I hope you are all doing well playing and or making the games you love! So it has been a while since I have wrote an article as I have been working on my Podcast Level Design Lobby
But I just got the urge to start writing again and boom here we are now, joined together by these pixels on the screen #Philosphical. Putting my ramblings aside, I want to talk about something which we see at all stage of development in all developers and that is Ego and what got me thinking about this was page from one of my favorite books which is 101 Things I learned at Architecture School. On this page it talks about managing one's ego.
Now when I am talking about Ego I do not always refer to this feeling in a negative way (but ego is not often spoken about in a good way for a reason) Ego is a thing that drives us creators on a small level, the fact that we think people will Want to play something that we create. It can be the propelling force which gives us the confidence to take that first step and make our dream game, or push us to make sure what we are going to deliver is up to our own standards, that this a (Insert your name here) Prop, level, game, code, animation, etc.
Those examples are all positive as it can drive us to do better and drive us to want to learn more, but it is also a negative trait which can cause arguments and blind you to see the damage it is doing to the game.
When making games it normally (but not always) takes more than one person to make it, you will work as a team and with other amazing people. Which is one of the best parts of working in this incredible industry. Yet as I have stated in other articles as well as others have said as well, when working with a team no matter the size it can be very hard to unite everyone's vision for the same game. This is no one's fault, it’s just when I say Giant Robot I guarantee that everyone reading this has a very different image of that robot in their head. It can be like this when making games, whether it is a level, a mechanic or a prop.
Now this is where ego can come in and cause a problem if you do not keep it in check. Because you may have envisioned not a robot but a level in a certain way compared to your team mate.
** Quick side note before we continue not only are you working with amazing people but you are working some incredible people who have some amazing skills in a different field of development from yourself. Which is great because when a team comes together then the product will truly shine, yet because of your discipline you will look at a different aspect of let's say a level. An example for a level, artists will look for the mood of the level, how to tell the story of this location through all the visual cues and props. While a Level Designer will look at the metrics, cover placement, how to guide the player through. Side note over **
Back to Ego now as I said in the side note different disciplines will be working on a level with you and when creating and reviewing a level they will be looking at different areas to you and sometimes Ego will creep in here as people want to push their work to the spotlight here, as for example artist may want it to be the best art showcase, where it will look so breathtaking yet this can come at the cost of metrics or flow, Or an LD can just focus on the game play in space and make sure that they focus on this layout for the cost of a believable looking space.
So this is when debates will start to happen because one of these elements may be causing issues with another. Now if this does happen we can all be blinded by are ego as we believe what we have done is going to be so great and people will be blown away but what has been made. But I will ask you to stop and think is what you are fighting for, does it benefit the game or just your ego?
It is easy for us to get wrapped up in this, as you have just spent days, weeks, months on something to have someone wanting it to change. Yet how can they not see how good this is? This is the best n only choice for the game!
Well that right there my friend, sounds like ego talking and not you.
I want to tell you when I was blinded by ego, back when I was doing my degree. I was working on a group project. There was 15 of us in total, we had leads for art, level design and animation. I was in charge of the 2nd of the third level in which players had to investigate this abandoned building to make their way to the roof. I had to construct three floors before reaching the roof.
It was on the second floor which is where my ego blinded me. There was in total 6 rooms on this floor and five of the six rooms has a some sort of combat or puzzle in a room which meant that there was no downbeat or breathing room for players. Yet individually these gameplay sections were good and had some good puzzles.
My lead spoke to me and said that there was too much gameplay on the second floor, yet as I said I loved these puzzles, had put a lot of time in them and knew individually they were great. I was blinded by my ego, I was looking at how good they were individually to see the bigger picture. I spoke to him and said no I was not going to remove them, just give me more time and I will prove to you that keeping these here will only make the level great. He was kind and smart enough to let me take this part of the level further into development. Because it was then after more of the pieces and levels came together that I saw my lead was right. It was way too action heavy, player’s started to get more and more frustrated that the could not breath, wondering when it would end.
It was after this I learned my lesson. I had a lot of cool ideas and I wanted to show off my abilities as a designer that I lost sight of the game. I was too close to the situation due to making it and also already envisioned the next stages, how it will feel, look and play in its final stage. I have since then learned from my mistake and make sure that ego is always in check.
I want to pass on these next steps to you, which is to breath and take a step back, assess if you are doing this for your own work or truly for the good of the game. It is easy to be caught up in the Ego but really sit down and hear what others are saying.
Enjoy the process, really listen to the what is being said by others, try to see their point of view and understand the purpose of what you are making. We all want the best for our game, we all want the players to love it, for it to be a critical and financial success. Never forget to ask yourself the question,
“is this for the good of the game or for my ego?”
Thanks creators for taking the time to read this article, I hope you found it useful. If you want to hear more of my thoughts I have a podcast called the level design lobby, and you can reach me on twitter @MaxPears
Have a nice day everyone.