Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Musing on iterative creative perfection

The film ‘wanted‘ was on TV here again recently. I’ve seen it maybe 4 times now, and although it has lots of men shooting guns, for once it’s a film like that I really like, mostly because the actual gun bits are irrelevant. It’s a film about breaking out of a rut, in a job/relationship/life you hate, and becoming someone important and doing something you believe in. No wonder I love it.

For me, the highlight of the film is the last 10 seconds or so. To sum up, it’s a scene of the hero shooting the bad guy with a sniper rifle, but it’s SO much more than that.

I have no idea how the scene was written but I imagine it went like this. First, the writer decides that the hero shoots the bad guy (after distracting him) with a sniper rifle. Hurrah, a happy ending. Job done Ship the movie. It’s cool.

But then in re-examining it, the idea occurs to shoot the scene backwards, so we follow the bullet back to the gun. ++cool. Then, later, the idea occurs to do this in slow-mo with a voice talking over it. ++cool. Then the next day, thinking about the scene again, the idea for the decoy to be marked in post-it notes. ++… Then the idea for the bullet to go through the donut, then for it go through the drinks can, then for it to be a multi-part bullet, then for the sniper rifle to be huge. Then… the coup de grace, for the hero to break the fourth wall and deliver the last line to the audience. Genius.

You could have written the final scene in 2 minutes. To make it as good as it is probably took a LOT of passes. A lot of attempts to improve it. A lot of effort, a lot of time. I’ve never been confident enough to go to those kinds of lengths with my games. I think I probably should do.

(yeah I know that photo is from a different scene, couldn’t find the one I wanted :D)

7 thoughts on Musing on iterative creative perfection

  1. But how would that translate into a game?

    You start with the desired outcome and then the player has to setup the conditions needed to achieve it?

    Or would that just mean iterating on the games mechanics and their uses, e.g. bonus points for trick shots?

  2. Many puzzle games work like that. But I think he was focusing on the fact that any simple element or idea can always be enhanced greatly to exceed its initial expectations.

  3. Iteration is so fundamental to game design and engineering. Isn’t the Agile software development process based on it? Also, this made me think of Sid Meier’s 5 Rules, where the first is meant to cut down on the number of tweaking iterations so you have time for the juicy creative ones.

    Arowx, I recall your posts on IndieGamer, TIGSource, and the Unity Forums, you’ve certainly been busy! I’m pretty sure your second definition is what we’re talking about, though I’m sure players iterate on their optimal strategy in a game as in the first choice.

  4. I am nonplussed that critical cliffski likes this movie of all things :)

    When I stepped out of the cinema after “Wanted” I was honestly convinced that it was the worst movie I had ever watched. To me the opener came across as an appeal to naive juvenile thinking, a la “you’re all drones and I’m the only one with dreams”, trying to strike a cheap chord before spamming me with aimless sex and gore.

    Maybe the creativity needed to come up with curving bullets and snipers shooting over a ludicrous distances deserves some respect :p

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