The Lazy Designer

“Cool” – The Most Dangerous Word in Game Development

There used to be a joke around the office that whenever anybody started a sentence with “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” we would immediately reject the idea*.

That might seem somewhat callous but the truth was (especially in later stages of development) there were far more cool ideas than practical ideas. People could see the game’s potential (a good thing) and wanted to improve it (a good thing too). But as a manager it was important to know when to draw the line. And often if the best the team member could start with was “wouldn’t it be cool…” then I became concerned about how much thought had gone into the new idea.

Evaluating how ‘cool’ an idea is, is very difficult. You have to look at it from the point of the view of the player, in the context of how the game is intended to be played (i.e., some ideas get proposed because the game is not working the way it should… the idea makes sense until the game is complete… at which point it turns out to be unnecessary).

Also when evaluating a new idea I’d always want to know the impact on other departments (even a strong design idea, that seems to impact designers mostly, will often have an art or animation impact). It is one thing to create work for your own department, another thing entirely to be adding tasks to other departments.

So, before you rush down to talk to your manager, take some time to work out, not just how cool the idea is but its impact on everybody else. Have an idea of all the costs… it will make it easier for your manager to approve the idea.

On a side-note, this is one of the things that I love about doing my own writing. When I wake up at three in the morning with a ‘cool idea’ that requires a massive revision to my novel, adding weeks of work to it, I have only myself to blame.

* (To be fair, on my early projects, I used to be the “wouldn’t it be cool…” guy… always walking into the programmer’s offices and throwing suggestions at them. Despite the fact that it might be nine or ten in the evening and everybody was wanting to go home).

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

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