Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Re: How to Become a Video Game Designer

Haha, so here I go replacing K with an instructive video, but when he finally viewed it, his first response was "Wellll... it's probably fine for entry level designers, but I don't agree with some of the things they mentioned." His two points of contention are:
  1. Designers can be like directors/dictators.
  2. Conceptual designers (idea guys) do exist.
Director or dictator?

There's basically two attitudes for making a game from a designer's standpoint: a) games are like movies with a single director or b) games are collaborative and no one should ever have the full ownership of the game. K's opinion is that yes, you should listen to ideas of your coworkers and incorporate them where it makes sense, but the strongest games often come out of one person's vision. Examples of director-type games are:
  • Mario (Shigeru Miyamoto)
  • God of War (David Jaffe, who famously deleted two months of work because he thought it was getting off track)
  • Gran Turismo (Kazunori Yamauchi)
  • Bioshock (Ken Levine)
  • Most Japanese RPGs (especially since they require a tight script)
Committee-type games include:
  • Assassin's Creed: no razor sharp focus, many types of activities, more variety but less cohesive
  • Oblivion: large world, so each design team was assigned a mission/area
  • Borderlands: open world, lots of stuff to do, designers could run with their ideas but the missions don't feel as connected
An in-between type of game would be Call of Duty, where a few key people were in charge of the vision and the designers had some control.

God of War vs. Assassin's Creed
As for the idea that conceptual designers don't exist, K is living proof that such a position exists. He was put in charge of the next downloadable content for a game his company already released. He spent a month or two prototyping a vertical, one complete level with everything from representative game play to full design and art specifications, as well as the systems to support it. He had to prove that this new world would be both fun and viable, by marrying his high-concept designs with low-level systems and play. Guess the vertical must have been impressive because now he's in charge of four separate teams who will implement his ideas. His job is to keep the big picture and make sure that everyone stays true to that vision. Good luck, K!!


LeeAnn Purtha said...

Very interesting! I never really thought much about how the games are made. My boyfriend and I seem to like committee type games more. (I love assassin's creed series and he loves Oblivion and other games kinda similar to it like Dragon Age and Mass Effect. Of course we both play COD...but, for the most part, who doesn't at some point?)
It sounds like what K does is really tough but that is so great it's working out for him! I don't think I could handle that balancing act! Good luck K! =]

A Gamer's Wife said...

Thanks for the good luck wishes! It's definitely hard work, but K absolutely loves it. He's the quintessential idea man. :)