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

Games look (or feel) like their owners.

One of the best things about the indie dev community is that you get to meet a lot of people from all over the place who wouldn’t otherwise necessarily meet. You can be an indie dev living anywhere (although its harder some places than others), and more than ever before, they come from different backgrounds. I find people pretty interesting (ok, I find 0.1% of people interesting), and I do find myself doing a bit of pop-sciency amateurish analysis of people. When you do this with creative people it gets rather fun.

I find it very amusing that when you meet Tim (wicksteed, designer of big pharma) he basically *is* big pharma. Its truly his creation. He is always happy and upbeat and smiling and positive, just like big pharma. From my POV, Tim is young and modern, just like big pharma feels. The music is the clearest indication of this. The music is like Tim. The game is bright and cheery. Tim made a game about curing people.


When you play Gratuitous Space Battles 2, thats me. If you haven’t met me, just watch a few minutes of the battles and listen to the music. Thats me. Thats what my brain and my soul is like. it’s lots of explosions and power and drama and a voice shouting ARGHHHHHHHH at a billion decibels whilst smashing things. The game is dark, over-complex, ambitious and pushy. Cliff made a game about destroying everything.


It’s kinda funny how games made by just one person really are a window into their soul, and their personality. Mike Bithel basically is Thomas Was Alone. If you introduced me to a random line up of 100 game developers I’d never met, and told me one of them did a game about repressed rectangles with feelings, I’d know it was Mike. And after playing TWA, I know mike probably reads the guardian and is a vegetarian. Mike made a game about friendship.


And this is awesome. It means that entertainment really is connecting us to people. That gives us empathy, and opens our mind in the way that ‘committee design’ never can. I have no idea who the designer of the Battlefield 4 games is. I imagine its probably Tom Clancy, more likely a committee of people with a tom clancy design manual. Who knows.

In any case, I think it is really good when games have personality. The absence of it definitely feels bad, like a farmville clone (or for that matter the original) designed mostly by people in the PR and accountancy department. The best artistic design is done by slightly crazy people who are drunk/drugged/suffering in some way, which drives them to think of things other people would not.

Don’t do your game design by committee, or with a spreadsheet. Let it just flow from your soul. If that means your games are downbeat, or dark, or whatever then thats fine too. Better to be dark than to be fake.

5 thoughts on Games look (or feel) like their owners.

  1. But Jeff Minter doesn’t look at ALL like ten thousand neon machine-elves having a speed-of-sound square-dance.

    (Then again, he does look very much like the sort of person who might be seeing such things at any given moment. Also a bit like one of his beloved ungulates. So I suppose that counts.)

    1. Not what they physically look like in a photograph. What their soul looks like, which is mostly observed through actions over time.

  2. Heads is a fake plastic smile on my face. Tails is a real lead bullet in someone’s chest. Is that better because it’s more real? What is real? Happiness, in this life? Despair, in this life? This life is soon over. Soon you’ll be dead, and then what?

    Nothing? Unlikely. Too much evidence against that, and far too many credible witnesses. The internet is full of fools who think they are going to live forever and want nothing more than to have made a few dents by the time they kick the bucket for good, but the saints say that this world is like a dream. They tell us that the soul is darkened by material fantasies and vain imaginations cobbled together from sensory experiences: unrealities made of things that in the end are revealed to be as substantial as fog. This is the cascade of sounds, images, words, ideas: sensations and mental constructs of greater or lesser sophistication and refinement. This is free thinking, creativity. This is all it is. It has nothing, sees nothing, goes nowhere, ends at death and crumbles to dust. All its products are the same; hardly to be differentiated. All these things will torment the empty soul that chased them and gathered them when they are gone forever, when reality becomes inescapable, when the dream ends. When you and I wake up, ready or not, from this introduction to eternity that we call our very short life.

    We hardly even know we have souls any more, but they are not even the highest parts of ourselves. What the soul knows, what it can do of itself, with the body or for the body or to the body, is nothing but a shadow of something much greater. As the whole body is like hair, or like the nails on your fingers and toes compared to your soul, so your soul, your whole soul with all it’s unfathomable depth, is to your spirit. What the spirit knows, what it can see… this is the only thing that matters: the uncreated light. The other preoccupations of the soul, obsessions with itself, with all created things, are only material darkness.

    But you’ve really got to be careful who you listen to about such things. It’s worth spending a lot of time and effort to find the right ones. It won’t be just one. It certainly isn’t you, and it certainly isn’t me. They are the saints….

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