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The Path of Pain: Mastering Game Design in 20 steps - takeaway


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We all have a Design Muscle. In order for it to create what one wishes it to, it must be trained. It must be submitted to painful exercise. It must be strengthened to the level where it won't matter if the time is lacking, if your boss wants 10 versions just to scrap them all, if the editor is crashing, if the topic is boring, or you're working on a clone. The philosophy the speaker will present is grounded on mastering excellence and focusing on the fascinating craftsmanship of game design, which is - as often forgotten - a world of fun in itself.

Performed live at Game Industry Conference 2016.

Published in: Design
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The Path of Pain: Mastering Game Design in 20 steps - takeaway

  1. 1. The Path of Pain Mastering Game Design in 20 steps
  2. 2. Kacper Szymczak Lead Designer @ CreativeForge Games @illusionGD
  3. 3. 10+ years of experience in the industry CFG: Ancient Space, Hard West, something new! GameDev School Techland: Call of Juarez 1,2,3
  4. 4. Creativity IS NOT just coming up with ideas. Creativity is THE PROCESS that leads to ideas.
  5. 5. PART 1
  6. 6. Wax on, wax off.
  7. 7. Wax on, wax off 1. Add ideas 2. Remove the worst 3. Merge ideas 4. Remove outliers 1. Add all the ideas that come to mind, research the theme, write it down 2. Skip everything unsuitable 3. Group and merge similar items 4. Remove the outliers: things that stand apart, don’t fit Repeat the process until satisfied or out of time.
  8. 8. Lose a fight
  9. 9. You either win or learn. When you’re not winning, you are learning. So do not be afraid to fail: that is the only situation when you will truly learn. Most truly successful people I know and talked to say: I tried for a long time and failed over and over, and then I got lucky. Not one could actually explain the success; because they didn’t learn much from it.
  10. 10. Do not focus on grief. Focus on the lesson. Homework! Fail something, and focus on learning: get feedback on design that isn’t perfect; or show a prototype that you know is incomplete; or apply for a job you don’t expect to get.
  11. 11. Invest in the process, not in the outcome. Srikumar Rao Just watch this -> (TED Talk - Plug into your hard-wired happiness)
  12. 12. Ramming speed
  13. 13. Ben-Hur (10/10) Movie CLIP - Ramming Speed! (1959)
  14. 14. First step in making better design is making it faster. This way you have more time to improve on your work. HOMEWORK: Practice ramming speed.
  15. 15. Parkinson's Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Never take long to do something for the first time. Your first attempt will be shit. Don’t take long to create shit. Make it fast. Fail fast. HOMEWORK: Practice fast work: 5-15 minutes for first attempt.
  16. 16. Excellence doesn’t happen between 9 and 17
  17. 17. Whenever you’re resting, someone else is working hard to be better. In other words, work super hard. Most probably that doesn’t mean death march crunching at work. It merely means learning doesn’t end when you’re leaving the office.
  18. 18. PART 2
  19. 19. Look eye.
  20. 20. Weave realigning into your routines. Never lose sight of your task goals, game goals, life goals. HOMEWORK: Practice regular realignment of your tasks to your goals.
  21. 21. Do or do not, there is no try
  22. 22. Measure twice, cut once = prototyping Be committed when prototyping. Prototype not to see if it’s worth doing, but how to do it.
  23. 23. Prototypes are questions. Good questions get useful answers. The best prototypes are small and crafted to answer precise questions.
  24. 24. Simple tools Best stuff is done on basic, solid tools & mastery of those. See: CoD MW1 postmortem
  25. 25. Technology will eventually limit you. You start relying on automation and soon enough learn to avoid tasks that can not be automated. Use complex tools if necessary, but do not rely on them.
  26. 26. Reverse engineering
  27. 27. Take it apart to know how it’s built. You must understand what you’re building. Find the closest point of reference. (there’s always something) Take it apart. Write a design document for it, as if you were to build it yourself.
  28. 28. Most obvious weaknesses have very deep roots. I always find out other games to be way more complex than anticipated. It’s especially important with very flawed games. Obvious weaknesses always have very deep roots, and you have to know them to fix it.
  29. 29. Meaningful work
  30. 30. Meaningful work 1. Autonomy 2. Complexity 3. Direct connection between effort and reward (Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers) What makes work satisfying? Malcolm Gladwell found 3 key ingredients: 1. Being in control of our own choices 2. Being able to master new skills and improve 3. Seeing the payoff—whether financial, spiritual, or other Note: Gladwell based his research on, among others, assembly line workers, perfectly happy with their jobs. Read: Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
  31. 31. Responsibility entails power. Responsibility entails power and control. First you ACT responsibly, then you GET control. First you prove you can do the extra job and can handle the extra capabilities. It’s a very rare opportunity when you’re given freedom and control and then are expected to be responsible. But if you prep solutions for problems that aren’t yours, well, you’re on the fast lane to a position of power.
  32. 32. PART 3
  33. 33. Might
  34. 34. I don't count my sit- ups; I only start counting when it starts hurting because they’re the only ones that count. - Muhammad Ali
  35. 35. I have no clue how to do this and I’m tired = designer pain Pressure of time and complexity result in pain. When the pressure is high, that’s your golden time. Hold on to the pain. Get yourself to focus, clear distractions and force yourself to work for some time without a break.
  36. 36. Stages of pressure 1. Missed the deadline 2. Didn’t finish 3. Question the point of the task These tell-tale signs or creativity exhausture are most useful to managers observing their design teams, to know when and how apply pressure.
  37. 37. Five point palm exploding heart technique
  38. 38. There are no magic tricks. There are no shortcuts. No design rule is golden. None of them alone is enough.
  39. 39. A million thought design exploding quality technique: Apply all rules at once.
  40. 40. Learning the million thought design exploding quality technique 1.Learn a new rule. 2.Apply the new rule. 3.Over and over. 4.Until it becomes your second nature. 5.Repeat.
  41. 41. Be like water
  42. 42. Adapt. You can’t just say: I am the prototyper, that’s my style. Or that the final polish is your main concern. You have to adapt to all stages and circumstances, because these will often change.
  43. 43. Put the designer in preproduction, he becomes a one man orchestra. Put the designer into the alpha stage, he becomes a worker bee. Put the designer into polishing and he becomes Steve Jobs. Designer can inspect the gameplay flow, or he can crunch. Be water, my friend.
  44. 44. FEAR As you progress on your career, stakes will get higher. You will keep climbing the steep ladder to success, and at times you will look down. You will question if going so fast is wise. If being so ambitious is smart. If risk is worth it.
  45. 45. Acting on fear is the fast lane to mediocrity. Do not yield to your fears. But if fear overcomes you, here’s what you have to do: Stop analyzing, turn your thinking off for a second. Welcome the fear, feel it & just let it be. You can never avoid fear, but you can totally live with it without panicking.
  46. 46. Connect with your ancestors. Reach up for help. Find a mentor, or mentors, if you will. I highly recommend getting in touch, directly, and establish such a connection.
  47. 47. Connect with your descendants Reach down to help others. Write down your thoughts to organize them and share them (that’s the only way to know what you know)
  48. 48. PART 4
  49. 49. An epic test
  50. 50. Basic stuff: 1.What is the job? 2.Can you test the applicant’s capacity to perform the job? 3.What are the criteria of well delivered task? 4.Can they do it in the test?Prep a test with precise conditions, like: limited time, set of problems to solve. Ask your applicants to just do the job you intend them to do.
  51. 51. Test difficulty rule of thumb: Everyone fails. Prep a test that is fiendishly difficult. Measure the varying degrees of fail to give you a scale.
  52. 52. Prove your skill Regularly prove yourself to your team. Don’t lose touch with the real thing or you’ll be ridiculed as a manager. Your authority will be questioned. Your experience will be questioned. And you will be asked for orders, not advice.
  53. 53. Avoid HIPPOs: Highest Paid Person’s Opinions Hippos stagnate discussion. Hippos kill brainstorms. Creatives work really badly if there are hippos in the room. Proving your skills gets you closer to your team.
  54. 54. The art of failing
  55. 55. Admit mistakes. As the lead designer, you’ll be responsible for all design failures. Admit your mistakes to your team. There’s no way you’ll avoid being linked to those mistakes, and admitting them yourself nets you respect.
  56. 56. People can forgive mistakes of the mind. People are much less likely to forgive mistakes of the heart. Mistakes were made (but not by me) - Carol Tavris & Elliot Aronson Must read: Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris, Elliot Aronson
  57. 57. Shuffling tasks
  58. 58. Merits of task shuffling Grow the knowledge of game Enforces communication Gives designers different perspectives Exposes systems to different perspectives Getting attached to parts of the game doesn’t really help. The feeling of ownership is actually purely destructive. Designers should focus on good decisions instead of their own decisions. Shuffle tasks between designers. Have them review one another. It’s generally safer, because you can refocus team efforts. It’s easier to take a day off, because no one is the chokepoint.
  59. 59. Be cruel Save your team from mistakes. They will make enough on their own anyway. Don’t let them sabotage their own game to make someone feel good for a moment. Never hesitate from throwing out trash made by your team. That’s misleading feedback.
  60. 60. Keep up high standards (This is the missing image! :-) Give no quarter to beginners. Don’t approve their work until it’s really good. Give room to learn, delegate hard tasks. Even too hard. This is actually investing your time in nurturing their talent. Let them take pride in where they work, where they learned.
  61. 61. Be caring Your team will not be working with you forever. Your employees are caring for their career. You should care about that too. You should care a lot. Also, you should say goodbye to anyone who cares less.
  62. 62. Take some responsibility for your employees’ lives. Do not waste their time: make sure they consider your team to be the fast lane to excellence. Take responsibility for their career. You have much more control over it than they do. And when they reach the ceiling, help them go. They will go anyway, why be a dick about it.
  63. 63. Who did you want to be? All that won’t do you any good if you don’t know what do you want to do. With high probability, your current position in the industry happened at random, at least sort-of. Is that where you were aiming? What matters to you? Full creative control? Press coverage? Shitload of money? You can’t have everything at once. And if you don’t already know, that’s fine, as long as you know you’re in a finite process of finding out.
  64. 64. End. @illusionGD