Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An evening with Brenda and John

Yesterday evening Brenda Garno Brathwaite and John Romero were speaking at the IGDA Silicon Valley chapter. I got a ride with Chris Lewis from the EIS lab over the hill to Mountainview to listen.

Brenda Garno Brathwaite and John Romero

These are my main take-aways:
Brenda: “The rule-set is what separates games from all other art.” Although I have read Brenda’s great book and heard her speak several times i don’t tire of hearing her say this because it is so true. This is the reason why focus on the game mechanics is so necessary.

Brenda and John in a kind of unison: “There *must* be a design lead in a group with several designers. It is great to collaborate in design, but never ever design by committee”. Again, I couldn’t agree more, and in case someone forgets.... just don’t do it, it is so painful.

John: “Fix the second to second game play before you fix the minute to minute.” //boring down to the smallest units of mechanics - I think he means a kind of unit-testing or unit based refinement of game mechanics.

There was a question on how to deal with designers-block, and both John and Brenda were of the opinion that (their) the real challenge is rather to rein themselves in. And that there is always some aspect to work on on a game if another is blocked. Brenda suggested that a block might mean something else: “Games have this way of mercy-killing themselves.”
John: “Don’t name the game in the beginning...don’t force the the name on the game, it will come.

Brenda: Core games will come to Facebook. We can’t ignore that the audience has come to expect certain formats, and games of other types will need to be eased in. //I’m was curious what she’d think about G+ as a platform, but too shy to ask.

About prototyping:
John: I don’t do paper prototyping, I see it so clearly in my head. When the fist version is done I watch players play. It is important to be very quiet, to watch, not interrupt, and write down what the players do. When watching players play Doom and Quake I could see how they would go in certain directions, and I’d redesign and then watch again to see what effects my changes had.
Brenda: I do paper prototyping - I work it in as a milestone. When doing RPGs.

I might have not gotten everything exactly right when I listened - the notes that are not within quotation marks above are not verbatim what was said, it was more what I thought was said as i was jotting down notes.