Wednesday, April 02, 2008

How Lucky I Am...

I sit here on a beautiful sunny day, the breeze floating in thru my open window, along with the sound of birds and the rustling of the willow branches just outside.

Music plays over a computer that allows me to do the work I love, and connects me to family, friends, and colleagues all over the world.

I have my health. My family has their health. As do our friends.

I am surrounded by the books, toys, games, and photographs that have made up 30 something years of my life. And while I know they are just things, it is still nice to have them around me.

And downstairs, I hear my two daughters laughing and yelling and playing pretend. They are happy and content and safe and loved.

I am blessed to have such joy in my life.

Ok, I should probably keep my mouth shut...

...but...I can't in this case.

I check my blog log every day, just to see where folks are coming from before they hit my blog. I'm always interested to track down the obscure and no-so-obscure links that lead someone here. It's often times fascinating.

Well on this morning's perusal of the blog log, I find this. Click me!

It's a web address for a game design/game art class at the the Illinois Instititue of Art. Looks like they are/were studying game design docs (not sure when the link went up). And it looks like they've linked to the CALLING ALL CARS doc/post I put up last year as one example of a game design document. No issues there. I'm somewhat flattered.

However, I do take issue with a doc I co-wrote being included in the assignment when the assignment tosses out such gems, regarding design documents as:

"In case the in-class lecture on game design documents didn't convince you of their importance, you can read this Adams article entitled "Why Design Documents Matter."

Look, Earnest Adams may be a great designer, I don't know. Have not played any of his games (I've played some of the Madden football games he's provided video for however and those were great). But as many of you know- and as readers who read the post attached to the linked-to-design-document know, I don't think design docs are worth much anymore. You need 5-15 pages to get the concept across. And then little emails for the rest of the project sent to the folks who need and want to know the rest. None of the GOD OF WAR games had a game design doc and we did just fine.

Here's another quote I love:

" do not have time to produce a 67 page document, but here's what a GDD looked like in 1996. Sorry, they just keep getting bigger."

Says who? Who says that design docs just keep getting bigger? I think it's a terrible thing to tell future game makers that EVERY GAME game HAS to have a mammoth 250 page bible/phone book in order to kick start production. Do some? Sure? Do most? Not sure. Do All? Hell no.

And it's a downright lie to suggest that game docs keep getting bigger and it's just the way the biz is and that is how things are my experience they do NOT just keep getting bigger. They keep getting smaller.

My experience says that: no one reads one of those meaty fuckers, it takes TONS of valuable development time to write it, and it's a waste of several good trees. And game making is iterative. If you spend 4-12 weeks writing a doc, and THEN start production, within a week, a good 5-25% of your doc is useless because a programmer or artist or designer or janitor in the building had a, 'hey, what if we put this over here and make button X do this instead' moment and POOF! All that work you did is rendered useless.

But look, I am not suggesting the work, the design process is any different. You still should think shit thru on paper/white boards and with blocks/toys as much as you can...but that's for you, the designer, so you KNOW what your game is and so you can answer questions about it and so the team can build some faith in you that you are not making it all up as you go. And that design work occurs throughout the whole development process. If you sit and try to design it ALL up front you will miss out on the magic of production, the magic of iteration.

To me a design document is a roadmap at a very high level. It gives you the main highways and routes and even shows some of the individual side streets and interesting rest stops along the way. But it's not a Thomas Guide. And if it IS, I sure as hell don't want to take that road trip cause there's a good chance it'll end up taking me to someplace boring and dull and someplace I've already been 50 times before.

Later ya'll!


ps.again, hated to say something but damn, if you are gonna include a link to a doc I wrote and that link includes MY THOUGHTS ON GAME DESIGN DOCS that clearly contradict the person linking to me, at least acknowledge the difference of opinion on your page that links to me! Do not toss me into your philosophy and make me guilty by linksociation (hahah! See what I did?!? I made a new word! Man, I rock!)....

pps. I'm sure you will find many designers and teams who LOVE design docs. I know some of the GOD OF WAR team would have loved a design doc. No worries there. But link to them! :)

ppps. Not really upset, more annoyed/amused. I think it's great there are actual classes out there teaching game design! Yeah for us, our medium, and our industry.