Friday, 21 February 2014

The UnPublished Game Designer's Blog: Limitations & Aspirations

Greetings friends and welcome to another entry in the UnPublished Game Designer's Blog.

So far we have covered Concept, Attitude, Passion, Getting Started and Choice Paralysis. Today however I would like to raise the topic of knowing your limitations and aspiring to break them.

So you want to be a game designer. You have gone through what I've written and you think your head is in the right place. You've read some online guides and books, maybe even taken a course or two. But how do you view your limitations in regards to the process?

You see, limitations can take many forms. Perhaps you are super imaginative, you have a perfect narrative set up for your game, but you have no idea how to write table top rule or video game code. Maybe you have great skills at writing and formatting books, but can't create art at the cost of your own thumbs! Maybe you have fantastic ideas, but no matter how hard you try to put them onto paper it doesn't come out right.

Remember this; you are not alone.

We've all heard the expression that no man is an island, and it's just as true in game design. At some point, regardless of the format, you will hit a point where you as a one man operation can do no more. Something is missing.

This is where your limitations come in and it's super important to take note of what it is you are struggling with, as ignoring it is not going to help it go away, and will only help create a sub-par product at the end.

Of course there are a number of ways you can try to subvert your limitations. The fastest and 'easiest' way is by paying someone to do it for you, but that's not what we're looking at right now. For starters we have one big important fact to take into account: you're still unpublished, probably in infant steps in the design process and have no idea if this is going to take off, so spending real, hard earned cash is something you should be avoiding at all costs.

No, this is where your aspirations come in.

Let's look at my process so far when it comes to 'CRYPTS: A Weird West Dungeon Crawler'.

One thing that I'd like to think I've done well is create the narrative for the world the game is set in. I also think I have a good grasp of tabletop language and so am able to write rules in a professional sounding manner.

Despite being very protective over my work, I am open to suggestion and constructive criticism, but I am very quick to be distracted and turn into a bit of a dick if I don't agree with he direction the critiques are going.

I also lack the basic skills involved in graphic design, relying on others to create the base work that I can than manipulate through software.

These I believe are the basics of my limitations.

So, how do I get around them?

First is dealing with my interactions with critiques. It's something I struggle with a lot, and some times it is not entirely my fault, but the critiques coming across in a particularly negative, but un intended manner. I aspire to deal with this by trying to remain objective. I try to remember that the game is not 'my baby' but is just a product. They are not critiquing me or the effort I have put into it, they are critiquing what they currently see as the finished product, or how the product looks to be shaping up.

This is general human interaction and something that everyone learns to deal with better every day. You see, I'm 30 years old, but I have no qualms with admitting that I still have a lot to learn about when it comes to dealing with people and I believe that until the day you die you never stop learning this.

Next up is artistic talent.

So how do I get past my inability to draw and paint on a canvas?
- For this I would say the same applies with writing, coding etc.

I believe that the best way of dealing with this is the same as with any other hobby. You may not be very good at something now, but in no way does that mean you will suck for ever.

So I pick up free art software for my ipad and I have some fun doodling and playing. I dig put he occasional pen and paper and do the same there. Is it great? Far from it, but it's something I try and get better at, after all if the product is something that a publisher wants to pick up later, then these are things that they can help with and as mentioned before you can always pay someone else to do it for you.

Saying that however is one thing but doing it is something very different.

So how do you go about constructively aspiring to better your limitations through practice?

I think that this is something different people look at different ways. For me I like to set challenges, for example "this week, I'll be trying to draw different styles of tentacles".

For me it is no different to any other hobby challenge, every time you feel you've gotten something down to a tee, you break out a new technique, a further challenge, always pushing yourself and seeing just how far you can go before you literally reach your limits and can go no more.

Remember, if you began game designing for any of the reasons I did, then it's because it's a hobby. Never forget that, and so treat it like any other hobby.


Ultimately, that is where it sits.

As always I can only talk about what works for me, and even then, I am unpublished with no finished product to show the world (yet). Perhaps if a professional read this they would say it's all balderdash, but I can't speak for them, just like I can't speak for you.


Anyway, we are coming to an end of he entries to The UnPublished Game Designer's blog, as I am quickly running out of topics to discuss, but if you have any you would like to see me natter and whittle on about, please let me know.

Until next time, stat safe and I'll see you Cryptside!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

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