The Lazy Designer

The Product

This post, “The Product” is somewhat tied into my earlier post about passion from a few days ago. And I’ve touched on the concept last year as well. I just wanted to dig into it a bit more here.

I have always created content for others. It is what I do. I remember the second or third grade and producing a radio show with the ‘advanced’ kids (I was not actually one of the advanced kids but for some reason I got to do projects with them). 

A few years later I was writing comic books and then building Dungeons and Dragons adventures. And then I started fiddling with programming and creating games. Always I continued writing.

I like building things with my imagination. I also like having an audience. 

Developing videogames with BioWare was a dream come true. A lot of that was because I was creating product… a physical entity that could be seen on a store shelf by a customer and then picked up, carried to a counter and purchased. I loved walking through the aisles with friends and pointing out the titles I had worked on. I didn’t do this to be arrogant (usually). I did it because I was proud. I knew the effort that went into building the product… all the drama behind the scenes and the sacrifices made. 

Before I joined BioWare I had a more significant salary offer on the table… a straight up programming job building cogs in a massive software enterprise. There would have been customers but never a product. 

It was an easy decision for me. I wanted to build things that people wanted. I wanted to build a product.

One of my faults as a designer was that I did not embrace the concept of ‘digital distribution’ readily enough. This was not because I did not understand the appeal of being able to purchase and download software digitally. 
It was because I did not like it.
I wanted to create a product. Even though for some it probably seems bizarre to consider software as a physical entity, it was, when I started in the industry. It had a box, and sometimes maps and other goodies inside of it. So I was reluctant to push for digital distribution.

That was a mistake.

Likewise, as a writer, I love the physical book. There are magazines I want to see my stories appear in. I want to be able to point those magazines out to friends when I am in a store. When my novels are published I wanted to do the same thing.
 I do not know if this will happen. By the time I get a publishing contract… will there be bookstores? Or only the ‘big names’ carving out a little space in the Walmarts and such of the world?
My friends and family seem more excited now when I tell them a story reprint of mine is able to be downloaded onto the Kindle or Sony Reader or Kobo. They are less excited by the prospect of a print magazine sale that is difficult for them to obtain.
I’m not there yet. I am not as excited about a digital sale as  I should be (or even about the idea of pushing my backlog into a digital format).

(A bit of explanation for long term blog readers — I’m a huge fan of reading stories and novels digitally… I just want my own content to appear in print. Yes, I’m allowed to be contradictory.)

Still the world changes and I believe in learning from our mistakes. For me it will require a rethinking of what a product is… a game doesn’t need a box and a cloth map. 
The product is not diminished by lacking physicality.

Perhaps it is even enhanced, especially if the potential audience grows larger.

Former lead designer at BioWare (Dragon Age: Origins, Neverwinter Nights). Creator of Raiders of the Serpent Sea.

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