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 How to be a game designer - Right Now !

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Posts : 190
Join date : 2009-05-07
Age : 36
Location : Scotland

PostSubject: How to be a game designer - Right Now !   Mon 03 Aug 2009, 8:16 am

How to be a game designer - Right Now !

Written by Michael Dawson on the 30th of July, 2009

Source : Game Career Guide

[In a new LA Film School -sponsored Game Career Guide feature, faculty member Michael Dawson discusses great entry paths into elementary game design, from paper designing to simple 2D game creation tools.]

As someone who has designed computer and video games, I often receive email from aspiring designers who don't know where to start on their journey.

Many think that in order to design games they need a PhD in Computer Science, a mastery of computer art, and a team of one hundred game developers at their disposal.

These misconceptions are simply untrue. The fact is, you can start to build some of the key skills it takes to be a successful game designer right now - and you can probably do it with what you have on your desk and in your closet.

Design Defined

If you ask two game developers what a game designer does, you'll likely get three different answers. So while the issue can be of great debate, I'll define what a game designer does simply as the act of communicating how a game should work. There are a number of different game components that a designer must consider when describing how a game works. These include:

* Mechanics - rules and procedures; when followed, they produce what most people call "gameplay"
* Story - dramatic elements that usually provide a rationale for the mechanics, but are not part of the mechanics themselves
* Aesthetics - visual, aural, and tactile manifestations of a game; what you see, hear, and touch

As a concrete example, take the classic computer game Doom. The aesthetics of the game center on a world presented in 3D graphics and seen from a first person point of view. The story of the game revolves around the player character of a space marine who must single-handedly stop hordes of demons flowing out of a gateway before they reach earth. The key mechanic of the game involves shooting enemies while acquiring more powerful weapons to match the growing strength of the enemies.

Of course, these three game components usually intertwine. For example, one of the aesthetic elements of Doom is that the grunts and groans of approaching enemies are heard in stereo. This aesthetic element affects the mechanic of shooting since hearing an enemy in stereo allows a player to better estimate an enemy's position.

As a new designer, it's probably simplest to work with one game component at a time. And since mechanics are arguably the essence of a game, I'll focus on that component.

Going Analog

If you want to learn computer and video game design, what should you do? Break out the Parcheesi, of course. Yes, analog games - non-digital games, played with materials like boards, cards, dice, pencils, and paper - can provide terrific learning opportunities for computer and video game designers. By working with these kinds of games, a designer isn't limited by technology. There's no need to worry about whether or not you have the latest hardware. You aren't restricted in your designs because you don't know how to program. Your game isn't put on hold because you're not an expert game artist or an audio guru. In short, working with analog games takes away the excuses for a designer and asks him or her to simply design.

Here are three specific analog game design exercises you can use to hone your skills in developing and modifying game mechanics:

* Add Chance to a Game. Pick a game that has no element of chance and add it. You can add chance to a game through dice rolls, card selections, and random starting conditions, to name just a few methods.

* Eliminate Perfect Information from a Game. A game of perfect information is a game where each player is completely aware of all previous moves; it generally implies that there is no hidden information in the game. For example, chess is a game of perfect information since both players can see where every piece is on the board at all times. However, the five card draw variant of poker is a game of imperfect information since players don't know what cards other players hold.

* Modify a Board Game. This time, the change is up to you. Take an existing board game and add or modify a single game mechanic. Be careful to focus on a mechanic rather than the aesthetics or story of the game.

Make sure to put your games through playtesting, a process where a game is played and evaluated. Be honest with yourself about whether your modifications were successful. If they weren't, go back to the drawing board and try again.

Going Digital

You can learn a lot about design by working with analog games, but if you want to create digital games, you should definitely work in that medium. Luckily, there are a number of powerful yet easy-to-use game-making software tools that let you do just that - and at no cost to you.

All of the following free 2D game-making tools have a drag-and-drop interface and allow you to share your creations online. Best of all, each lets you and modify anyone else's game. This provides a great opportunity to change an existing game's mechanics before you create an entirely new game of your own:

* Popfly ( The system provides a variety of built-in game templates to get you started. You can also "rip" existing games and modify them. Of course, you can always start with a clean slate when creating games of your own.

* The Sims Carnival Game Creator ( The Game Creator comes with a large collection of images, animations, and sounds you can use. Like the other tools listed here, games are published online and anyone can open a game to create a new version of it.

* Scratch ( A visual programming language where you drag and drop pieces of code, Scratch allows you to snap programming statements together to form new actions. Although it was designed for young people, it's powerful enough to be used to make many types of games. Creations are shared online and can be "remixed" by anyone.
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Posts : 190
Join date : 2009-05-07
Age : 36
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PostSubject: Moreover....   Mon 03 Aug 2009, 8:29 am

Also, for anyone in a viable region, the OU runs a very nice-looking online-based course on this subject.

Entitled "Digital worlds: designing games, creating alternative realities", it seems to cover a decent quantity of ground, and could earn 10 CAT points for anyone completing it.

OU link for further information -

The main focus of the course seems to be work in Game Maker Pro, which has its' own website.

This means that quite a lot of work can be accessed without even needing to sign up for the course yet, because Game Maker has a selection of little tutorials on subjects ranging from making "Catch the Clown" , which is like The "Hello World" of visual games designing, to the complexities of latency communication for multiplayer network-enhanced gaming capabilities in game design.

I'm pretty much new to this whole prgramming lark....
I made a nice, slinky playable game of Pong / Squash / Breakout in PASCAL, but that was about 10 years ago.

So, Smile it could be a lot of fun to play with Gamemaker I think.

Yo Yo Games let people download their simple version of Game Maker for free -

Quote :
Do you want to develop computer games without spending countless hours learning how to become a programmer? Then you've come to the right place. Game Maker allows you to make exciting computer games, without the need to write a single line of code. Making games with Game Maker is a lot of fun.

But, with the more advanced GameMaker Pro, 3D games can be made, and the programme uses some kind of programming language which I gather can be coded directly , and you can get lots of extra features with the Pro version too.

So, there's something for everyone really.
Well, everyone who wants to make games anyhow !
Very Happy
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Posts : 190
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PostSubject: Re: How to be a game designer - Right Now !   Sun 23 Aug 2009, 1:16 pm

(^-^) Game Developer Magazine have made a downloadable Autumn career guide for game developers, and those who're interested in the profession -

Here's their blurb -

Quote :
from Game Developer magazine! Every year,
we compile a host of articles designed to
help aspiring developers enter the industry,
whether that is through attending the right
university, making the best of your time while
there, getting a job once out, or simply going
it alone as an indie. This year we’ve put an
increased emphasis on actually getting out
there and making games. At school, or on your
own, putting some games on your resume is
the only sure-fire way to prove your worth to
prospective employers.

Smile It's all star-spangled-banner flavoured, but it still looks incredibly interesting to me as a Brit.
There's a lot of appealingly presented stuff in there, and I'm happy to have found it.
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