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 Post subject: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 23rd, 2010, 11:26 pm 
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http://designreboot.blogspot.com/2010/1 ... ntism.html

posted a Christmas blog update for y'all (shout outs to Kirb), "what up now bitches"

I feel bad for not quite having gotten the full of it, but I think the full version (or at least the earlier drafts of this post) was too boring. This at least reasonably backs up my assertions, and most of all I just had to get it out there.

If there's any interest I will post the earlier draft here in the forum, which is more heavy on the formative period of working on Darkest of Days and coming to the idea that good work needs to be grounded in research. It just made the blog post too long.


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 23rd, 2010, 11:49 pm 
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I didn't know about the Demon's Souls thing, that's pretty cool. I remember having a similar experience when I was working retail and it was really fuckin' windy and rainy outside at like 10 pm and there were a bunch of guys from different stores out collecting shopping carts, and we all sort of helped each other out because of how bad everything was. We probably wouldn't associate normally and we wouldn't waste our time bringing carts to the proper lots, but on that night we were all brothers. It's kind of a similar mechanic: you're forced into interaction and a shared sense of "being" and that temporary connection is camaraderie in its own way.


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 24th, 2010, 12:11 am 
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Yeah if anything it's a hopeful thought about the way people work. Most have had the experience of waiting to board a plane and there's polite anonymity at best, casual indifference at worst--and then a serious delay or layover happens, and people feel suddenly kindred in their common plight.

And you have to admit, Demon's Souls multi accomplishes this in surprising ways; the sense of having to depend on the whims of strangers, of having to trust on that anonymous good faith. I find it interesting that despite the profound, really endless potential for everyone else to fuck you over if they wanted to, there is (or was, at least when I played) a sense of the golden rule prevailing... the game was hard enough on its own, creating a sense of shared hardship.


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 24th, 2010, 12:11 am 
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Interesting stuff. I never knew that "fun" was considered contrary to research. I mean if you don't derive mechanic from something existing in real world how else can it be "fun" (or have any behavioral or visceral appeal)? If you don't appeal to tropes and motifs outside the game world, you are limiting yourself.

@gauss: Now that you mention it, I never considered hardship as a way for designer to encourage player interaction.


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 24th, 2010, 9:24 am 
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I'd like to see that earlier draft, gauss.

And while I applaud the sentiment of this post, I doubt its necessity - so designers have to do their research and have broad life experience in order to create the best works? That's nothing conventional wisdom on writing, art, design and any other creative discipline couldn't tell you. It probably doesn't help that I'm suspicious and largely dismissive of manifestos. It's easy to set out guidelines for doing something, much harder but much more meaningful to apply those guidelines in actual work.

I mean, I'm also writing this post while covered in a large, misshapen pile of research about prison life for my UDK project. So I get your point - I just think that in the quest to make it 'not boring' the post also became less useful.


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 24th, 2010, 2:05 pm 
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orikae wrote:
...And while I applaud the sentiment of this post, I doubt its necessity - so designers have to do their research and have broad life experience in order to create the best works? That's nothing conventional wisdom on writing, art, design and any other creative discipline couldn't tell you.


People who study art intellectually in any capacity know all this, sure, but it's still a worthwhile point to reiterate; Those people aren't in the majority. This applies to any creative discipline, yes, but so does copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy syndrome. The best Metal (a subject near and dear to my heart) comes from understanding the roots of the art (Blues, and all the steps in between then and now), taking inspiration from other sources, and experimenting from a position of knowledge; but we still had enough people go "Uhhhh.... I guess I like Metalica*... Let's just try to sound like that", and now MetalCore is a genre.

This keeps up in gaming and all we'll have left is Gears of Warfare: Modern Space Marine.


*(I can't spit a name in anger while I type, but rest assured the anger is there)



Kirbyoto wrote:
Research is like CGI - you use it to fill in the background, you don't bring it to the front. Make a dynamic, and then fill in the gaps with research. Otherwise you end up with a one-dimensional product (no research) or a Metal Gear infodump (primarily research). For example, if you want to make a game about prisons you should have a dynamic in mind, instead of - I suppose - assuming that "researching prisons" will make a game concept obvious. It is my personal understanding that prisoners are a fairly unpleasant place that people do not go to voluntarily, so perhaps the idea of setting a game there would require something more to make it worthwhile.


Where is that dynamic going to come from without research? You can look at how prisons work, and come up with something from there, or base your game concept on Oz or whatever bullshit you think prisons are based on some movie you saw.


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 24th, 2010, 5:15 pm 
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Here's the older draft as mentioned. It clarifies more about the specific genesis of it for me and what it means, but I also thought it rather too drawn out, not snappy enough.

Quote:
In early 2009 I finished my work as a level designer on Darkest of Days, a game about shooting people in the face.
We spent the abbreviated design cycle in endless discussions about balancing weapons, damage values, movement rates, all the fine things game designers should concern themselves with.
It was the first major game for most of the team, which double-edged every decision with thrilling dread--an ambitious design scope executed by neophytes under strict budget and time constraints. Hard times, but also many fond memories.
There were no easy answers for us. Despite the design doc featuring virtually no innovations over most first person shooters, we still had to reinvent the wheel for ourselves--an FPS is a no small feat, particularly on a new engine.
We knew the only important result was that it was fun, as every designer will tell you. In hindsight it all seemed awfully capricious, flying blind; assigning arbitrary values or characteristics to weapons, people or places that had existed, all in the name of "fun"--the unknown god of game design. There was nothing unusual about our project in this regard; the same prayer is on the lips of most every game developer I've met.
Our unified goal was a word we can't agree on the meaning of--every designer sure of himself and his grasp of fun but largely unable to communicate it to others.

I remember one issue in particular: our game depicted German and Russian infantry combat in the Eastern front of World War I with the Gewehr 98 rifle and the Mosin Nagant rifle, respectively. How to balance these rifles?
A cursory googling reveals very similar rifles, in caliber and so on. The coder in charge solved it by appealing to a classic balancing paradigm: faster, lighter-hitting vs. slower, heavier-hitting. In the game, it worked, though I had some nagging doubts. The decision seemed uncomfortably arbitrary. The rifles in the game are ostensibly based on real rifles, wasn't there some better way portraying them?

Shortly thereafter a fit of pique would change my entire approach to game design; arguably to life in general.
I decided the best way to figure out how to portray the rifles would be to see for myself--turns out the featured rifles, or their close analogues, were actually pretty cheap and easy to buy.
Somewhere in making the informed decision of what rifle to purchase, I wound up with a deeply engrossing hobby that would provide a compelling re-introduction to a passion for history and well-grounded research. I bought two military surplus rifles that approximated the families of the rifles in the game. In striving, like any good American, to make an informed purchasing decision, I would research the history of the Mosin Nagant (the name being of the two designers, a Russian and a Belgian), what mutant offspring it would spawn (the Finnish Mosin), how to properly say the name (MO-seen nah-GAHN), what relation it's development had relative to the Mauser brothers' rifle, and so on. Before I knew it, I had fallen all the way down the rabbit hole.

A few days after I had picked up the rifles and familiarized myself with them, I came to work and played the game. On the in-game model of the Mauser K98k (the one in the WWII levels), I noticed the bolt safety was on. This was the revelation that sealed in my new perspective.
Here was a gun I had stared at for hours, as one always does while playing an FPS, doubly so while developing one. And a glaring error, one in which the youngest initiate into the world of firearms, was staring us in the face the entire time. What else might be laughably off-base, flat-out wrong? If you have eyes to see the errors, how crappy does this whole game seem? Why are we, the designers, the builders of this world, so ill-informed about it?

Arguments followed. "Nobody is going to notice," is the one I am sure every other developer has either spoken or had spoken to them, often paired with "I don't care/it doesn't matter." I no longer trust or professionally esteem any developer who says either of these.

It is my current understanding now that these two statements are anathema to good game development, and are the undoing of the essential relationship, the bond between designer and player. Someone will notice, and they will laugh, or be disappointed that their realm of knowledge has not been better appreciated. It does matter, it all matters.
No, not everyone will notice, but through the (hopefully) hundreds of thousands or millions of players that play your game, represented is an incredible body of expertise in all areas of human understanding. When we know something and that knowledge is not reflected in the book we read, the film we watch or the game we play, the experience is the lesser for it. Correspondingly, we are that much more appreciative when that understanding is reflected in the experience we are taking in. "They took care to get it right."

A lot of this sentiment for me is related to Jonathan Blow's insistence on building games that accord the player the respect that he would in turn wish to be given, not a grudging admission or even outright contempt seen in recent AAA titles. Contempt both for history and the player's understanding thereof, and for the player's time, patience, and mental faculty.

I find most designers to be happily ignorant of most of the historical, technical expertise that might otherwise inform their games for the better. Despite keeping abreast of cutting-edge considerations for how technically to bring the game to the screen,

I have quoted it before and this will not be the last time, either: Warren Spector said that a game is an experience co-authored between the designer and the player. How can we ever hope to make truly great games if the player's share in that co-authorship held in contempt? We should demand more of the player, if only because we also demand more of ourselves in making our games.

The onus of expertise lies with the designer. A designer should make all possible effort, time and money considered, to invest their game with authentic understanding as possible. This is not a rallying cry to "realism" or simulation; rather it is my personal belief that great games, like other great specimen of other media, must necessarily invoke the truth of things outside themselves, outside ourselves. And this dedication starts with the smallest details. A game designer should strive to be an expert about as much as possible of the subject matter that concerns his game, anything less fails to honor the experience they wish to co-create with the player, that all-important relationship.


re-reading it, maybe it's a better/more personal version of what I posted. "ehh."


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 25th, 2010, 1:04 am 
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I'd rather play the prison game made by the guy who spent four years researching prisons than the guy with equal design ability who watched Oz and was like, whoa


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 25th, 2010, 7:36 pm 
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I didn't want to turn this into another thread about my designs but Kirby seems pretty fixated on it. I was researching prisons because I thought a detective game set in a prison might be interesting. The research was to see if it was feasible (it is) and if prison had sufficient character, as a setting, to support a detective game in the vein of Chandler's novels (it is.)


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 25th, 2010, 7:41 pm 
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how you gonna detective when they take away all your smokes


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 25th, 2010, 7:43 pm 
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guards be corrupt and sell you smokes for sexual favours, yo


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 26th, 2010, 11:55 pm 
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"New Fish" is a game that totally needs to be made, so kudos.


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 27th, 2010, 8:48 am 
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gauss wrote:
Here's the older draft as mentioned. It clarifies more about the specific genesis of it for me and what it means, but I also thought it rather too drawn out, not snappy enough.

re-reading it, maybe it's a better/more personal version of what I posted. "ehh."

what you lose in snappiness, you gain back and more with the logical and measured flow of argument to a well-reasoned and supported conclusion

i actually found it quite affecting


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 27th, 2010, 11:30 pm 
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http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 ... 49880.html

lol @ this

Quote:
There, he immersed himself in music, movies and books from and about the era. He watched "Apocalypse Now," "Platoon" and "Hamburger Hill," and listened to the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son."


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 28th, 2010, 1:11 am 
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Kirb you reminded me of a post from Frictional's design blog a few months back let me find it...
http://frictionalgames.blogspot.com/201 ... ntent.html

And now, as Gauss's blog post told me to, I will go for a walk. At 2 AM.


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 28th, 2010, 1:30 pm 
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kirb: RPS linked the post in the sunday papers as well as that WSJ piece, for which I think I benefitted enormously. RPS commenter JackShandy: "The CodBlops article is pretty hilarious, coming after the gausswerks one."

And yes, the inference is correct. I guess I am a glutton for punishment because I did buy that game knowing it was going to probably be disappointing, but Treyarch really went for it in terms of just how disappointing it actually--*opening strains of Fortunate Son begin to play* WOW, IT'S LIKE I'M THERE


Scott: I always enjoy walks late at night; you own the place. Usually a nice time to gather your thoughts. Neighborhoods have a different character at night.


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 28th, 2010, 1:31 pm 
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also if you get mugged you will experience fear and combat in real time just like your video games!!


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 28th, 2010, 6:51 pm 
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gauss wrote:
Scott: I always enjoy walks late at night; you own the place. Usually a nice time to gather your thoughts. Neighborhoods have a different character at night.


I quite like the me-time I get when I'm sitting on the toilet in the middle of the night, pushing out a stinker for half an hour. Some of my best ideas have come about as a result of sitting alone in that quiet little room.


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 29th, 2010, 8:20 am 
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So... what you're saying is that game designers should probably subscribe to a course in Stanislavski's method acting?


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 31st, 2010, 2:40 am 
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dudeglove wrote:
So... what you're saying is that game designers should probably subscribe to a course in Stanislavski's method acting?

If they have the resources available to them then absolutely. Every game designer who makes an FPS should have fired a gun at least once, as well as know something about how firearms function. Or if not firearms then whatever other element their game primarily features. Obviously there are limitations, you probably can't just go and perform surgery as prep for making your game about surgeons, but there's always research and observation.

Why do you think "The Wire" is such an amazing show? David Simon was a freaking police reporter before he started writing for television. The reason why many of our protagonists and ship captains and "space marines" etc. are so *so* boring is because of how far removed from reality they are. If you're going to do a game about marines who fight in space, why don't you learn about what actual marines are like? Instead we have designers who think that watching Apocalypse Now qualifies as researching the Vietnam War. Is it really a surprise then that many people consider the games industry a joke?


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: December 31st, 2010, 3:10 pm 
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gauss wrote:
Scott: I always enjoy walks late at night; you own the place. Usually a nice time to gather your thoughts. Neighborhoods have a different character at night.

i usually hit up craigslist to find some cool straight bros looking to take some late night walks and hold hands and see where things lead up (no fags)


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: August 22nd, 2013, 10:44 pm 
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[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxaGXxWdDs8[/youtube]


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 Post subject: Re: Against Dilettantism (blog post)
PostPosted: August 23rd, 2013, 12:03 am 
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Skoosc wrote:


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