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Games: technical or creative? u #1 Games are technical Technical support costs everyone money Many games platforms have technical standards Same development.

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Presentation on theme: "Games: technical or creative? u #1 Games are technical Technical support costs everyone money Many games platforms have technical standards Same development."— Presentation transcript:

1 Games: technical or creative? u #1 Games are technical Technical support costs everyone money Many games platforms have technical standards Same development tools as everyone else Development logistics inevitably gets technical u #2 Games are creative Duplicate an existing game, and you’ll sell 0 copies Like books/films/music, constant need to innovate Layout of a game forms an implicit language

2 The “Technical-Creative Hinterland” u #3 Games are “technical-creative” Devise solutions to hard technical problems Consoles aren’t expandable, so have hard constraints …but games need to improve year on year! PC’s aren’t much better - a viciously competitive market So: a constant supply of technical innovations needed! u #4 Games are “creative-technical” Technical constraints restrict creative expression memory, speed, tools all act as glass ceilings 3d modelling needs to work with existing tools These limitations do not kill us, they make us strong!

3 Observations:- u So, Creative and Technical are not either/or... u...but are separate interacting dimensions. Many other dimensions of expression, including:- Tactile/Input Interactivity/Responsiveness Story/Backstory Milieu/Genre Licence/Brand - using or originating Financial Publicity/Promotional etc

4 Technical reuse vs Creative reuse #1 u Technical reuse = Design Pattern! Pros:- Excellent for team-working - teams are larger now Our previous project needed 5 core, now needs 10 Best for new architecture - reengineering is painful Some Antipatterns you can’t fix, regardless of resources Cons:- Not a magic bullet! Needs collaborative framework & good communication Only a short-term fix: 0-5years, then will be orthodoxy Long-term complexity curve will kill us all & all our tools Engines need to be reinvented every few years Techniques have appropriate life-spans We should be sensitive to the time-scale of reuse

5 Technical reuse vs Creative reuse #2 u Creative reuse = quotation/cliché/plagiarism! Pros:- Developing an implicit visual language is a major issue! Visual expression help make games a rich experience Cons:- “Seen it / Done it” = biggest criticism of games #1 Antipattern! Using someone else’s visual language is plagiarism!

6 Technical reuse vs Creative reuse #3 u Conclusions:- Engineering and innovation interact...often bringing conflicting interests to the table The two overlap in a technical/creative hinterland …where reuse is a very double-edged sword The two need managing in separate ways Different type of risks, different type of activities Where they overlap, what is your strategy? Prioritise? Integrate? Infight? Thrash?

7 “Tales from the Hinterland” #1 u Design Patterns: aggressively anti-innovation So are they applicable to content integration? u Users know when media reuse content Films are often the worst offenders Music too has ultra-short-term bandwagons u Games take longer than most CDs and films! Was 9 months, now is 18 months and rising u Difficult to build in innovation over long period Long-term development, but short-term sales Development lengthening, shelf-life shortening Obviously there’s a bit of a paradox going on here

8 “Tales from the Hinterland” #2 u Similar structural problem with middleware (My company sells a middleware movie player) You pay licence fees for technical reuse But this locks you into a particular process So: you’re paying money not to innovate High risk when innovation is part of your business! u Antipathy towards middleware is natural Design patterns are collaboration middleware …they just happen to be free (well: GoF = $49.95). Less development risk != less publishing risk

9 “Tales from the Hinterland” #3 u Innovation != ‘Perceived Innovation’ Innovation can be promoted, regardless of size A small innovation is now as saleable as a large one Many end up as bullet-points on unsold boxes The illusion of novelty is the story of the ‘90s See 95% of Internet companies, for example Overlap of technical and promotional dimensions Spin is the new rock’n’roll, allegedly Games have become areas of dense spin

10 Development perspective... u Games are becoming like movies Comparable budgets and time-scales Involving the work of many professions/talents Art/Music/Design/Animation... “Content”, for short Integrate well to get more than the sum of the parts u Integration used to be the programmer’s work Back then, it was assembly rather than integration Integration is the same, but with more bugs Now we have specialist jobs devoted to integration Producers, Content Engineers, and Level Designers Content engineering is as risky as software engineering u The rest of this is about Level Designers.

11 Level Design Patterns #1 (and about time too) u 3d Level Design is halfway between:- software development (GoF territory); and architecture (Christopher Alexander territory) u …so (like me) you’d think it would benefit from Design Patterns. I have three words for this:- Wrong… Dead wrong!

12 Level Design Patterns #2 u Most Design Patterns we identified were:- 1. Deep storytelling patterns (AKA Hero’s Journey) Allegedly deriving from myths and legends Joseph Campbell “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” 2. Overused pre-existent motifs (AKA cliches) 3. Pre-existent structural problems (AKA gotchas) 4. Ways to get it really wrong (AKA bad design) u The Hero’s Journey is as close to a Design Pattern as we got. All the others are basically Antipatterns.

13 1. Storytelling Design Patterns #1 u Some well-known examples:- Hero / Shadow / Threshold Guardian Functions played by people/elements within the story Roles can be duplicated, overlapped, or shared Character Arcs The idea that each participant should develop Should be comprehensible from each point of view Call to Adventure / Return With The Prize Functions for the overall arc of the story Again, lots of overlap possible

14 1. Storytelling Design Patterns #2 u The “Hero With A Thousand Faces” set of ideas has now virtually taken over Hollywood Many similarities with Design Patterns Disney were (supposedly) first to use this cf Christopher Vogler’s “The Writer’s Journey” u However:- Screenplays are now utterly formalised …a lot like 3-Act 120-page haiku Just as many bad films coming out as ever! u Many analogies to spread of Design Patterns!

15 2. Overused motifs... u An example: “Crate Puzzles” You need to give the player an item... A self-timed goo bomb, or whatever …but you don’t want to make it too obvious... Sitting around on the floor is a bit cheesy ie, that’s what we were doing two years ago …so you stick it in a crate for them to blow up u This ‘puzzle’ has been done to death Games will still use crate puzzles in 200 years time …because all the alternatives are time-consuming We used a few! (not too many, though)

16 3. Structural problems:- u An example: “Kill The Scientist” The game “Half-Life” is where this came up in …which has many similarities to our current game If a character dies who shouldn’t, what to do? “how to reconcile narrative continuity with free movement” Half-Life solution: stop the game and fade out irritating, but there’s no easy fix for the problem u Usually a manifestation of a deeper problem Here, the problem is really “how to build top-down narrative with bottom-up design tools?”

17 4. Ways to get it really wrong:- u An example: “Crazy Quilt” AKA “Texture Diarrhoea” Too many different textures in close proximity “Quake” is full of this! (IMHO) It’s not a victimless crime - my eyes hurt! Too many other perpetrators to name u Underlying problem: no clear stylistic lead Similar to when programmers design levels Often happens with programmers’ websites Many portals exhibit the same symptoms “It’s not brashness, it’s just bad design.”

18 Level Design Patterns Conclusions... u Level design is:- an expression of ideas via a novel visual language a frozen moment of time in the evolution of games u In level design (and in creative projects):- If you can identify design patterns really early... …you’re probably doing something wrong. Design patterns should be your target......not the starting point! The lifetime of a set of creative design patterns should be exactly 10 minutes! …the 10 minutes after you complete it, before it becomes a set of cliches for other people to avoid

19 Deep structure:- u Structure of Patterns Design Pattern= a pattern that works Antipattern= a pattern to avoid u Structure of Ideas Cliché= Last year’s idea Anti-cliché= Cliché, with a fresh coat of paint Ironic cliché= Two year-old idea, freshened up Novelty= Today’s idea (next year’s cliché) (Similar to patterns, but with a time dimension)

20 Summary (I’ll be brief)... u Did we identify Level Design Patterns? Not really - but we gained a lot from looking. u The underlying story is that projects - of all types - are getting larger and more complex. So: the future is increasingly one of collaboration. u IMHO, design patterns are simply one way of coordinating effort and language to improve teamworking on such large projects Many other technologies and ideas will emerge Using patterns as a target helps team coherency u Absence of patterns != lack of communication!


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