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Helpful Lum Is Helpful: Design Blogs And You

i want to make game it may be awesome or not i want to make game

Matthew Weigel’s awesome whiteboard haiku/commentary on game development

Do YOU want to make game? Then you probably blog about it! Cuppycake tried to be controversial and failed on the topic, because everyone agreed with her. (Aww, it’s OK. Just belittle a PvP game, that usually works for me.) It’s already created a fiesta of trackbacks, and instead of saying yet another “yeah, what they said”, I’ll chip in with my own experience.

 

See, I’m still fairly new at the whole game design thing. Sure, I’ve been wanting to do it approximately since I was 10, but that’s beside the point. So I do a lot of reading on the subject so that I don’t completely suck at it. Most of which are… well, game design blogs.

Use a blog reader. This may seem an obvious point, but the best blogs you find in this field are not going to be updated often, because the people who write them do other things besides blog. You know, like work on games. You WANT to read the stuff from the guy that never updates, ever, because she usually has something good to say when he does.

Don’t get deluded by star power. Resume != competence. And more importantly skill != writing ability. As Raph Koster noted in his comment on the subject, just because one is a good game designer, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are a good writer. And some of the best design discussions I’ve found have been written by amateur designers. Critical thinking and analysis is required here. It’s required for coming up with healthy game designs, too, so you need the practice.

Get outside your comfort discipline. There are great discussions of game theory and development on blogs that theoretically have nothing to do with design. Given that a good designer is also, most likely, going to work hand in glove with art, marketing, engineering, community, and production, an appreciation of their challenges is vital. A bad designer will write – or worse, not bother to write – documentation that exists in its own bold and creative space outside of any possibility of implementation. Don’t be a bad designer. It makes the coders laugh at us during lunch.

Don’t pretend Twitter and Facebook are relevant to your job. Unless you’re making a Facebook game (and I hope you’re pushing it out quick, because everyone else is). They’re social networking tools. Your job may well involve coming up with a coherent social network design, but be honest, you’re not playing Mafia Wars or obsessively following @ashtonkutcher to learn about how people process connections. It’s a time sink, not a resource. Be aware of this. (This blog you are currently reading, also 99% of the time counts as a time sink. Just so you know.)

MMO-specific message boards are actually relevant to your job. But they’re still time sinks. Enjoy the contradiction, and don’t get tangled up in flamewars on the political forums, because someone WILL throw your job in your face at some point. If you’re smart, you’ll make a completely anonymous account and use that for interacting on forums. You’re not smart.

Things You Should Read, Please:

  • Damion Schubert’s Design Doc Presentation. No, really, if you read ONE thing on the Internet about design, learn to write frakkin design docs. It’s the one bitch I constantly hear from experienced developers about inexperienced designers. I could just direct link it but instead I’ll send you to his site and you can view trying to find it as a test (note that if you fail, he also is one of the aforementioned good bloggers who never update because they’re busy on wanting to make game.)
  • Raph Koster writes about everything but lately he’s been writing about all the emergent games that everyone with WoW-lock have avoided paying any attention to. You could pay attention to them. Or you could be a dinosaur and wait for your extinction-level event. Your choice, really.
  • You probably are cloning World of Warcraft. Just admit it. And if you are, the best design discussions on what you’re cloning are over on Elitist Jerks (which despite its name is not particularly jerky, though it can be fairly elitist). Tobold’s blog is also a good place for player-centric commentary.
  • Daniel Cook’s blog isn’t very MMO centric. Read it anyway. Thinking about the why behind style and presentation is why that iPhone in your pocket is so ineffably awesome. (If you have a Blackberry you are dead to me.)

This list is pretty short. Partially it’s because I’m not including the literally dozens of blogs by clueful amateur designers, live team veterans, and industry analysis. And partially it’s because, well, there’s just not that many blogs specificaly focused on the how and why of game design. Well, that are very good, anyway.

 

(See, Cuppycake, THAT’S how you do it! 🙂  )