A question from Chris Norris:
Greetings, Mr. Avellone
I saw your lecture at Framework 09 and was deeply inspired. I am currently studying to be an animator, but writing and design speak to me more than art or animation does. I was hoping I could ask you a few short questions?
1) I've looked at transferring to a games design degree and they teach classes such as physics, programming (LUA, C++) -and- manage to pack one or two art classes in there as well. I am wondering if these classes are actually necessary. As a designer, do you find yourself needing to know physics and programming? They seem somewhat irrelevant and the course structure as well seems schizophrenic with all the different subjects they pack in.
2) I admit I smiled when I heard you ran possible scenarios for BIS games with your development staff. I have to agree that that is an excellent way to gauge a written scenario and receive quick feedback. However, do you think it a faux pas if one mentions one does gamemastering during a job interview for a design position? What do you think are helpful things one should say during such an interview?
Thank you very much for your time!
PS - Very much looking forward to Alpha Protocol.
1. No, it's not mandatory, but it does help to understand scripting, physics, and programming. Same with art.
Any designer who can script their own AI tactics simulator to test squad behavior, automate testing routines for balancing alien enemy one-on-one fights, or can hop into 3D Max and block out their concept for how they want the boss fight scaffolding to be set up, is going to have an advantage over any designer who can't.
Ideally, you want to be constantly working to broaden your knowledge base across all departments, both for ease of communication and to see ways of accomplishing your designs that you may not have realized. Being able to speak in the language of another department's toolset or editor can get your ideas across quicker as well.
2. No, it's not a faux pas to bring up gamemastering, as long as you have concrete materials you developed for the sessions that are applicable to the position, and they can be presented in design document format. For example, when running dual campaigns at Black Isle, I wrote a lot of explicit direction for cut scenes, mapped out Denver, mapped out scavenger camps, detailed out all the stats and voice direction for 30+ salvagers, did all the quest lines, dungeons, boss critter stats, weapon charts, and loot tables for the city, and trust me, that stuff is pretty damn relevant in most RPGs out there. A lot it made it into design documentation as well, some of which is already out on the net. Ferret Baudoin also did gamemastering for scenarios that took place in Neverwinter Nights 2 while we were at Obsidian for the NWN2 original campaign, and that was a lot of fun.
I will say it's much more relevant to actually have done design in a computer game mod or module for NWN1 or NWN2, however (whenever possible, you want to make a submission that someone can load up and play), so if you have time and the choice, do it from the computer game development angle, not the pen and paper game angle.
Note that if I got someone in an interview and they said they did gamemastering, it's not the kiss of death, far from it. I would have a number of questions, however - first off would be the system they use, what house rules they made and why, how do they incorporate PC backgrounds and traits into the campaign, how long they've been running the campaign (and if it fragmented, how often and why), and finally, what the player turnover rate is in the campaign (there are GMs who run a lot of campaigns, but the best sign of being a good entertainer is how long people stuck with the campaign because they were enjoying themselves).
Hope that helps.