At the Office

On the Couch
At the Office
In the Library
Through the Mirror
Reflections on the work I do (game design and project management) and the game industry in general
Created July 1, 2007
The Game Designer Interview Exercise
The question of how to get a job as a game designer is a perennial one.  Designer is one of the "sexy" jobs in game development, particularly as the common misconception of it is that you get to sit around and think up game ideas all day.  While I've covered the basics of getting a job as a designer elsewhere, I thought I'd walk through one of the exercises I use when interviewing designers to give a more in-depth view of the specific kinds of things potential employers may be looking for.  This is something that I've developed and refined over several years, and while not foolproof, it has been remarkably successful in separating out the wheat from the chaff at the phone interview stage. more...

Created June 24, 2007
Random Thoughts on Games Journalism
There are certain things you can count on from games journalists, among them Top X lists and navel-gazing.  The former is an easy tool for filling up space and generating conversation, the latter an inevitable side effect of taking what you do seriously.  While that may seem like a contradiction at first, I think it speaks to the diversity of practice in games journalism today.  A couple of recent reflective articles on myths of game journalism and reviews have inspired me to put down a few of my own random thoughts on these practices. more...

Created March 17, 2007
GDC 2007 Random Notes

GDC is my favorite game industry event.  As someone with an academic bent, having several thousand developers gathered in the same place talking about everything from specific production issues to the state and future of the industry to process and relationship structures is just bound to be a good time.  On top of that, it's a great opportunity to touch base with various people I've worked with and get into ridiculous conversations.  There's plenty of coverage (and more coming, no doubt) on the talks themselves, so here are just a few quick hits on things that likely won't get discussed elsewhere. more...

Created: December 14, 2005
The View from the Other Side: So, I'm a Suit
Well, actually I'm more of a button-down shirt and jeans guy, but metaphorically, I am definitely a suit.  I work for a publisher; I make decisions about what games will and will not do on the design side; I take pitches from developers and help decide which ones are going to get funding; I look at the budgets and the bottom lines and make calls about whether a project is ready to ship or not.  So, when developers or gamers blame the suits, I'm the guy they're talking about. more...

Created: December 4, 2005
The View from the Other Side: Developer's Bill of Rights
Recently, Eric Zimmerman posted his take on a Developer's Bill of Rights on Gamasutra.  Based on a similar piece for the comics industry, it attempts to address what are seen as common shortcomings in the business landscape for game developers.  Certainly, there are some points that seem reasonable, and there are some that are just common-sense, but there are also several that I see problems with from the publishing side. more...  

Created: October 1, 2005
Why Co-op Is Harder Than It Looks
Co-operative multiplayer is one of those features that can be really tricky to get into a game.  There's a relatively small, but dedicated, fanbase that likes to play games co-operatively.  Because they often play on local networks, it's difficult to get an accurate measure of how many people use this game mode, as opposed to adversarial, which gamers are more likely to play against strangers, i.e. over the internet.  Playing co-op over a network, gamers will often use the same copy on multiple machines, which means that you can't necessarily translate numbers of players into numbers of copies sold.  On top of that, co-op play has a number of technical and design implications that can be particularly tricky to handle.  From the player's perspective, though, it seems like a given that if you can support single-player and adversarial multiplayer, co-operative should be possible.  This article lays out a few of the reasons why you don't see co-op in as many games, or with as much robustness, as you might expect. more...

Created: September 23, 2005
The View from the Other Side: Death to the Industry?
There's a piece that's been making the rounds, Greg Costikyan's "Death to the Games Industry".  My understanding is that this started as a GDC rant, and since then he's turned it into a full presentation and is now publishing an extended version in a new online gaming magazine, The Escapist.  The gist of Costikyan's argument is that the economics of game development are out of whack and this is hampering creativity in the industry.  more...

Created: August 1, 2004
Five Things Non-Designers Tend to Forget
One of the things about working in commercial game design is that everybody you run into thinks they can do your job.  Players think that because they've played the game and know it from that angle, they can improve on the design.  The people you work with think that since they've developed the game and know it from that angle, they can improve on the design.  Hobbyists who have done design in their spare time think of themselves as designers, so they think they can improve on the design. Random strangers think that game design is just sitting around playing games and thinking up ideas, and since they've done that, they think they can improve on the design.  Designers love to bitch about this, but I think it's more important to educate people, to get them closer to the design frame of mind so to speak, and thus I offer up some of the most common things people tend to forget about when they're playing at design. more...

Created:  June 27, 2004
Pitfalls of the Working Game Designer: Bright, Shiny Objects
Most of the game developers I know play a lot of games.  On one level, this is simply because the people who are most likely to get into making games are the ones who love playing games.  On another level, though, it can be a critical part of doing your job.  As a designer, specifically, it's important to know how other people are tackling problems you might face in your project, what the audiences are responding to positively and negatively, where innovation succeeds and fails, and generally what the standards are for games in the industry.  However, there are dangers lurking in this process, and one in particular that I'm going to focus on is the bright, shiny object. more...

Created:  June 12, 2004
Pissing in the Sandbox: What's in an Analogy?
The term "sandbox" in relation to games is one of the most used and misunderstood in talk about games today.  Largely due to the commercial success and cultural high profile of Grand Theft Auto 3, "sandbox" has become on of those grail-like features: if only we can discover its whereabouts, gaming will achieve a glorious new future.  While it would be easy enough to rail against this phenomenon's status as the newest "bright, shiny object", I believe there is a more fundamental problem with the concept itself and the way it is being used. more...

Created:  June 5, 2004

Pitfalls of the Working Game Designer: More and More Features

Feature creep is a well-documented bane of game development: growing the feature set for a project over time, while not making corresponding cuts or adjusting the schedule.  Adding more and more work, but expecting the schedule to stay the same, is a recipe for disaster. more...

Pitfalls of the Working Game Designer: The Devil's in the Documents
Every job description I’ve ever read for a design position includes a line like “excellent verbal and written communication skills a necessity”, and for good reason.  Aside from meetings, what designers do more than anything else is write documents.  It should come as no surprise, then, that there are many dangers in documentation. more...

Created:  June 2, 2004
Pitfalls of the Working Game Designer: Believing the Hype
Design has a lot more to do with marketing than many designers would like to admit.  more...

Created:  May 30, 2004

Pitfalls of the Working Game Designer: An Introduction
I hear it time and time again: “Game design must be the best job in the world.  You sit around, think up game ideas, and then you get to play the game you’ve always wanted.”  As compelling a fantasy as this is, though, it has very little relation to the realities of working as a game designer in a commercial studio.  This series of short pieces identifies specific issues that come up in the day to day business of game design. more...

Pitfalls of the Working Game Designer: Not Defining Design
It may seem like a no-brainer that the role of the designer on a team needs to be defined.  However, as fundamental as this is, there is no standard definition you can rely on. more...

Pitfalls of the Working Game Designer: Too Many Cooks
When it comes to design, everyone has ideas.  This is not a good thing. more...

Created:  October 12, 2004

Against a Formal Language for Game Design
There have, unfortunately been a number of calls for such a thing.  This article discusses why it's a bad idea. more...

Created:  May 25, 2003
Getting a Job in the Gaming Industry
As someone who works in the industry, this is something I get asked about a lot, so I decided to go ahead and document what I know about the process in one place for easy reference.  more...

Created:  May 21, 2003
E3 2003 Impressions

Well, believe it or not, this was my first trip to E3 (for the acronymically challenged, that's the Electronic Entertainment Expo, the biggest shill-session the games industry puts on each year).  The show floor was everything I expected it to be (too loud, too crowded, overloaded with screens and flashing lights), and LA was significantly nicer than I expected.  more...

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On the Couch
At the Office
In the Library
Through the Mirror