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volume 1, issue 8

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Thinking Outside the Box:
Ego, Super Ego and...A Cool Game Idea?

 

 

By Paul "Villam" Steed


Anything I say comes from me and represents my personal opinions, views and subtle plans for influencing society. Read, ruminate over and remember at your own risk. If I teach you something and it helps, teach someone else.

  know you're expecting my modeling tutorial but I have to get this off my chest while it's fresh.

Have you ever played a game and thought, "Hell, I could've made a better game than that!" Sure you have. If you're intelligent and into gaming and slightly creative you invariably come to this kind of conclusion. "Making a cool computer game can't be that hard," you say to yourself. Yes it can, and yes it is.

Saturday in Plano, Texas the International Game Developers Network (IGDN) had a small event where I gave a talk on the evolution of art done at id from Quake to Quake3: Arena. The talk went well and the event in general seemed pretty cool; laid back, no high powered, hideously expensive vendor booths or the usually commercial feel creeping into these 'developer conferences'. It was a very informal 'get together' mainly for the benefit of wannabe game developers trying to get into or back into the industry. I like it.

After the event we went to a nearby pub and did the drinking/socializing/biz card trading thang that is the real reason for such a get together. I really dig talking to aspiring artists and developers in general because it gives me the chance to give them some guidance onto what I feel is the right track and get some potentially new or fresh leads on doing things as well. Invariably, however I get someone that comes up to me and says, "Dewd! Yew Rawk…butIhavethisreallycoolgameideathatIknowyou'dlike,really,reallydig…"

Don't do that. I could care less what your game idea is. You know why? Because I have game ideas, too! Yeah, imagine that! Listen, kids. Getting your game idea made into a game is one of the most difficult and rewarding occurrences in our industry and you know what? It's a p-e-r-k. As in perk. As in something that takes place after you've paid your dues, kissed enough of the right ass or simply been at the right place at the right time. Unfortunately the only way around this phenomenon is to own the company making the game.

Why do you think companies like Ion Storm, Ritual, Rebel Boat Rocker, Valve, Logic Factory down in Austin, etc. really get formed? Because these people serve time on production team at a big company working under someone who doesn't quite see things the way they do. Even if the game they're on doesn't do that well (and especially if it does do well) they decide they can come up with a better game if they were calling the shots and running the show. They might even think, "Hmmm…why should the company get all the cash for our hard work? Couldn't I make the kind of game I want to make free from the local P.C. Police precinct and kick just as much ass and make even more money and fame?" "Sure I could!"

Then you have the friendly-to-very-acrimonious split of development team from the parent company and inevitable initial excitement of the 'Start-Up Company'. I'm telling you, though. More often than not the sole reason for the formation of a start-up company in our industry is to (gasp!) make your own game idea! Think about it for a minute. Aside from the example above after the honeymoon is over and you get over the warm, fuzzy, glowing feeling from getting paid to do your hobby, what is you motivations? Money? Power? Chicks? That small island in the Caribbean? No. It's working on material you want to work on; preferably with people you want to work the long hours with. The money will come if it's a good product. The product will be good if the team has talent. And the talent will be effective if the owner of said talent puts a thousand percent of themselves into the project.

Marketing and publishing and all that is the finer part of the equation and companies like EA and Activision are making it apparent that their main strength is selling the products more than making them (which is a great thing I believe).

I've been making games for 7 years. There's people out there that have been making games for 10 and 11 years or longer and we still have to argue, cajole and weasel our game ideas into the collective conscious of the team we're apart of, on the game we're working on. That's just the way it is. It doesn't get easier as you go along either. Being on a project that does well is hell on your mental state. You think you know it all. If you don't eventually come back to reality you become a legend in your own mind and go off and try to do things solely your way or with the assistance of fellow team mates equally full of themselves.

This is not a bad thing.

BUT, it is a very bad thing if you do this: suck others into your scheme, sell them on a utopian game developing Mecca that's dedicated to making games similar to what you want to make, and then shit on the whole thing by cashing in your dwindling celebrity status and selling out to the highest bidder.

As an established developer at a high profile company your ultimate goal is to get your ideas implemented and feel important to the team. I'm very fortunate because I got to have a lot of input in Quake 2 last year. I'm also fortunate because I'm at a company where they have faith in me to the point of almost complete autonomy. Some feel like the fact they can't have enough input on a project is justification to leave and seek funding and do things their way and make their game idea a reality. As a developer this is the ultimate conceit. You want to see your idea made into a game and if not then you're gone.

The effort and talent and cost associated with making a competitive computer game today is vastly underestimated by the general public. Completing a successful computer game even for companies with pedigree is akin to the factors involved in the evolution of life on a primordial cooling mass of a planet. If you're interested in gaming Darwinism don't look at companies like id or Blizzard or Westwood and think their success is average or normal. They're the mutants of the industry that have slowly and carefully evolved into the slick, effective game development organism they are. Pay closer attention to companies like Ion Storm, Ritual, Crack.com and Valve. They're the type of animals you want to keep an eye on.

And just for future reference, the biggest turn-off for a developer is for you to start a conversation with, "I have this awesome game idea…"

So do I, Man. So do I.

ps

- Paul Steed is an incredibly opinionated 3D artist at id Software.

 

Credits: Thinking Outside the Box logo illustrated and is © 1998 Dan Zalkus. Thinking Outside the Box is © 1998 Paul Steed. All other content is © 1998 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't even try it. We've got really big guns, and we're ripped, baby.