I Wanna be a Game Designer [part 1]

10.14.00
Why Is This in English?

Because as a game designer you will need to be able to speak, read and write in English at a pretty good level. English is the main language in the game developer community. All the most important books on game design and game development are written in English. And almost all the people making games and talking about games on websites, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks are writing their thoughts in English.

So, lesson one. If you can’t understand all this stuff, you simply aren’t ready to become a good game designer. Learn English and then come back here. We have something to tell you.


What Is a Game Designer?
Now, if you want to be a game designer, the first thing you need to know is what exactly a game designer does. Apparently, this could be very simple, but, as it frequently turns out, people dreaming about a future in games don’t really get what this means and what is expected from a game designer.

NOT an Idea Person

A game designer is a professional specialised in conceiving and delivering games. The job of a game designer doesn’t stop with having a good idea about a game. This is a myth that needs to be debunked. The idea constitutes probably the 1-5% of a game designer’s job. What is really challenging – and what truly defines the job – is all the work the designer does to put the game together, from the early prototype to the final release. The lead game designer is in charge to maintain and direct the general vision of the game.

Everything Starts with a Concept
As we have said, the game designer is not just an idea man. Actually ideas are really cheap, and can come from anyone in a game developer team. The game designer’s first task is to translate the first raw idea into a concept document. This document is meant to describe the general idea of the game and to start reasoning about the technology the game will need, the costs and the timespan the development of the game is going to take. The concept document is a first treatment of the game, and it’s just the very first step of a miles-long journey.

The Game Design Bible (Well, Almost)
The concept document is sometimes further detailed in into what it’s known as the game bible. This is a massive document detailing every tiny aspect of the game. This should work as a reference for the other team members. Every possible answer to their questions should be addressed here.

In the last few years, though, the game bible has changed a lot; since a more flexible workflow is preferred, the documentation is written by the designer during the multiple iterations of a first prototype. In this way the game grows in sync with the observation of the team. For more information or ideas about this kind of process, you should read Daniel Cook’s Game Design Logs.

However, whatever the development process is, the game designer has still the responsibility to keep the documentation updated, and to maintain the documentation and all the game related knowledge base updated.

Prototypes and Iterations
Whether a team decides for a more traditional workflow or not, the creation of a prototype is a constant in game development. Often this is a way for the game designer to try out and show the basic game mechanics and to understand the general direction of the game. The first prototypes can often be non-digital and the game designer should be able to build prototypes from scratch in a fast and efficient way. The game idea won’t be real if it’s not prototyped first.

The very first prototype is usually iterated more and more until the game mechanics work effectively. Here the game designer should direct all the iteration cycles and possibly self-implement new solutions and possibilities by themselves. The prototype iteration can go as long as the entire development cycle.

Putting It All Together: Scripting
Scripting is a big part of the game designer’s job. The game designer is usually in charge of using a script language (or a visual editor, or both) to decide character behaviours, to create the levels of the game, and to generally set up the actual runtime gameplay.

Putting It All Together: Tuning
Directly connected to scripting is the fine tuning of all the in-game values. How high will the character jump? How fast will the enemy run? How many shots does a gun carry? What is the damage dealt by that particular sword? All these values are often formalised into an excel document, so the game designer can freely change them and run simulations. But ultimately they will be put into the game and fine-tuned at runtime.

Final Roundup
So, the job of a game designer includes (but it’s not necessarily limited to) making paper and digital prototypes, writing documentation, deciding the game general mood, cherry picking the game rules and deciding what to ditch, scripting the levels and the characters' behavior, running the game again and again and again fine-tuning every little value, keeping an excel file with all the game values and their relationships and so on. While doing this, a good game designer should always be up to date on the latest games and game design discussion, read a lot, watch movies, play games, constantly expanding their personal culture.
That’s quite a lot of work, isn’t it? And the game idea is just a tiny part of the job.



CREDIT : wannabe.urustar.net

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