Beware the 'Genius Game Designer'

In this reprint from the April 2010 issue of Game Developer magazine, Matthew Wasteland takes us inside the private devlog of that game industry menace, the Genius Game Designer.
We've probably all met That Guy -- heck, we may have even been That Guy (or That Gal). In this reprint from the April 2010 issue of Game Developer magazine, Matthew Wasteland takes us inside the private devlog of the one true gift to the game industry, the Genius Game Designer. Dear Design Log, One of our testers came up to me today and said, "Remind me why we have the fireballs in this game?" This guy obviously has a lot to learn, especially if he wants to be a designer like me. It's obvious that fireballs not only look cool, they're an important part of any game that takes itself seriously. What awesome game can you think of that doesn't have some kind of fire-based attack in it? Correct. There isn't any. After further argument, he said there was no "use" for it -- fireballs damage enemies the same as the sword. So I decided I would add doors that only open when you throw fireballs at them. That'll be a good reason to have a fireball spell. -- The Genius Game Designer
I was just playing World of Warcraft when I was struck by a flash of inspiration: our game should have EPIC BATTLES. Working on the e-mail to send to the rest of the team now. -- The Genius Game Designer
Tomorrow will be the first playtest session where we put this creation in front of the unwashed masses. I don't understand what the point of this is, but I guess the publishers wouldn't know brilliance unless other people told them about it. It sucks that I'm supposed to take it seriously, though -- they just invite people in off the street! How will rabble like that be able to recognize my art, let alone appreciate it? It's ridiculous. I asked the studio head why they couldn't recruit playtesters who actually understood the kind of game I'm making here. If we got some of the people who post a lot on the forums on my official website, for example, I think we'd get much, much better results. It isn't easy being a genius game designer.
Dear Design Log, Today I upped the damage on the Sword of Cutting. But then it made the enemies too easy, so I raised their HP, too. -- The Genius Game Designer
Big meeting today to discuss what we should do if the player doesn't time his or her Spell Ring correctly. In order to really encourage them to get it right, I proposed having the spell damage the player instead of the enemy, take control away for 30 seconds while they stagger around, and add the failure to a permanent "number of times failed" statistic that gets uploaded to an online leaderboard ("loserboard," as I like to call it). Some of the other guys were wondering if that was too much, but if there aren't consequences, it doesn't matter, right? Plus, it's hilarious. -- The Genius Game Designer
Dear Design Log, Just dealt with a bunch of playtest feedback. Some people said it was unclear how to actually enter the Temple of Sorrows, so I put in a request for the sound guys to record a line of your sidekick saying, "Come on, we have to get in!" which will repeat every 10 seconds. The urgency will prompt players to figure it out faster. There's a lot of misunderstanding about the use of fireballs, even though the loading screen with all of the controller mappings CLEARLY states that fireballs are used to open doors, not harm enemies. Players are so stupid! Anyway, I've now got some help text set to pop up any time the user hasn't cast a fireball for more than 30 seconds that says "Press X to shoot fireball." I was upset with the player's comments about being "unengaged" with the story, so I put in more detail as to why the Chogoth Empire blockaded the Council of Riversong in 523 Q.F. and the resulting outcry from the Keepers in some unskippable scrolling text at the beginning of the campaign. That will really inspire players to rally to the Baldonian cause! -- The Genius Game Designer
Time's running out. I've got to put the finishing touches on this gameplay masterpiece I'm creating. The EPIC BATTLES that I wanted never really came through even though, I wrote an e-mail about it a long time ago. I think I'll quadruple the number of enemies throughout the game and increase the rate at which they cast spells at the player to once every couple of ticks.
Yeah, so, the lead programmer yelled at me for trying to make our game better. Whatever. It's his fault the lame engine can't handle the awesomeness. Going to go complain to the studio head tomorrow.
Dear Design Log, Well, the reviews are in. I'm pretty proud of what I did, but the game didn't score well because of the bad tech we have and the fact that the sound guys didn't make the spell effects loud enough. I need to find a place that appreciates my talent! --The Genius Game Designer

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