Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Lost Art of Game Design

Computer games used to be simple, where the focus was on the design of the game as an interactive media, where the designers were there with no armor on the arena ready to battle the huge magical monsters of making a game fun.

Many layers have been added these days to games including detailed graphics, cinematic sequences, polished music compositions, surround audio effects, physical simulations, visual effects and etc. which are actually armors and weapons that the designers can wear and these all together can help and bury some lack of game design talents deep under. Not to mention marketing hype which is quite influential in itself and can mesmerize a player into thinking that they like something.

Game used to bring the thrilling moments to the players every second but it is quite hard to achieve that in most modern games.

Some recent examples, Darksiders, while great at character design and ok at graphics and wonderful visual effects and sound and very polished game play mechanics, the game design throws you out of the immersed world a lot of times and you feel the silly repetitive tasks they have put in there just to increase the length of the game which becomes offensive sometimes. When a game becomes complex in story and features and visuals, then the game designer needs to be much more committed to issues such as the cohesion of all these elements around the element of fun, which is not quite like balancing the game of pac man but more like understanding user emotions, psychology, gaming history, technical issues and lots more. This should be the modern day game design, a highly evolved task, something much much more than level designing.

Assassin's creed, great technically and wonderful visuals but the wide array of possibilities for the player needs exponential design thoughts as how to bring the non stop fun for the player which clearly this game has not been able to provide.

Prince of Persia 4 is another big failure example for game design in my opinion. If the designers had improved half of what the other departments have achieved, then we would have experienced a breath taking product.

Batman, Arkham Asylum, great in many aspects such as a cinematic experience and animation and physics but a very simple game where you do not sense the challenge you usually expect from games and nothing bold in the area of game design, the feelings experienced are much closer to what you have while watching movies than what you used to feel playing Space Invaders.

There was a time when game designers did not have a position in game development and it was all programmers making games, they showed up and helped make better interactive media, they are gone once again today, although not gone int he credits, but really gone and they need to come back and help the industry, they need to come back many many times stronger than what they were with multi-disciplinary knowledge, talent and courage. They need to take our all the superficial armors and weapons of technology, story and cinematics and show that they can be a warrior without all that and bring the gaming to a newer level.


chicago master of marketing management said...
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Ashkan Saeedi said...

i think creative people are now tired of normal game genres. designers should be brave and create games in new genres that never made. my favorite game is harvest moon but i am tired of copies of copies of clones of it. i remember my good days with final fantasy on my old playstation when i was 12 but new versions are just garbage. one of the biggest problems are publishers, they want games in proven genres that sell. i think there are two important factors in game design, balance and new idea. complex AI is something that you forgot. new games can really make a difference with complex AIs. programmers should come back with new creative brave ideas. the indie world is the best place to see these new ideas. hopefully in near future with project natal designers have a great weapon. take a look at their website and watch new videos. it's really great.
if %20 of people all over the world were programmers. the result would be good games, good lives, good people and no wars, no stupid rules and no ...

Amir H. Fassihi said...

Complex AI is another aspect which a designer can hide behind. It is not going to help make a thrilling gaming experience, if it were, then interacting with everyday people in the real world would have been the most fun experience for us.
Great games might even sometimes need to dumb down some behaviors.
The indie world is a good place to come up with interesting ideas, one reason is there are less issues to hide behind, like great graphics and music, games are rather simple and the design is bold, however the important thing is for a AAA designer to be able to inject the fun in the product with all the bells and whistles and complexity of the game which making good indie games. Designing good casual games will not let the designer experience some tough challenges for AAA game design. An example is the close blending and interactions between the story, player emotions and puzzle design.
Natal, or any other tool again can bring with them traps for the designers to rely on the built in features and forget about the game design magic.

Ashkan Saeedi said...

complex AI can not be the main factor of fun in a game and complete realism don't make the your game a good one but new types of AI will make new experiences and they really can be a factor. imagine a game that some of enemies for a reason decide to help the character instead of their boss. it means you can find ways to fool/teach your enemies to help you. i agree that realism can not and should not be implemented in a game because it will make the game much hard to play. games are a way to aid people with no experience to do something that is not possible in real life. if a car racing game implement realism completely then many people can not play it easily. grid is a good example. i love it but i know many people that even could not be able to end one track. unfortunately reallife experience is a verry painful thing in many situations and even when it's enjoying it's not as enjoying as games.
surely designing a good AAA game is much harder than a small indie project but as you said it's easier for indies to let their imaginations go wild. what you said about Natal and/or other tools is correct but also it will allow designers to design kinds of games wich where not possible before. think of a fire fighting game with natal wich is much like a real fire fighting experience. some Wii games or good examples of what i mean but as you said some of them are just copies of their ps2 version with new controls. as an example i can mension a Wii game wich is a restaurant simulation game and you should cut potatos and onions and create foods much like a real experience there. sorry for such a long comment