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Sunday, February 05, 2012

Answering the right questions


Someone recently asked how programmers and designers might communicate daily impediments if the programmers feel the designers either can't understand their impediments nor contribute to their solution.  

Designers aren't usually going to jump in and suggest a code fix, but if the programmers feel that the impediments are mainly code issues, I sense another potential problem.

The greatest challenge in making games is "finding the fun": exploring mechanics and isolating the core gameplay that will draw players.  This creates daily challenges of "how to get there".  When the primary challenge becomes how to write the best architecture or how to create the most optimized physics, then the focus is on the plan, not the game.

David Jaffe said something during the last IGDA Leader Forum that stuck with me.  He said that when developing Twisted Metal, they didn't create vehicle physics.  They created a player object that acted like a hockey puck and then pasted some vehicle models in.  Their focus was on creating the gameplay and let the player fill in the "fantasy of driving a vehicle".  

Our arcade racing games always suffered from a tug-of-war between the vehicle simulation physics and gameplay.  We should have let gameplay lead the vision.  This doesn't mean that designers have the only important work.  It means that every discipline is focused on delivering core value.  Design asks the questions and the entire team seeks the answer….daily.  Seeking those answers should create frequent, meaningful conversation.  If it doesn't, I suspect the team is answering the wrong questions.