Zen Of Design

The design and business of gaming from the perspective of an experienced developer

Month: April 2009

“Madden Meets Rock Band”

As an ‘official’ part of the ‘media’, I get press releases. You guys don’t hear about most of them, because, well, most of them are crap. And not crap in a good way. Things like remote controls for internet-wired microwaves.

The press announcement for the Black College Football Experience caught my eye, though, because it implicitly asks a central question: How do you compete with EA football products like Madden? Answer: Rockband-style gameplay for the halftime drumline show. Continue reading

Looking Behind the Curtain

A co-worker pointed me to Imaginary Cogs, an MMO Dev blog that focuses on the side you don’t see very often, that of purchasing rack space and setting up the servers. I promise that it is, in fact, very cool.

Playground Monitoring Middleware Solutions

For most game designers, the excitement of making an MMO for the under twelve set is quashed by the idea of having to make game design decisions aimed at reducing the odds your game becomes a pedophile’s wet dream.

One person’s design problem is another person’s business opportunity. From the New York Times: Continue reading

Why Publishers Will Keep On Considering Anti-Piracy Options

Pirates vastly outnumber non-pirates trying to connect to DemiGod servers for updates.


Original comments thread is here.

Understanding Design Space

A version of this article first appeared in the April 2009 issue of Game Developer magazine.


In the late eighties, the sitcom Cheers dominated the ratings.  Set in a pub in Boston, the antics of Sam Malone and his everpresent cadre of barflies never failed to provide belly laughs.  The writers of the sitcom pointed out that the bar itself brought a lot to the show. The very nature of the setting meant that new characters and stories could stumble into the front door and into the lives of the Cheers faithful.  The comedic ground was fertile, and Cheers had a long and distinguished run.

By comparison, the recent Fox hit Prison Break was very confined in where it could go.  Set in an Illinois prison, the first season involved the protagonists plotting their escape from prison.  Despite generally good reviews, water cooler talk was skeptical.  Could they really stretch out a prison break for 22 episodes?  What would the next season be about?  And the one after that? Fox gamely managed to keep things going, but ultimately ran out of space to run.  It was recently announced that this season, the fourth, would be the show’s last.

The writers of Prison Break were boxed in.  The inherent nature of the show limited where they could go, and what they could do with the show.  The ending of the series arc was somewhat predetermined, and therefore all of the interest was in the journey to that end.  What’s more, the closed nature of the prison setting limited to some degree the introduction of new characters.  They had very fertile ground to explore, but that ground was very finite.  Subsequent seasons (with the prisoners on the lam, or in a prison in Panama) felt forced.  In game design terms, their design space was limited. Continue reading

IGDA Exploding Over 60-Hour Work Weeks

Greg Costikyan, whom I greatly admire, has the skinny, and many eloquent, yet cross, words.

Mike Capps, head of Epic, and a former member of the board of directors of the International Game Developers Association, during the IGDA Leadership Forum in late 08, spoke at a panel entitled Studio Heads on the Hot Seat, in which, among other things, he claimed that working 60+ hours was expected at Epic, that they purposefully hired people they anticipated would work those kinds of hours, that this had nothing to do with exploitation of talent by management but was instead a part of “corporate culture,” and implied that the idea that people would work a mere 40 hours was kind of absurd….The notion that a fucking board member of the IGDA should defend (and indeed, within his own studio, foster) such exploitative practices is offensive on the face of it, and has caused a considerable kerfluffle within the organization.


Original comments thread is here.

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