A Conversation With Bill Budge
August 26, 2011 Page 3 of 4
Going back to that drive to create... When making Pinball Construction Set, I was getting the impression making that was for you a similar drive just creating software tools in general, because it's making an enabler, more than really making a game.
BB: Yeah. A really perfect thing for me to do, since I'm not a really good game designer. I don't really think of myself as a game designer at all. In fact, I don't think I've ever designed a game. Maybe Raster Blaster was a pinball table. So, yeah, I mean, the only thing I've ever been able to design are tools.
People ask you the question, you know, "How did you come up with the idea of user-created content in games?" But I was sort of getting the feeling that maybe it wasn't so much “let's change the industry right now.” It was making a tool with a game interface.
BB: I think a really good game designer has to love games, and they know what they love about games. They want to create that experience. I couldn't do that. I like building stuff, and that I can understand. So, I guess I built a game or program -- a software toy -- that I would want to play with.
It's kind of hard to think of building a pinball game now because I got really sick of it, but I built a lot of games, and I played it quite a bit. It was very exciting. There's a certain amount of excitement because you're seeing something for the first time, and you're building it. And you want to see it work in addition to using it. There's that extra thrill.
The best games or software products are people making things because it doesn't exist, and it's the kind of thing that they are looking for.
BB: That’s the secret. You know, Steve Jobs totally understands that; he builds what he wants. And then you refine it. I think a part of it is you've got to give it time. You build it, you love it, then you realize it sucks and you want to make it better. Then you go through about five or 10 iterations of that. In the end, you're kind of tired of it, but for the rest of the world it’s amazing.
It's interesting to see how that mentality does not filter up so well in certain companies. Like we've got a group of guys whose core competence is making big games, but Facebook games are the big thing, so we've got to try to get these guys to make some Facebook stuff, right? But they aren't going to be interested in making them, necessarily.
BB: Yeah, that would be a disaster if they're AAA guys.
It's interesting to see some of these companies try to wrestle with the idea of “how do we make games that people want to play, but that we don't want to make.” But of course, that's changed a lot, recently.
BB: You gotta have people who really get it and love it, and know what's great. Yeah, it's more than that. I guess what we're talking about is a vision. You need a visionary. Steve Jobs, he's a visionary. And he knows what he wants, and he's usually pretty right on.
Do you think it would be possible to create a game-oriented interface of some kind that could actually teach people programming, and teach people to be able to create, more than just pulling things together and assembling things?
BB: A full-power programming? That's kind of a holy grail, really. I don't think anyone's really come very close. There are specialized languages. Logo is the really interesting one for drawing. You can buy software to essentially program by building state machines and transitions, or defining actions and events, timelines with repeats, like Excel. There are little ways to do that, but really full-on programming where you're creating abstraction layers with data structures just seems very far away.
I mean, programmers think in a certain way. The computer is going to have to do a lot of translating at the very least. You know, for specialized domains... There are programs where you can take business entities that programmers have built and defined like connections or processes. But it does seem like it's far away. That would be wonderful, but I think programmers are just a group that think very differently.
Machines at the low level are still the same. They have registers and memory, and they're fairly complicated. And software is complicated. There are a lot of possible ways to structure stuff, and the ability to simulate what's going on in a computer like that is something that a small number of people percentage-wise have.
It really is like learning a language, though, as well. Certainly there are languages that people have affinities toward. I feel like games don't do a great job of teaching people language on a deeper level. But on a higher, Dora the Explorer-type level, they can teach you a bit of Spanish and how to string words together, or something like that.
BB: Really, if you wanted to teach in a certain domain, I mean, you can certainly create very interesting physics labs, for instance. I don't think that the possibilities for those kinds of programs have even be scratched. There can be some amazing stuff.
I mean, somebody built a 6502 emulator. They actually went and got a 6502 chip under an electron microscope and sort of extracted the masks from just the images, and then they run a circuit simulation. You can run this in a browser. It's an amazing little tool. If you're interested in microprocessor design, this is a microprocessor with 3,000 transistors that, you know, would be very understandable by a person.
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