What a title actually means differs from company to company; especially the title of designer.
First a quick description of the title "level designer". You never know what a level designer does at a company untill you ask. All you know is that it's level creation related.
The thing is, at some companies a level designer does everything in regards to creating a level. They plan the design, create the graphics and implements the layout and gameplay scripting. At another company, there are different people for scripting and creating the actual game worl. It's most common to have dedicated graphics artists to make the art as well.
Anyway, what I wanted to discuss was the role of the designing producer. Some large companies merge the roles of producer and the role of game designer.
- Makes sure stuff are made in time.
- Keeps track of the big picture.
- Communicates with all disciplines (design, code, art, etc.)
- Says: No, we can't implement that, it'll take too much time!
- Handles the creative imagination part of the game.
- Keeps track of the big picture.
- Communicates with all disciplines (design, code, art, etc.)
- Says: We must do this, it's gonna make for a much better game!
So, by looking at my lists of what I think they do, we can see that they both share two critical tasks. They both keep track of the game as a whole and they both must talk to everyone, to make sure things are running smoothly and act depending on the status.
With this in mind, it would be wise to have the multi-class Designing Producer guy, because you don't have to worry about the communication between producer and designer and you might need less people.
The fact that the producer keeps track of the time and the designer handling the creativity doesn't necessarily work against each other, so no problem there.
But here's the problem, the last point of each role. The producers main job is to say no to doing things because it cost time and money, while the designer must push for the good stuff and really argument for having them made to create the best game possible. This "battle" is the constant struggle of measuring the "bang for the buck". Usually, the producer has the final say.
By now, one would think that then of course, you can't have a designing producer because it defeats the whole purpose of the producer and the game will never be finished in time, or finished at all, because the designer will always want to do more stuff and iterate them to make them better.
And here it is, at last, my opinion. The opinion that shapes worlds, the opinion that cures cancer and make blind people see again. I personally, am not too fond of the designing producer idea overall. However, I do think it works if, and this is a big if, you can find the right people for it. I think it requires very skilled people who are very honest with themself and with the project.
A designing producer can save a massive amount of time, because they can make decisions on the fly. The discussions and bickering between designer and producer can be held inside the head within a few minutes instead of out loud for several hours or days.
The issue at hand is that it's incredibly hard not to be more of one than the other. Me for example have often had the role of designing producer during many projects at the Game Development at the University as well as during the spare time. I'd say I do a decent job, but there are times I'm way too much of a designer and other times when I'm way too much of a producer.
Okay, so I've blah blah blah'ed quite a bit now. Summary; in general I think it's not a wise choice to have the designing producer, but if, IF, the right person assumes the role, it's a very good thing.
People say that one should be modest and I agree, but someday I'm gonna become an epic game designer. In fact, in late May.
1.1 The Company hereby employs the Employee as a Game Designer.
The "Company" being Epic Games Poland (People Can Fly) and the "Employee" being me!
I'm extremly happy to dance a little dance of joy for getting this opportunity to work with some of the best people there are making the best game ever (of course).
I'm actually in a blood pact with them, because I got a paper cut signing the papers. So there's no backing out now. They own my soul.
So what now? Well, I'm in good terms with my current employer and we're on the same page on this and I'll keep a healthy relationship with them. So no hard feelings there and I'll finish my current project with them before leaving.
I'm guessing most of my time now will be spent on preparing to move abroad and make epic games.
When you get a work assignment as a test from a company you've applied to work for, is it cheating if you ask someone else to help you?
I think not.
I've heard people saying that's it's not okay, because a test is to see what you, the individual know and what you can do by yourself. I think that's misleading.
Of course, if you get a level design test asking you to build a level, or a programming test asking you to actually code a small game, you can't let someone else do it. But I think it's only fair to ask for hints and tips from others. Heck, I'd even recommend it.
No one would complain if you looked at other finished products and get inspiration from them. Nor would anyone complain if you did a hefty amount of googling to get your job done. But it's so taboo to ask other for help.
What's the difference? It's all "extelligense". And even when I work "for real", I still often ask others what they think and want their feedback.
If the test is to list the five games that's most groundbreaking in its way to present the narrative and why, is it not okay to ask what other people think?!
I mean, it's still you and your response that's the final thing and I think it's great if you first ask people so you can think "Oh yeah, you're right! Why didn't I think of that.". That's a learned knowledge. You now know about that game, and you're really impressed on how it presented it's narrative and you'll look it up.
What you can't do however is ask someone to list their five favorite games and just use their answers.
Okay, just wanted to share.
And I just have to link to this really awesome game I found about 30 minutes ago, called Dragondot!
I love it because of it's absolute simplicity and how it plays on our struggle and enjoyment of getting stronger in-game. I couldn't stop playing until I beat it.
I got a key for the StarCraft 2 Beta today from a friend. (Thanks Jonas.)
I suck at it. There, I said it.
But enough about my tremendous RTS-suckiness.
People envy the people having SC2-keys. And people are now screaming their lungs out, because some people have been getting invites they can use to invite other people into the game. "Everybody" wants one.
When you get access to a beta, you get the privilege to play the game before everyone else, right?
Sometimes you have to buy one game to get the beta key to another. Sometimes you have to sign up for a newsletter or register on a site. Sometimes, it's something completely different. But you usually have to put some effort into getting one, no matter the game, if it's a closed beta.
This is for me fascinating.
What a beta is, is for the developers GETTING help to find and iron out the bugs, test servers and see how well the tweaking works. The goal is to use it to be able to finish the game and do it well. It is not about giving something to the player. Yet, it's treated as a divine gift from the developers. They're so kind to let us try the game, even though it's not even done yet.
I don't like this attitude.
I'm gonna play some more StarCraft 2 now, because I can play it before everyone else. Thanks Blizzard!
A pretty default section of a contract you sign with a game developing company is that the company owns whatever you do within the area of video games, on and off working hours. And some companies doesn't like you doing anything at all regarding video game development other than what you do at work.
I know a horror story about a guy working at company X (I shouldn't mention which one here) but did modding and level designing using another rival company's engine/editor during his spare time. He got fired for working with the enemy.
Of course, you can always try and negotiate your contract. When I signed with Hello There we made it perfectly clear that they only own the stuff I do for their project in their office. They leave my site, my own designs and every spare time project alone. It wasn't a problem.
I understand why companies do this:
- The risk of people taking explicit things they learn at work and implementing it in their own projects.
- The risk of people working very hard on projects in their own time, affecting their performance at work.
But me, personally, I'm still not entirely convinced it's the way to go, because I think it's choking peoples' creativity and blowing our their fire.
If I hire a level designer, I would be thrilled if she's so passionate about level design that after she goes home, she keeps doing it, even if it's not for me. She's still practicing her craft and makes for a better resource for my company. Maybe she learnt something amazing while playing around at home?
Take me for example, I run this site where I write about game design, right? Because of, or thanks to this site, I keep focusing my thoughts and try to communicate different ways of thinking, problems, solutions and ways of doing things. If I didn't "practice" at home, I would be much less of a designer than I am today. (Not saying I'm anything special.)
And besides, if I wasn't able to, or allowed to do what I love during my own time as well, I would be less of a happy guy. And a sad person is a bad worker.
I say: Let people keep doing what they're doing!
Today is a good day for Ludosity Interactive (http://ludosity.com/, 10/12/2009). Ludosity is a game company founded by a bunch of my friends back from the University and they've made some small games. Both "gaming games" and "serious games".
For a long time I've been visiting them about once every two weeks to check up on them and see how far along their awesome game "Bob Came In Pieces" was. It's been a joy to see it develop and it's been great fun to be able to give some feedback along the way.
They've just released a trailer and the response has been great and they're popping up all over the Internet! Not bad for a little indie game.
(All URL worked 10/12/2009)
It's a physics based puzzle game and I really enjoy playing it! You should definately have a go at it when you get the chance.
And btw, it's made using Unity3D which I've been writing about every now and then.
So here's a shout out for my friends over at Ludosity Interactive! Fun game and good luck!
If you haven't heard about Spotify already, it's a client in which you stream music from a huuuuuuuuuge library and it's available for a bunch of platforms, including Windows and iPhone. The biggest change for me after starting to use Spotify way back when, isn't that I seldom downl...erm... buy music nowadays. It is that I'm listening to stuff I never would have if it wasn't for the easy access to share playlists and link to songs.
With simple drag 'n drop actions from the Spotify Client to the Instant Messaging Client of your choice, you can send links to songs, albums, artists and playlists.
When I find something good I often send it to some friends, after which they click the link and starts listening within seconds. People around me do this all the time as well, They post it via IM, Twitter and Facebook.
Nowadays I'm a fan of over 30 bands I'd never heard about before. The reason I listened to them the first time around was because it was so incredibly accessible!
We need something like this for games!
A way to share gaming experiences within seconds with friends and other people! No download required and it'll "just work". It doesn't have to be complete games. Let's say I have the complete Modern Warfare 2 and want to make a friend test it, then I'd just send him the link and if he doesn't already own it, a demo will start.
It's somewhat possible with flash games at Flash portals like Newgrounds and Kongregate and that's great. But that's only for Flash games, I'm talking about "real" games (I hate myself for using that term right now).
Maybe GaiKai and OnLive is getting there. At least a bit. I hope so.
There are so many games I just want to try, but even more so, I want to play the games I don't know about or just won't go through the hassle to try them out.