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Part Deux - Obsidian Communication.

Posted by Chris Avellone , 06 March 2007 · 1102 views

At the Game Developerís Conference, but more fun questions.

Do you ever feel limited by electronic forms of communication as opposed to in-person with your team? What about when communicating with gamers when in-person interaction is not possible?

No, itís more of an advantage Ė instant messenger, especially, makes asking a quick question to a team member a lot easier than walking over to them at times. And when teams start getting over 40 people, itís hard to simply walk a few feet over to ask a question. Also, electronic communication (and the decisions that result) from it are a lot easier to catalog and store for future reference or for incorporation into a design or technical document later on.

In speaking with gamers, electronic communication (usually via email or the forums) tends to work fine, since there's rarely opportunities to deal with all of them directly except at conventions or presentations. And with conventions (and Ferg and Josh can probably speak to this as well), it's usually presentation-style format for about 40 min with only 10 min or so for questions. (Although people can ask questions after the presentation is over.) I think the best interactions have been when weíve actually been able to demo the game personally in a booth (like we did for NWN2 at Dragon-Con).

What is the strongest aspect of communication a new employee could have? Does it change for vets?

It depends on the developer's role. I can speak for (non-lead) designers, and in that case, written communication is the best. The reason is (1) all design must be documented, (2) the documentation must be clear, concise, and cover all the design aspects for someone to implement (whether artist, programmer, or scripter), (3) it needs to be able to be transferred in its entirety to someone else with no confusion if the originator is hit by a bus, (4) and most of our submissions for design (aside from the gameplay) is in written format, so strong writing skills help sell pitches and game ideas to publishers.

For leads, however, having face to face communication skills is better, since their job is primarily to track what others are doing and make sure any issues people are having are brought to the forefront.

What affect does culture have on your game? Do you try to add or remove any content because X culture/gender/religion won't or will like it?

Plenty, especially with regards to "localization," the process of translating games into other languages. There are a list of requirements for each nation's localization procedure for what parts of game are acceptable and what is not Ė for example, Germans can't have too much violence or blood in the game and will not sell titles that are excessively violent, so that has to be taken into account with game design, even if it's something as simple as a setting in the code that switches out red blood for green blood (which is acceptable). Publishers and franchise holders also have a say in what content they find acceptable as well, but that varies according to the publisher.

Is there anything that enrages you?

Oh, yes. Many things make me mad.

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