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Spoof of Concept [10/10]
by Jacek Wesolowski on 02/05/10 12:05:00 am   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Part 10 of 10: The Ultimate Wrong Question [previous parts]

 

The biggest problem with great inventions is that they mostly don’t work.

 

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci made informed drawings of an ornithopter and a helicopter, but never actually built either. Montgolfier brothers’ hot air balloon could fly, but not in the pilot’s chosen direction. Otto Lilienthal died, because he had an accident while flying one of his gliders. And as for Wright brothers, before they managed to build a successful prototype, they needed to test two hundred different wing shapes. In the end, inventing an airplane that could actually be useful took five hundred years. The devil is in the details, and these only become obvious in hindsight.

Stepwise refinement is not a sole domain of engineering. Actors rehearse. Laws are adjusted. Humans are born half a metre tall and lack some basic functionality at that point. This post has taken twenty seven re-writes so far. Complex entities don’t just emerge miraculously from the sea - they grow and evolve, one mistake at a time. Anyone can have a dream of a great achievement, but progress is only made by people who can agree on what the logical next step is (“next” being the primary term here; feel free to define your own logic).

Some people confuse prototyping with polish.

The main difference between those is that the former is proceeding from one step to another, while the latter is iterating on the same thing. Polish is an exercise in fine-tuning, and prototyping is much more than that. You pose a question; you perform an experiment; you draw conclusions. If you’re stuck with the same question at that point, then you did something wrong. You should have a dozen new questions and at least one answer after each attempt.

The one thing that unites flying machine inventors, actors, lawyers, bloggers and game designers is that, in order to succeed, they have to know where they’re going. The structure and component points made by this post have changed dramatically over the course of twenty seven rewrites, but I have always known which question I’m going to brand as the Ultimate Wrong One.

Don’t ask: “is this fun?”. Not because games can be more than that, or because “fun” is subjective. This is the Ultimate Wrong Question, because it amounts to asking: “are we there yet?”. Well... no! of course we aren’t. On the flip side, we can always get there, eventually, if we’re good enough. I mean, come on, The Muppet Show was fun, and 99% games never get much more random than that. Just pick your theme and aim carefully.

The best question to be asked is “what kind of fun is this supposed to be”, because it amounts to asking: “where are we going?”. The second best question is “what am I missing”, because the answer is your logical next step. Your next prototype.

 

Lesson Learned: None. This post is a prototype, and it doesn’t have a cheesy moral yet. Hope you enjoyed it anyway.


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Comments


Tomasz Mazurek
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You certainly ended the series on a high note. "Is this fun" is frequently considered the ultimate question of game design, but as you point out, is is not a very useful question. A stretched metaphor follows. If we only ask "Is this fun?" we are like a composer who only asks "does this sound good" - he may plan to compose a threnody but end up with a polka.

Carlo Delallana
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Excellent conclusion to the 10 part series


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