Monday, November 15, 2010

Speak Summary, Q&A

There were a few questions that came up during my presentation, put through the lens of my foggy memory. Here is my hazy recollection of the questions and the random things I rambled in response:

More thoughts on maintaining passion?
  • Accept more passionate ideas; you can work with a passionate person to get an idea in a good place, but can only micromanage a disconnected person
  • Focus on goals not solutions; instead of offering solutions, offer a range of ideas wherein the solution might lie in and give them the joy of coming up with it
  • Involve the team in a design story; designers that claim they "know" a feature is fun are lying unless they've implemented it exactly before; that's not to say there aren't good educated guesses; just that designers have to experiment, and it's good to involve the team in the story of decisions; in potential designers -- especially design leads -- I prioritize people skills for this reason
  • I also like designers that aren't afraid to be wrong for this reason; you can never tell what bad idea will inspire a great idea; designers are often a paranoid lot because they once sat on the sidelines critiquing bad decisions and now they're the ones making them (and they know others are doing the critiquing); they sometimes think it's their job to be "right"; it's not, and getting past this is valuable
  • Everyone has awesome ideas; my mom never plays games, but her input if she plays one is an honest, valuable reaction; the job of a design lead is not to have all the best ideas, it’s identifying and communicating goals and relying on talented people to reach them; lean on good people
  • If publishers have bad ideas, being pissed about it ensures it ends up in your game; find out why they are giving you the idea -- what they are trying to address -- and validate that concern; it gives you the room to bring up other ideas that may address it; they like being a part of the design process
  • Give final control to people you trust; it's hard, but do it; you're the designer, not the animator, the art lead, etc.; if a game comes out that you micromanage and it sucks, the people working on it blame you; if you didn't micromanage and it sucks, they analyze it and get better.
When do you have enough design information to execute?
  • It's a fuzzy line
  • I suppose when you have enough that (a) you feel confident in it, and (b) when you describe it to others, they also feel confident in it
  • Then you start building, and constantly thinking a step ahead
There were more questions, so I'm definitely forgetting things. Sorry!


  1. It's amazing how much we agree on all these. The "everyone has awesome ideas" point seems especially important to me, as a lot of artists I've worked with have a tendency to discount someone's opinion simply because they're not an artist, or not trained, or don't have experience. Even stupid publisher ideas usually stem from really legitimate concerns.
    Really interesting stuff!

  2. I've been thinking about your comments about micromanagement. It's something I still have a tough time with, even though I try pretty hard not to micromanage. In the end, the force fighting against me is this: I don't care much who gets blamed if the game sucks - I want the game to NOT suck.

    But what made me come here and comment is this journal entry from Jordan Mechner:

    Jordan Mechner's journal is fascinating and somewhat inspiring, by the way. You might want to check it out!

  3. @Sam so true. Thanks.

    @stay I think not wanting it to suck is insanely reasonable. My experience is that passionate employees are willing to keep working with you until it reaches a goal, and not having to micromanage means more time to focus on what really counts. Disconnected employees just wait to play "go fish" with you, which requires more micromanaging when the project needs you elsewhere, and ultimately means MORE suck.

    It's obviously hard to be black and white about, but I think you can be loud and dominating on what the goals and standards of the product are and whether they have been met while being open, empathetic, and collaborative about the process of getting there. I'm sure I fail a lot, but I feel like doing so is helping protect the quality of the game, even when it goes against my instincts.