Crowdsourcing

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen that I am writing a book. I have a first draft done and I’m feeling a bit “meh” on it, which I am told by other published authors is quite normal. I’m in the process of re-reading the whole thing on paper and making my edits. For instance, I know that I use too many commas. Too many commas, you say? Preposterous! You can, never, have, too, many, commas!

The book is tentatively called “Practical Tools for Game Design Students” and yes, it is sort of a textbook. It is based off of the class I teach at Full Sail University, expanded into more depth than I have the time for in class. The class is about learning standard software and theoretic tools in the context of how game designers use them. So we talk about Word and what makes a good GDD. We talk about Excel specifically about how you can use it to simulate dynamic systems. We talk about analog prototyping, mind mapping, how to not kill people with Powerpoint and other kinds of esoterica. We also talk about the structure of the professional video game development industry because no one else seems to cover it. The class and the book’s goal is to cover things that fall through the cracks when talking about the high-falutin Game Design Ideas or the gritty mechanics of coding.

I’m interested in feedback and editing support from my colleagues in the industry. I’ve already reached out via other methods, but I want to cover my bases. If you are interested in taking a look at it and giving me some help, I can give you credit in the “Thanks” section. Email me and if I know you to be honest (and will take a good look at a 77k word draft), I’ll share the PDF on Dropbox with you. It contains some images that still need to be cleared, so I’m not going to release it into the wild.

As I get it closer and closer to Done, I will post sample chapters here. For now, nothing is locked.

Here is the current working table of contents, to give you an idea of the scope of the book:

Front Matter

Introduction
Thanks
About the Author
Disclaimers
The Designer’s Education

Part One – The Digital Games Industry

1 – The Digital Games Industry Overview
2 – Industry Roles
3 – Software Development Life Cycle

Part Two – Written Communication

4 – The Game Design Document
5 – GDD Creation Process
6 – Word Processors
7 – Wikis
8 – Diagram Creation
9 – Photoshop & 2D Image Manipulation
10 – GDDs for Indies, Students and One-Person Teams

Part Three – Number Crunching

11 – Excel Crash Course
12 – Simple Simulation
13 – Probability Tools
14 – Game Theory

Part Four – Generating, Testing and Presenting Ideas

15 – Generating Ideas
16 – Analog Prototyping
17 – Asides: The MDA Framework / The d20 System
18 – Digital Prototyping
19 – Playtesting
20 – Quality Assurance
21 – Pitching Ideas
22 – The Many Don’ts of Powerpoint
23 – Powerpoint
24 – Powerpoint Case Study
25 – Other Docs: Feature Overviews and Pitch Documents

Part Five – Get Your Hands Dirty

26 – Doing

Part Six – Personal Promotion

27 – Broadcasting via Blogging
28 – WordPress
29 – Networking
30 – Twitter
31 – Resumes
32 – Business Cards
33 – How to Interview

Conclusion
Life as a Designer
Index

Bully Theft Redemption Noire First Impressions

I have some serious heavy-duty gripes about LA Noire but it does a bunch of things right.

My favorite feature of all is that you can hold down Y (or Triangle) near your car to get your partner to instantly drive you to the next location instead of lumbering around town like a drunk teenager wrecking into every stop light in a ten block radius. If any dialogue was to happen during the drive, it happens before the fade-to-black. It fixes the primary problem of many open world games: that getting from point A to point B is really not all that fun. And when point-A-to-point-B is the majority of the time spent in the game, that discourages players from completing the bits that you spent millions of dollars on: the missions and set-pieces. Less than eight percent of players finished Red Dead Redemption. In movies or TV when your protagonist needs to go somewhere, we don’t see him or her get into a car, navigate the freeways, signal legally and pull into a valid parking spot. Because it is boring and unnecessary. We spend all of this time investing in raising the emotional stakes of our characters and then let that tension slack so that we can navigate a “real world”. A game that I found incredibly interesting and innovative, Far Cry 2, I never finished because I was tired of driving through jungles and savannas getting randomly assaulted.

The primary frustration I have with the game is the linearity of conversation. (This may seem ironic to some, since I just advocated what some may call linearizing travel, but I would argue that it is already linear since there are no meaningful changes that happen between point A and B – it is false freedom.) While melodramatic and a bit silly, the Ace Attorney games provided pretty interesting mechanics for searching crime scenes and interacting with witnesses/suspects. Often the dialogue would take the shape of a hub. You can take a line of questioning and if things go sour, you can loop back to where you started and take another line of questioning. Sometimes this would lead to repeating dialogue, but there was a sense from a metagame perspective that if you could suss out orders and prerequisites, that you could complete the designed interaction.

LA Noire takes a wholly linear approach to questioning. You get one shot at each prompt to answer Truth-Doubt-Lie. Only one of the pieces of evidence works for each lie even though evidence may lead to similar trains of thought. And when you “doubt”, you can not later go back and accuse the witness of lying. It makes little sense. You get one opportunity and that’s that. If you have suspicions, you better use the right evidence or forever hold your peace. Is it meant to be replayed? Is that the point?

 

Dialogue Shape: Ace Attorney vs. LA Noire

I’m also fully convinced that whatever genre Rockstar tries in the future, they will still use the same minimap.

 

Lazy

I’ve neglected the blog in favor of Twitter recently because I’ve been working on a book (update: first draft almost done! ~400 pages!) and it’s been taking all of my non-work time and battling the depression that comes and goes over not actually making anything. So here’s a bunch of links I’ve posted to Twitter lately and a couple links to some longform.org things I’ve read. That’s all you get for now.

Alphaland is a sweet browser-native game that reminds me of a platform version of 3 in Three.

Anna Anthropy’s entertaining retro game for Adult Swim.

Bogost on Gamification.

The guys that made Oregon Trail really never made any money off of it despite it making millions for everyone else.

How Andrew Looney Designs Analog Games.

If you can stomach it, this article about holocaust deniers is a really interesting look into how our modern echo chamber culture works from both ends.

An old article about why a philosophy education is better than a business education if you want to be in business.

Red Dead apparently has a lot of “uninspired filler“.

The Wooden Flip Switch Box is ripe with metaphor (watch until end).

Why Your Work Disappoints You.