Building an RTS
I’m building an RTS right now for one of my classes. This is not a small task. I’m still building the technology to make it functional, but I’ve taken a good path for that.
I think that most people are doing turn-based strategy games, which is probably a smart move. RTSs have a huge complicated set of UI challenges because there is a massive amount of data that they can only communicate audio/visually; no numbers or text. You must be able to play an RTS without reading anything at all during gameplay.
That’s easy to design around. It’s pretty much a solved problem. The technology is a challenge because it’s more bug-friendly gameplay, and harder to debug. This is why I spent today re-architecting my behavior and feedback systems, and I’ve got something that will serve me well as I flesh out the game.
The REAL challenge is in the visuals. I am not an artist, so any art that I have to generate will (a) be awful, and (b) take a long time to generate.
So I took time at the beginning to learn the engine’s particle systems, and they are really robust and awesome, so I not have the ability to make things pretty.
But I still need to actually BUILD the damn thing.
My new Alignment is Faith.
Alignment is a self-growth tool that I use. The idea is that you pick a virtue you want to improve on, and then practice it consciously. More on this in another post.
Faith is… I don’t know what Faith is yet. I will learn as I practice it.
Faith is an interesting Alignment to find myself using, because I have always been an atheist, a person with no faith in any god.
Growing up in a heavily religious area (not Bible-Belt bad, but bad enough), I became very skilled at repelling the attacks of the faithful. Any argument between an atheist and a theist regarding the truth of religion will always reach a point where the theist must claim, in one form or another, that logic does not apply to them. Realizing this was my first big step toward freeing myself of the drama and angst of my relationship with religion.
However, it also tempered me against allowing Faith of any kind into my life.
One of the common hangups that theists have with atheism is the “no gods” bit. Sometimes they think that means we worship Satan. Sometimes they think we follow science like a religion. See, Christians understand Muslims much better than atheists because they share that worldview that any supernatural conscious entity exists at all.
But this is only one type of Faith. There are others, and I am afraid of all of them. Its worst manifestations has biased me against them all. I shy away when I receive someone’s Faith (but not Trust), and where I could have Faith in myself, I instead have fearful doubt.
The first step of any Alignment is to practice it on yourself, but for this one there is no doubt. I begin by practicing having Faith in myself.
More on this in another post.
Having a Client
A friend said to me today, “You don’t like having a client, do you? Like, if someone asked you to design a logo with a cat, and you thought the best logo was one with a dog, you wouldn’t make the cat.”
She said this because of one of the challenges I’m facing at school: doing assignments that I don’t want to do. And it’s curious because the one I’m having the most trouble with right now is one where I’m granted an incredible degree of freedom, but the only rule of the assignment that limits my autonomy in any way gives me a strong rebellious reaction. Curiously strong, because I don’t have this reaction on assignments for other classes where I have far less autonomy, and because this is a pattern I’ve been exhibiting for a while now.
So there’s this class I’m in right now where I did poorly on an assignment where I disregarded something that I felt was an inconsequential goal.
At one of my internships, when tasked with work that I thought was not solving the right problems, I fought to change the problems that I was being tasked to solve. This caused problems.
At my other internship, when my tasks were an ineffective use of my skills, I fought to change the type of work I was assigned. This caused problems.
It’s always seemed strange to me, the ability other people seem to have the ability to ignore these. I mean, I’m sure I’m not the only one with opinions about their work or its purpose/intent. But I just seem to lack any and all ability to restrain from action, especially when the opinions are still unconscious.
Interesting thread. Might come back to later.
So here’s a little bit about me.
My name is Ben. I’ve decided that I want my name out here.
I am a game designer. I’m also a game design student at DigiPen Institute of Technology. This is something that makes me fairly unhappy at the moment, but I will talk about that in a later post.
I’m an INTJ. I’m fond of MBTI as a convenient shorthand to the Jungian Cognitive Functions, which are the actually useful information lies. More about that in another post.
I’m an atheist. I have been all my life and I grew up in a fairly religious town, so I have the entire conflict space really well mapped, since I’ve been thinking about it for a very long time. But more on this in another post.
I have ADD, the inattentive kind. I’m not actually sure of what this exactly means, but I want to examine it more. More on this in another post.
I’m a strategist. I have been playing strategy games all my life, I am really good at strategy, and I do it instinctively and often unconsciously with everything that I do. More on this in another post.
So, in reality, I probably won’t get to posts about all of these, particularly as I’m sure that many will have other branches within them. But these are the types of spaces that I might enter.
I’m going to try a new experiment here. First though, some context.
I started this blog a while ago, and I wanted to use it as an outlet for my thoughts and musings… the types of things that I would normally put in my journal, but which contained ideas and expressions that I want the world to see. I think that the ability of an individual to do this sort of thing is the primary Great Boon that the technology of Internet has brought to our world. And I personally wanted to experiment with putting things of my own out in the world. Partly for the sharing, but mostly to encourage myself to fully express the things I’m deeply engaged with.
I stopped using it very quickly for a number of reasons I might hit in a later post. The point is that I want to start using it again, and I want to have something that fills that role in my life right now, and I will see if Tumbler is that thing.
So the big experiment is to start blogging again, and stay for long enough to really sample it. I will be blogging:
- Small, fairly digestible explorations of a topic, as much as I am able.
The second is something that I may have difficulties with the second, because my thinking is very exploratory, and I can run down interesting tangents very far. In those cases, I will try to break it off into a second post, which I may just give right then.
Let’s see how it goes!
infjdoodles (Don’t remember if she gave her name out yet…) is kinda the reverse of this for me. She can stir me up into emotional whirlwinds when I have myself in an overly-logic’d situation. It comes from picking apart dense, complex, intricately emotionally tangled things that I’ve been dealing with for a long time. It can piss me off, but that’s usually because I’m really pissed off at the Thing we’re examining.
It’s easy to get caught up in emotion whirlwinds, it’s nice to have friends that can pull you out of that.
What is a Game Designer?
Here is an email that I sent to a tech recruiter who wanted to know more about what a game designer is and does:
If the fundamental thing that a developer/engineer does is build a game, the fundamental thing that a designer does is make it fun. My skills revolve around knowing how to make games fun. Making games fun (from the technical angle - there are technical designers and artistic designers) involves running lots of experiments and fiddling with lots of gameplay elements, so we have to be able to both build and tweak code systems. So this is why I look so much like an engineer - I could do an engineering job if I wanted to.
However the really valuable thing that a designer brings to a team is their ideas. You hire a designer because you want them to do something that hasn’t been done before. You want them to bring something unexpected that you couldn’t have predicted. You give them lots of autonomy and ask them to invent solutions to impossible problems. Effectively, a designer is someone who specializes in creative problem solving around the game’s design - you cannot hire a designer and ask them to not creatively problem-solve. So all of us will approach it slightly differently, but all of us will optimize ruthlessly for making the game more fun.
Lots of studios give this job to producers, and they frame it as “you hold the product vision.” This can be a good idea depending on the producer, but it can also be a terrible mistake if, as is often the case, the producer doesn’t know enough about design to be aware of the things that they don’t know about design.
Design task examples:
- Design/build/balance/polish a combat system.
- Design/build/playtest/polish levels.
- Design/build/polish user interface.
- Define the minimum viable product.
- Figure out how to monetize the game.
- Find the mechanics the game uses.
- Find the thing that’s fun about the mechanics.
- People don’t like our game and we can’t figure out why. Can you? (yes)
- Our game’s not selling and we can’t figure out why. Can you? (yes)
- Nobody likes level 3. Can you fix it? (yes)
- We don’t know what game we’re making. Can you give us one to build? (yes)
Hope that helps!
Bungie Design Test
At the moment I am an unemployed game designer, though I will very soon be working at Bungie. I sent them my design test on Monday (interview process = resume -> phone screen -> design test -> full day interview -> hire?), and since then I’ve just been assuming highly positive things about their reaction to it. This means that, if they like it as much as I do, I will have a full-day interview in which to finish convincing them that they want to hire me.
So, basically, it’s in the bag. ;)
Their design test was wonderful. Full of intelligent, juicy questions to chew on. Well-chosen to test for a very specific and well-rounded skill set. And in my answers I managed to stay my genuine self, meaning that I gave what I think are the best answers to their questions in order to show them as accurately as I can precisely who I am as a designer so that they’re working with the best information about me that they could have.
Staying genuine when engaging something that’s important to me is hard sometimes, since the temptation is to write something and then start worrying about whether they’ll get what I’m saying or even if it’s the right thing say. However, I mostly run into that issue if the ideas coming my way make me think that I understand the space better than the person who is judging me, but thankfully this was not a problem with the Bungie design test. Reading their questions I was just like “Yes, you guys are smart, and these are the types of things I want to be doing in my day-to-day,” and so I could just be myself.
I don’t want to share questions off of the test, and I especially don’t want to share any of my answers. But I will at some point go into more depth about what a designer is at some point, because this is not really commonly understood, even in the software industry.
When I listen to a song, I hear and parse the vocals as wordless sounds; an instrument just like a trumpet or a clarinet, simply a piece of the soundscape. Only after I’ve heard the song half a dozen times or so can I start to see the meaning that the lyrics are adding.
I reblogged this, and then deleted it, victim of my new-ness at this Tumblr-dashboard-UI thing.