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Josh Sawyer on "the importance of real-world knowledge for game design"


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I think this is quite relevant to the PE board since that's the game he's currently designing!

 

 

If he went camping in the Mojave desert & partying in Las Vegas for Fallout: NV, what adventures has he gotten up to for Project Eternity? I'm sure the frequent D&D sessions (as evident by Josh's twitter) are part of it!

 

Good design practices are good :).

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"What if a mid-life crisis is just getting halfway through the game and realising you put all your points into the wrong skill tree?"
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Surely, Josh donning Don Quixote's fallen mantle and bringing with him the good squire Sancho "Feargasaurus" Panza on a Medieval sightseeing in France, Spain, the Balkans and Turkey is a given. I hear that nearly all the wind mills have tumbled down in these regions. Wonder why?

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*** "The words of someone who feels ever more the ent among saplings when playing CRPGs" ***

 

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Got to agree with Mr Sawyer on this, the fantastical really only becomes so when the reality of the world and its internal consistency is detailed and logical. Tolkiens hobbits starved and were exhausted, the fellowship were stopped by bad weather and locked doors, Boromir was corrupted by desperation and a deep seated fear, none of this took away from the more fantastical portions of the books, they added to them as being otherworldly.

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Quite an experience to live in misery isn't it? That's what it is to be married with children.

I've seen things you people can't even imagine. Pearly Kings glittering on the Elephant and Castle, Morris Men dancing 'til the last light of midsummer. I watched Druid fires burning in the ruins of Stonehenge, and Yorkshiremen gurning for prizes. All these things will be lost in time, like alopecia on a skinhead. Time for tiffin.

 

Tea for the teapot!

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Yes it's good to have a detailed, life-like setting with realistic touches. The problem usually comes when you get fed cultural information through a firehose (of numerous in-game books) and then little or none of it turns out to be applicable to your gaming experience. 'Show, don't tell' works for RPGs as well. :)

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"It has just been discovered that research causes cancer in rats."

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'Show, don't tell' works for RPGs as well. :)

I'd make that my #1 mantra if there wasn't the saying 'correlation does not imply causation'  :geek:

 

The video makes me look forward even more to the 'making of' documentary, I wanna know about all the hoops they've jumped through :D

Edited by mstark
"What if a mid-life crisis is just getting halfway through the game and realising you put all your points into the wrong skill tree?"
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I'd hate to think that the devs of PE are running themselves into the groung researching too much into various other walks of life.  There's a really patronising acornym that I use in my industry; SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound.  When you look at the community reactions to things (like crafting and durability) it can be a bit out of proportion to what is achievable in a kickstarter - and I say that in full ignorance and confidence because we haven't seen one of this scope yet.

 

It's all good. I expect Obsidian know where to lay their resources.  Maybe you guy's could do what InXile did and hire some boffins to inform the developers - or grab some teachers (they get crap money in any part of the world), pay 'em for a few hours or in expensive coffee to conduct an interactive professional devlopment session.  Don't blame me if you get a boring one though. ;(

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I suspect to someone like Josh, this is more of a lifestyle than a task he's trying to finish. I'm naturally curious, and as a kid I was always interested in inventing stuff. So research has been a part of my life from as far back as I can remember. In the example I eluded to above, my project was stuff that built upon a foundation and grew over time. It would be similar to how George Lucas created Star Wars even though he started with a general idea, but was heavily influenced by Buddhism and Joseph Campbell. 

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I think this is quite relevant to the PE board since that's the game he's currently designing!

 

This just makes me feel that these people really love what they do and are willing to pursue all avenues of "research" to make great games.

I feel even more confident I will love PE.

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Fireball...get it.(no holy granade) Research conjuring a fireball and translate that into the game version, hehe. No but seriously, there was something about BG approach to it that no other game has really captured later and I played a lot PC RPG. Or I was FR virgin and no other setting has satisfied me the way Bg forgotten realms did haha. Had hopes for shadowrun, but paying for spell upgrades didnt sit well with me. Spell strength should increase with skill or lvl.

 

Sawyer has good points, but magic, the one we are used in high fantasy can best be approached through other fantasy settings. Although I would like if they are mostly influenced by DnD setting.

magic021.jpg

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I wonder if Josh is thinking of attending any Medieval and Renaissance Enthusiast clubs. They like to do sword fighting and period costumes etc. Although I imagine Josh is well served with his love of history, it is quite another thing to see it being played out.

 

P.S I also like the t-shirt;

 

~ I like the three bears. I would lol if the reverse had Goldilocks on it.

Edited by Tuckey
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I'd hate to think that the devs of PE are running themselves into the groung researching too much into various other walks of life.  There's a really patronising acornym that I use in my industry; SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound.  When you look at the community reactions to things (like crafting and durability) it can be a bit out of proportion to what is achievable in a kickstarter - and I say that in full ignorance and confidence because we haven't seen one of this scope yet.

 

It's all good. I expect Obsidian know where to lay their resources.  Maybe you guy's could do what InXile did and hire some boffins to inform the developers - or grab some teachers (they get crap money in any part of the world), pay 'em for a few hours or in expensive coffee to conduct an interactive professional devlopment session.  Don't blame me if you get a boring one though. ;(

 

Hey Chippy, just curious what is the difference in Measurable and Timebound in your acronym you use?

 

Do you ever feel like you might be holding yourself back by keeping everything so structured? For example, when I was in college I was on a financial scholarship, and it was my impression that if I ever dropped below a 3.5 I would lose my scholarship. So I kept that in the back of my mind I had to make a 3.5 GPA. I never even thought what the possibility of me getting anything less. However I never considered myself getting anything more. Well at the end of the semester I ended up getting exactly a 3.5 GPA, even though I couldn't exactly create an environment to make that happen. I just did the best I could. Then I had an epiphany, I thought maybe I could get a 4.0 next time. I didn't really change anything from how I worked before. I just knew I wanted a 4.0 GPA. I managed to get it for the next 2 semesters in spite of having more challenging classes. 

 

I agree your goals should be specific, and to some degree measurable, but as far as achievable and realistic it might limit your potential. I remember one time I normally had two or three art pieces to create over a month, and I had to create minimum of 15 for this project. I was scared to death at first, but I just pushed myself more than I ever did before, and at the end of the month I had 19 pieces to show. Once I did that, I knew I could do anything. All that to say I think creating a structured environment to limit distractions can be an excellent method to help people, and prevent feature creeping on a project. However the stronger the base, the more you can expound upon if you decide to create a sequel or supporting merchandise, such as in PE case, they could make comics, books, board games, etc.

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Apologies for not using you or Obsidian as an example as I think it would be beyond patronising, but it's really about a persons independent ability
(or type of advice given them) to formatively assess their situation and then make a summative assessment on progress made which then reflects/evaluates
on further formative progress.  If you'll permit me to say, I think you did that by achieving that final grade. 

 

Using measurability for crafting or items as an example though: BG1 did it by making it clear that non magical weapons were easy to come by, but broke every
once in a while. Elminster wrote in the manual that magical weapons were needed for certain creatures, but the player could see the expense of that venom
dagger and still had access to some basic +1 stuff early on, and -because it's either magical or not- damage is measured by character stats and consistant weapon stats.
So the player has now been given this subtle timebound target to equip their party with magical weapons, but not too much pressure to buy those expensive
items early on, and can do the mines as an early quest that solves the brittle weapon problem.
If they didn't read the manual, went off the beaten path, they could always run away from that magical critter irrispective of equipment & spells.

 

Skyrim failed at both a measurable and timebound smithing target though as "You can get to master smithing straight away".  So one player might assess that
skill loading bar, the numbers towards 100 and reach the conclusion to get to 100 by crafting loads of daggers at the sacrifice of several hours playtime. 
Unfortunately, you level up, and the game gives you access to all the higher tier ingots - completely invalidating a players measurable increase in
skill/iron dagger damage output by allowing you to craft a better tier dagger.

Another player might assume that the game assesses the player's abilities/equipment and is laid out to provide gradual increase in smithing.  But it doesn't
as enemy scaling will kill you quick, and there's an article somewhere where a Bethesda dev 'assumes the player will have this equipment at this level'. 
They assume the player is able to independently measure this stuff as the game scales.
 
Timeboud would have been either limiting access to higher tier ingots, only allowing access to craft certain types of weapon armor at higher skill levels
(maybe accessible through training), implementing schematics like in Arcanum or seperating sharpening so that it was only allowable through sharpening
stone use that is rare to come by - real life knowlege/example like quality sharpening stones being rare as quarries are shut down due to lack of military demand and introduction of man-made substitutes. Then the player could level up in smithing, the enemies and items would scale with them and they could still roleplay by crafting better equipment because it could be measurably better than what they found.

 

So in BG1's example I think limiting and providing sensible targets aided roleplaying, whereas in Skyrim's example I think 'shooting for the stars' hamstrung it.

 

I find SMART is just a handy acronym to streamlines my thoughts.  Although this is without a doubt one of the most self important posts about a subject area I
only know as a client I've ever made. :geek:

Edited by Chippy
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I think it's a simple matter of realizing that you're obviously going to have limitations while also realizing that believing you can guess the exact coordinates of the border between the realms of Can and Can't is folly.

Edited by Lephys

Should we not start with some Ipelagos, or at least some Greater Ipelagos, before tackling a named Arch Ipelago? 6_u

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7yfLwMds5c

Edited by JFSOCC

Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
---
Pet threads, everyone has them. I love imagining Gods, Monsters, Factions and Weapons.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUyK_J_W4BI

 

Edited by JFSOCC

Remember: Argue the point, not the person. Remain polite and constructive. Friendly forums have friendly debate. There's no shame in being wrong. If you don't have something to add, don't post for the sake of it. And don't be afraid to post thoughts you are uncertain about, that's what discussion is for.
---
Pet threads, everyone has them. I love imagining Gods, Monsters, Factions and Weapons.

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josh is... wrong. some o' the weakest aspects o' obsidian games is the portions in which josh gets to infuse reality such that it impacts more than mechanics. is unfortunate, but you can see the clumsy way in which josh infuses reality into games with caeser's legions in vegas, and the honest hearts expansion. reality, in and of itself, is not a valuable addition to a game, particularly story-driven games. get accurate key geographical features o' vegas into game is interesting to nobody but locals who recognize as genuine. get roman legion elements right w/o making legion characters intriguing is pointless. use reality to make evocative is a good thing, but am thinking that josh tends to get distracted by making the details match reality rather than using elements o' reality to make game more interesting. make Real is not same as making good, compelling or evocative.

 

“In the writing state—the state of inspiration—the fictive dream springs up fully alive: the writer forgets the words he has written on the page and sees, instead, his characters moving around their rooms, hunting through cupboards, glancing irritably through their mail, setting mousetraps, loading pistols. The dream is as alive and compelling as one’s dreams at night, and when the writer writes down on paper what he has imagined, the words, however inadequate, do not distract his mind from the fictive dream but provide him with a fix on it, so that when the dream flags he can reread what he’s written and find the dream starting up again. This and nothing else is the desperately sought and tragically fragile writer’s process: in his imagination, he sees made-up people doing things—sees them clearly—and in the act of wondering what they will do next he sees what they will do next, and all this he writes down in the best, most accurate words he can find, understanding even as he writes that he may have to find better words later, and that a change in the words may mean a sharpening or deepening of the vision, the fictive dream or vision becoming more and more lucid, until reality, by comparison, seems cold, tedious, and dead.”

 

that being said, am all in favor on real-world experience and knowledge influencing design. details o' reality may makes story or game more compelling. be able to accurate describe settings or activities with benefit o' first-hand knowledge can be adding evocative details that an audience will frequent find compelling. or not. a game, just like a story, can be too real to be compelling. aim for fictive dream and feels free to savagely eviscerate and rearrange reality. 

 

HA! Good Fun!

"If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

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While I don't agree with the above poster's take in referring to Mr. Sawyer as simply "wrong", I do agree that attempting to add too much realism to games can do more damage than it does good; there is little need to delve into intricate details in order to maintain the illusion of realism in a fantasy setting.

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I think that's exactly what Josh is explaining in the video. The more you understand reality, the more convincingly unreal you can make your game.

 

In other words, you need to understand the rules in order to break them. You can only gain understanding by reading, studying, and/or experiencing. Any author and designer worth his salt knows this and takes it to heart.

 

The most fantastic sci-fi and fantasy books I've read (Hyperion Cantos springs to mind) are those that incorporate a deep scientific understanding of our real universe, and yet manage to convincingly break all the rules.

Edited by mstark
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"What if a mid-life crisis is just getting halfway through the game and realising you put all your points into the wrong skill tree?"
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Day-um. I can't believe I'm actually seeing people argue that researching a topic before writing about it is a bad thing. O tempora.

This is the internet, people will argue that Twilight is better than The Shawshank Redemption.

"I am the expert, asshat." - Hurlsnot

"You need to be careful, lest I write another ten page essay on mythology and how it relates to Sailor Moon." - majestic

"I won't say what just in case KaineParker is reading" - Bartimaeus

"Oh no! Is there super secret ending as well? I don’t care." - Wormerine

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In other words, you need to understand the rules in order to break them.

 

The most fantastic sci-fi and fantasy books I've read (Hyperion Cantos springs to mind) are those that incorporate a deep scientific understanding of our real universe, and yet manage to convincingly break all the rules.

platitudes and anecdotal evidence? 

 

we has used the tired saw regarding knowing before breaking. it is a good guide, but it ain't some kinda rule in and of itself. also, am thinking it is more useful for mechanics than for conceptual in any event. think i gotta have some kinda serious knowledge o' pre-columbian south american cultures to be writing an entertaining fantasy based loose on incan legends? how much do i need to know? how much Rule is there needed to knowing before breaking is ok? with his basic grammar school education, we doubt Shakespeare were doing serious historical investigations to be creating his plays. in point o' fact, we doubts anybody would use Shakes as some kinda model o' historical accuracy. what rules were he breaking? America's greatest author (north, south and central) is arguably Faulkner. am suggesting you maybe take a looksee at his education and how he approached writing process. 

 

the most popular sci-fi franchise, by far, is star wars, and there ain't no freaking serious science in that.  for every kim stanley robinson you care to name (dan simmons probably don't count as hard sci-fi) there is dozens o' well-loved authors who only gots the most incidental and largely broken knowing of that which they is writing. anecdotal will not get us very far, particularly when it seems clear that the genuine scientists don't got some advantage when crafting popular or good sci-fi. we could do all-day-long the anecdotal thing as you introduced, but am not sure it would be helping. 

 

keep in mind we has said that first-hand knowledge o activities and serious scholarship may improve writing where author uses details to makes more evocative.  other end of spectrum is just as true, no? ignorance can be breaking suspension o' disbelief. if a writer is so clear lacking knowledge of Real, then anybody with even a bit o' genuine knowledge will be dismissive of the writer's work... though that threshold is hardly fixed. tv cop tasting cocaine or heroin drives us nuts, but you see all the time. just 'cause Gromnir is bothered by such things clearly does not mean that the insanity o' a modern cop tasting possible evidence that amounts to an unknown substance from an unmarked package is wacky enough to ruin suspension o' disbelief for most audience. 

 

infusing knowledge/reality to make evocative = good.

treating reality as a goal, in-and-of-itself = bad.

 

josh, it seems, frequent misses forest for trees. he wanna get each branch and leaf accurate. can't possibly have birches at such latitude. birch forests can't be near as dark as described. is implausible. and if you do got birches, the forest humus would not nearly be as dark and damp as described. etc. josh spends loads o' effort trying to get flora and fauna o' his forest accurate, thinking that doing so is important. to a certain degree it is... but josh gives disproportionate weight to such stuff. he ends up with a believable forest in which we don't give a darn 'bout what happens.  2  words: honest hearts.

 

HA! Good Fun!

"If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."Justice Louis Brandeis, Concurring, Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)

"Im indifferent to almost any murder as long as it doesn't affect me or mine."--Gfted1 (September 30, 2019)

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