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Games: technical or creative?. #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 #2 Games are creative

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games technical or creative
Games: technical or creative?
  • #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
  • #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
the technical creative hinterland
The “Technical-Creative Hinterland”
  • #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!
  • #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!
  • So, Creative and Technical are not either/or...
  • ...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
technical reuse vs creative reuse 1
Technical reuse vs Creative reuse #1
  • 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
technical reuse vs creative reuse 2
Technical reuse vs Creative reuse #2
  • 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!
technical reuse vs creative reuse 3
Technical reuse vs Creative reuse #3
  • 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?
tales from the hinterland 1
“Tales from the Hinterland” #1
  • Design Patterns: aggressively anti-innovation
    • So are they applicable to content integration?
  • Users know when media reuse content
    • Films are often the worst offenders
    • Music too has ultra-short-term bandwagons
  • Games take longer than most CDs and films!
    • Was 9 months, now is 18 months and rising
  • 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
tales from the hinterland 2
“Tales from the Hinterland” #2
  • 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!
  • 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
tales from the hinterland 3
“Tales from the Hinterland” #3
  • 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

Development perspective...

  • 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
  • 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
  • The rest of this is about Level Designers.
level design patterns 1
Level Design Patterns #1
          • (and about time too)
  • 3d Level Design is halfway between:-
    • software development (GoF territory); and
    • architecture (Christopher Alexander territory)
  • …so (like me) you’d think it would benefit from Design Patterns. I have three words for this:-
    • Wrong…
    • Dead wrong!
level design patterns 2
Level Design Patterns #2
  • 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)
  • The Hero’s Journey is as close to a Design Pattern as we got.
    • All the others are basically Antipatterns.
1 storytelling design patterns 1
1. Storytelling Design Patterns #1
  • 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
1 storytelling design patterns 2
1. Storytelling Design Patterns #2
  • 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”
  • However:-
    • Screenplays are now utterly formalised
      • …a lot like 3-Act 120-page haiku
    • Just as many bad films coming out as ever!
  • Many analogies to spread of Design Patterns!
2 overused motifs
2. Overused motifs...
  • 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
  • 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)
3 structural problems
3. Structural problems:-
  • 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
  • Usually a manifestation of a deeper problem
    • Here, the problem is really “how to build top-down narrative with bottom-up design tools?”
4 ways to get it really wrong
4. Ways to get it really wrong:-
  • 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
  • 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.”
level design patterns conclusions
Level Design Patterns Conclusions...
  • Level design is:-
    • an expression of ideas via a novel visual language
    • a frozen moment of time in the evolution of games
  • 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
deep structure
Deep structure:-
  • Structure of Patterns
    • Design Pattern= a pattern that works
    • Antipattern = a pattern to avoid
  • 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)
summary i ll be brief
Summary (I’ll be brief)...
  • Did we identify Level Design Patterns?
    • Not really - but we gained a lot from looking.
  • The underlying story is that projects - of all types - are getting larger and more complex.
    • So: the future is increasingly one of collaboration.
  • 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
  • Absence of patterns != lack of communication!