Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Westlake Village Levels Up!

Hey All!

I'll be signing "Level Up!" at my hometown Barnes & Noble in Westlake Village, CA on April 8th starting at 7pm!

Start thinking about what you want for your unique level design and I hope to see you there!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Red Faction? I'm all over that game!!

See what Darius Mason is doing up there? He's saying WOOOT! 'cause he's so darn happy for me!

The latest games that I was involved with here at THQ is Red Faction: Armageddon - if you like blowing everything up including horrible aliens, then this is the game for you!

What's even cooler, is if you Pre-Order RF:A at Amazon or GameStop, you get a free download of Red Factions: Battleground, a game I worked on. If you like blowing things up (including your friends) while driving around in vehicles, then this is the game for you!

If you Pre-Order RF:A at Wal-Mart, you get a FREE copy of the Red Faction Comic Book I WROTE! (with Paul DeMeo) If you like reading about guys who blow each other up, then this is the comic for you!!!

Let me repeat this... The comic book I wrote will be carried in 2,907 Wal-Marts! Very Nice!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Write it down!

I've been working as a creative manager for a major video game publisher for several years and the one thing I still don't get is why development teams are so hesitant to put their designs on paper. It's not that I'm unsympathetic to their reluctance - there's been a silent war within the industry for years about the need for game design documents (GDD) - especially when the results are 300 page tomes that no one wants to read. But that doesn't mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Personally, I'm a fan of Mark Cerny's "Method" - which inspired many of my own views on game design documentation - Cerny promotes a "Macro Design" which is no more than five pages that covers the character and moveset, exotic mechanics, level structure, size and count, level contents and the games' overarching structure. In Level Up! I share my own version of the game overview that I call the "ten pager" which adds in the topics of story telling, AI and bonus/DLC materials.

I think I have a pretty thick skin when it comes to criticism and sometimes it still bothers me - it stems from the fact that no one likes to be wrong. I understand the feeling that when ideas are put down on paper, they become "real things" and therefore subject to criticism.

You get the feeling that the designs become locked in stone and can't be changed. Teams have often told me that they don't want to create paper designs because it takes away from time that could be spent putting the design into the game code.

But what I find ironic is, THIS IS THE FUN PART OF MAKING GAMES! Where the sky is the limit! You can come up with anything at this point as long as you can dream it. Sure, you'll eventually have to be grounded by reality but I find creating gameplay designs to be the least stressful part of the job.

Now I'm sympathetic to these concerns regarding time and scheduling but it in all honesty, it doesn't take that long to write down a design. If you spread the work out or work with others, it can go that much faster.

So here are seven reasons why you need to get your designs down on paper:

1. Paper designs allow you to get a picture of the entire game's scope. I was once shown the paper designs of Galaga and the entire game was all there on paper - before a single pixel had been drawn or a line of code written.

2. You can work out size, distance and proportation relationship before building a character or level. Plus it prevents you from having to resize models.

3. You can quickly find descrepancies in pacing, combat, rewards, economy and even story if you use tools like a beat chart.

4. You can spot where the player might be given too much information at once to help ease confusion or information overload

5. You can determine where you might need to add something new and help promote good flow in your game.

6. The human mind is a slippery thing and it's easy to forget good ideas. Get them down before they're gone forever!
7. You get cool artifacts as reminders of your thought process - plus if you don't use a design, you can always save it for another game!

Hopefully I'm convinced you (even a little bit?) to why you should document. Let's hear your reasons!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Nerds! at Wondercon!

I love attending Wondercon - it's big comic book convention that's not as crazy as SDCC but still pulls in lots of great guests.
Every year I consider giving a talk and this year I decided to put my money where my mouth is. So with the help of a few friends, I present to you:


Room 104

Nerds! The Secret Origins of Game Designers

Comics. Movies. Games. Did you know that a life of fandom might be perfect training for a career as a video game designer? Learn the secret origins of industry veterans Haden Blackman (Star Wars: the Force Unleashed 1 & 2, Batwoman), Tim Longo (Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, Star Wars: Dark Forces), Jason Weesner (Tomb Raider: Legend, Vectorman), and Scott Rogers (God of War, Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design) as they share how their love for all things nerdy led to successful careers in video games...and how you can start your own career too!
Wondercon is held in San Francisco at the Moscone Center South. You can get tickets and info here.
See you there!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Game, Set, Watch is already a great video game blogsite, but its sister site is the one I'm currently excited about.

FingerGaming is one of the better sites I've found on tablet gaming - and considering how many titles are out there, it's good to have a resource that helps you track down cool and interesting games.

Check it out!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

GDC signing!

UPDATE: The GDC signing was a HUGE success! Level Up! completely SOLD OUT at the show!

I drew over 25 unique levels for Level Up! readers!

I got to meet many nice people from all corners of the world!

MANY THANKS to everyone who stopped by!


Hey all!

I will be signing copies of Level Up! At the GDC bookstore in the Moscone Center South from 1-3 pm on Thursday March 3rd.

You don't have to attend GDC to go to the signing.

Come by, say hi and get your FREE unique level design and MYSTERY GIFT (while supplies last!)

See you there!