Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Designer Notebook: Why game designers end up buying so many games?

Thought you were going to get the second part of "Let's Make Up Achievements: Resident Evil 4", didn't you? Sorry, not today, let's shoot for friday, shall we? It's taking a bit longer, and something, much more relevent to me came up.

One of the things over the last 10+ years that's been really interesting observation study at my house. Specifically, the number of new systems and games that mysteriously show up...

Exhibit A: This is only the 360/PS3 shelf, there's also a Wii shelf, and DS case

I've bought an unhealthy share of games and new systems, and I often have justified this fact by saying that as a game designer, it's important for me to know as much and have played as much of everything out there. I've often told people that frankly, I wouldn't be doing my job properly if I don't know every quark and feature of new games, and even tech that's coming out. This is partially a lie, and a surprisingly good excuse for me to just buy and buy games. I did believe that knowing what others are doing is important, but, how important is debatable.

My recent dive into iOS has been interesting and relevant, because it does show that it matters. While messing around with iOS 4 "multitasking" support, one thing I started realizing was some games implementing some sort of background task event, giving the illusion that the game is still running (noticed it on Tiny Towers). Since I don't have one of these fancy new phones (still on a 3G), I had almost forgotten this idea as a gameplay mechanic that I could include.

Now this is interesting because I've always preached about why it is important to own and know the device you're working on. It's pretty damn hard to be innovative and relevant if you aren't in the loop of what others are doing on it, especially for a device like the iPhone, an always on, all in one device. I would say it's impossible to truly understand how people will interact with the game if you don't happen to actually use the device to in your daily cycle. Sometimes, design is entirely based around the platform you're targeting, and knowing the ins and outs of that platform would make a more relevant design that not knowing. It could be something like "oh, using a stylus interface while with the shoulder button and D-Pad on the DS/3DS may be too complex for most players" or "using WiFi access points to trade data like Peace Walker or TWEWY": an idea and rational explanation to a) what things can be done/are being done by developers, b) finding out ideas that people have reacted well to and c) understand the tech that can be inspiration to new ideas.

Pretty good reason to keep on spending money huh? :P Now excuse me, I gotta go buy more games...


  1. You're absolutely right. One can't design something to be used by someone else if they don't know how that device/genre/style/model works in the first place.

    Beyond being familiar with the various platforms and standard conventions though, I'd have to note that the most memorable designs are the ones that take those conventions, and use them in unique ways.

    Beyond notifying me that my click-task has completed, how else can push notifications draw me back into the game world when I'm not playing? It's a conversation worth having with a small group of designers.

  2. ... and I don't know why my name is showing up as blang blang ... :\