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PC Games (Games) Entertainment Games

Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie? 65

Posted by simoniker
from the stay-away-from-snacks dept.
Thanks to Globe News for their interview discussing game design pitfalls with Ernest Adams, columnist at industry site Gamasutra, in relation to a recent Toronto game design lecture. Adams' talk, called 'Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie', has the premise that "whenever game designers add an annoying, sloppy, illogical or cliché game design element, they are denied the junkfood they love so much", and in the interview, Adams also laments the inherent difficulties in making games: "If you imagine what it would be like if you had to invent a new projector for every movie, that's what it is for game development", as well as gaming award shows, which he says "...tend to confuse the difference between technological achievement and aesthetic achievement."
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Bad Game Designer, No Twinkie?

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  • this seems dumb.... it seems kinda just stupid "OMg!!!!!1 programmers are teh fat!!! they eat junk fod! LOLOLOLOLO!"
  • by egomaniac (105476) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @08:45PM (#7343480) Homepage
    There are lots of good games that were not terribly commercially successful. However, there are no bad games that are commercially successful.

    What the hell? Is this guy actually claiming that Enter the Matrix (which was very successful commercially) was not a bad game? What about Black and White?

    There has been a long, long list of games that were steaming turds and yet sold very well at retail.
    • It seems to me it's all about deciding what makes a game good. I belive that trying to do something that was never done before(deer hunter, B&W), having impressive graphics (Myst, FFVII) or even just using a franchise succesfully (Enter the Matrix) makes a game better. A game doesn't have to do everything right to become a hit. Plenty of times it's enough to do one thing really, really well.

      A "well educated" gamer has played more than enough good games that he can become way less forgiving with a game'

    • Is this guy actually claiming that Enter the Matrix (which was very successful commercially) was not a bad game? What about Black and White?While having significant sales numbers, I thought that when all the numbers were run through the calculator that these games were in fact Water World-esq commerical failures.
    • What the hell? Is this guy actually claiming that Enter the Matrix (which was very successful commercially) was not a bad game? What about Black and White?

      Enter the Matrix, like every movie-franchise video game adaptation, sucked.

      Black and White was a very good game that was realesased unfinished. Blame the marketing drones.
      • Enter the Matrix, like every movie-franchise video game adaptation, sucked.

        "Every" movie game adaptation? "Spider-Man: The Movie" did pretty well, and is, IMO, a really fun game. Never before or since have I really had the feeling in such a game that I was controlling a true super-hero.

        • Enter the Matrix, like every movie-franchise video game adaptation, sucked.

          "Every" movie game adaptation? "Spider-Man: The Movie" did pretty well, and is, IMO, a really fun game. Never before or since have I really had the feeling in such a game that I was controlling a true super-hero.

          Yes, every movie-to-videogame transalation sucked.

          Spider Man: The movie included.

          Now, Spider Man on PSX (the first good ol' playstation) was a great game, and never before or since have I really had the feeling t

    • What the hell? Is this guy actually claiming that Enter the Matrix (which was very successful commercially) was not a bad game? What about Black and White?

      There has been a long, long list of games that were steaming turds and yet sold very well at retail.


      I think that he was definitely wrong, but it's important to point out that he wasn't TOO wrong. While there are definitely a few examples of bad games selling well, for the most part they aren't "commercially successful". Black and White was probably a s

    • > There has been a long, long list of games that were steaming turds and yet sold very well at retail.

      s/games/retail products/

      Sturgeon's Law doesn't say that 90% of everything doesn't get sold...

    • Black & White was a great game, it just didn't live up to the hype.

      Matrix sucked though.
    • Other then the driving parts I loved Enter the Matrix, it was like max payne with the kung fu mod and better bullet time, the driving parts were HORRENDOUS.

      Black and white I loved too, highly innovative, more of a proof of concept then a game however, I never played it for more then maby 10hrs total.
  • Bad Game features (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hackwrench (573697)
    In the .hack games the book that gives info on monsters is inaccessable when you get to said monsters. You have to exit the game environment to access the virtual e-mail, which isn't necessary in the show, you can't access your party's inventory or ask them what their stocks are, so you can restock them, and they often have equipment for sale that is better than the equipment they have on. Not to mention, the towns in the game are a faint shadow of the ones in the show.
    • Remember, the games came first.

      Uh.. as far as the mail goes... the show took so liberties, but the characters in the show were using flashmail, which is what you use to arrange parties. For the most part, it never went beyond that.

      Inventory.. yeah, I agree that's a bit bad.

      Equipment... maybe your members are broke?

      And as for the towns, do you need all that room? They're too big as it is half the time. But we can explain this by saying the version the anime characters used took too many resources on t

      • The show .Hack//Sign came first, both in terms of production and in terms of the series history. Then came the video games and .Hack//Liminality. The video games also have reenactments of scenes in .Hack//Sign. After the video games comes .Hack//Dusk. As for the equipment, who sells their best armor when they're broke? The towns just need to be a little bit bigger to include the areas of towns shown in the show.
  • standardize! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by m0rphin3 (461197) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @08:54PM (#7343542)
    Part of the problem is standardization.
    Hollywood makes movies on film. The same technology, the same cameras, the same editing equipment (and probably the same actors) are going to be used on every production. So it's basically easy and (relatively) cheap to make a movie, unless you need tons of extras or some new tech.

    I think gaming should go in the same direction,
    and we're starting to see it happen. Many games use the same engine (Lithtech, ut2003,etc.) and that's going to lower the bar for making a game.

    When you don't need to reinvent the wheel every time you want to make a game, but instead can focus on the story, the backdrop and the characters, I think gaming will be ubiquitous. Sure, you'll always have the large corporate politically-correct games, but when it becomes easier for 'indie' designers to make large-scale games, we'll see the dawning of a new era.
    • Re:standardize! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ajutla (720182)
      Then again, games are fundamentally different in nature from movies, aren't they? All movies provide the same sort of experience--you watch them and they're about real people, usually, in real situations--but the reason people play games (in general) is that they're different from one another--there are a lot of different genres of games, and even games in the same genre have completely different styles. If games standardize to using, say, one engine, then we'll end up with a lot of games that are extreme
    • Re:standardize! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kris_J (10111)
      You've described exactly the opposite approach to how I enjoy games. I enjoy the basic concept of the games, not the eye-candy. If you push out cookie-cutter games all based around the same engine, as far as I'm concered you're releasing the same game over and over. I believe as much time should be spent developing new technology for games as is currently spent on eye-candy and marketing.

      Perhaps if I enjoyed more than Doom in the FPS genre or any RTS game I might be into the n-th generation FPS engine or

      • You've described exactly the opposite approach to how I enjoy games. I enjoy the basic concept of the games, not the eye-candy. If you push out cookie-cutter games all based around the same engine, as far as I'm concered you're releasing the same game over and over. I believe as much time should be spent developing new technology for games as is currently spent on eye-candy and marketing.

        Perhaps if I enjoyed more than Doom in the FPS genre or any RTS game I might be into the n-th generation FPS engine or n
        • I don't think you realise just how alike I believe all the games are that you're listing. Different is Rampage compared to Chu-Chu Rocket, Bomberman compared to Wip3out. Different is not a third-person platform shooter compared to a third-person platform slasher.
          • IIRC, someone made a chess game using the Quake engine, as well as a car racer. If the people behind it had to make their own 'chess engine' with probably far inferior graphics technology, it might never have been made.

          • I think his point is that Bomberman, Wip3out, Rampage, and possibly even Chu-Chu Rocket could've all been made on the Unreal engine, with only slight modifications to the engine.

            Rune (3rd person melee platformer), Deus Ex (3rd person RPG/shooter), and UT were all made on the Unreal engine. Someone added Tetris to Counterstrike (which is a Half-Life mod, which was made starting with the Quake engine). Dark Reign 2 (RTS) uses technology that many of us first heard about as being licensed for Team Fortress 2
  • by AnamanFan (314677) <anamanfan&everythingafter,net> on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:05PM (#7343601) Homepage
    As a student working on a graphic adventure game, I agree completely with the statement on lack of standards.

    Right now I am faced with the issue of game engines. Since I'm doing the 'slideshow of images and video' approach, the only commercial tool out there is Director [Flash doesn't handle long videos]. The school has Director, but only educational versions which are branded as educational and legally not allowed to be seen outside of the classroom. I have been trying to find an engine that will allow me to create a game [technologically] like Riven [cyan.com], that's portable to MAC and PC. It's either that or make a brand new engine, which I don't have time to do with-in the scope of the project.

    So far there are not any OSS/Low cost solutions that I have found. Any pointers are appreciated and welcomed!
  • No Way! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Asprin (545477) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (dlonrasg)> on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:16PM (#7343678) Homepage Journal

    You can have my crates [oldmanmurray.com] when you pry them from my cold dead hands.





    (Miss you, OMM!)
  • by quantax (12175) on Wednesday October 29, 2003 @09:26PM (#7343736) Homepage
    I posted this earlier this week during the Gaming Canon's discussion, but it is more relevant here; basically there should be a game designers canon more so than a gamers canon. If game developers do not see good gameplay for themselves, by what reference are they supposed to create it. Like painting, sculpture, one looks to the masters for inspiration. Through understanding these works, one can better understand their own work and thus be a better creator.

    Such an example I would make is Morrowind; now regardless of whether or not you like Morrowind, no one can deny that it is epic in scope and succeeds in doing what RPGs have failed to do in general: a true non-linear questing system, as well as open-ended magic and open-ended character development, where the character develops naturally based on what you do, and the skills you use. Those above mentioned attributes make the gameplay in Morrowind something that should be both examined and re-implimented else where. In this example, I chose morrowind to prove my point, but you can apply this to many genre-breaking/creating games. There SHOULD be a list of games that every developer should play so that they can not only know what the 'masters' have done, but so they can improve upon it as well.
    • Morrowind is, however, relatively buggy. That, actually, is a huge game-design issue: it seems developers are releasing a lot of games that, while good, contain serious bugs. Anyone remember the slowdown in Planescape Torment? Heck, even console games nowadays are buggy!
      • Morrowind is, however, relatively buggy. That, actually, is a huge game-design issue: it seems developers are releasing a lot of games that, while good, contain serious bugs.

        I think all developers should be forced to play seriously buggy games as close to completion as the bugs permit (not saying until they encounter a bug, but rather until they complete the game or come to a point where the game has actually prevented them from completing it several times).

        Then the publishers should be forced to do th
    • I agree wholeheartedly. Morrowind's problems are FAR overshadowed by its amazing scope and depth of replayability (ive played through the main quest 3 times, and still not completed every quest in the original game, let alone the expansions or the thousands of third party mods).

      PS: If youve never tried the expansions, do. They add a lot of stuff, and remove some problems, not the least of which are the *MAJOR* usability improvements to the quest journal.
    • I posted this earlier this week during the Gaming Canon's discussion, but it is more relevant here; basically there should be a game designers canon more so than a gamers canon. If game developers do not see good gameplay for themselves, by what reference are they supposed to create it. Like painting, sculpture, one looks to the masters for inspiration. Through understanding these works, one can better understand their own work and thus be a better creator. ...

      There SHOULD be a list of games that every dev
  • "whenever game designers add an annoying, sloppy, illogical or cliche game design element, they are denied the junkfood they love so much"

    Does that hold true for console port-ers as well? If so, there would be a lot of starving programmers due to the "save points", "save gems" (or just no in-level saves in general). I still don't understand why the console attributes are shoehorned in to a PC port, tainting what could be an otherwise good game. (Oh wait. I forgot about "Marketing" and "movie release dat
    • Probably because if they let you, for example, save anywhere, then that would probably unbalance the game. They'd have to tweak a lot of things, and the game would perhaps end up being substantially different. It's not as though they shouldn't do that--they're probably just too lazy; they'd make the same amount of money even if they didn't improve the game for the PC.
  • 'We need genuine game criticism, and not merely game reviews. There's a difference between criticism and reviews. A movie review tells you "Is this a fun movie? Do I want to go to this movie?" Movie criticism is a deeper analysis. It's a discussion of the relationship of the movie to other movies like it. Of the relationship of the movie to the wider aesthetic and cultural context in which it was made.' - Ernest Adams, quoted from the article

    I agree with Adams that there should be a level of criticism when

    • You should read this, assuming you haven't already. Pretty interesting stuff: http://www.insertcredit.com/features/journalism/in dex1.html
    • Secondly, I think would lead to political correctness seeping into games. Personally, I don't like the thought of having my games delayed because some organization/religion/race/nation/culture did not like the way they were depicted in the game.

      You mean like one of the C&C games having it's cover art changed or MS Flight Simulator having a patch after 9/11, in both cases removing the World Trade Center (in the first from the cover, in the second from the game)? Or like the recent story here about a p
      • That was C&C:Generals, and they had to change the cover art because the whole storyline (and thus the game) revolved around terrorists. As for MS Flight Simulator having to put out a patch, wasn't that for the 2000 edition or something? Thats not saying much since SimCity 2000 has been letting me play with airplane crashes as a disaster for years now. As for the recent Canadian outrage, the fact that the developers were specific about the terrorist organization and the location isn't saying much. Unless
        • That was C&C:Generals, and they had to change the cover art because the whole storyline (and thus the game) revolved around terrorists.

          It was Red Alert 2, which revolved around the standard Red Alert storyline of an alternate universe where time had been altered during WW2. The game allows you to destroy (or defend) many well-known locations in the US as the Russians invade the country, and the cover art depicted the towers burning. My copy of RA2 has that cover art because it shipped some time befor
  • I think most of the original games were made in the 1990-1996 era when there were more restrictions on graphics. I think this forced some developers to deal with the content of the game instead of spending all the time in making it look good. To see my point, pit yourself on the tv show trading spaces. Ignoring the "reality" aspect, there is a lot of pressure to be creative when there is a budget ($1000). But if you set that budget higher ($100,000), you relieve a lot of the pressure of having to think or b
    • I think most of the original games were made in the 1990-1996 era when there were more restrictions on graphics.

      This isn't quite true. Sure, graphics cards weren't pushing the boundaries quite as often and developers were a little slow to push the existing boundaries themselves, but they were still pushing the graphics forward. Consoles went from 8 to 16 to 32 bit graphics, pushing the graphics forward with each iteration, and PC game developers were trying to push the graphics forward in their own fields
      • Well, obviously IANAGD (I Am Not A Game Developer) and suffering a little from FAS (false authority syndrome). ;) I study math mostly. This whole situation reminds me of the problem with trying to quantify worker "productivity". You can do it with machines because their associated variables are typically bounded. But, humans are completely different. Many execs do not understand this, so they propose these naive measurement schemes like [lines of code / hour] for programmers or [number of patients served /
        • Well, obviously IANAGD (I Am Not A Game Developer) and suffering a little from FAS (false authority syndrome). ;) I study math mostly. This whole situation reminds me of the problem with trying to quantify worker "productivity". You can do it with machines because their associated variables are typically bounded. But, humans are completely different. Many execs do not understand this, so they propose these naive measurement schemes like [lines of code / hour] for programmers or [number of patients served /
    • Contra was popular because you could play god-mode (u-u-d-d-b-a-b-a-start), but this wasn't in the design, it was a cheat. How many people actually played this game without using the cheat after beating it?

      I did. Many times. I think contra had wonderful replay value, and I've spent more hours playign it then lots of the story-driven schlock that comes out today.

      The fact is, people have different tastes. Some people want a long, in depth game with a huge story. Others, like myself, want to turn on

  • Does Mr Adams want all the technology people to be given twinkies and be locked in a cave?

    Using technology, be it a pencil, a brush, a new algorithm to make beutiful art work is well established. For example when the printing press came around, many more people were able to write things others could read. Resulting in many good books. Without computers masses of art work would not exist. The list is massive.

    I think instead of seperating the 'art' people from the 'music' people and the 'game desi

    • > Does Mr Adams want all the technology people to be given twinkies and be locked in a cave?

      Isn't that the programmer's life already?

      Sure, maybe we eat Snickers rather than Twinkies, and get locked in cubicles rather than caves, but that's just a different skin on the same engine.

  • For one thing--and this is a vital point that I make again and again--the biggest difference between Hollywood and the game industry is that game development requires engineering. Engineering is problem-solving, it's doing something completely new. Hollywood does not often do something completely new. Your basic romantic comedy does not require anything new. Every game is a unique mechanical device. A unique piece of software.

    What a complete and utter load of bollocks. There's about as much creativity in

  • I think his analagy, though flawed, is fairly accurate. I find that most of the time industry people talk about gaming is tends to be skewed toward the technical aspect of it rather than the general end user experience.
    Another way to word his analogy that may make it clearer is that in movie production you basically have a story to tell, and a process of coming up with an recording the visualizations to tell it. Every time a studio makes a movie, they certainly don't recreate the camera they use to film

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