Jed Merrill, Producer/Game Designer

Week 11

Gaming is Good InfographicMonday, November 4, 2013

I find this “Gaming is Good for You” infographic about the benefits of games while sitting in on Constance Steinkuehler’s free Video Games and Learning MOOC on Coursera. Enjoy!

Tuesday.

In Rapid Prototyping, we meet as teams, and my team discusses issues that concern us individually. Do we 1) focus the game on preparing to make a profit (in my view, this should be part of every game plan), 2) try to more deeply integrate the “lens of triangularity” to meet assignment restrictions (a good thing unless it makes the game less fun), or 3) simplify our scope to make life easier for our engineers given our two week remaining timeframe?

In the afternoon, we enjoy our best Producer class yet with Amy, who asks us to share our top game disappointments. Invariably, gamers are disappointed because a developer or publisher promises one thing and delivers another. Amy talks about the great SimCity disaster of 2013 at EA, suggesting the programmers must have known that there would be a problem upon release, anticipating a day one update fix to still meet the deadline. She adds that once a marketing machine gets into gear, course correction is like trying to turn a cruise ship, next to impossible.

We also discuss what may happen if a company does the right thing and adjusts release dates, sometimes at the last minute.  As I’ve noted elsewhere, Ubisoft lost 35% of their stock value last month (hopefully temporarily) when they announced Watchdogs and Drive Club would not be released at the XB1/PS4 launch.

What is the right answer then? Don’t make promises you can’t keep! Announce no hard release date until you are certain you can meet that date. Amy wants us to remember the pain of games that disappoint us so we can fix this problem in the industry when we are in command. (Will we ever be?)

Wednesday.

In Jose’s class, we cover Prosumers, consumers who actively participate in modding software and expanding universes, and review the history of role playing and role playing games.  In spite of aged graphics, I am proud to see Dragon Warrior / Dragon Quest in the chronological lineup, and finally discover the origin of the word “Final” in Final Fantasy.

We also briefly cover serious games, a genre that challenges the idea that games are required to be fun. Like many art films, some games apparently exist to give us an experience that is the opposite of fun but teaches us something and/or draws us closer together.  For example, some games are more cathartic than fun.  Do we enjoy watching kids kill each other in The Hunger Games?  Gladiator games in Roman times can’t have been much fun for those who fought in them, yet the crowds took some pleasure in them.  Would we enjoy watching football, a bunch of grown men crushing each other, if not for progress mechanics and measurements?  Why do we watch bad news on TV? Since many do seem to enjoy such spectacles, does it say something about the human/gamer condition, and how might this awareness affect game design decisions?

Personally I’d rather make games that appeal to the best in people.  If a game doesn’t make you happier or better, why play it?  And why make it?

Thursday.

We present our latest builds to Roger, then as Producers conduct play tests with written responses while Engineers and Artists continue production.

In the evening, I attend the Bench to Bedside business strategy session.  JenJen notes EAE is well represented in the competition, and we get to hear great business advice from Troy, who I’ve been privileged to serve with on the Awards committee of Games for Health.

Friday and Saturday.

It’s BlizzCon weekend!  The event in Anaheim sold out quickly, but I traded two-thirds the price of an Xbox One game for a virtual ticket, giving me access to all developer panels online.  I look forward to learning everything I can and hearing why I should pay a lot more for Hearthstone, StarCraft II, Diablo, and World of Warcraft.

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