9 November, 2006
One of the biggest problems that designers face is how to play a lot of games in limited time. Sounds like a real tragedy, doesn’t it? But, seriously, it’s hard to keep abreast of all the different games that you need to play if you actually want to, you know, develop games. This can be a serious problem in some situations because you just can’t keep up with some genres. Epic multi-hour RPGs fell off my lists a long time ago, for example.
So, what can you do?
Personally, I haven’t had time to play many games recently because I’ve been working on a contract. Even when not under contract, I should be working on some projects to eventually get them launched. Great game ideas demand I work on them!
Of course, it’s not just games that fall by the wayside. I’m writing about this topic because my blog has been so neglected recently. If I ignore the blog too long, people will stop visiting! :)
Of course, this can be rather embarrassing. When people are talking about the latest hit game at a conference, you might have to meekly admit that you haven’t had time yet. Alternatively, games can pile up next to your desk. I recently acquired the updated Pirates! game, but I haven’t even opened the box yet. Sounds like a great game, and I loved the original version (which I played a lot in college), but here I am unable to find time to play the sequel.
But, there are larger issues, too. People talk about emotion in games, and say that the only major NPC people remember is the robot Floyd from the text adventure Planetfall. Yet, I think people today might be more familiar with the death of Aeris from Final Fantasy 7. Why do designers ignore this example? Perhaps because most of them never had time to play FF7. (Truth be told, I never got to the very end myself. Stupid third-party memory cards wiping my progress right near the end….)
It gets worse when we start talking about virtual worlds. I play a lot of EQ2 these days (that’s one of the reasons why other games sit unopened near my desk). I can’t just play a few hours and expect to know everything there is to know about the game. How many game developers really appreciate the details of raiding? How many Blizzard Developers have worked up a character away from their officemates and tried to get into a raiding guild? Would this help them improve a part of the game that seems to make many people dissatisfied with the game? I’ve spent a lot of time talking to friends that played other online games that I never had time to. I didn’t get into raiding in EQ1, but one of my good friends did and I know his experiences. Is this as good as first-hand experience? Probably not, but it’s what I’ve had time for. Thankfully, I don’t have to design much raid content. ;)
So, what’s the answer here? For me, I just buy games late after the verdict comes out. For example, I gave Black & White a pass because most people agreed it was less than great. Yet, I still read up on the game in order to learn more about it. I also bite the bullet and play some games even though I technically don’t have the time to do it. But, I need to get better at managing my time to make sure I get my contract work and my personal development work done. It can be hard without external pressures. I also notice that I tend to like a lot of flash games; these tend to clone old arcade games many times, so it can be a lot of fun to dig into the game that only lasts a few minutes at a time.
What do you do? Is it realistic to expect designers to play lots of games? Or, can you learn about it from second-hand experience?