game to constantly make me ask "What if i done it differently?" Probably one of the reasons we end up with games like a lot of recent ones, that talk about muli-year plans but ppl get bored after 1-2 months.

I don't want to be led by the hand or spoon fed (and i don't mean difficulty, but choice).

  AlBQuirky

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 1/24/05
Posts: 3481

Tomorrow's just a future yesterday...

4/17/13 9:25:03 AM#32
Interesting read!  May I ask how long (ballpark is fine) you gave the test takers?  You said it was timed and reading the questions (thus far), I could see myself getting too detailed for some :)

- Al

Personally the only modern MMORPG trend that annoys me is the idea that MMOs need to be designed in a way to attract people who don't actually like MMOs. Which to me makes about as much sense as someone trying to figure out a way to get vegetarians to eat at their steakhouse.
- FARGIN_WAR

  Grisaline

Novice Member

Joined: 9/13/08
Posts: 24

4/17/13 10:07:10 AM#33

Thank you for your insight, Matt. To begin with the answer to your last question: Yes, I always have a background and personality for my characters, even if only in my head. This also helps me to keep them separated :)

I've decided to take the first step into game designing and started with a GDD. I soon found myself explaining every little tidbit about the NPC's, cities etc. I've made a "standard" for describing the NPC's (both combat and non-combat) so that I know for sure I've included all information I want to include with all of them :grin:

I did wonder, though, while reading your questions, what level the game designers were supposed to have. Were they the people who would keep themselves busy with every small detail, or would they keep an overview? Does it even matter? I find myself getting lost sometimes in the details of my GDD, but other times I'm really working on the overall, sorta speak summary of the game. "How to make pants" on one hand and "What are the main features", "What is the main storyline" on the other hand.

I hope your future columns about this subject will give us more insight in how the complete picture of game design works. (what kind of people, etc).

~Have fun~
Grisaline

  FrinkiacVII

Novice Member

Joined: 1/23/13
Posts: 45

4/17/13 10:12:22 AM#34

Okay, on the "insect invasion" game point:

1. I would make it a mix of different insects, some flying, some on the ground, some (the cockroaches) popping up from manhole covers, sewer grates, etc when you least expect it.  At night, because they hate light.  The end boss being some kind of massive, superawesome thing like a giant beetle, or the praying mantis sometone else mentioned.

2. On the "research" note, I think you have to bear in mind that there's a suspension of disbelief that comes with science fiction, so these things could theoretically get too realistic for their own good.  Someone mentioned how unbeatable a giant insect would be, based on their exoskeletons, and their strength to weight ratio as we know them.  Unfortunately for the insects, the strength of any muscle is proportional to the cross-sectional area of the muscle and the weight of the animal is proportional to the animal's volume (the total amount of space it's body occupies).  Areas go as x squared and volumes go as x cubed, so the reason why an ant can lift 200 times its own body weight is BECAUSE its so small.  A human sized ant would not retain that 200x strength factor as you scaled it up, as its body weight would increase more rapidly with size and its muscule strength would increase less rapidly with size (a man-sized ant might strill be significantly stronger then me, like a gorilla is, but not 200x stronger).  A whale-sized ant, much like a real whale, would most likely be unable to move itself very much on land and would become "beached" by its inability to carry its own body weight.  Obviously, the fact that  virtually nobody would know that particular engineering problem is the basis for Ant-Man, Spiderman, The Atom, and a lot of other "size changy" characters in comics, but you have to respect the fact that theres comes a point where too much realism hurts you.  I think there's an inherent recognition of that by most designers, because when it stops sounding awesome and cool you go "okay, but we're not doing that, because we want it to be awesome not sucky".   By the same token, the idea is to make a fun, flavorful game, and as such your physics takes a backseat a lot, and that's okay. 

3. I like that you want a designer to get to know a topic before they start writing in game elements.  It has to FEEL insecty.  CoX had to FEEL superhero-comicbooky, and it did a great job of that.  I can't tell you how guilty I used to feel ignoring the Hellions in Perez Park on my way through a task force.  I was a hero, I was supposed to HELP the victims of the purse snatchings etc.  I think PVP did a cartoon about that once early on as well.  Being able to Fly was a big part of that too. And the capes, which were awesome when we got them.  One thing I wanted as a costume option for the longest time was a jetpack, and we eventually got those too, in mutiple different styles. 

"Well sure, the FrinkiacVII looks impressive - DON'T TOUCH IT - but I predict that within 100 years computers will be TWICE as powerful, ten THOUSAND times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them." -Prof. Frink

  Tithenon

Novice Member

Joined: 1/31/11
Posts: 106

4/17/13 3:35:19 PM#35

I built the following for the Beyond the Supernatural tabletop RPG, though he could easily fit into Dark Conspiracy or, with some modifications -which I've done-, Millennium's End/ Shadow Games RPG.  Finally, for the MMORPG he could easily fit into, which I've yet to purchase and try out... Secret World.  The images were taken from various places on the internet, I don't know from where, but no copyright infringement is meant by any of these, and they are all used without motive for profit.  Without further adieu, I give you Lance Barrett Shaw...

 

http://www.wolvesau.net/LShaw.pdf

 
  MumboJumbo

Advanced Member

Joined: 7/18/10
Posts: 3207

Veni, Vidi, Converti

4/17/13 6:18:36 PM#36
If appropriate I "play" some film quotes over in my mind and maybe tap them in chat also, while playing eg a ranger: " there ain't 10 men alive that could down out Josey Wales..." *Exposition is always fun*
  Arglebargle

Elite Member

Joined: 6/13/07
Posts: 1187

4/17/13 6:57:43 PM#37

All of my characters have some sort of concept.  Probably sixty or seventy of my CoH alts had at least a paragraph of background on them, some much more extensive.

 

One of my favorites was an alt designed to fit the mechanics of the CoH setting:  ie, rescuing civilians could lead to getting 'inspirations', defeating villains tied to drops, etc.   Thus was born, 'Gestaltan'.   This was based on the concept that the great cities of the world each form a sort of overmind made up of the elements that make them up.  Gestaltan was a form of antibody or warrior drone or city elemental, made from the broken concrete, metal, wood, and glass of ravaged Paragon City, and powered by the rage and anger of its many citizens, both live and dead.  (Dark/Spines, before it was cool).   Gestaltan was particularly focused on the villains that sought to destroy the city, and less interested in those that merely wanted to take it over.   I also played him as losing more and more contact with the City's Overmind  as he gained power and levels.    He was sorta halfway between a vigilante and hero.

 

 

As for the Insect/Town scenario,  I had the vision of an alien force field/terrarium droping around Anytown, Texas and an alien growth ray boosting the bigger insects to human size or so.   Townsfolk fighting back with cans of Raid wrapped in pork chop bait,  compressors hosing deadly soapy water on creepy  dog sized cockroaches,  and the dreaded hot sauce/salsa spewing water pistols! As well as the usual firearms and cutlery.   All while the alien recon drones followed the events.  They had gotten tired of kidnapping cattle.   The final confrontation being with an alien observer.....who, oddly, seems rather insectile...

 

Polearm thing wouldn't be that tough for me.  Martial arts background  certainly helps.  But I recall a '47 Ronin' movie where Tishiro Mifune playes a mercenary trying out for a job, by showing off his spear technique.  He swirls in, stabbing a hay bale and flipping it up into the air.  The impressed interviewer inquires, 'What do you call that manuever?'   Deadpan, Mifune replies, 'Tossing the hay bale.'

If you are holding out for the perfect game, the only game you play will be the waiting one.

  destro521

Novice Member

Joined: 5/29/12
Posts: 48

4/18/13 5:26:23 AM#38
Hey matt this is a nice Article :) I am currently studying a cert IV in digital and interactive game developement and i was wondering if you have any advice on how to get into the industry  :)
  DamianoV

Advanced Member

Joined: 3/20/04
Posts: 12

4/18/13 7:23:46 AM#39

Nice article, as usual... always wondered how a game company could possibly test prospective designers, nice to see some solid examples, and the insights provided are golden.

Creating background stories for my characters depends on the game, generally.  It hinges on how much leeway the game setting provides for generating a reasonable story that is still distinctive in some way.  If the story is largely already written for me because "all (race) come from (location), and are talented (class1)s and (class2)s...", and there is little variation possible between characters in actual mechanical terms, it becomes hard to care enough to bother.

CoH was a game where I wrote a _lot_ of backstories (and other stories), by comparison... origin stories, nemesis stories, rivalries between characters... all the usual fare.  The wide open nature of the typical superhero setting made it somewhat easier to find my muse, admittedly.

 

Blogging semi-regularly at http://damianov.wordpress.com

  residentx

Advanced Member

Joined: 8/30/10
Posts: 82

4/19/13 5:43:16 PM#40

This was a good article, Matt. I laughed at what you put people through. I need to think about what you've said and I'll reply later

 

"It was a very straightforward question, but had a hidden aspect that I always looked for when going over a test: research."

 

When you gave them the assignment, did you give them access to a computer or did they have to come up with something on their own?

 

"The content designer’s creativity test..."

 

What are the ratio approximately to people interviewed to hired under your tests? I'm really curious just how many really had the creativity? For example, I've watched Swtor developers and now them seem to be hiring kids with ADD, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiIEgbErmEg

 

How did you test for techical skills? Use of tools(3DS Max, Maya, Softimage, etc.)? I'm just wondering how much "creativity" is really required, isn't techical skills more needed in a game studio?

 

 

Do you regularly (or have you ever) crafted a background for your MMO character? Even if it was just in your head, but bonus points for writing it down and sharing it with the world.

 

COH was the only game I spent time doing this. At one point, I created a whole storyline.

I wrote one-pagers on why and how they became hero or villian. I was dissappointed when I later learned that Ncsoft owned all my characters created in the game...

 

Also, I think this was because of the costume creator.  In STO...no!  I couldn't do this because I was not emotionally connected to any of characters or had any cool emoticans. Same with SWTOR.

 

 
 
 
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