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Feature: Four Lessons To Overcome 'Designer's Block'

In a new Gamasutra feature, sound designer Brad Meyer (DJ Hero) offers four lessons to overcome "designer's block": Listen, Review Your Work, Simplify, and Co
In a new Gamasutra feature, sound designer Brad Meyer, who has worked on titles including Spider-Man: Web of Shadows and most recently DJ Hero offers four lessons to overcome "designer's block." While he calls his lessons "common sense," they are often overlooked: Listen, Review Your Work, Simplify, and Collaborate. "'Designer's block' may be as simple as drawing a blank on how to approach designing a difficult sound, but it can also be a more fundamental problem such as falling back on stale, tired tactics just because 'that's what I've always done,'" Meyer explains. "There are many causes of designer's block: extended crunches, poor design direction, a loss of inspiration, etc." Game makers should listen to their surroundings, and be observant in general. "Often we relegate our listening to games and movies within the same genre or period, but I suggest evaluating all pertinent media," he says. "If you're working on a space action game, listen to a sports game, and you will likely be surprised that there are ideas to be mined," Meyer continuues. "When working on a real time strategy title, check out some first person shooters. There are sonic elements in every game which we may not be thinking about, yet can be co-opted, refined and applied to make our design stronger." Reviewing your own previous work can also yield benefits," Meyer says. "In looking at our old projects, we can borrow our own best ideas, concepts, tricks and lessons learned from these past experiences and evolve our current methodologies by incorporating the best parts of what we used to do with the positive aspects of what we have learned since." Simplifying the design process and the sound itself is also a way to overcome creative hurdles. "For example, a character's punch may have some clothing and gear movement, a whoosh sound and an effect sound tied to a visual trail," he explains. "If these are all designed separately we may not even realize they are all there until mixing the game. Sound design can often sparkle when we remove some of these elements in order to let others shine through." Finally, there's the lesson of collaboration--opening up and talking to colleagues about ideas, exchanging concepts and feeding on each others' knowledge and creativity. "...Use your mouth instead of your ears and talk with other people. There are myriad ways to discuss your ideas these days, from social networks to message boards, and there is always much to be learned from discussing ideas with co-workers, friends and colleagues." Read the full Gamasutra feature, which has lessons and tips applicable to areas of game design beyond audio.

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