CAP 203 - Computer Animation III

Introduction and Chapter 1 - In the Beginning... the Designer


This book begins with some objectives for the class, and good advice. Objectives important to this lesson:

  1. Introduction points
  2. Becoming a designer
  3. Basic skills
  4. Kinds of listening
  5. Being gifted is not enough

In the introduction to the text, the author tells us something about his job history and begins describing the process of designing a game:

  • designing a game requires lots of decisions that may have to be reconsidered
  • basic design skills can be used for any kind of game, not just computer games
  • a designer has to deal with a game's story, rules, setting, and more aspects that are discussed in the text

A theme is introduced that will be repeated: the designer's goal is to give the player an experience. It is not enough to have a plot, rules for play, goals to meet, and an impressive look. The designer should also consider the experience that a player will have, or he is ignoring the thing that will make the game a success or a failure.

The player is looking for an experience that makes them want to play the game. So, what is the magic ingredient? The author admits that there is no concrete answer to that question. There are many answers that the text will consider, that are each part of the designer's quest for creating the next game. Each perspective that the text applies to the design process will be thought of as a lens, a different way of looking at the game design that tells us whether or not it is good.

The act of creating a game can be like other kinds of artistic creation. A game may contain many kinds of creation. For this reason the author tells us to consider the creative processes used in many artforms: music, film, painting, animation, writing, and more can be part of a game design. It is not necessary for one person to be able to do it all, because most games are created by teams, not by individuals. It is, however, better for a designer to learn something about each of these fields to be a better designer.

This leads to the idea that we should use design concepts from various arts, some of which we will have to learn along the way, to make our product better than it would be without that effort.

The first lesson in chapter 1 is to start being a game designer by deciding that you are a game designer. This is not a new idea. William James wrote:

“If you want a quality, act as if you already had it.”

Kurt Vonnegut wrote:

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

Both ideas fit with the author's idea that you have to accept the role and responsibility of being a game designer to become a game designer. What was that? You didn't get the idea that there was responsibility involved? Take a look a the list of skills a game designer needs. (It begins on page 2 and runs to page 4.) Nineteen different disciplines are named, and you could pursue a college degree in most of them. As I noted above, you have the responsibility to learn what you don't already know, or work with someone who knows (or will learn) the necessary skills for each aspect of a game that will be developed. Not all game designs will use all of these skills, but complex games may.

The chapter turns to the twentieth skill: listening. The author means active listening, thinking about what you hear and asking questions for clarification. The discussion turns to five entities you should "listen" to when designing a game.

  • your team - listen to your team members for consensus, and for their knowledge that you don't have
  • your audience - listen to playtesters, purchasers, and likely purchasers to get ideas about what they like and don't like
  • your game - listen to the logic, the flow, the feeling that a user will have when playing your game; M. Night Shyamalan, the film director, said that you must be ready to cut your favorite scene from a film if the film is made better for the cut. This is one aspect of what the author means by listening to your game.
  • your client - listen to the requirements imposed by the company paying your salary. If you don't please the boss, you won't continue to work, and won't be making many games.
  • your self - listen to your talents, your creativity, and the vision that you should have for what the game should be