Unlock your creative potential: 7 steps to becoming a game designer

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Game Design is simultaneously the industry’s most romanticized and most misunderstood profession. Everyone wants to be a game designer. Everyone thinks they are a game designer. Yet, few understand what a game designer’s job truly is or how to become one. This presentation takes a peek behind the curtain to explain what being a professional game designer is and what it isn’t. It then presents 7 concrete steps that aspiring game designers can take towards becoming a game designer.

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  • I attended this at PAX... It was one of the best things I have ever seen. I will definitely be distributing this among people I know! 10/10
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  • 269 rated PS3 games in 2011\nOnly 11 above 90\n
  • MW3: 668 devs across 5 studios\nNot counting music, publishing, acting, qa, studio, other\nOnly one Robert Bowling\n
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  • Unlock your creative potential: 7 steps to becoming a game designer

    1. 1. 7 steps to becoming a game designerUnlock your Creative Potentialwww.FamousAspect.com
    2. 2. A brief history of Ethan intern and tester metrics and user testing game design game productionCore competencies: game design, Powerpoint decks, inappropriate humorwww.FamousAspect.com
    3. 3. Craftyy Support the Craftyy Kickstarter to design, remix and share HTML5 games.www.FamousAspect.com
    4. 4. Super Pixel Time Original Apple II Gameboywww.FamousAspect.com
    5. 5. Pop Red Balloons!www.FamousAspect.com
    6. 6. Cofounder @ Quarter Spiralwww.FamousAspect.com
    7. 7. Unlock your Creative Potentialwww.FamousAspect.com
    8. 8. www.FamousAspect.com
    9. 9. www.FamousAspect.com
    10. 10. www.FamousAspect.com
    11. 11. Why do you want to design video games? 1) Know yourselfwww.FamousAspect.com
    12. 12. Activity: self reflection• Why do I want to design videogames?• What are the upsides of this motivation?• What are the downsides of this motivation?www.FamousAspect.com
    13. 13. Why design?www.FamousAspect.com
    14. 14. Why design?www.FamousAspect.com
    15. 15. Upsides• Wide range of genres• Wide range of skill sets• Adaptable beyond hands on design ✦ Building teams ✦ Building people ✦ Building process ✦ Building lectureswww.FamousAspect.com
    16. 16. Downsides• Overextend and lose focus• Limited patience for lengthy development cycles• Difficulty handing off pieces of the designwww.FamousAspect.com
    17. 17. Find your motivation “I want to lead the design of a 90+ Metacritic game.”www.FamousAspect.com
    18. 18. Find your motivation “I want to be the face of a AAA videogame.”www.FamousAspect.com
    19. 19. Find your motivation “I want to be rich and famous.”www.FamousAspect.com
    20. 20. 90+ Metacritic Forget about Deus Ex, Dead Space 2 or Dead Soulswww.FamousAspect.com
    21. 21. Face of the product?www.FamousAspect.com
    22. 22. Rich and famous? 2011 Salary Survey: Industry average = $81,192, Designer = $73,386www.FamousAspect.com
    23. 23. Be honest with yourself Play to your strengths, overcome your weaknesseswww.FamousAspect.com
    24. 24. Communication is the key to design 2) Know visionwww.FamousAspect.com
    25. 25. Activity: write a game treatment• 2-3 page document at a high level• Communicate the core vision• Get people excited• Clearly define the gamewww.FamousAspect.com
    26. 26. Treatment != design documentwww.FamousAspect.com
    27. 27. Goals of a treatment• Communicate a clear vision• Generate excitement• Define scope Easiest part of the job, hardest part to do rightwww.FamousAspect.com
    28. 28. Elements of a treatment• Hype paragraph• X statement• Analogs, antilogs, leaps of faith• Target player• Major featureswww.FamousAspect.com
    29. 29. Smash TV Socialwww.FamousAspect.com
    30. 30. Hype paragraph• Wet the appetite - get the reader excited• Be brief - 3 to 5 sentences• Tease major features“‘Big money, big prizes, I love it.’ Smash TV Social is the return of the classic arcadegame, reinvented for social networks. Presented through the lens of reality TV, thisover the top, twin stick shooter allows friends and strangers to co-operate andcompete for high scores while mowing down enemies with inventive weapons.Modernized with RPG progression systems, upgradable & customizable weaponryand multiplayer, Smash TV Social is the next, addictive evolution of the top downshooter.”www.FamousAspect.com
    31. 31. X statement• Single sentence that describes the essence of the game• “Razor” used to make decisions• Punchy & memorableMeaningless X statementReturn of the arcade classicMeaningful X statementCompete and cooperate in an over the top, reality TV shooter.www.FamousAspect.com
    32. 32. Analogs, antilogs and leaps of faith• Idea taken from Getting to Plan B• Analogs: successful games you want to be like• Antilogs: similar games you want to avoid• Leaps of faith: elements unproven in the marketplacewww.FamousAspect.com
    33. 33. Smash TV analogs• Ratchet and Clank ✦ Leveling weapons ✦ Fast and furious gunplay• Bubble Witch Saga ✦ Short, rewarding levels ✦ Leader board competition ✦ Earned currency and boostswww.FamousAspect.com
    34. 34. Smash TV antilogs• Smash TV Arcade ✦ Don’t be a quarter monster ✦ Engagement not frustration• Simcity Social ✦ Social network integrity ✦ True multiplayer not friend gatingwww.FamousAspect.com
    35. 35. Leaps of faith Social network gamers CRAVE synchronous multiplayer.www.FamousAspect.com
    36. 36. Target player• No need for fancy marketing studies• Imagine your ideal player• Describe him or her in 3 to 5 sentences‘Ethan is a 25-35 year old, lifelong gamer. He grew up pumping quarters into arcademachines and begging for the hottest NES game each holiday season. As an adult, he isan enthusiast gamer with disposable income - researching and buying all the hottestAAA titles and indie gems - but rarely playing them. He grabs 5 minute sessions ofiPhone and Facebook games multiple times a day, but grabbing a 4 hour gamingmarathon is a rare luxury. He has nostaligic memories of Smash TV arcade co-op.’www.FamousAspect.com
    37. 37. Major features• Describe the core feature set of your game• Each feature should have a short paragraph• Clear, concise communicationLeveling WeaponsSmash TV Social’s over the top weaponry will create a long term progression system tokeep players engaged over weeks and months. Similar to Ratchet & Clank, eachweapon will have multiple levels that are unlocked for killing baddies with it. Asweapons level, they get more grandiose in both destructive power and visual splendor.Players who crave achievement will come back for game after game to level eachweapon to its top level, Diamond Form.www.FamousAspect.com
    38. 38. Control your scope• Writing a treatment can easily be a 1 to 2 hour task• These 2 pages can describe months (or years) of work• Controlled scope is the sign of a mature designerwww.FamousAspect.com
    39. 39. Don’t be preciouswww.FamousAspect.com
    40. 40. Finding the kernel of fun 3) Know prototypingwww.FamousAspect.com
    41. 41. Activity: pen and paper prototype• Choose a board or card game to modify• The simpler the better• Deconstruct its gameplay systems• Strip it down to its essentials and start modifying• Play, find what’s wrong, make a change, repeatwww.FamousAspect.com
    42. 42. Goals of a prototype• Find the kernel of fun• Find it fast• Find it cheap Prove your idea is worth pursuing quickly, or move onwww.FamousAspect.com
    43. 43. Monopolywww.FamousAspect.com
    44. 44. Deconstructing Monopoly• Each player has a character and some money• On his turn, the player roles the dice to move his character around the board.• When the character lands on a property, the player may purchase it for its price• If the player lands on a property another player owns, he must pay the owner rent• If a player cannot pay rent, he goes bankrupt and his properties are given to the player he owes rentwww.FamousAspect.com
    45. 45. Parts of Monopoly• Components ✦ Characters ✦ Property ✦ Money ✦ Dice ✦ Cards• Goal ✦ Own property ✦ Get money ✦ Last player standingwww.FamousAspect.com
    46. 46. Iterating on Monopoly• Designer ✦ Characters > Heroes ✦ Property > Battles ✦ Money > Loot ✦ Dice > Stats ✦ Cards > Spellswww.FamousAspect.com
    47. 47. Iterating on Monopoly• Writer ✦ Heroes > Ninjas ✦ Battles > Monsters ✦ Loot > Weapons & Armor ✦ Stats > Abilities ✦ Spells > Scrolls• Artist ✦ Define look and feel ✦ Define goalswww.FamousAspect.com
    48. 48. Sample game design kit• 3x Blank Game Boards• 15x Poker Chips• 3x 10 sided dice• 8x 6 sided dice (colored)• 20x notecards• 8x crayons• 20x colored glass beadswww.FamousAspect.com
    49. 49. Experience the meat and potatoes of game design 4) Know toolswww.FamousAspect.com
    50. 50. Activity: build something• Reflect on your goal• Pick a tool that will let you achieve that goal• Do enough tutorials until you have something playable Much of a designer’s job is technical and tediouswww.FamousAspect.com
    51. 51. Example toolsets• Game Maker Studio • Valve Hammer Editor• Game Salad • Starcraft 2 Editor• Unity 3d • Skyrim Mod Tools• Adventure Game Studio • Dragon Age Toolset• Unreal Development Kit • [Shameless plug] CraftyyTools are plentiful, only followthrough is on short supplywww.FamousAspect.com
    52. 52. Playtesting, listening and iteration is the path to great games 5) Know listeningwww.FamousAspect.com
    53. 53. Activity: tissue test your game• Get your pen & paper prototype (or digital prototype) playable• Sit someone in front of it• Watch them play giving minimal instruction• Fix what’s broken• Find a new tester Repeat this process 30-40 times and you’ll have a great gamewww.FamousAspect.com
    54. 54. Guidelines for testing• Make improvements between each tester• Give minimal guidance• Focus on the early game• Listen to what they say• If a player asks for a system in the game, it is not good enoughwww.FamousAspect.com
    55. 55. Sample play test: Pop Red Balloons• In this video: ✦ My cousin plays Pop Red Balloons ✦ He gets stuck after 30 seconds ✦ He missed reading a valuable piece of UIwww.FamousAspect.com
    56. 56. Feedback can be frustrating• You are very close to your project• You are probably pretty burnt out• You will probably be defensive• Your players have little to no context• Cultivate listening, not reacting Find the WHY behind the WHATwww.FamousAspect.com
    57. 57. Find the WHY behind the WHAT• In this video: ✦ I ask my young cousin what she wants from the game ✦ She makes a fart noise ✦ Her two brothers join in ✦ They all want fart noises when balloons are poppedwww.FamousAspect.com
    58. 58. What they asked for:FartsWhy they asked for it:Lack of feedbackwww.FamousAspect.com
    59. 59. Game design is a team sport 6) Know teamworkwww.FamousAspect.com
    60. 60. Activity: Execute a peer’s vision• Find a friend with a game idea• Partner with them to prototype their idea• Be an executor, not a designerwww.FamousAspect.com
    61. 61. Goal of activity• Learn to listen critically and execute• Learn to check your ego at the door• Learn to help clarify design without controlling designwww.FamousAspect.com
    62. 62. Why this activity is important• Games require giant teams• Everyone wants to contribute design• Everyone wants to be a designer• Learn to say “Yes and” instead of “No”www.FamousAspect.com
    63. 63. The only thing a player cares about is a shipped game 7) Know finishwww.FamousAspect.com
    64. 64. Activity: release a game• Use the process• Make a treatment• Make a prototype• Playtest, iterate and polish• Launch your game• Listen, iterate and polishwww.FamousAspect.com
    65. 65. The long road to ship 1 Hour 3 Monthswww.FamousAspect.com
    66. 66. The long road to ship 1 Week 1 Yearwww.FamousAspect.com
    67. 67. Players don’t care...www.FamousAspect.com
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    74. 74. Join the conversation•Read www.famousaspect.com•Follow @FamousAspect•Contact FamousAspect@gmail.com•Stalk www.QuarterSpiral.comwww.FamousAspect.com

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