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BioWare Holds World Design Contest 93

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the make-a-better-toril dept.
grayblob writes "BioWare is holding a World Design Contest to find talented level designers to work in Austin on their first MMORPG. To enter you must create a module with a 20-40 minute playtime in the NWN1 toolset. The module should include 'a cut scene, intricate puzzles and interesting NPC behavior.' The contest ends July 20 and like the writing contest doesn't guarantee employment for the winners."
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BioWare Holds World Design Contest

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  • One thing that they should have picked up from Guild Wars, and from NWN2. Cut scenes in multiplayer suck. 5 want to skip, and the other guy is afk. If I submit one, I'm just going to have a video of quad Knights of the Round. Because hey, it worked for FFVII.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      How about having the individual option to skip the cut scene. While the others are watching them, the skipped players could be doing something else tangentially tied to the game (reviewing strategy, modifying inventories, etc., etc.) Heck, evan spawn a completely stupid game like a Tetris-clone to pass the time while the others are watching... The possibilities are pretty cool. ~g
      • Or 3-dragon ante.

        No, wait. Here's an idea:

        You could have a minigame that has collectible cards ingame that you can find or buy with real life money.

    • by VagaStorm (691999) on Friday May 18, 2007 @02:34AM (#19175441) Homepage
      What if they don't really want a cut sceene, but want builders to demonstrate their ability to create scripted events in the NWN toolset?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by someone1234 (830754)
      Puzzles also suck in multiplayer, unless they are specifically designed for MP. So, i guess this contest isn't targeted at MP.
      • by mcvos (645701)

        So, i guess this contest isn't targeted at MP.

        You're right. This contest is targeted at selecting skills they need for developing a MMORPG. The submissions themselves are not necessarily intended to be played by more than one player, they're intended to show off design skills. And scripting, and stuff like that. Apparently BioWare has decided it's important that candidates know how to include a good cutscene, for whatever reason.

  • by timmarhy (659436) on Friday May 18, 2007 @12:11AM (#19174611)
    they want to create this artifical environment of competition to make people think it's a priviledge to work for them or something? people, it's a highly competitive employment market - and i mean for employers, not you. they need to be begging you for the chance to explain why you should want to work for them, not the other way around.
    • they need to be begging you for the chance to explain why you should want to work for them...


      I've always had a bit of a problem with this line of reasoning. It rings too much like: "When opportunity comes knocking, just wait until it's begging on it's knees before you answer the door."
      • by timmarhy (659436) on Friday May 18, 2007 @12:28AM (#19174749)
        i've always had a problem with contests like this for many reasons.

        firstly i promise it'll have a clause in it stating they will own your idea's and submissions.

        In addition, employers like this like the breed this idea that you will need to accept any terms and any pay they offer because clearly they are doing you a favour.

        employment is not a favour, it's an arrangement. your labour and idea's are VERY valuable. without people these companys make nothing, always remmeber that.

        • Without a (good) company do the people make something?

          I do agree with your stance on employment being an equal agreement, but I do not approach the process without a fair mind.
        • by donaldm (919619)
          While contests like this are excellent for the newcomer to possibly break into gaming design and programing I would recommend that each contestant look carefully at the conditions of entry since there is a possibility of this being abused to varying degrees. This does not just apply to the competition but design and innovation in general, since it is far to easy for a big company to steal your ideas even if it is unintentional.

          Today it is just about impossible for any person with even a small amount of ima
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Babbster (107076)

          firstly i promise it'll have a clause in it stating they will own your idea's and submissions.

          Such a clause would be absolutely critical. If they don't include something like that, then down the line if one of their designers has a similar idea - even if it's truly, independently generated - to one of the submissions then they could be sued.
          • by jlarocco (851450)

            As far as I'm concerned, if one of their designers coincidentally comes up with an idea very similar to one submitted for the contest, they deserve to be sued. I understand why the clause is there, I just don't think it's very fair.

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by aussie_a (778472)

              As far as I'm concerned, if one of their designers coincidentally comes up with an idea very similar to one submitted for the contest, they deserve to be sued.
              Because clearly one person should own an idea for a particular amount of time, even if others come up with the idea independently. That sounds fair to me [/sarcasm]
              • by jlarocco (851450)

                Because clearly one person should own an idea for a particular amount of time, even if others come up with the idea independently. That sounds fair to me [/sarcasm]

                If I unknowingly came up with a game very similar to one of theirs, with similar graphics, sound and gameplay, they wouldn't hesitate to sue the shit out of me. I'm not saying it's right or wrong, only that it's more fair when it works both ways.

                • by aussie_a (778472)
                  Two wrongs don't make a right.
                • by Babbster (107076)
                  I think you're making an unfounded assumption. Bioware isn't actively hunting people to sue in order to get nice settlements. They're not SCO, and their business plan is not based on lawsuits. So, unless a game is clearly an attempt to "steal" their ideas ("But, but, I called my game OPAL Empire!") they're very unlikely to sue. A litigious individual, however, someone looking to get a lottery-type payday, might look much harder to find "similarities" to their proposal over which to file a lawsuit.
          • by Aladrin (926209) on Friday May 18, 2007 @06:43AM (#19176543)
            It goes even further than that, though.

            Design a World Contest: You design a world and it's yours to keep! Unfortunately, that means that we won't have anything to do with it afterwards and it won't get published.

            Oh yeah, that makes sense. People could design a world any time they want to, especially with the NWN toolset. The could certainly create a cutscene, a puzzle, and interesting NPC behavior without this contest. The key here is that BioWare is looking for future employees via this contest. The real winners are the ones that get hired, not the ones that 'win' the contest. And BioWare will probably want the new employee to expand upon the idea they already had, rather than start from scratch on a new one immediately. That means owning the results of the contest.

            People also forget something about art: Giving a little of your work away is a GREAT advertisement. Baen.com has pretty much proven this with their free library. The first book they -gave away- is now their all-time best seller. Yes, seller.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dave1791 (315728)
          Ideas are worthless without an implementation. There are more ideas than people in the game industry. People go into that line of work becasue they have an idea; sometimes more than one. This article is an interesting read for anyone under the illusion that ideas alone are worth anything.
          http://www.sloperama.com/advice/idea.htm [sloperama.com]

          As for accepting whatever pay terms and work hours. The fact is that making video games is one of the "passion" things. Jobs that people love can pay less than being say an actua
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          While I do technically agree with what you say, this can in fact be a favor to someone. For example, someone who has aspired to work for such a company but does not have the college papers to back up their abilities. This gives people like that an immediate chance to prove their worth and say "I can do it, definitely!"

          While this particular series of positions really doesn't need much college experience (hey they still favor people who have it) it does offer opportunity.

          Hell, then there's the people who want
        • by SQLGuru (980662)
          Doesn't matter.....Texas is an "at-will" state. The arrangement can be terminated by either side at any time. If you don't like the way the arrangement is set up, you can always leave.

          Layne
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by servognome (738846)

      they want to create this artifical environment of competition to make people think it's a priviledge to work for them or something?
      You mean create an environment where consideration for a job is based on your actual skills rather than the luck of knowing the right people.
    • by Bottlemaster (449635) on Friday May 18, 2007 @02:20AM (#19175373)

      people, it's a highly competitive employment market - and i mean for employers, not you.
      Actually, everything I've heard about the video game industry says otherwise. From what I hear, employees have the privilege of working 80-hour weeks because they can be easily replaced. It's not hard to find people who want to make video games.
      • by Grr (15821) on Friday May 18, 2007 @03:31AM (#19175705)

        It's not hard to find people who want to make video games.

        But it's very hard to find people that can. That's the reason for this contest. For graphics artists and programmers there are art and computer science schools to ensure a minimal level of competence (enough for a junior positon). For level designers there is often talent that floats to the top of the mod community. For gamedesigners the problem is most apparent, because everyone involved in gaming has the basic requirement: a strong opinion of what is fun.

        Making games is fun, no doubt about it. It's the ultimate employment benefit and I think many gamedevelopers make their overtime out of passion and pride. That bioware can also introduce this extra hoop to jump through is not because it's a buyers market. Having a portfolio is often one of the few requirements to get hired. That bioware has to create a contest to get people to send them their portfolios actually suggests that they're having somewhat of a hard time filling the positions.

        Now if you will excuse me, I'm only at 40 hours so far and it's already friday ;)

      • From what I hear, employees have the privilege of working 80-hour weeks because they can be easily replaced.
        Actually, employees have the "privilege" of working 80-hour weeks because they like their job so much that the employers can get away with it. Where I work some people voluntarily work later than the end of their shift, unpaid. Shocking, isn't it?

        Though by the time you're in a senior position your salary pretty much includes overtime pay.
    • by VagaStorm (691999)
      It should be noted tho that NWN has a large base of builders already making mods for the game. I am sure some of em welcome the opportunity to show them self off a little.
    • I don't see too many really good CRPG developers.
      This is my list:
      1. BioWare
      2. ???

      BlackIsle died (or rather transformed into Obsidian).
      Obsidian isn't a developer, just a licensee, and isn't good anymore.
      Troika died.
      • by Holmwood (899130)
        Bethesdasoft (Elder Scrolls series).

        Blizzard (Diablo series).

        I'd say both of these companies, off the top of my head, are quite good. Or do you and I mean something different by the term CRPG -- are you for instance limiting it to the D20 ruleset?

        You're certainly right about Troika, and it's worth noting that Bethsoft also semi-died before being absorbed and resurrected.

        Holmwood
        • Not solely D20, but CRPG definitely should contain the following: 1. dialogue 2. team based combat Otherwise they are just an (FPS) First Person Slasher game. From these FPS/RPG hybrids I would recommend Gothic 3. It has dialogue (though the hungarian translation sucks bigtime) and you can have one companion. WOW. Role playing at its top.
  • I absolutely love this kind of thing. Contests seem to inspire innovation. My favorite contest in recent years was the x-prize - that result was great!

    After all, competition made life: Just so long as it does not become conflict, it is healthy.
    • My favorite contest in recent years was the x-prize - that result was great!


      You do know that the X Prize had nothing to do to with the Xbox, right?
    • After all, competition made life: Just so long as it does not become conflict, it is healthy.

      I suggest you look a little closer. In Darwinian evolution, those who lose the competition must not reproduce. This usually meant dying an unpleasant death as a virgin.

  • timezone (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2007 @12:12AM (#19174625)

    July 20, 2007 by 11:59 PM Central Standard Time (the time zone of Austin Texas)
    Uhh... Austin's time zone in July is CDT, not CST. Will you hire me? I can fix all your time zone errors full-time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2007 @12:17AM (#19174671)
    Good way to get new ideas. Wasn't there a band that held a similar contest to find a new guitarist and just copied all the good riffs they heard on the day?

    Who retains copyright over submitted works? No mention of it in the agreement.

    I like this bit:
    VGH Austin is under absolutely no obligation whatsoever to:

    (a) acknowledge receipt of the Materials and/or this Agreement;


    So you have to sign an agreement which they can deny ever receiving. Nice.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by spootle (1033314)
      The band was Limp Bizkit
    • Hmm and what if I'd release my mod under GPL first? Once it's public, it stays public forever.
    • by 2short (466733)

      Of course, all the game companies I've had dealings with have had guards posted to keep from being smothered by hordes of people who can't wait to tell them their great idea.

      Meanwhile, they were desperate to find the tiny fraction of those people who can actually bring ideas to fruition.

      The ideas behind the modules that will be submitted to this contest aren't worth squat. The fully functional, polished modules might have some minor value if they wanted to put out some assorted best-of compilation, but tha
  • by muntumbomoklik (806936) on Friday May 18, 2007 @12:19AM (#19174685)
    The benefit of going this route instead of the dreary old slog-through-the-demos route is that you might find a one-in-a-million inexperienced young hack out there who can knock together some impressive stuff, is surprised that he has any skills marketable to a game company, and then pay him a crap salary for the "opportunity" to work for them.

    So the company gets a cheap, eager, bright eyed new recruit for a few years while the product goes through its life cycle and the guy either moves on once he figures he's got enough experience to get a decent gig somewhere else, or the whole project flounders and the entire development team gets laid off anyway. I'm not sure if this is a profitable business model or not, but I do know that it will probably suck to be on the lower end of things.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2007 @01:04AM (#19174995)
      As one of the so called 'inexperied young hacks' that was hired about 4 years ago by BioWare, I'd like to offer a few observations on the topic.

      - The community member to hire ratio is more like 10-12 out 2.000.000 active members or so, which is slightly better than 1 out of 1.000.000.

      - None of out projects has yet gone 'flounders' and no development team has ever been laid off at BioWare. In fact, there have never been lay offs as a result of a project ending or due to 'operational circumstances' at BioWare.

      - The 'young, inexperienced hacks' you're talking about have mostly worked in other high tech industries before coming to BioWare to do more interesting, rewarding work. Most taken a paycut for moving into this industry - in return for higher job satisfaction and a great work environment.

      - That said, I'm paid a competitive salary and I wouldn't trade my job for a job paying twice as high in vanilla IT anytime soon.

      The benefits of going this route for us are:

      - We get applications from people that have a background with Bioware games and understand what our games are about.

      - We get people from outside the industry to think about applying. Especially making an MMO, it is important to have people who have an outside view on things instead of having been shaped by the 'establishment'.

      - We get people really interested in the job, not burned out people looking for another quick assignment.

      As mentioned in the article, we ran a contest for a writer position a while back and hired a great writer as a result - from outside the industry.

      • by Jartan (219704)

        Most taken a paycut for moving into this industry - in return for higher job satisfaction and a great work environment.

        It's the taking a paycut thing they are interested in. Bioware might be a bit different but my experience with people who work for game companies is that at first they thought they'd get better job satisfaction from working on video games but that they eventually realize management is even worse than usual and you don't get to work on games you like or some other such thing happens.

        So you

      • Another young hack (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Friday May 18, 2007 @09:47AM (#19177969)
        A year or two ago I participated in Bioware's writing contest, winning the community voting. I actually did it for the swag they were giving away - I use their coffee mug every day and that Bioware wool cap kept me warm all winter. They'd already offered me a job some time ago, mostly after my NWN modules [adamandjamie.com] came out. It was extremely flattering, though the move, disruption to my family, and pay cut made the decision pretty easy. I have a great job in healthcare and a somehow find the time to continue to work on my module building [adamandjamie.com] even still. Working for a gaming company can be difficult, though Bioware is one of the best in the industry. I think my decision was to stick with a quality, stable job and having game making be a hobby. For the most part, it's lower stress and I can take the story whatever direction I want.

        In terms of the winning module from last year, I actually did two versions. The first was way too linear. The second had lots of choice, from evil to crazy to several flavors of good. There was drama and humor, quality scripting, and polished writing. For folks trying for this contest, I'd keep the cutscenes short, give the player as many choices as you can manage, and make your NPCs memorable. Less is more for these sorts of things. Don't plan an epic module spanning dozens of areas. Just make a couple, with a simple storyline. Play to your strengths - writers should write and scripters should script. You'll have to do both, but emphasize what you're best at.
        • Love your username. I assume you are looking forward to the new Fallout in the same cautious optimism that I am.
        • Interesting stuff. I have a question though, and it sounds like you're just the person to ask. Not sure if you'll see this inquiry, but if you do and have a few minutes of free time to spare...how hard would it be for a person with say a engineering/tech/graphic background and little to no hjeavy experience programming, but a heap of experience using 3D CAD software to design structures, mechanical equipment and architectural structures with a creative disposition and heaps of gaming experience, how long wo
          • Learning the NWN toolset, if you have no programming experience, can be daunting. It sounds like your background is ideally suited to 3D modeling, if that's of interest to you. That being said, if you're interested there are many tutorials [bioware.com] to choose from.

            Best of luck.
        • by mcvos (645701)

          For folks trying for this contest, I'd keep the cutscenes short, give the player as many choices as you can manage, and make your NPCs memorable. Less is more for these sorts of things. Don't plan an epic module spanning dozens of areas.

          Sounds like excellent advise. Although I've got no idea what I'm talking about, I'd like to add making not just your NPCs, but also your locations memorable. It's a world design contest, after all. Large swaths of land don't do a thing. Exactly the right cure little gro

  • Why wouldn't they use NWN2 for the contest? I know obsidian developed it, but the name and franchise is still linked to bioware. They even continue to host the forums. Why would they want to test potential candidates on a 7 year old game engine when they could be showing what they can do on the latest and greatest?

    I don't think there would be any legal issues with it either, since modules are considered freeware, and as long as everyone has purchased a copy of the game.
    • Re:NWN!?? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by LurkerXXX (667952) on Friday May 18, 2007 @12:30AM (#19174773)
      Probably because it's a story/puzzle/level design contest, not a texture/physics/lighting contest. The NWN2 is extremely stable, and well known, so lots of folks are already familiar with it. If you can make an interesting level/story/puzzle in it, then it will be all the better when tied in with the latest engine of the day.
    • It wasn't even stable enough to run the included module, let alone community development.
      • I'd say it's fairly stable now. If you remember, the original NWN had quite a few bugs until a couple of patches came out. I guess all games need time to get over their growing pains after initial release.
        • It would always crash at the same point even after reloading, forcing you to restart the campaign. That's not release quality.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      They are using the NWN1 engine / toolset because it is well known and has a learning curve that doesn't look like a cliff. You can pick up the NWN1 toolset very quickly if you have any sort of the ability they are looking for.

      The NWN2 toolset on the other hand... well the first guide I found for it is called "Don't Panic: The Hitchhiker's Guide to First Opening the Neverwinter Nights 2 Toolset"

      Turing Word: smother
    • Re:NWN!?? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 18, 2007 @01:12AM (#19175047)
      Bunch of reasons.

      Some of them

      - NWN is a very mature, very stable game development platform.
      - Everyone at BioWare has NWN installed on their machines. Makes it easier to review.
      - It has more copies out there (3.x M+)
      - It has much lower systems requirements.
      - It is cheaper (15 USD vs 49 USD for NWN2)
      - The people reviewing the modules are much more familiar with the NWN toolset.
      - It encourages people to stick to gameplay over eyecandy.
      - Faster to create a NWN module. NWN2 levels are much more complex (and better looking :) )
      - The NWN toolset is more friendly (less complex) to beginners
      - The documentation for NWN is much more complete after 5 years.

      hope that helps

      Georg, BioWare.
      • You forgot one : developing a quality product with a less feature filled developer kit shows the real talents :)
    • I cannot put this into polite form. In original form it sounds like "because NWN2 sucks big time".

      NWN2 now at 1.05 revision and it still crashes often enough for me to stop playing it completely.

      Worst part of crashes, for 1.05 game crashes after lengthy cut scenes: you can't avoid them, you can't save before them (because you do not know they are coming) and you can't skip them. In my third attempt of NWN2 I have waisted about 3 or 4 hours of game play due to two crashes. Third time I said "f*ck it",

  • If he can write The Hex Coda, he can win this contest. But I'll give The Rose of Eternity series due credit for its awesome use of cutscenes and music.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      He was already offered a job at BioWare and turned it down.
  • ...you must create a module with a 20-40 minute playtime in the NWN1 toolset.
    Sounds more like a cruel form of punishment than an opportunity.
  • how to win (Score:1, Funny)

    by ILuvRamen (1026668)
    Here's a simple strategy. Design a module where your character walks into Bioware's headquarters and starts shooting fireballs and summoning stuff because they didn't get a job there. Now that'll get ya hired lol.
  • So let me get this right. You will have to design an innovative playing environment for free for a company that will make millions from your idea/s without retaining any copyright or a guarantee for a job, boy talk about selling swamp land to suckers. While Im here Iran have just started a competition to design a thermo-nuclear device that can be carried in a suite case, and the prize is free do it yourself suicide kit.
    • It's creating 40 minutes of game play, with a cut scene using an OLD toolset for an enviroment type they won't be using.

      It is barely long enough to qualify as a level, muchless something they will make money with, mush less 'millions'.

  • Why not just delve into the existing selection and hire a few of the wonderfully talented [ign.com] builders that have already wowed us with their work? Or just hire Adam Miller.
  • For the whiners... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lena_10326 (1100441) on Friday May 18, 2007 @01:48AM (#19175227) Homepage
    It's just a contest. You're free to decide whether it's worth it or not. You're also free to decide whether the terms are fair or not.
  • Doesn't sound much like a fair deal to me, you're supposed to be paying me for work.
    • the game is nearly 5 years old, if you don't yet have it, you should be able to find it at very low price besides, they have to use something for such a contest, i doubt they'll release it freeware/make an entire game to test people with, just to find a few skilled people
    • Do you get paid for writing your resume, or getting an artist's portfolio together too? People said the same things about the WotC Setting search a few years back, and even though I didn't win the contest, I placed in the top 11, which was enough to get me my first book deal and to give me a career in writing. Don't be so quick to be cynical about this kind of contest. Or, you know, do, and those who are willing to work for an opportunity won't have as many people to compete against.
    • Yeah, about as reasonable as:
      You want me to buy a suit for the interview to get employment? You're supposed to pay me!
      You want me to buy gas to drive to the interview to get employment? You're supposed to pay me!
      You want me to pay for university and get a degree to get employment? You're supposed to pay me!

      Sometimes they do, but more often then not you have to do some things for yourself. Get used to it.

  • Of course theyw ouldnt give employment to someone who may be proficient with an engine that is outdated. When this thing is sent in to Bioware is there some clause in the terms and conditions where the IP, that users have created for use in this competition, becomes the property of Bioware? Are bioware gonna get all these cool ideas and then rort the poor fools that handed them in not knowing that this was entirely agreed upon cause they didnt bother to read the conditions?
  • "The man who says it can't be done shouldn't bother the man who is doing it."

    Everyone who comes in here and poo-poos on the contest should keep that in mind.

Live within your income, even if you have to borrow to do so. -- Josh Billings

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