The joke goes: An expert game designer is 20x more effective than a newbie. They are correct 20% of the time instead of 1%.

Why are game designers wrong 80% of the time? 🧵
Sometimes they are wrong by a little. Sometimes by a lot. Is it poor planning? Are they morons? An expert painter does not produce a completely broken picture 80% of the time. Why is this so hard?
I lay a lot of blame on the much larger gap between authoring a thing, experiencing the thing and revising.
- Many types of media (like drawing or painting) allow for real-time 'self-playtesting' with the author as the playtester.
- Game design does not.
When I draw, I am constantly engaged in a tight real-time iteration loop of authoring marks, viewing the marks, reacting to the experience as a viewer and adjusting the next steps. There are 1000s (often tens of 1000s) of feedback iterations.
Same goes for writing. There are larger editing passes that occur at lower frequencies, but even within those passes, I'm in a real-time create-experience-revise loop. The first draft is really the 5000th draft of the 'self-playtesting' process.
Now, when writing and drawing, I can't predict *exactly* how someone-who-is-not-me will react. Death of the Author and all that. But an experienced artist and writer can often get within the ballpark for a familiar target audience. Sad scenes are sad. Happy pictures are happy.
Contrast that with games. :) Some issues where the create-experience-revise loop breaks down.

1. Much longer iteration times. If I'm lucky it takes minutes to make localized changes and test them out. More typically it takes longer.
2. Due to interdependencies some changes can't be fully experienced by the player until months later when all systems are fully in place. I just worked on a game where it took 1.5 years before we were able to test the basic flow and balance. This is *common*.
Imagine having to paint a picture blind and wait a year before you can look at it and see if you painted it correctly.
3. Game developers often are corrupted playtesters. Many games involve mastery and knowledge. The designer, due to knowing what they know, becomes blind to issues new players will face. Empathy only goes so far, even when designers roleplay the 'new player'.
4. Other systems (social systems, emergent complexity, proc gen, randomness, exponentials) are just hard to mentally visualize. We can plan them out, but the experience of playing them is often (deliberately) a surprise.
There is no accurate 'self-playtesting' for these systems. A game designer's has limited ability 'play the game in their head' and so real (slow) playtesting is required.
I don't know of a perfect fix for any of this, but we have some tools.
A. Sketches: Movie makers (who also have extended pipelines) create low fidelity animatics that get to viewing the experience faster and cheaper. Game developers create prototypes that serve a similar role. It doesn't work perfectly for all systems, but better is than nothing.
B. Genre expertise: Teams keep rebuilding games in the same genre over and over again. It might take years, but eventually you get to those 10,000 iterations. In large part, this is how expert designers even get up to that not-so-respectable 20% rate.
C. Community playtests: A large population of players + live development (early access, games-as-service) maximizes playtest feedback. Richer feedback can help counterbalance the slow iteration.
D. Content systems friendly to late-stage fixes: If you know that you are almost always going to be making big changes due to late feedback, you can build flexible pipelines that are easy to refactor.
A proc gen system that creates 1000 levels constructed from modular components and centralized formulas is easier to tweak than 1000 handmade levels. Neither change is safe right before release, but at least the former is feasible.
E. Planning up front. There's room for more waterfall style approaches. Particularly if you are reusing code, tools and have an experienced team. It works for things you know that you know. But this is surprisingly limited in other areas that comprise the bulk of game design.
So unlike writing or painting, the meta of game design is painstakingly building a process where you can iterate as quickly as possible, while making as few changes as possible, while still enabling big change to be feasible late in the process.

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More from @danctheduck

7 Jun 19
Read the Spirit AI interview on RPS with interest. It shows how hard it is to have a conversation about community moderation.

Three perspectives:
- Wronged user
- Moderator
- Social designer
1. User perspective: "I have been wronged/abused/etc. Mods should make it stop immediately. They are clearly in the wrong from a unarguable moral standpoint if they do not." Black and white, zero wiggle room.
2. Human mod perspective: "OMG, torrents of comments. Cold reality: It is very difficult to track all conversations, reports, etc. We do our best, but often even minor games would need lots of human bodies just to keep up with players 24/7. Budget is a thing too."
Read 16 tweets
8 Jan 19
Hello! I'm a game developer and today I turned 45. Some say this is older than the allowed max of 25. Still making games. Still excited about the future. (self-indulgent thready-thread)
All the accomplishments that I'm most proud of happened after 35. It took time to learn. And make contacts with matching souls. Turns out the average age of a successful entrepreneur is 45? Huh.
Before 35, the rest was learning. Often horribly accidental. 3-4 careers, marooned for years in cultural wastelands. But those side paths taught me critical life skills. Met my wife. Worth it.
Read 6 tweets
29 Dec 18
We started out with 1 currency in our F2P games (Triple Town, Steambirds Survival) and have switched over to multiple currencies.

Several reason for this (of which obfuscation is not one) (thread...)
1. Easier economy balancing. Each currency maps to a functional area of the game. If one area of the economy is imbalanced, you can tweak sources and sinks for that unique currency. And not imbalance other areas.
2. Better player goal setting. You want to clearly signal player goals and progress towards those goals. A specialized currency enables:
A. Players see thing they want
B. Grok currency needed
C. Do the activity to gets the currency.
D. See progress as currency accumulates.
Read 5 tweets
15 Nov 18
The poison of a social network is this:
- Humans invest social energy in reciprocal relationships, building future support.
- Time spent reading and liking tricks our brains into thinking we have support.
- But in most cases, when a crises arises, there is nothing there.
There's a cruel math.
- A human struggles to have ~150 meaningful relationships.
- When following someone with >150 connections, you've entered into a relationship blackhole.
- No matter how little you give, you are spending yourself on acts that will never give back. A drain.
In real life, to listen to someone involves signaling to them that you are listening. You can build relationship off such small loops of gaze and attention.

With social media, this channel withers. You may read avidly, but unlike gaze, the act is one way. Energy out, never in.
Read 4 tweets

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