I love exploration in games, especially of the spatial variety. I think I have an over-developed love for finding out what’s around the next corner. There’s a powerful psychological reward for me in the act of exploring. As a kid, the first time I ever played Battlezone, I tried to drive to the mountains in the distance. For me, the game was, “Can I ellude these tanks long enough to reach the base of the mountain range?” I literally wondered if there might be a cave entrance there, hidden by the game designers.

I always get frustrated having to explain to certain team members why it’s cool to let the player get up onto the roofs, or slip into an underwater section of the map, or move through a dark, empty house. From an astounding range of people, I often get, “What’s so cool about side areas or nearly empty spaces?” I remember fights around this issue with a number of really smart, creative game designers.

Exploration must appeal to some of us more than others, due to some quirk in our growing up, most likely, but clearly all people respond in some ways to exploration.

There’s a primal compulsion to venture out, away from your mother’s skin. Only slowly do you figure out which dark corners are safe and which are unsafe; which contain the pleasures and which hold the monsters. I think that’s perpetually thrilling, a sort of Lady-or-the-Tiger that we always carry in our heads. And exploration-based games give us quick access to that, allowing us to stimulate that part of our minds on command. What’s around the next corner is fundamental to the way our consciousness evolved; it’ll always be with us.

I think this is even key to horror and suspense, especially in film: In the Blair Witch Project, the limited viewpoint allowed by the camera totally restricted the player’s view, frustrating the human desire to know what rewards and dangers exist in a given space.

Wtf do video game designers do?

As part of modern video game projects, game designers do all of the following:

Plan game systems around intended gameplay style: As an example, how does the player-character health model work? Does damage simply subtract points of health (and does healing simply add back points of health), or does health regenerate? Does the player-character’s health never drop below 1 point on any single attack (as in some games that try to facilitate dramatic moments, like City of Heroes, Call of Duty or Mercenaries)? Game designers plan the player’s movement package, the advancement of his powers, his weapons and tool set, etc.

Develop fiction: As an example, if we’re working on a caveman game, members of the design team (with fictional talent) might work out a plot (or work out a plot with a contract writer) that puts the player in the role of a young caveman, trying to move his tribe to a new hunting ground. The strike team responsible for fiction will work out a series of missions or objectives that support this plot.

Tune gameplay ecology entities: As an example, a designer might have to enter physics values for a set of vehicles, making a truck drive and turn slowly, while a sports car accellerates and corners sharply. The truck might sustain more damage before bursting into flames. Similarly, a game designer might take the AI system (written by a senior engineer) and set up interesting behaviors by tweaking the AI parameters of each enemy type.

Build crude gameplay environments: As an example, game designers will rough out a space, like a junkyard, planning the player’s flow through the map/mission.

Script gameplay: As an example, if junkyard dogs are supposed to rush out at a given moment, some (technical) game designer sets up some trigger logic to initiate this event.

Convey cohesive vision: As an example, after analyzing tons of competition, a game designer might look at the game holistically and try to articulate the overall tone and nature of the desired experience, then communicating this to team mates.

Precious Pug

My ex-wife Rebekah and I had to make a tough decision today; we put Loki to sleep.

Over the last few years, he’d lost his hearing and most of his eyesight. He was occasionally experiencing seizures, his balance was starting to fail, and (perhaps worst) he had a perpetual cough, caused by the slow collapse of his windpipe.

After a bad incident today, Rebekah called so we could talk it over. Putting him down seemed like the best decision; a way to spare him ongoing deterioration and suffering. It wasn’t a quick decision, as we’d discussed it off and on over the last few months.

He’d been part of our lives, together and separately, for over 15 years. I have a hundred stories about amusing or interesting things he did during his life. He was a great dog and will be missed.