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So You Want To Be a Game Designer?

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the not-as-cool-as-a-wizard dept.

Games 204

Gamespot is running a feature which talks to designers such as CliffyB and Akira Yamaoka on the subject of what it means to be a game designer. From the article: "No one just falls into the position. You claw, kick and scream and push your way into it. Most designers start off as programmers or artists. They understand gameplay systems; they live and breathe games. From my perspective, I was making my own games, programming them, doing all the artwork, the production, level design, and everything because I didn't have anybody else to do it for me. That background helped give me the perspective it takes to pull a product together and have a creative vision for it. Being a designer is about having a creative vision and adhering to it."

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Answer: (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146136)


Re:Answer: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13146622)

Actually, the guys article is untrue. I'm a programmer who has made a fair share of money. All the sudden I'm a game programmer for a small community wanting to build a game. They are friends all intrested in the same topic, and they are graphic artist to story writers. I can say that I'm making a game, and just "fell in to the position" without much notice. I feel there should be another programmer, but he is working really hard to make a living right now. I urge people to be what they want to be, but you sometimes become greater by accident. :) I'm just a really friendly developer who just happened to stumble about a great community.

Re:Answer: (3, Interesting)

abandonment (739466) | more than 9 years ago | (#13147032)

I'd have to say that this is the case with most things in life - you never know where things will take you.

i started my 'official' game industry career (as opposed to my 15 hobby years of programming games starting on the vic20 on up) by participating in an open-source game engine project many years ago as 'user # 3' using the engine...

2 years later suddenly i was hosting & designing the website & forum, 2 years after that i became project lead organizing the community & planning features, roadmaps etc...

which all led to me and my business partner incorporating and launching our game company a little over 2 years ago...and we now have 10 employees, 2 game engines, just finishing a mobile title for a very large publisher and a number of large contracts under our belts going forwards...

all of which came from me donating thousands of hours helping & donating to an open source community and project.

the trick is - if you want to do something like 'becoming a game designer', then go out there and design games - there are hundreds of free / open source engines available and thousands of people looking to make games...organize yourself and the rest will follow.

what's the quote?

'free your mind and your ass will follow'

You can't look at the immediate financial benefit to start - look to the long-term goal and you will reach baby step at a time.

Something to give them... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146142)

Finally, something to give the idiots at school when they fantasize about creating the next Zelda game...

No thanks (3, Insightful)

crlove (857212) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146147)

I wanted to be a game designer forever. Then I heard all of the EA horror stories. I'm glad I never went near it.

I have no desire to "claw my way" into a job that will make my life miserable

Re:No thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146180)

what sort of EA horror stories, just curious..

Re:No thanks (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146194)

You might be joking... but there was the eawife thing that started it all []

then there was the reports of them giving employees low wages, overworking employees without overtime - maybe illegally etc.

Re:No thanks (3, Insightful)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146189)

Oi! I know reading the fucking article isn't required here, after all, I've been here alot longer than you, but how the hell did you get informative?

My Modding Brethern: Game Designer != Game Programmer

Re:No thanks (0, Troll)

crlove (857212) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146231)

Point taken. Although having a lower ID hardly means you've been around longer.

Re:No thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13146803)

Well, a lower ID means that the account was created earlier, so either:
A)He was around longer, or at least created an account before you did, and so in theory has more experience with how posting in the slashdot community works, while you were just lurking and reading.
B)You stopped using your account because of the huge hit to karma you took from trolling.

Re:No thanks (2, Interesting)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146274)

I've clearly been around here since your mom was in diapers. He got modded informative, most likely, because game design is even more dog-eat dog than game programming. Getting into game programming is like striving to be the Kraft Services guy in the movie industry while game design is more like striving to be a set designer, casting director or writer in the movie industry.

Re:No thanks (0, Troll)

crlove (857212) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146288)

Hey, hey, hey. Let's not turn this into a "Who's dick is bigger" argument. Especially since, when it comes to comparing who has the lowest Slashdot ID... Well, you can finish the joke yourself...

Re:No thanks (2, Funny)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146293)

Hey, hey, hey. Let's not turn this into a "Who's dick is bigger" argument.

I didn't know there was any question...

*whips out yardstick*

Re:No thanks (1, Troll)

crlove (857212) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146339)

*whips out yardstick*

Seems unnesessary, but I suppose a yardstck can measure 1/4 inch, too.

Just kidding, man. You made a good point earlier, I can't imagine in most cases that a designer's job is much different than a programmers. Not only do they have to knock out game ideas as fast as possible, they have to be GOOD ideas, or they get fired.

Re:No thanks (2, Funny)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146460)

What I was most strenously objecting to, and I apologise for inciting your wrath, oh Most Ancient One, is the comparison the G'G'P Poster made with EA.

EA is a shithole, and I don't doubt that Game Design is even more dog-eat-dog than game programming, but using the worst possible example in an industry (EA) to make a decision about said industry as a whole is a Bad Thing(TM).

Please, Oh Most Ancient One, whose /. UID is far lower than mine, please, forgive my youthful impudence.

Re:No thanks (2, Interesting)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146196)

Exactly the same here.

For the last 15 years theres nothing I wanted more. After hearing all the crap which goes around I decided I'd be better off becoming a tech support guy instead. Start a local based company, goto peoples houses, fixs basic crap, rake in the money, don't lose my wife and kids because I work too much if I ever get either.

May not be my dream but at least I don't end up as some slave who has to sleep in an office chair for 2 hours a day.

Re:No thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146331)

how much do you charge?

Re:No thanks (4, Insightful)

non0score (890022) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146197)

I think most of the people involved in the horror stories aren't the designers. Besides, designing is only necessary when there is something new or different. And when was the last time that EA had something new or different?

Maybe you really are not agressive enough... (1)

Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146363)

I think most of the people involved in the horror stories aren't the designers.

I think this is true. The people that ea_spouse was talking about are more or less the low level cogs in the machine, the nameless hord that do the bidding of the true designers/stars. But my guess is to become a designer/star, these are the positions that you must "claw, kick and scream and push" and back-stab through. My guess is that if you don't want to do these things, you really are not agressive enough to be a designer/star.

Re:No thanks (1)

vandoravp (709954) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146215)

I have no desire to "claw my way" into a job that will make my life miserable.

They seem to think it's hardly miserable. In the article they say that the people involved are only there because they want to be developing games, not because of the pay or some other perk. If you really want to design and develop games, then you won't mind the crazy hours that come in the days before a deadline. And, as CliffyB says, it's no longer a field only for the "classic nerd" who is socially inept/removed from pop culture. The designers have to be in touch with the culture so that they know what people want to play. Yes, EA probably isn't the place to work, but it seems to be in the minority with respect to its environment. Smaller studios that involve everyone in the design process seem more appealing personally.

Re:No thanks (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146550)

as CliffyB says, it's no longer a field only for the "classic nerd" who is socially inept/removed from pop culture

In the hoo-rah over GTA: San Andreas I was reminded that Rockstar North was based in Scotland, something I had overlooked or forgotten.

It had me thinking that maybe this isn't where you want to be when you are developing a game that role-plays gang violence in the states, violence against women.

You need to know the limits of public tolerance, you can't be caught pandering to your target demographic of young male gamers and expect everyone else to simply remain silent.

Re:No thanks (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146221)

Aren't there still game companies other than EA?

Re:No thanks (1)

chucks86 (799149) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146257)

There are, but they are too busy creating games

Re:No thanks (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146258)

Indie companies work more as "if you know us, we'll let you in" and bigger companies are closer to EA then Indie.

EA is just doing what every major company wants to do. They got the boot in first and others will follow suit untill it's the norm.

Re:No thanks (1)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146797)

Agreed. I don't want to fall into a position like that. And I'm man enough to admit when I may not be able to be as completely-dedicated as a lot of game designers/programmers (like VALVe's team). My ideal job is working for a successful company that is small enough so that it wouldn't be feasable to outsource my job to India....

i love you (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146149)

fuck a game []

fuck a game []

fuck a game []

fuck a game []

Re:i love you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146213)

I think I've fallen in love with that girl.

It's all about creativity you say? (3, Funny)

Man in Spandex (775950) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146157)

Being a designer is about having a creative vision and adhering to it."

Or you could do it EA's way and release the same title every year and change the nametag from Johnson to Jonson and people are still gonna buy.

Re:It's all about creativity you say? (1)

sewagemaster (466124) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146375)

mod parent up.

the AI engine for games like NBA live have not improved at all the last couple of years. Not to mention the least that they missed one of their annual releases couple of years ago. given the amount of crazy overtime shifts employees work there, you'd think they would make more adjustments and improvements per release right? unfortunately nba live isnt one of the games they're pushing the most, already knowing that they've established their fan base. good thing though is that sega has been releasing the 2kX series, which should give decent competition.

i'd like to wonder if the nba live team in EA is the same as the nhl or nfl progrmaming folks.

Re:It's all about creativity you say? (2, Insightful)

abandonment (739466) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146510)

>>i'd like to wonder if the nba live team in EA is
>>the same as the nhl or nfl progrmaming folks.

the idea of 'teams' at EA is a questionable one - yes there are teams working on specific projects, but EA as a company is more like Ford's production line than a typical game company.

Teams are more divided up according to specialty than a specific title, which is why the end result is less than innovative or interesting.

If you are a 'modeler' at EA, you are likely doing one specific type of modeling - there are entire teams of people that JUST do the mapping of faces onto heads for the sports games.

There is a whole other team of people that is responsible for taking the motion captured data and mapping/cleaning it up for animations (for all games).

The EA programming side is divided up into 'tech / tools', which basically produces libraries of code that all EA games use (which is being phased into the Renderware product line to standardize things even more)...

and so on.

the dramatic thing with EA is that even with this kind of 'assembly line' mentality, the company still produces hideous variants of content, where you end up with 2 or 3 models of characters from the same game that are dramatically different than each other - which can end up because there literally was a different team of developers working on some of the characters than the others and so on...

Add to this the difficulty of integrating companies that EA swallows up - you have the main EA company trying to standardize technology & processes, and then dozens of smaller companies that were bought in the latest round of borg-style absorption, and the EA virus slowly infects the newly bought company sucking any life or innovation that was in the company out until it is a part of the borg and stops producing anything innovative...

As an example, pay attention to what happens (is hapening) at DICE since the EA buyout.

Pre-buyout / EA publishes BF:1942 - one of the most innovative multiplayer games in a LONG time

Pre-buyout / EA publishes second game (ie has more influence, DICE slowly gets addicted to the EA nipple) - produces BF:Vietnam - still a fun game, but hardly innovative anymore and pushed out the door before it's ready, full of bugs

EA buys DICE - ships BF:2, a steaming pile of buggy crap, although still startlingly fun to play ONCE you get in-game and IF you don't run into one of the many bugs or lag that hits most servers once they get beyond a certain level.

the next dice game is almost guaranteed to stink.


With this said, i've been in the game industry for a while and i have only ever met ONE 'real' game designer - and this person was more of a creative producer - ie the person that comes up with the cool idea & high-level spec, but then must also sell the game to the publishers / finance people as well.

I teach game design at Colleges and this is the first thing (and hardest thing) to get through wanna-be designers heads - they think that there is still this mystical 'game designer' role that every game company has - like we are just waiting to hire them because they have some idea and write up a spec for the idea...

Unfortunately smaller companies that actually produce games don't need or want people with IDEAS, we want people that can actually produce games from their ideas...ideas are like assholes, everybody's got them...once you have the idea, the 'real' work comes - and if you are ONLY a game designer, you aren't very valuable to my company...

hence why there are only a few well-known game designers in the industry - the rest are 3d modelers or programmers or producers that come up with the idea but then have tangible skills that can actually make the game (or a significant piece of it).

If you want a game designer position, you NEED a real skill - ie programming or 3d modeling or animation - and can prove to a company that you are a valuable asset and not just a 'brain' that doesn't produce anything useful.

the design part of making a game takes 1/100th the time that actually making a game does - you need to make sure that you have a skill that is useful for that other 99% of the time that the game is being created.

It's the same as the movie industry - most movie scripts are created by independents that are not involved whatsoever in the actual making of the movie - hence why the director (the producer role for the game industry) gets more of the fame & acknowledgement for movies than the writers, who often don't even get credit for their work.

Re:It's all about creativity you say? (1)

stevey (64018) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146650)

Teams are more divided up according to specialty than a specific title, which is why the end result is less than innovative or interesting.

Reading the article it seemed like this was the case, and that communication with sales, marketting, programming teams was a key skill.

To me that explains a lot of the lack of creativity - by the time you've agreed compromises with each different team you've essentially designed a game by committee.

Whilst I know none of my work will ever really take off there's a lot of fun to be had, even now, from writing your own game from scratch.

OK so the graphics and the sounds won't be pixel perfect - but virtually every game from the 80s I played on the ZX Spectrum I know I could replicate, given enough time. And some of them could easily be extended with bigger maps, etc.

Re:It's all about creativity you say? (4, Insightful)

abandonment (739466) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146966)

There are many case studies, books and articles that confirm what you have mentioned.

The #1 thing that will stop someone from 'climbing the ranks' past the basic grunt labour force (whether the grunt labour in question is 3d modeling, programming code, ditch digging or slinging coffee's at starbucks) is NOT the person's technical ability.

You can be the most gifted programmer or 3d modeler in the world, but you will be relegated to 'programmer hell' forever if you cannot communicate & articulate your ideas AND play nice with others

This includes being willing to work with the 'suits' that pay your salary, whether a boss or publisher.

It isn't about 'selling out' - anyone that says this has given up essentially...It's about being willing to compromise and potentially reword or rework the idea that you are trying to get across so that the person on the other side of the conversation understands it.

If your 'brilliant idea' involves concept A, but the publisher wants you to implement concept B, then you either need to be able to explain it to them so that they understand and can buy into the idea, or you need to be able to compromise and find a middle ground.

The best creativity and innovation does not come through getting what you want 100% of the time - this is how Jar Jar Binks was created - too many 'yes men' saying 'yeah thats a great idea george'

The best creativity and innovation comes through conflict and compromise. Just because a publisher or boss it telling you that your idea isn't the best for the game/movie/tvshow/whatever doesn't mean that it should be given up on - perhaps there is a way to tweak or adjust the concept or idea to take the criticism into account.

Until you try it, you never know.

This is why the best music & bands always have 2 or more creative people that potentially hate each others guts - it's the conflict and coming to terms with that conflict where brilliance, innovation and evolution emerges...

Re:It's all about creativity you say? (3, Funny)

bananasfalklands (826472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146419)

for (var year=2006; year 3006; year++) // print new eagame title
printf "introducing tenis " + year + " \n";
for (var year=2006; year 3006; year++) // print new eagame title
printf "introducing American football " + year " + "\n"; // This code was hacked

Code not checked but you get the idea

When i join ea I want to do the animation ,ad lip syncing of female tennis players grunting while playing tennis

Perhaps that is why there is no innovation in games ?

Re:It's all about creativity you say? (2, Insightful)

Man in Spandex (775950) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146908)

I'd just like to add I gave EA as an example because it was the perfect example, but it goes well beyond what they have produced.

Since Return to Castle Wolfenstein, we saw all kinds of WWII-themed games and I just got sick of the same old MP40's "shoot em up nazi's".

We got RTCW, Medal of Honor, BF1942, UT Mod Red Orchestra, Call of Duty, Enemy Territory, Brothers in Arms, upcoming title Call of Duty 2 and probably a bunch more that I missed.

This ain't just about creativity. They see one kind of successful game and what they'll end up making is their own version of it. No matter how much creativity is required to make games, in the end it's still about money and money talks.

Whatever happen to those original type of shooters like Monolith's Blood (not 2 though, very bad A.I.). Here we're talking about one sadistic but fkn hillarious shooter that gave us a selection of original weapons like Napalm Launcher, Life Leech, Voodoo Doll, Proximity & Remote TNT, Thomspon "Mafiosi" Gun and a bunch more. Then you got the hillarious Latin-Yellin (I don't think it's Latin but it looks like it) cultists that shoot eachother with TNT bundles and Thomspon guns.

That game was original but the efforts to market it by Monolith wasn't too successful.

It does take creativity to make games, but it also doesn't. Depends who you work for. Monolith is a company that has made many original games like the No One Lives Forever series and then you got the companies that love to make sequels that look just like the first one with two new guns/toys and a girl with bigger boobs.

No, I really don't. (1)

ciroknight (601098) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146170)

After knowing about how the Game Industry is a sweatshop for video games, I figured I'd make games for my own good, if I made any at all.

false hopes (5, Interesting)

Danzigism (881294) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146173)

seems like some of those people were merely lucked out thanks to their previous hollywood careers.. of course some had done some pretty hard work, but it almost feels like it could turn into one of those fields like "communication".. you do a lot of work, and can't get shit worth of a job.. but i encourage it.. simply because I really need good freakin video games.. they are great works of art, and its a good outlet for their expressive minds.

Or Design A Franchise (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146186)

Another way to inadvertantly become a game designer is to design a franchise. Create a successful comic book, write a successful movie, or write a succesful TV series, et cetera. Or write a good sci-fi novel. If you create a fictional universe where games can take place, and if your fictional universe gets popular enough, you'll be consulted when games are designed for that universe!

Re:Or Design A Franchise (1)

MilenCent (219397) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146651)

But that doesn't make you a designer, it makes you more of a scenario writer, or just an ordinary writer. You don't decide what the powerups are or the obstacles that they overcome, beyond coming up with the setting. You don't decide where bosses go or their precise means of attack, even if you have some kind of say over what they look like and what their attacks appear to be. You don't wrack your brain trying to decide if an enemy should to eight points of damage or only five.

do people still design games ? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146198)

I thought they just added some textures and models to a someone-elses/IDGames/Valve 3D engine , add in a movie franchise theme and then sell it for 50$ in bestbuy when its nothing more than a advertisment for a 2hour film
and they call that games design ?

modern games design has been replaced by the marketing department of hollywood

Re:do people still design games ? (4, Interesting)

Coryoth (254751) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146253)

I thought they just added some textures and models to a someone-elses/IDGames/Valve 3D engine , add in a movie franchise theme

Oddly enough I have a friend who works in game design and it was essentially doing that that helped break him into the field - way back when the original doom first came out he created the AliensTC mod for Doom by himself at home for fun. It had good enough artwork, level design and general atmosphere that it got him noticed in the gaming community. Since then he's gone on to various jobs in game design, including working for Valve on Half Life 2.

The article is right - the best way to get into the field is to just get out there and put in the hard work. If you're good enough and manage to prove yourself you can do well.


Re:do people still design games ? (1)

vandoravp (709954) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146261)

Plenty do. It's just really hard to find the results in all the crap and rehashes that pass for games nowadays. One of the reasons downloading games is so popular. I hate spending US$50 on a game that sucked ass and wasn't nearly worth it, though that doesn't happen much since I'll wait and read reviews or ask friends about them.

i partially agree (1)

ylikone (589264) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146418)

There are a lot of games on the market that are crap exactly as you describe... but there are some that are very playable and not based on any pre-existing hollywood franchise. Most of the good games are found on PC's, NOT on consoles.

Re:do people still design games ? (1)

thedustbustr (848311) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146947)

flamebait? This is why I boost flamebaits +4...

whoa. stop the presses. (3, Insightful)

tehsoul (844435) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146235)

it's all about creativity you say? what job, regarding design ANY kind of software, is NOT about creativity? :~

Re:whoa. stop the presses. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146338)

what job, regarding design ANY kind of software, is NOT about creativity?

Enter government contracting, stage left. ;)

Re:whoa. stop the presses. (1)

wxprojects (814030) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146477)


Re:whoa. stop the presses. (1)

abandonment (739466) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146536)

LOL, what you mean - doing ANYTHING useful with MFC involves massive amounts of creativity...

what is truly creative is having your bosses tell you that you MUST use MFC (having heard a buzz word somewhere about RAD development) and then coding the entire thing without using a line of mfc...

then they come around with VC blathering the latest buzzwords, your boss is happy and you can sleep at night knowing your code won't blow up in your face ;P

Re:whoa. stop the presses. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13146942)

Database programming :-P.

Well, I'm not a game designer . . . (5, Interesting)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146240)

but I play one on the web.

I've been creating modules for Neverwinter Nights for the last few years and have had far more exposure than I would have thought possible to the world of game design. I've had teams of people working for me, dealt with NDAs and contracts, stayed up way too late debugging, and gone from extremes of giddiness to despair.

It sounds silly, but making games is a ton of work. Most of it isn't pleasant and it requires someone who enjoys creating things for the sake of the creation. The pay is lousy and you'll get hate mail no matter what creative decisions you make. Things will break and people will complain and ask for help. I find myself playing tech support to the world, explaining how you can't overclock your computer on a hot Summer day in Spain, or how you need to extract all the files from a .zip file, not just the one that looks neat.

Still, I've kept it as a hobby for a long while now and don't plan on stopping any time soon. On the plus side, I've gotten some extremely uplifting e-mails from cancer patients, Israeli soldiers, and Peace Corps volunteers talking about how happy my games made them when all seemed bleak. As cliche as it sounds, it's that sort of thing that keeps me motivated.

Re:Well, I'm not a game designer . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146422)

So what modules have you made?

Since you sound so serious, your probably good...

Re:Well, I'm not a game designer . . . (1)

MilenCent (219397) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146667)

Well I'd say you ARE a game designer (by that measure, I'm one too). And it is a lot of work, if you want it to be any good.

But lots of fun things are also hard work. Nethack is the best computer game I've ever played, but you have to practically have a degree in it to win.

but... (1)

dosle (794546) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146256)

...but according to the commercials on G4, all designers have to do is play video games all day! What gives?

come on.... (5, Funny)

mangus_angus (873781) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146263)

"Being a designer is about having a creative vision and adhering to it."

and willing to work 90 hour weeks while getting paid squat by EA.

You claw, kick and scream and push your way into it.

no that would be trying to get whats owed to you BY EA.

Re:come on.... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146356)

Thing is this thread is supposed to be about game design. I don't actually think that EA has designed anything in the past 20 years, they just keep pushing out the same old crap year after year. If they want a new "design" they just buy out the company, they don't actually design anything themselves.

Obviuos things for nerds (3, Insightful)

ArAgost (853804) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146264)

No one just falls into the position. You claw, kick and scream and push your way into it.

Yeah sure. And how is this different from the rest of the jobs out there (e.g. neurosurgeon)?

Re:Obviuos things for nerds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146404)

Yeah sure. And how is this different from the rest of the jobs out there (e.g. neurosurgeon)?

The difference is, as with most enterainment jobs, there's an enormous amount of investment required to get it produced (whether it be a record album, a movie, or as in this case, a video game). So unless you're a millionaire and can self-finance, you have to convince people with money that your particular vision is going to pay off. Most movies that get pitched are crap, most music acts will never have wide appeal, most comedians aren't all that funny, and most wannabe game designers aren't capable of producing anything more than shiite.

In contrast, most jobs are well defined and have highly predictable output, so while it may require lots of training and effort to do it, there isn't a huge cloud of uncertainty hanging over the outcome which means there's a world of difference from going to school for 10 years to become a neurosurgeon (most people if they really wanted to put in the effort and time could be successful) but convincing someone to entrust you with budget in the millions of dollars to carry out a multiyear project, well that takes some clawing, kicking and screaming.

Re:Obviuos things for nerds (1)

Trespass (225077) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146832)

You don't see neurosurgery being pushed as an easy career field to get into in tv commercials, that's how.

And according to Clifton... (5, Insightful)

stimpleton (732392) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146265)

You will never get the opportunity with CliffB to "scrape and claw to the top" if you dont:

"...stick with your first project and see to it that you finish it with the team. I've known many people who have jumped from company to company and never actually shipped a game, and their resumes look like a "who's who" of the gaming industry. I avoid these folks at all cost, as this is the primary indicator of a lack of finishing ability!"
(From BliffyB's own website How to get hired.) []

Which for these people, no matter how talented, puts their future employment fate into the hands of the project manager, moving goalpost politics, and skittery publishers.

Well if CliffyB has anything to do with the hiring process.

Re:And according to Clifton... (2, Interesting)

Seumas (6865) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146303)

A lot of the gaming industry is like the business industry. To really get anywhere big, it's mostly about being in the right place at the right time with the right people and having the right contacts (preferably contacts with lots of spare cash).

Talent and hard work are important, but don't get you far without being from the right family or having the right contacts.

Re:And according to Clifton... (2, Insightful)

TrappedByMyself (861094) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146436)

Well, I agree with the guy.

No situation is perfect. There are always issues, usually personnell, that cause waves. However, you want people who will work through all the crap and get the job done. The people who jump around are usually the kind with some skill (or none at all), but, as he said, have no ability or willingness to do the complete job. When they hit their limits, they throw a hissy about something and bail.

There are times when you need to leave, but when I see a resume where someone has changed jobs once or twice a year for at least a few years, it goes in the trash.

Game Database anyone? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146284)

I am not a gamer. But I have been interested in the idea of using relational databases to drive and manage advanture games. Has anybody else explored this area? Drafted some schemas? The hardware is coming around to make game-driving DB's feasible.

Re:Game Database anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146382)

You may want to play an MMORPG one of these days...

Re:Game Database anyone? (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146740)

I remember back in, ooh, 1996, seeing discussion on the use of various SQL databases for persistant storage of MUD data. While I've never actually worked on a MMORPG, I would assume that unless the devs are crazy/masochistic/have really freaky persistant storage needs I can't think of, they'll all be using some form of relational database backend.

Obviously, spooling your game content directly from a database server would be... tricky, in performance terms, but like any other application, I'd imagine there's a certain amount of caching going on...

Re:Game Database anyone? (1)

Jim Haskell (162156) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146795)

Try [] . An example of a game which is driven by a database.

Gamer requirements? (0, Offtopic)

nagringo (902172) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146312)

Looking for ideas please regarding gaming. I am looking into starting a business that will require someone knowledgable about gaming. This is not the typical gaming as typically though of. My desire is to do every using LAMP. Appreciate ideas and suggestions.

Re:Gamer requirements? (-1, Offtopic)

daniel_mcl (77919) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146892)

Maybe if you defined LAMP we'd know what you were talking about and you wouldn't be modded down for irrelevancy. Of course, this isn't or something.

Re:Gamer requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13146915)

LAMP = Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP.

Lots of curiosity out there about game design (5, Insightful)

Allen Varney (449382) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146313)

It's interesting and depressing how many Slashdotters posting here think "game design" is the same as "game programming." But then, historically most people have never given a moment's thought to the idea someone actually invented the rules of the games they play.

I know for a fact this is changing, because I keep getting e-mail from elementary and junior-high school students doing assignments from their teachers. They're supposed to write to a game designer and get him to answer X number of questions the teacher has provided. For inscrutable reasons, when you type the exact term "game designer" into Google, my home page shows up on the first page, higher than any other individual designer. (Yeah, I know -- you've never heard of me.) Weird and unjust, but my penance for this fame is that all these kids write to me with their time-wasting questions. So I know at least some people are starting to recognize "game design" as a job, if not yet as a profession. Hope Slashdot follows pretty soon...

Re:Lots of curiosity out there about game design (4, Insightful)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146409)

I think a lot of that confusion comes from many geeks' vision of the do-it-yourself, garage-based game developer that conceived of, designed, programmed, tested, marketed, sold, and supported games in the 70s and 80s.

Being part of a small business means you wear a lot of hats. For a game company, that means you could be doing many of the jobs that I listed above. Even companies like id started off small and had to share the responsibilities.

Fast forward fifteen years and you've got massive corporations with teams of designers, programmers, QA, etc. that handle very specific roles. It can be much more efficient (and profitable) this way, but as a participant in the process it probably wouldn't appeal to many DIY geeks here.

Re:Lots of curiosity out there about game design (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146619)

Weird and unjust, but my penance for this fame is that all these kids write to me with their time-wasting questions.

you could do worse than having a kid take an interest in your work. that's how a Brad Bird begins.

All hail friend Allen Varney! :D (2, Informative)

mr_tenor (310787) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146742)

Rejoice that FC has given you the honour of educating the infrared masses so that they may better serve FC :) Are you saying this doesn't make you happy?

Re:Lots of curiosity out there about game design (2, Insightful)

AvantLegion (595806) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146866)

It's interesting and depressing how many Slashdotters posting here think "game design" is the same as "game programming."

"Same", no, but intimitely linked. The former must constrain to and work within the limitations and strengths of the latter. A game design that cannot be viably implemented in programming is a worthless piece of paper/chunk of HTML/waste of bits in a proprietary document format.

Re:Lots of curiosity out there about game design (1)

IronChef (164482) | more than 9 years ago | (#13147042)

I am also a game designer (that you have never heard of) and you are more than welcome to that top spot in Google. Dang kids! :)

new gaming paradigm needed (1)

courseB (837633) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146318)

once you do get the sweet job... looks like youll end up making another violence centered game. we really need to flesh out some new ideas and maybe independent developers have a better edge at this?

Re:new gaming paradigm needed (1)

VoidWraith (797276) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146722)

I think you hit a profitable niche right in your own sentence:

we really need to flesh out some new ideas and maybe independent developers have a better edge at this?

be a programmer! (2, Insightful)

sm.arson (559130) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146334)

I personally think that the most direct path to a job in game design is a job in game programing. Programming is the only other non-design job that interacts with all other apsects of the industry, and it's a good way to learn about the requirements and concerns of all the elements and people in the games business.

Also, when you are the guy working on the code, it's actually fairly easy to have a big influence on the design of the final product (as long as you are willing to do the work twice - their way and YOUR way - without wasting too much time, and without minding them throwing away your version in the trash).

Also, programmers are usually involved in design meetings. Designers are (usually) careful not to waste programmer time by asking for something that would take too long to implement, so you often get the oportunity to throw in your two cents.

I'd much rather remain a programmer, though. I like doing the work, not telling others what work to do.

Re:be a programmer! (2, Interesting)

zap0d (559630) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146563)

You are wrong!

The best position to be a game designer is a level or map designer an not a programmer.

The map designer request features required to script and art assets to use and is responsible to actual gameplay and has to know to script/programm the game game engine.
Additional team working and organiziation is a must. To be a good game desinger you still have to good programmers and artists available and know what its reasonably makable.

Whatever happened to Crawford? (4, Interesting)

John Seminal (698722) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146359)

I was curious, what happened to the game programmers of yesterday, like Crawford who worked for Interplay before EA got to them. He wrote most of the Bard's Tale games.

As for how competitive the job of programming games are, I can say this much. I had a roomate a decade ago. He was addicted to games, did not go to sleep at night because he could not stop playing. I think one of his games was Warcraft, I don't remember, but I used to hear him at 2am on the phone, giggling as he called up other people playing the game over the network. But the guy also was barely making "C" grades in his classes. I dunno what happened to him, he eventually moved out because he could not tolerate my drinking, and the fact that I banged his sister when she came to visit for a weekend. I guess he should not have ditched her to go play more Warcraft. I was more than happy to show her the bars, among other things.

I kept telling him, it is different liking something as the consumer and liking it as the manufacturer. I love sports cars, but the one summer I spent working in an automotive factory was pure hell.

Anyways, the ones that I think would make cool games are the story tellers. Who knows, maybe an english lit major would make a better game designer than a programmer or math guy.

Re:Whatever happened to Crawford? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13146613)

I may be drinking, but this sounds like you were just looking to tell your story about banging your roommates sister?

bravo on that. by the way :)

A clarification... (1)

MilenCent (219397) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146684)

That's Michael Crawford, I believe, not Chris Crawford, who is a much better known designer. Which isn't to say anything against Michael Crawford. He designed entertaining (if maddeningly tricky) games.

Stop Pretending It's Special (4, Interesting)

robocrop (830352) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146389)

Frankly I think the game industry will only mature when we stop pretending that it's this special, outlier, uber-hipster profession. It's a job, like anything else. All creative jobs require you to a. be creative and b. be skilled at what you want to do.

Want to make games? Learn a skill and come up with a game idea. Big news. Everything else is just self-congratulatory window dressing and delusion.

If more people treated it like a profession, the industry would naturally become more professional.

oh really? counter-strike (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146398)

they didnt have to claw, or take degree courses in japan, or whatever.

Step one... (1)

mek2600 (677900) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146414)

Stay away from Hot Coffee [] while on the job.

Games aren't always good... (3, Funny)

Ponzicar (861589) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146416)

Just remember that you don't want to claw your way to the top, only to be stuck working 20 hours a day on "Barbie's Fashion Adventure."

I have a killer idea for a game (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146465)

But I've never been a good programmer.

The game industry isn't ever going to really take off until you get past the stage where people who can't program but who have good story telling ability, have no chance to get into the industry.

And if I form a company it sure as heck won't allow sweat shop conditions like EA!

Re:I have a killer idea for a game (1)

donglekey (124433) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146498)

Total BS. Everyone has a 'good' idea for a game. Everyone has a 'good' idea for a movie. Everyone thinks they could tell a story or make a great game (and making a great game or telling a good story are pretty much completely separate). If you can't program or create artwork, that is fine, but it won't stop the game industry one bit. No one gets to tell other people what to do when they can't do anything themselves. It is a cliched idea, but I have never really seen it happen. All the bosses and supervisors that I have known or heard about have been extremely hard working and talented in many different areas. It will never be easy to create quality games, because people are always pushing the envelope, and that is never easy. If you really want to create games, stop kidding yourself and practice programming or creating artwork.

Re:I have a killer idea for a game (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146656)

The game industry already is mired in endless copycats. The reason why there are one or two gems and a whole lot of crap out there is because truly creative minds can't get in. Lack of talented story writers isn't stopping the industry, granted, but the industry is going nowhere very very fast. For sure there are games with killer graphics but story lines? Ack!

You brought movies into this, well ever wonder why movies suck so bad? It's because of the barrier to entry, and the way it keeps creative but poorly "equipped" people out.

It may come as a surprise but a solid vision and a sold overall plan is great for properly focusing those with the skills to make it happen. The US military knows this best of all.

As a writer I would be spending a LOT of time in programmer meetings getting familiar with the staff and knowing limitations and getting input. The problem with the PHB's you despise, is that they don't listen and interact with their workers, and they treat them like cattle. Where I see it, my game is nothing without the programmers.

Now I just need the programmers and artists to carry out this idea and if it happens I guarantee people will want to play the game. A lot.

BTW I am a project manager by trade, having come into this from glass box software testing. I have done some programming but not enough to be a hard core programmer. I could never handle writing code from scratch to draw, especially not 3d graphics!

Re:I have a killer idea for a game (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13146880)

Then you may be equipped to be a project manager or producer in the gaming industry. I think what more annoys people in the gaming industry is when some guy whose only experience is that he plays AD&D 2nd edition thinks he is qualified to make games for a living because he's got a "good idea".

Re:I have a killer idea for a game (1)

MilenCent (219397) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146699)

Not just storytelling ability. Game design ability is something distinct from both programming *and* storytelling.

There is nothing that says that a good programmer cannot be a good storyteller and a good game designer. But the industry, as it stands, almost seems to either weed out those with other skills, or to squash those skills in their cradle.

Re:I have a killer idea for a game (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146752)

Hate to say this, what the game industry lacks is not killer ideas, but publishers that will go anywhere near them. Finding some way of persuading large numbers of people to buy good games, over this year's update of their favourite sports sim, would also help.

OT...but (1)

SnoopJeDi (859765) | more than 8 years ago | (#13146507)

Did anybody else notice that Chris Avellone's bio included (under favorite movies)...

Porn's also good, but the acting is terrible and the premises are ludicrous.

working hard for some lawzy wage ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13146576)

hmm, working hard 16 hours a day .. ?!

I'd rather go for the job of "network specialist"

creating user account, reinstalling XP & reseting user passwords = IT job WIN

Game Maker (1)

camzmac (889291) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146590)

Arr, you could just start coding in assembly if ye want to be a big shot, er ya cuud just use Game Maker [] .

Go Indie. (1)

Orange Pylon (902003) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146633)

If you truly want to create games for the sake of creating them, then do it. There's many game creation utilities and moddable retail games out there, it's all a matter of learning how to use one. Just don't expect to have the production values you really want.

If you want to design games for the money, don't quit your fucking day job, and you'd better be very well trained and talented.

Reminds me of a song from my youth... (1)

djeaux (620938) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146731)

So you want to be a rock'n'roll star []

The price you pay for your riches and fame
Was it all a strange game?
Youre a little insane
The money that came and the public acclaim
Don't forget what you are
You're a rock'n'roll star
(The Byrds, 1967)

Of course, I don't think most game designers have to worry about the girls tearing them apart ;-)

NO (0, Redundant)

roror (767312) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146736)

enuff said :P

A few tips on becoming a game developer/designer (5, Funny)

overd-ose (574726) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146757)

1) Harbor an absurdly arrogant personality, enough to power a small city. Remember, you're a game designer now. You're better than everyone else in the computer industry. You may work in a cubicle in a nondescript office building just like anyone else, but dammit you're a game designer. You are special.

2) Develop an aversion to all forms of higher education. B.S. in math? Ewww, math. PhD in computer science? Pssh, you wasted your money on that? Wrote a Tetris clone in Pascal in your high school computer class? Whoa, you are young, edgy, and obviously too cool for school. Bonus points if you mentioned how much faster your program would be if you had written it in assembly. Uber bonus points if you started programming before the age of 9 because everyone knows that any decent developer started programming before they knew what their pee-pee was used for.

3) Research the many game programming flame wars so that you can be up to speed. Some places to start: C++ is slow, OpenGL/DirectX: Which one is better? (note: DirectX and Direct3D are just different names for the exact same thing, no difference...), Doom 3 has better graphics but Half Life 2 is the better game, Nvidia is better than ATI, etc.

4) Read everything you can by Andre LaMothe because he is the most relevant voice in the game industry...period! Oh, especially his "Tricks of..." series because everything when it comes to video game programming is a trick or a hack or the product of black fucking magic.

5) Know your video games! The only way to create a truly original video game is to know what's already been made. But if that doesn't work out, you can just create the umpteenth iteration of the same tired idea with better graphics and minor variations in game play and repackage it with CGI tits and ass and republish it at a higher price.

5a) There is nothing wrong with run on sentences. You're a game designer dammit! Time not grammar for!

6) Buy a Ferrari. Game designers make shit-tons of money. Heck, buy two. Use one during the week and the other one during all that free time you're going to have on the weekend...

7) Practice your deepthroating. You will need to fit John Carmack's penis down throat on a whim in casual conversation. This is sort of paying your dues to the gaming gods.

8) Game developers play lots of video games at work. In fact, on some days, that's all they do. So practice, practice, practice. You wouldn't want to get your ass kicked all the time by your co-workers?

9) Mountain Dew and bag of potato chips is a well balanced meal and you will suffer no ill effects in the long run.

10) Sleep is for the weak.

Okay, the fact is the gaming industry is fucking insane. You're working absurd hours to meet absurd deadlines so little Johnny can see the zombie's heads detonate in per pixel lighting only to get a memo on your desk that Johnny's parents are suing the company because they find the minor sexual content in the game to be offensive. And most game developers have earned advanced degrees in CS, Math, or Physics. They are smarter than you are. Go to school. Get a degree. Oh and avoid everything by andre lamothe, he only serves to belittle the accomplishments and hard work of very bright, very talented people in the industry. It is not black magic, it's just really fucking hard.

This brought to you by a frustrated RPI computer science major who realizes he's just too fucking stupid to make it as a game developer/designer.

btw, I think John is a brilliant developer, a nice guy, and I would gladly service him. Go spaceman, go...

try rockstar games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13146891)

they'll hire you if you can embed porn in your design.

Brace for more paid OSDN advertising! (1)

volve (592475) | more than 9 years ago | (#13146920)

Does anybody else smell a strategically-delayed yet feeble PR campaign from the likes of EA?

Sure smells that way to me. Is there anybody actually out there that still thinks the game industry is all peaches and cream? Jesus, I'd rather be working as an intern at Merrill Lynch...


Stay away (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13147011)

Seriously people, don't fall for the fool's gold of the gaming industry. It is long hours (ready for 13 hour days?), working on the weekend, becoming a stranger to your children and wife at least if you are a programmer (they always get it worst). I see this around me all the time and it makes me very sad for these people. Don't they deserve a normal life like everyone else?
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