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About this blog

a sembian, cormyrean, and dalesman walk into a trade bar...

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building better worlds

building better worlds

Oh. Hello there.   I wanted to put some ideas into words to help express what it means to build a world at Obsidian. It takes a lot of time and effort from a boatload (dirigible-load) of people, but there are some guiding principles that keep us focused on building worlds we love that we hope players will love, too.   No matter what the flavor of the setting may be -- fantasy, sci-fi, modern day espionage... a town in Colorado -- worlds are places we want to explore filled wi

J.E. Sawyer

J.E. Sawyer

high-level writing principles

high-level writing principles

At work, we have a lot of rules for how to write. These range from punctuation (single-spacing after terminal punctuation) to spelling ("all right" vs. "alright") to structural (where a "goodbye" response should be relative to a "start combat" response and where that should be relative to a "friendly" response). Every project has a document (or documents) on the specific guidelines for that project. In spite of all the details, there are certain high-level principles that tend to be common. Okay

J.E. Sawyer

J.E. Sawyer

tunin' tips and tricks

tunin' tips and tricks

At work, I am often directly involved in an aspect of game design that not all designers really deal with: system and content tuning. This is the process by which system rules and content are adjusted to produce a specific effect for the player. E.g. you want the player to feel like he/she really gains a great advantage when he/she gets the raccoon tail in Super Mario Brothers 3, so you space out the frequency of raccoon tail powerups and you make sure that the raccoon tail's flight powers allow

J.E. Sawyer

J.E. Sawyer

1-bit alpha

1-bit alpha

I dream of a day when 1-bit alpha will go away. It looks terrible. There are excuses for why we have to do it right now, but MAN does it look bad. Tree leaves with 1-bit alpha? Horrible. Hair with 1-bit alpha? Awful.   I have a dream. Share this dream with me. Together... we can make it real.

J.E. Sawyer

J.E. Sawyer

clarity of purpose in system design

clarity of purpose in system design

One of the most important attributes of a good designer is the ability to apply critical thinking to any aspect of a game. At a convention recently, a bunch of game developers kept repeating how important critical thinking was. An audience member asked, "Well, what is that really?"   There's this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_Thinking but that doesn't necessarily give anyone a good idea of how that is applied to game development. One thing we often ask applicants at Obsidian i

J.E. Sawyer

J.E. Sawyer

Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 (review)

Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 (review)

I played GRAW2 back-to-back with Rainbow Six: Vegas, and I found the former lacking in many areas. Though I would say elements like the GUI, level design, animations, and sound were reasonably solid, the core gameplay itself was often frustrating. The problems were a culmination of bad AI, a poor command interface, some other generally clumsy mechanics, and story/dialogue elements that could have been much better.   Your teammates are not very effective. Not only do they fire their wea

J.E. Sawyer

J.E. Sawyer

Rainbow Six: Vegas (review)

Rainbow Six: Vegas (review)

Caveat lector: I have not played any of the other Rainbow Six games, so I did not come into this title with many expectations. Also, I'm just jotting down thoughts in no particular order.   This was the first game I've played for more than a few hours on my Xbox 360. It felt easy to get into. Though the game had a lot of mechanics, they were introduced step-by-step, though I think I might have missed a few tips along the way. The controls seemed sensible for the most part, but switchin

J.E. Sawyer

J.E. Sawyer

Video Games: Mature Themes

Video Games: Mature Themes

Even video games with good writing are usually banal and puerile in their content. The exploration of themes in games is typically shallow and any didactic purpose the writers attempt to achieve is usually aimed very low. When an eleven year-old already inherently comprehends and accepts the lesson you are trying to impart, you know you're not dropping the bucket too deep into the well. A converse problem is that the themes being explored are so far outside of a player's daily concerns that they

J.E. Sawyer

J.E. Sawyer

rpg mechanics 'n stuff

rpg mechanics 'n stuff

I have written before about the strange position occupied by RPGs in modern computer gaming (PC or otherwise). In summary: tabletop RPGs and most of their CRPG kin were born out of mechanics necessitated by the realities of playing a game with dice, paper, and pencils. Everything was either uncontested expression on behalf of the player or a simulated contest governed by probability. Modern PCs and consoles can now, with a fair amount of accuracy, simulate movement, lighting, perception, and vir

J.E. Sawyer

J.E. Sawyer

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