Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

25 August, 2006

Weekend Design Challenge: Outside inspiration
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 5:19 AM

In this design challenge, you get to do something very hard: act like Will Wright. One of the truly amazing things about Will is that he learns from and is influenced by a wide variety of topics. He regularly looks for inspiration outside of the game industry. He has talked about looking at chair design, mathematics, rock gardens, and many other things as inspiration for this designs. He gives fascinating talks at conferences, even though he usually only talks about Spore these days.

So, your task is to describe some inspiration that comes from something beyond games. My bit is below the break.

One of the more interesting experiences I had was on jury duty. It was actually fascinating to see how justice works from that perspective. I was interested in learning more since most people shun the activity as something that wastes their time; there had to be something more to it.

It was eye-opening to see how people would try to get out of serving on the jury. The case was important to most of them: it dealt with an insurance company trying to recoup money spent on a settlement from the city. The insurance company claimed that the city’s policy for foliage removal (or lack thereof) had helped contribute to the fire that required the payment of the settlement. In other words, this directly affected how much money the city would owe. It was also interesting because the city had since removed the plants due to a change of policy, although we were not told that before ruling on the case. We were actually instructed not to do our own investigation. So much for playing Matlock, although it would have given incorrect information.

The case itself wasn’t too painful. It lasted a few weeks as I saw the lawyers argue the case. It really was interesting to see a courtroom from the inside, without the added stress of having a court case involving you going on. In the end, the jury found in the city’s favor. I have to admit, I was really leading the group as most people seemed not to have strong opinions on it.

I learned a lot of things by doing this. Specifically:
* People are scared of jury duty for no good reason.
* The state doesn’t really pay very well for jury duty.
* Investigation isn’t for jury members.
* Unlike TV, court cases are a little dry; even if they are important.
* People really don’t get very excited about court cases, even when on jury duty.
* People look for a leader to lead them about things they have no opinions about.

Okay, but what does this have to do with games? Well, it’s valuable information for when people start talking about player governance in online games. People seem to have this notion that the people will rise up and save the world from the bad people. Unfortunately, they are wrong.

People don’t like jury duty, even when they should take an interest in the case. They don’t want to be bothered and even if they can’t escape the clutches of jury duty, they don’t really want to exert much effort. If we can’t get people excited about their civic duty, can we really get them excited about doing the same thing in a virtual world where they have the ultimate escape: the logoff command? Will they really go through the pain and suffering required to do the right thing? Given my experiences with jury duty, I don’t think so.

So, what’s your observation?

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  1. Excellent Design Challenge idea! I work in Architecture and there is a -lot- that I take from it and apply to games and my thoughts on game design, even far beyond the simple relationship of “designing environments/levels/buildings”. Almost all of architecture is figuring out how people interact with their surroundings, how they will percieve a space, move through it, interact with it, and all that jazz. A lot of the same principles that go into designing a building to make a person feel a certain way can be applied to games, and making a game that can influence people to feel emotions that you want them to. Obviously this is not much of a stretch, as Architecture relates directly with city planning, which in turn relates directly to games like Sim City, but that’s on an extremely macro level, so it’s interesting to look at it from a the micro approach.

    I’d have to think for a while and develop a very structured response to this to really get into it, so I may do that this weekend, but I can’t wait to read other’s responses to this. Where people find inspiration is fascinating!

    Comment by Bartoneus — 25 August, 2006 @ 7:56 AM

  2. Entomology informs my game monster designs a lot. Really, not just insects, but the whole arthropodic group and their structures. I find myself creating elaborate backstories and creature descriptions for the monster side of things because of this.

    Comment by Ratchet — 25 August, 2006 @ 8:20 AM

  3. Watching the behaviour of people, mostly.

    For example, let’s look at at the “finding water-level” aspect. Most people can cook, but cooking is becoming rarer in the Western World. At the same time, the skill of cookery is becoming more celebrated as it grows rarer. So, while the majority will readily settle for “good enough”, they also recognise and laud those for whom good enough isn’t good enough.

    In gaming terms this translates fairly well to online work if you think about it carefully.

    Say you create a newbie area in a game where the level treadmill does not exist. No, i’m not talking about Second Life, but an actual game with no levelling, such as Doom or something similarly popular. Now, by definition, you must make that newbie area fun just as you must make the whole of the game fun. But it must also be fairly non-challenging.

    Provided your newbie area meets these criteria, most people will never leave it. But those that do (and venture into more challenging places) will be celebrated by those that don’t.

    This has all kinds of implications concerning where to put content and how much of it and also concerning where to focus server and hardware resources.

    Comment by Cael — 25 August, 2006 @ 9:40 AM

  4. I got an inspiration from this challenge and the alt magic system thread:

    Chinese wisdom has been distilled over the centuries into four pictographic character phrases and are supported by interesting stories that goes with the idioms that reads like parables. It’s really interesting to see how complex meanings are gradually squeeze into 4 character idioms. The process of abbreviation and creating catch-phrases and jargons.

    So furthing the phrasing system of magic or other evocation-type actions, certain mages can gain the ability to abbreviate long phrases to create the desire effect. In effect we put a process to how powerful time-consuming ritual magic transform into quick invoking abilities.


    Comment by magicback (frank) — 1 September, 2006 @ 9:05 AM

  5. Oh, another light bulb:

    You know that Japanese painting game Okami and it’s celestial brush system? Following on to the rune combination system above, we can create a runic poem system. Using existing and known poem mechanics, a magic system could be built over it.

    Or it could be Okami with words :)

    Comment by magicback (frank) — 1 September, 2006 @ 9:41 AM

  6. Weekend Design Challenge: Outside inspiration, take 2

    [...] talked about outside inspiration in a previous challenge, but I think it’s time to talk about this topic [...]

    Pingback by Psychochild’s Blog — 18 June, 2007 @ 12:37 AM

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