Mad Cassander about the nuances of game design education in Russia

    Oleg's text , published by me with his consent. We discussed this topic with him many times and it became for me that the habrasoobshchestvo would say about his thoughts. Past predictions come true, will these come true?

    For reference: Oleg is a poet with 20 years of experience, editor (with education in the specialty "Book Business"). On the other hand, he has an unfinished physical.-Tech. education and working specialty "Computer Operator" of the 4th category.

    Oleg always amazed me by explaining things that are usually fogging, simple and clear, translating academic language into Russian. It was he who explained to me what “free-play” is and why rhyme in modern poetry is completely optional.

    Around 2010-11, Oleg realized that video games could be art, and from time to time began to make heats into game design theory. Including independently studied the engine Love2D and made a couple of games on it. Over time, interest in this business grew and became more and more stable - but the paradox of the simultaneous lack of quality and an oversupply of poor-quality information led to the need for independent speculation.

    And now I give the floor to Oleg:


    If you rewind my tape of posts in the VC for a little more than five years, you can see two such records:
    I
    July 19, 2013
    Original
    For several years now, I have been pursuing the idea of ​​creating a school of computer games developers. Game design, in short. There are several reasons:
    1. I myself would not refuse to learn from it and get quite a nice profession (yes, I have an idea what it is);
    2. It's a shame for the power. Historically, the contribution of Russian citizens to the gaming computer industry (in terms of product production) is very small. On the other hand, part of the contribution was not properly assessed.
    3. Сейчас весьма поднимается сектор инди-игр. Игр от энтузиастов и малых студий. Благо, интернет-системы позволяют относительно легко продвигать и сбывать свою игру. Крупные гиганты игровой индустрии становятся все менее творческими, выпускают все более стандартизированный мэйнстрим. А игра — это не та область, где мейнстрим рулит.
    4. В мире растет кол-во стран, признающих компьютерные игры новым видом искусства. То есть люди, в своей массе, уже готовы осознать творческий и эстетический потенциал игры. Геймдизайнер вскоре повсеместно будет осознаваться кем-то сродни режиссеру или писателю. Имена Бенуа Сокаля, Джордана Мехнера, Джона Кармака и т.п. рано или поздно войдут в массовый культурный код наряду с именами Акиры Куросавы, Льва Толстого, Люка Бессона и т.п.


    II
    Aug 16, 2013
    Оригинал
    Я это, к чему… Уже не в первый раз замечаю, что предугадываю тенденции за несколько лет до их появления. Так вот пишешь концепции себе в стол (потому как окружающим меня людям они нахер не нужны), пишешь, а потом глянешь — а уже где-то кто-то подсуетился и вуаля. Имеет с этого бабло и славу…
    Спорим, через два-три года кто-то родит функционирующую школу геймдизайна? В Москве, естес-сно. Новосибирску-то она зачем...


    And so, yes. The topic of profile education in the domestic game-devils was actively discussed sometime in 2016. And the boom of domestic courses for game designers began about last year (ie, about 4 years passed instead of the projected two or three), and courses began to appear everywhere and around the same time in different places. And even at the Novosibirsk State University (Novosibirsk State University), this year they launched a master's course in game design.

    And here , for example, a fresh discussion of the topic of online education in game dev. It is noteworthy that, increasingly, the users of such courses are people, not only from distant professional fields, who are not even having any gaming experience. And the fact that one of the participants directly says:

    “Foreign colleagues have a much higher bar. If my students can go to work only on Match 3 or farms, then in Europe such boundaries simply do not exist. ”

    By the way, two years ago I tried with a leading podcast to discuss in writing the prospects for publishing game design textbooks in Russian - and I received an answer that they were “not needed, for whom they should read it in English”. Well, well, I said to myself then =) When I speak English at the school level (and this is the majority of our citizens, whose profession is not connected with the need to be aware of foreign developments in their professional field), we need a very strong motivation to read it has a professional prof. literature.

    And now the question arises: how to raise a good game designer (the key word! For the issue of the lack of "good" game designers is still relevant, judging by blogs, forums and even permanently open vacancies).

    No, I answer. For the time being, education is based on the transfer of existing professional experience that is practiced in current courses. Because it is an experience of reproducing similar workhorses hovering over numerous clones of casual games. Workhorses are, of course, important, necessary and even honorable; but they are developing and raising the industry to a qualitatively different competitive level, completely different types, whose thinking is very different from the grooves.

    Simply put, game design should be a creative discipline based on a deep understanding of the theoretical background. And judging by the published curricula that I’ve come across (they are, by the way, pretty much the same type, as if taken from a single source), many focus on the practice and development of free-to-play games (mostly mobile). That is, they directly bring up an approach to game design - as a tool for making money through the use of primitive marketing moves ("primitive" here - does not mean "bad / inept," by no means; rather, mechanistic, even behavioral, that is, based on basic psychological reactions spherical player in a vacuum). I am speaking now of this on the basis of the typical course of “basic game design” that I have completed. And this is when any analyst clearly shows that about 80-90% of players prefer not to be fooled by all these tricks. Simply speaking - they play, but they do not pay (or rather, they pay indirectly - by “watching” tons of advertising).

    Again. Domestic gamedev is built on games that make money by displaying ads and by about 10% of direct paying players. But since it is still pretty easy and huge “grandmother” - all seem to close their eyes to the fact that their approach to the creation of games, in fact, is irrational.

    Here, for example, the curriculum on Netology. Eight blocks (the number of hours of theory and practice is indicated in brackets):

    1. Introduction to Game Design (6/2)
    2. Gameplay and game mechanics (4/4)
    3. Gaming space design (2/2)
    4. Interface Design (2/2)
    5. Prototyping and balancing gaming systems (4/4)
    6. Narrative design (4/4)
    7. The Basics of Game Production (4/4)
    8. Marketing and sale of games. Post-release support (8/8)

    Total 64 hours of theory and practice. It seems to be pretty and seductive. But think, please. System design (2-4 blocks) is allotted exactly the same time as one monetization block and its associated analytics, i.e. ¼ course.

    But an excerpt from a review of one of the students: “Cool lectures in the second half of training”; “Excellent information on writing a plot, on drama and narrative (still, long live Narrative, one of the few really adequate courses, but unfortunately or fortunately specializing only in the narrative aspects of the game - author's note). Excellent infa on balance, analytics and monetization ”; “The first half of the training is very boring and obvious, but perhaps for beginners it is needed.” That is, the actual system design here, obviously, is given formally and in the form of kopipasta, I would venture to suggest, from the well-known lectures of Jan Schreiber(By the way, for a minute - there are 20 lectures. Karl! Approximately 80% of them are dedicated directly to the system design of games, with practical tasks, their analysis, and lists of references for independent reading; the remaining 20% ​​are related to issues related to it. And neither words about monetization).

    Here is another online course of 22 lectures divided into 6 modules.

    1. Introduction
    Lecture 1 Games can be done by everyone
    Lecture 2 What the game consists of (analysis of basic concepts)
    2. How to start developing the game
    Lecture 3 How and why to write a design document (refs, sections, goal)
    Lecture 4 How to put monetization in game design
    Lecture 5 Prototyping in game design
    Lecture 6 Monetization of the game on soft launch

    3. Game mechanics
    Lecture 7 Basic about mechanics
    Lecture 8 Game variety and balance
    Lecture 9 Tutorial / FTUE and game cycles

    Lecture 10 Hold / Return mechanics
    Lecture 11 Narrative: how to make history in the game

    4. User experience, content production and genre features
    Lecture 12 UX general: and how the player will come up with this
    Lecture 13 Level-design
    Lecture 14 Features of user interaction on the example of mobile shooters
    Lecture 15 Game Design Social Casino

    5. Game Economics
    Lecture 16 Gaming Economy Analysis
    Lecture 17 Basic principles for calculating the balance: time and resources
    Lecture 18 B The basic principles of calculating the balance: a fight

    6. Monetization
    Lecture 19 Producing
    Lecture 20 Promotions in games
    Lecture 21 Personalization of the store according to users' archetypes
    Lecture 22 Post-sale experience and return for re-purchase

    I highlighted the bold lectures, presumably concerning at least a little system design issues - approximately of the course.

    I think a couple of visual illustrations are enough. I am glad, however, that at least in the capital district there are a few enthusiasts of the young scientific discipline Game Studies. I am glad that interesting publications began to appear more or less regularly on the Runet, not on the practical issues of "monetization" or "how to make a successful mobile #genrename", but on a theoretical and comprehensive analysis of the phenomenon of video games and their perception as an art, not a craft.

    I met the forecast (already, I don’t remember, unfortunately, where) that the mobile gaming market will soon start to burst, because this is an economic bubble in the stage of final saturation. And it is quite similar to the truth.

    This means that competition will increase dramatically. And the zero situation will repeat, when the domestic gamedizs cleverly abandoned the need to establish system development, to capture the underdeveloped and promising at that time market niches of mobile and online games that do not require high qualifications at that time. This case was successfully solved (by the way, largely due to simple copying of western developments in this area; judging by the omissions, reverse engineering is a very popular method of game development in our studios). But the moment is coming when it will still be necessary to upgrade qualifications and develop the skills of a truly creative approach to creating games on any platform ...

    This is what I? This is me to the fact that I have a well-established idea of ​​how to solve the upcoming case. But since I am not letting out a single game (even if unsuccessful in terms of game demand), anonymous Cassander is a couch analyst with insane twists in terms of a philistine approach to game design, this can all be buried under the plinth and wait for the same thing to come to mind current leading specialists.

    And now the actual prediction.


    In a few years (maybe a year, maybe four, maybe all ten - now it’s difficult to predict the time period), domestic game devs will finally formulate a request to Game Studies specialists to compile a learning complex (educational and methodical complex) that comprehensively covers the process of developing high-quality and innovative video games that can seriously compete with Western ones not only in the market of casual genres, but also in the field of middlecore and hardcore games.

    This CMD will include a full-fledged two-three-year curriculum, focused not only and not so much on developing the skills of drawing up design documents and other accompanying documentation, but will also include a philosophical, aesthetic, cultural, and pragmatic background.

    The best graduates of this course will be demanded immediately to the position of leading game designers, bypassing the junior stage.

    And only under this condition, domestic video games will be able to seriously compete in the international market, including the market of casual games, which by that time will collapse to an adequate size.

    Postmortem


    In fact, of course, this will not happen) The inertia of the idea of ​​easy money, based on spying and mindlessly copying each other, is too great in the domestic game-dev. The rooster will crow and peck in the ass for quite a while before anyone remembers and sends his employees to study in the West, paying them scholarships (and in fact - collect and copy training courses, as has already been done with the courses of Jan Schreiber).

    And at this time, really original curricula and training manuals and dizdocs, which by that time I hope to finish, will be gathering dust on my desk. What is really interesting - by how many percent does all this coincide with the developments that will exist in the future I have described?

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