Sculpting, not painting

Matt Jones on Dopplr and spacetime, from IxDA 2008 Need to get to that conference next year I think. (Go check out Dopplr if you haven’t already, and sign up if for no other reason than to admire the beauty that is their design.)

In the presentation one of the things Matt talks about is the process used to develop Dopplr, which mostly revolves around discussing and sketching concepts until it seems about right, then just building it quickly. Once it’s built you can see if it works or not and start making changes. He mentions that Boris has a turn of phrase for this which is excellent, “sculpting, not painting.” I love that, it really gets to the heart of what prototyping and working with testable pieces is all about. If you want to see this in action in a great pressure cooker, hit up the Game Design Workshop at GDC where the instructors will encourage you to get something, anything, playable ASAP. Once it’s playable you can start shaping it with real world feedback, sculpting the game and letting the process take you to nifty places.

Huzzah! Quit painting design documents and start sculpting your game!

The path to Interaction Designer parallels Game Designer?

This post at Coroflot, Sidestep: Interaction Designers, and How They Got That Way, covers the diversity of backgrounds and fuzziness that surrounds the definition of Interaction Design. While reading it I was struck by the parallels to Game Design more than once

  • “…as companies large and small seek interaction designers to do…well…whatever it is that they do.”
  • “For those of us not in the field… it can seem a bit of an esoteric, shadowy art, attracting the attention of media and employers, but without knowing quite why.”
  • “It’s a difficult to define field because it’s both extremely broad and relatively young–though not as young as you might think: the term dates to the 1980’s, meaning there are in fact seasoned interaction designers out there with 15 and 20 years of experience under their belt…” [I haven’t traced it yet, but I’d guess that game designer dates from the 70’s.]
  • “Interaction designers I spoke with at Intel and Motorola came from Graphic Design and new media backgrounds, and were able to tick off a lengthy list of fields from which their professional colleagues emerged: engineering, programming, motion graphics, psychology, cognitive science, sociology, and perhaps the occasional anomaly who actually started out in an IxD program.”

Although clearly there are differences in perception, “…in addition to the young cubs we might imagine negotiating six-figure salaries.” the other quotes are all issues that Game Designers face regularly. We work at the point where the user enters the system and a million little factors affect that experience, making it inherently nebulous to those outside of the field. The problem is severely compounded because our language of design is currently very limited. We continue to crib terms from other fields to describe what we do, or have conflicting definitions. “Fun”, anyone?

One line stood out to me however, that I think highlights the challenge of explaining the importance of both Game Design and Interaction Design:

“What also makes the questions hard is the feeling that Interaction Design is something that happens anyway, with or without the input of Interaction Designers.”

Game Design has this problem as well, everyone working in games has played a game leading to the “everyone is a designer” syndrome. Horror stories and personal experience abound of producers or other authority figures, making ridiculous requests for changes to a game because they feel their experience as a player makes them just as informed as the designer. We a,re aided somewhat by the complexity and scope of most games, it’s clear that someone has to architect that experience and define it. For an Interaction Designer I imagine that having an interaction perceived as straightforward (using a web page for example) makes justifying their contribution a more uphill battle. Or perhaps it’s an oft repeated but short uphill struggle with each new client.

A good article, and I think it’s time to dig into the Interaction Design world some more. Perhaps they’ve answered some of the questions we’re wrestling with in games.

The Wii and 1:1 Motion

Wiimote by Andy Terletski
The biggest problem with the Wii Remote? It makes porting from another platform a pain. I’m dealing with this right now on a project that is all about digital inputs. Precision and snappy response times are what matters, as it’s a very oldschool game at heart. It uses most of the buttons on the PS2 controller, which means it overruns the available buttons on the Wii Remote very quickly.

At first I wrestled with this by trying to come up with some inventive control scheme to take advantage of the motion sensing functions of the remote. I found a couple of workable solutions, but nothing that came close to the efficiency of the PS2 pad.

At the end of the day all I had done was mask digital inputs with more complicated analog actions. Continue reading “The Wii and 1:1 Motion”