Thursday, September 6, 2007

Game Design: Organic vs Machine-Like

Currently in a flame-war on the IGDA boards (as usual).

A latest posting that I thought I'd repeat here - a response to an opponent in a debate...

What I talk about is giving individual creators freedom - not the freedom to create as something like a hand-out, but the freedom to merely approach funders in the centuries-old manner of artist-meets-patron. What you talk about is indoctrinating them. (You say they aren't "taking responsibility" if they fail to respond in the correct manner to their assigned indoctrination.)

This is an entertainment industry at its bottom. It isn't an engineering industry - though there is a lot of engineering in it. As an entertainment industry its job is not to indoctrinate and program its "personnel" into the right way of thinking and being, to toe its corporate line. What it really is about is finding experiences that resonate with human beings. The only way to do that is to speak in human terms; and human terms are messy, organic and alive - not efficient, machine-like and dead.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are plenty of rich people out there, you could approach them and ask them to be your patron.
Corpanies are not in the patron business though, its all about risk to them.
The point of patronage is it totally assumes the risk. Companies don't want to take on enormous risk at all, because it puts them out of business.

Grassroots Gamemaster said...

Since when is risk the antithesis of business practise? What planet are you from? Businesses take risks all the time - and sometimes make a killing from doing so.

Grassroots Gamemaster said...

The other flaw in your argument, anonymous, is you think that I am promoting an idea that a game designer comes in and you put a full production team behind them which twiddles their thumbs while the game designer tries to come up with something.

Ask yourself: Does a producer hire a screenwriter and the first day he starts to write the production crew sits outside his apartment waiting for him to pass them the first page? Not. Getting a small team of core people together *reduces* the risk of developing a new idea - it doesn't increase it.

Anonymous said...

"The other flaw in your argument, anonymous, is you think that I am promoting an idea that a game designer comes in and you put a full production team behind them which twiddles their thumbs while the game designer tries to come up with something."

It does? I see nothing that says anything about that. I see him saying companies don't want to take the enormous risk. He's right.

Even a short term, 90-day pre-pro contract in order to prove a design viable can cost hundreds of thousands, if not in the millions (depending on the prepro team needed, as well as the scope of the project), and yes, it does require people to make the protoype of the game, especially if you're either too lazy, too stubborn, or too untalented to do the work yourself. (If you can do the work yourself, bypass this, and by all means, do it on your free time -- which unfortunately, you've proven you're unwilling and/or unable to do)

Your "patronage" idea, if you want to use modern equivalents, actually wouldn't require a company at all... you're wanting a venture capitalist, or some other angelic funder from on high. The problem is, VCs also require you to have something more than a document in order to say, hey, we'll give you this money. They'll want all sorts of info (burn rates, team needed, time estimated, etc), a demo, etc.

The fact is, you're not going to get a free ride, no matter how much you whine about it not being fair, or swear you're the saviour of all things gaming.

Grassroots Gamemaster said...

Anonymous, you don't know what you're talking about. I once did a paper prototype for a game, working by myself, that formed the basis for a multi-hundred-thousand-dollar game project, handed off to the full production team.

The problem is that YOU are limited in your conception of what games are. In your understanding it's all about production and graphics and shit. Therefore, the only way to "prove" the new design is to iterate up to that cycle.

I can see that, if you're trying to, say, add a new gimick onto an existing game. But if you want to do something really really original, you'd be surprised at how much you can get done for almost nothing.

Historically, R&D is cheap when you are moving into a really fresh new thing. CHEAP! The Kingdom of Spain lent Chris Columbus three ships for a couple of months, but the payoff for that minuscule investment was FUCKING HUGE! You can look at the Punk Rock Summer of '77 as another R&D effort: new bands paid peanuts to put out little homemade records. But the payout was enormous, because it was such a new kind of scene.

Grassroots Gamemaster said...

I should also ask you why you think I want a free ride. I spent years developing my craft. It's just that what I developed wasn't code - it was design aesthetics. But since you don't understand that - since design aesthetics in an intangible (unlike lines of code) - people shit on it, like it isn't worth anything. Well, guess what: it's actually worth a lot.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous, you don't know what you're talking about. I once did a paper prototype for a game, working by myself, that formed the basis for a multi-hundred-thousand-dollar game project, handed off to the full production team."

Oh which one was that? Do tell. Because I think you're full of shit.

You're just a whiny little piss-ant, stuck in QA, who think he's deserved a shot at something that a shit-ton of other people are also shooting for, and, by the way, are providing much more than a simple document, which is only part of a serious (or a seriously taken) pitch.

Looking at the IGDA Thread you whine about in the original post, the fact that you haven't an idea how to use a mod/TC in order to prototype a game, and look at it simply as a slight branch off of the original material, shows me exactly how little know and understand. Either that, or you are being willfully ignorant in order to get the attention of people who are out there. If the latter is the case, congratulations on your masterful troll. I hope no one pays you any creedence there anymore.

"The problem is that YOU are limited in your conception of what games are. In your understanding it's all about production and graphics and shit. Therefore, the only way to "prove" the new design is to iterate up to that cycle."

You have little idea what I think, or have concept of. Trust me, child, I would be willing to bet I have far more understanding of things game-related that you know. The fact you have to defend your point by immediately trying to belittle someone, of whom you have no idea or understanding of their background, experience, or life, shows how tenuous your grip is, and exactly how childish your view is, and that your self-important-yet-undeserved ego is so great that you have to project your own incompetence and lack of knowledge on others just to make yourself feel important.

"I can see that, if you're trying to, say, add a new gimick onto an existing game. But if you want to do something really really original, you'd be surprised at how much you can get done for almost nothing."

OMFG! A glimmer of hope!

Then do something, and get it done, rather than expecting others to do it for you. Or shut your noise-tube.

"Historically, R&D is cheap when you are moving into a really fresh new thing. CHEAP! The Kingdom of Spain lent Chris Columbus three ships for a couple of months, but the payoff for that minuscule investment was FUCKING HUGE! You can look at the Punk Rock Summer of '77 as another R&D effort: new bands paid peanuts to put out little homemade records. But the payout was enormous, because it was such a new kind of scene."

What. The. Fuck?

Come back to what we were talking about... come on back...

At least I can understand why the people on that board are deciding to ignore you.

If you're going to try and wax poetic, go back to writing your fantasy QA Slash-Fiction. Maybe you can sell those as an idea some day.

Grassroots Gamemaster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grassroots Gamemaster said...

Well, obviously you're pissed off.

I regret mentioning that prototype. It was an unusual game.

I bring up Christopher Columbus because he was a quintessential explorer, and the example of the Spaniards financing him is a very prototypical example of monies spent on high-risk financing, to do something everyone though was crazy, that nevertheless paid off. The entire raisson d'etre of my argument is to get outside of the way the game industry traditionally thinks the way things are done, because, frankly, the game industry lives inside a bubble.

Anonymous said...

"Well, obviously you're pissed off."

Don't flatter yourself. Pissed off suggests you actually have some bearing on my life.

I just think you're an utter moron, with a fatally over-inflated sense of self-importance.

Anonymous said...

And I'm still waiting to hear what golden idea you got turned into a "hundreds of thousands of dollars" project.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter that your idea got handed to a team.
It only matters if your idea produced a successful product for the company. If you didn't create a successful product then you don't have alot of credibility in pitching. You need that. That is the risk they don't want to underwrite.

Do you really want a company to prototype your stuff for you? They don't need to fund that, plenty of people come to them with full prototypes, even full games, that they may elect to publish if they choose.
There are angels out there that underwrite tiny game projects, you could look into finding one if you want true patronage.

I think you should also take a look at the publisher vs developer companies. Developers most certainly don't want your stuff. A publisher might want it, provided you can connect the dots for them as to how it will make them lots of money.

Grassroots Gamemaster said...

Okay, to the last 3 anonymouses.

Anonymous 1 thinks I'm an utter-moron. Whatever.

Anonymous 2 wants me to reveal my identity and tell him what that game project was. I ain't gonna do that, except to say it was a non-traditional game industry gig. But what I want him to take away from the statement is the idea that a single person can do something that forms the foundation of a game's design. That's all. That the work of one person can underly most of the foundation of the game - that foundation being design. (Also, that project totally involved a team, of course. Argh, I wish I never mentioned this one because it is totally not a normal gig.)

Anonymous 3, a great way to cut down a new idea is to tell someone that it won't work because it hasn't been proven yet. It's a perfect circular loop of "logic". The medical field used to be like that too (still is, in many ways). The guy who discovered that ulcers are caused by bacteria (heliobacter pylori) couldn't just convey this idea to the skeptics in his industry. No. He had to give himself an ulcer and then cure it before they would believe him. Of course, he did it alone - he was able to - but God help us in fields like fusion science where the required skill set is so broad that the radical ideas of any individual can easily be shot down with the "prove it" non-response, as said ideas can't be tested until a vast array of skills and technology are assembled to test them.

Grassroots Gamemaster said...

Supplemental to Anonymous 3.

The ability to suspend judgement is fundamental in bringing in new ideas and new concepts into any field. Judgement comes, eventually, but a willingness to try something new is important.

Anonymous said...

You need to seriously think your own logic through. The logic is NOT circular.

If I come to you and offer to build you a house, you're probably not going to be interested in handing me the millions if I haven't built a house before, and *especially* if I haven't even worked on a house before.

This does NOT mean the only way to build a house is with a funder.
I could have built my own dream house, or worked on other people's house projects before hand.

Please stop building walls for yourself. They are not real.

Grassroots Gamemaster said...

Okay latest anonymous.

If you build houses, certainly you will make a distinction between designing houses (being an architect) and building them (being a construction manager). Certainly, if I came to you with a blueprint for a new kind of house you might decide to hear it out, right? The way the game industry is, if I come to a greenlighter with a blueprint they just say "We won't look at your blueprint until you have the construction company in place and the foundation already laid." It's counter-productive.