Are Programers inherently better game designers?

Discuss the development of other free/open-source games, as well as other games in general.

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Jastiv
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Are Programers inherently better game designers?

Post by Jastiv »

Do you think that programmers are inherently better game designers than say artists? writers? music composers? bug reporters?

I know obviously game design is a complex thing and includes level design. Game design also encompasses all of those disciplines (code,art,music, writing etc) and more, but I'll be honestly, some times I come across games that I'm like "what were the developers thinking this isn't even fun." even thought it seems to run okay, games art looks fine, but then when I try to play it I get sick of it real fast. I don't know if it is bad levels, not enough variety, don't know where to go or what?

I don't really want to pick on certain open source games with free cultural assets and say they suck (because a lot of proprietary games suck as well) but sometimes I'm just like "what is wrong with this game is design, but its like I can't put my finger on exactly why it sucks.
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Tad_Carlucci
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Re: Are Programers inherently better game designers?

Post by Tad_Carlucci »

As a progammer, I would expect most programmers to be lousy game designers. Don't confuse game design with program design or implementation.
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Paulomat4
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Re: Are Programers inherently better game designers?

Post by Paulomat4 »

I am a programmer. I wouldn't say I am good game designer. I suck at creating a compelling story, I suck at balancing and I probably suck at level design.
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shevegen
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Re: Are Programers inherently better game designers?

Post by shevegen »

> Do you think that programmers are inherently better game designers than say artists? writers? music composers? bug reporters?

I think the problem is that it is a generic question, and a generic question is difficult to answer correctly. It is also a bit cliched.

Instead, I think I can relate some experience - although I am not a professional developer by any means, always been a hobbyist,
always will be, I can give some of that experience, having been active in different projects.

I won't name all of them but one example is the LPC MUD called GEAS (won't add any link here; it's not important anyway but
just provides some "real" context).

LPC is a fairly annoying, archaic language. It's like C "with classes". You would have things such as: sword->move(this_player());
or something like that. The main admin on that MUD (PO Turian) was a very efficient programmer, but he lacked creativity
in regards to storytelling, roleplay and in-game design. With "in-game design" I mean to implement features that are based
on the in-game logic at hand, all the while as you take side-effects into account.

I could give numerous examples here but I will just give a single one; sorry if not everything is understood.

Oldschool MUDs typically have PvP (player-versus-player) combat, and PKs (player-killing). The MUD allowed for
respawning (ressing) so players could continue to play their character. There were players of one "class", the
cleric class, that complained about their PvP targets (other players) evading their miracle effects - mostly the
damage dealing miracles that clerics could request through a prayer to their deity. This was called "miracle
hopping". As a consequence of that feedback, PO Turian added a miracle called "trap", which essentially
had a high chance to prevent escape from PvP targets.

What he did not know was that there was a synergistic effect due to another miracle, called "holy word".
This miracle would damage those of an opposing alignment, and also trigger them to try to run away.

This is where the "trap" miracle kicked in because it prevents escape. Unfortunately, trying to escape
has a cost to stamina/fatigue. To make this lengthy story short: the above combination gave some
clerics the ability to, with high chance, induce max fatigue/panting on a GROUP of enemies. and
if you are too fatigued, you can not continue to fight and get beat down. In other words: you essentially
lose PvP. All from a single change.

Since this had a GROUP effect, it also caused a whole GROUP of players to lose, since hword would
trigger all who failed the discipline resist check against the miracle.

Now the thing is ... PO Turian is a good programmer, but the game code is too complex, and he does
not play the game, so he was unaware of the above combination.

I could give many more examples, e. g. programmer versus game designer, but very often I think
a good programmer is not necessarily a good game designer automatically.

You could be a great game designer but suck at programming too. Or you could be a good programmer
AND a good game designer, which is a rare combination. I am better at creative additions than the
raw code.

So ... to get back to your original question: I think in general it is just rare to see a great programmer
also be a great game designer at the same time. Experience and practice plays a role too, everyone
can get better, but by and large I think that many good programmers lack the parts necessary for
a good GAME designer, since the latter is harder. You have to keep trade-offs in mind when you
make a change, e. g. will players accept a change? What other changes may be necessary when
you have added something?

The above example with the trap miracle was unfair on many levels. There were three cleric
"classes" but only two of them had access to the hword-combination. And it was a free upgrade
powerwise to all clerics - non-clerics had no upgrades. There was no compensating downgrade
at the same time either, so it was a free gift to all clerics. It was simply unfair, massively changed
the game, and led to retirement of some players too (not necessarily at the same time but
people tend to lose interest when stupid changes are made, before they may retire eventually).

> some times I come across games that I'm like "what were the developers thinking this isn't even fun."

Yeah. It's difficult. Often they don't play the game, which adds to the problem, since you add changes
that aren't any fun. That happened on the above MUD too - numerous changes were made that
just killed playability. Giving feedback is pointless because it is ignored or you just end up
alienating that opinionated admin. It's bad overall.

Managing a game project is not easy. Everyone invests spare time into a project, and when the
fun goes away you tend to do something else with your time.

It is an art to keep people motivated. :)

> games art looks fine, but then when I try to play it I get sick of it real fast

Happens to me too. This is why I much favour playability over art. Art is important and nice,
but if the underlying game sucks, the best art can not compensate for that.

I don't mind crappy art if the game play itself is entertaining.

> I don't really want to pick on certain open source games with free cultural assets and say they
> suck (because a lot of proprietary games suck as well) but sometimes I'm just like "what is
> wrong with this game is design, but its like I can't put my finger on exactly why it sucks.

IMO this is a lot because people have a finite amount of time and tend to move on quickly,
unless there is a compelling reason for them to remain active. Many open source games
are massively unfinished. Difficult to resume a game project that has been abandoned ...
Tad_Carlucci
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Re: Are Programers inherently better game designers?

Post by Tad_Carlucci »

Wow. It's been over fouty years since I've seen anyone mention LPC, much less speak of it in a way which makes me believe they did anything more than read a few Wikipedia articles.

Even way back then those of us who kept the engines going generally recognized we were generally better at that then at making engaging activities the players wanted. That's why we made is to easy ... all you had to do is play enough to show you had seen most of the issues from the player's side, and you were allowed to start "coding" in LPC.

Personally, I always thought LPC was a terrible language. But it passed the first test: it worked. Maintaining it, though, was a pain.
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funnest thing/post i've ever seen on this entire web

Post by fire-emblem »

funnest thing/post i've ever seen on this entire web
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