Game Designer vs Game Programmer

This is a discussion on Game Designer vs Game Programmer within the Game Programming forums, part of the General Programming Boards category; Thinking about the fact that I'm learning AI programming just so I can get a job as a game designer, ...

  1. #1
    Loom Weaver the dead tree's Avatar
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    Game Designer vs Game Programmer

    Thinking about the fact that I'm learning AI programming just so I can get a job as a game designer, I searched a little hoping to find out who exactly one is.

    From my first try, I found out that Blizzard is looking for this. I was surprised that they did not ask for any programming or related skills explicitly.

    Here, a Game Designer tells a little about his job, and how
    if you have no direct experience, probably the best route into the industry, and game design in particular, is via a developer or publisher QA department.
    But you will also find fulfilling promisses of eternal joy like
    Imagine having a high paying job with flexible hours where you can wear jeans to work and play games all day. Welcome to the world of video game design!
    ... and how by reading a book you can ace an interview.
    These things seem to take the serious of a profession that if we really look into it, is still not consolidated, where many ( or most ) succesfull Game Designers have started as programmers, book writters and such.
    Here where I live, in Brasil, Game Design faculties have just started, and I am wondering if it is a viable option as a career.

    Of course, just as anything else, you have to be good at what you do in order to succeed, but what is the reality of a starting Game Designer?
    I know I definitely like reading more about Game Design theory, Philosophy, Psychology, literature than understanding linked lists and matrices, but is there really a choice?

    Maybe I should ask John Romero about this on his orkut
    Any insight is welcome.

    Edit: If anyone is interested, here is an article on gamasutra ( needs free registration ) showing how a Game Designer can benefit from other sciences.
    Last edited by the dead tree; 04-27-2005 at 12:22 AM.

  2. #2
    It's full of stars adrianxw's Avatar
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    I would have thought "game designing" would require a totally different skill set from programming.

    Given a design, many programmers could code it up, it is the vision to make the design that they mostly lack. Programmers tend to be into the minute details of things, not the big brush strokes on the empty canvas.

    In my experience, the best application designers tend not to be programmers. They don't want to have to worry how such a thing could be coded, they just dream on, and let us do what we do best.
    Wave upon wave of demented avengers march cheerfully out of obscurity unto the dream.

  3. #3
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    Programmers tend to be into the minute details of things, not the big brush strokes on the empty canvas.
    Couldn't have put it better myself.
    The programmer (in some cases) isn't the artist. You could almost say that as programmers we are tools of the designers.

  4. #4
    Call me AirBronto
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    I disagree with the both of the last posts. Many developers where once programmers or game artists. you cant really just jump into the developing carrer path with out working your way up. if you are a designer you need to know the limits of game making at the given time and also the possibilibites. so most companies like there developers to have a back ground in both art and programming and developing experence.

    and to the guy who posted this. there is now way in hell blizzard would hire a game developer with no experence in developing or an extensive back ground in programming and art.

    Equation to help with this explanation:

    LET: Blizzard = TheBest
    TheBest=Experence*GreatIdeas^KnowledgeofLimitsandP ossibilities

    you must fit this equation to get into the blizzard circle of awesomeness

  5. #5
    Crazy Fool Perspective's Avatar
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    >> if you are a designer you need to know the limits of game making

    If you are a designer you need to ignore the limits of game making. Thats where the visionary work comes in, let the programmers worry about the technical side. Designers that worry about limits are just limiting their creativness.

    >>
    there is now way in hell blizzard would hire a game developer with no experence in developing or an extensive back ground in programming and art.
    <<

    Experience i agree with, the other two Id have to disagree. You don't need to be a programmer and an artist to be a designer. For example, an avid gamer who writes sci-fi novels would have a decent shot at a designer position (though not a lead one as the link above describes.). Sure thats art, but not programming.

  6. #6
    Loom Weaver the dead tree's Avatar
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    I agree with what everyone said, because to me that΄s exactly what I meant by
    a profession that if we really look into it, is still not consolidated
    The lack of possibilities of a formal education in game design shows how uncertain the area is. Does a GD really needs to be an expert on programming, or just enough so he can communicate with others?

    I want to agree with adrian on this
    I would have thought "game designing" would require a totally different skill set from programming. Given a design, many programmers could code it up, it is the vision to make the design that they mostly lack.
    I belive I would benefit a lot more if I'd take the path of a Game Designer rather than a programmer, but how to start on that path is uncertain.

    If you read sites like gamasutra, you can see how a GD needs to study a lot of fields in order to be competent at game making. The problem is, as said before, to get the position of one you usally start as a programmer or artist. Some modeler from morrowind for example, ended up being a level designer, staying away from his field.

    Speaking of which, this is a job posted on gamasutra, for level designer at Infinity Ward:

    Level Designer

    Responsibilities:

    • Build and light realistic looking 3d levels for Shooters based on existing photo references, concept art, and game design docs.
    • Implement game play using both map entities and script.
    • Research the game’s subject matter.
    • Collaborate with the Design team to create and refine gameplay mechanics.
    • Prioritize well and meet dead lines, communicate progress with the lead designer well and frequently.

    Requirements:
    • Serious long term OMFG passion for First Person Shooters, Console or PC.
    • Demonstrable experience making fun visually impressive 3d levels for a recent and successful First Person Shooter.
    • Works well in a team environment. Strong communication skills. Takes and understands direction well, meets deadlines and handles multiple tasks.
    • Strong game design skills: must be able to intelligently discuss the strengths of weaknesses of recent games. Must be able to list techniques used to make fun FPS combat.

    Pluses:

    • Drawing/art skills.
    • Programming and or scripting experience.
    • Professional full time industry experience.
    Here art and programming are listed as pluses, and the part where it says "Must be able to list techniques used to make fun FPS combat." would probably make many programmers just stare.

    Any more insights welcome
    If anyone know places that offer competent, recognised education in GD in US or other country, please let me know, I would like to research some more.
    Last edited by the dead tree; 04-27-2005 at 11:09 AM.

  7. #7
    Call me AirBronto
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    Perspective:
    >>If you are a designer you need to ignore the limits of game making<<

    Yes it is true that game designing is an extreamly creative job and this quality should not be stifled, but the fact of the matter is that some things cannot be done at current times, with the specific hardware being used, and and with target consumer base. Knowing what these constraints are and a little about why they are, the designer can then focus his/her attention on what can be done and can then design the game based on that. Just becouse your mind is in a box dose not mean there are not endless possibilities within that box, it will just take less time to find the ones that fit in that box if you already know the size of the box. Knowing these things will also greatly help the designer and the team communicate efficiently with the rest of the team becouse the team will not have to explain it to him why something wont work. Yes it is true that sooner or later some constraints will be borken and surpassed and knowing about the subject will allow you to take it to the next level when the time is right, that is where understanding the possibilities comes in.

    Perspective:
    >>Experience i agree with, the other two Id have to disagree. You don't need to be a programmer and an artist to be a designer.>>

    Sorry about the 'and' between the programmer and the artist i ment to say 'or' agian. But if they are not a experenced designer then they will most likely be a ex programmer or artist becouse that is one of the only ways to rise though the ranks, meaning that it is necessary in most cases.

    Blizzard: for a game designer
    >>if we do hire someone, that person would have extensive experience within the gaming industry>>

    Since you just cannot jump to being a producer, a level designer, or a designer. One of the only ways to get the experence they are talking about is to be a programmer or artist.

    To: the dead tree
    DigiPen is a accredited university with degrees in game design
    and if you were to already have a degree in computer science there is a masters coarse now at Carnegie Mellon University for game related fields, and that rocks becouse Carnegie Mellon holds alot of weight with any thing computer related, being the best and all, so if it is from them you know it is good.
    Last edited by loopshot; 04-27-2005 at 02:36 PM.

  8. #8
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    I would have thought "game designing" would require a totally different skill set from
    programming.
    Agree with you here.

    Given a design, many programmers could code it up, it is the vision to make the design that they mostly lack. Programmers tend to be into the minute details of things, not the big brush strokes on the empty canvas.
    OK, I disagree with you here. The books and material I've read suggests game design is requirement or idea generating work. Stuff that is completely different from detailed system design.

  9. #9
    Loom Weaver the dead tree's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info loopshot

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