Talking about measurement is a highly effective way of dividing games designers into non-overlapping segments. (An even quicker way to do this is to talk about experimentation. That’s awesome. But this one works really well, too. )
I had a fun time doing this last night at BAFTA’s games question time. BAFTA lined up a great panel for the event, drawn from this year’s crop of BAFTA award game nominees:
• Dan Connors – CEO, director, founder, Telltale, Inc, The Walking Dead (@telltalegames)
• Mike Bithell – Creator and game designer, Thomas Was Alone (@mikeBithell)
• Jessica Curry – Composer and co-director, thechineseroom, Dear Esther (@jessicacurry2)
• Barry Meade – Co-founder and director, Fireproof Studios Ltd, The Room (@Fireproof_Barry)
I’m really interested in the different ways that game dev teams collect and use feedback about play patterns in order to improve their designs.
So I grabbed the chance to ask the panel whether they had been able to look at how people played their games, and whether that had inspired them to change their designs. I dropped in a reference to MBA’s swinging into the room on trapezes, equipped with machine guns, just to keep it real. Just as I’d hoped – lots of fun ensued.
I’d summarise the reaction as follows – corrections welcome:
The Walking Dead – used post-launch stats about which characters got fed in order to figure out which characters were most popular – so that they could later mess with your mind and change the story in response…
Thomas Was Alone – did face to face pre-launch testing with 10-20 people on each level, to see how it worked and what peoples’ reactions were, which was invaluable – “at the moment I’m just learning so I take all the feedback I can get”, was Mike’s reaction
Dear Esther – set out to make a game that would have minimal possibilities for interaction and agency, and wouldn’t be replayed, but they found that people did replay it, sometimes 6, sometimes as many as 25 times – but that didn’t affect what they would do in the future, as they were pursuing a vision which was independent of people’s reaction to it, like all great art
The Room – looked at the stats but it didn’t tell them anything that they didn’t know – they knew people would get stuck on a certain level, and they did – Barry’s take was basically that “we don’t have the type of game where metrics would help”.
Someone (Jessica or Barry, would be my guess 😉 – said that anyone who changed something in the game because of a number was….. (I didn’t scribble down the exact phrase as I was too busy laughing, but the gist of it was something a bit to the south of “not talented”). I didn’t really take proper notes so there’s plenty I missed – but perhaps if BAFTA put the talk up online I’ll be able to add to this. Corrections and comments welcome.
[Update March 6th: highlights from the Q&A have been posted online on the BAFTA site.]