Chris Avellone Talks Game Design on Gamasutra

Blogger Anti Danilevski's lengthy interview with RPG designer Chris Avellone is featured on Gamasutra's main page, and rather than focus on particular titles that he has worked on throughout his career, the Q&A deals with game design as a whole, the Kickstarter craze, psychotropic narcotics (yes, slightly bizarre), and more. A rather interesting chat, I daresay:

We had a big discussion earlier who IS a good game designer. How do you see it? Is it a rare thing, or anyone can be a game designer and no special talents is required? One more thing about good game designers: what the most important perks they should have? May those perks be trained somehow?

I combined these two questions because they have a lot of similarities.

So - there's traits to being a game designer that don't require formal training. And some that are. If I were to break down the natural elements:

- The ability to want to entertain others before yourself. Designers recognize they are providing a service to their player, and they do what they can to make them feel good about playing the experience they've designed.

- To step outside yourself and take note of what other people find fun. This ties into the point above, but the willingness to listen and watch to see what makes others happy, and then craft an experience based on that is important.

- A willingness to do research in your own genre and love of your own genre of games and a willingness to push the envelope in that space to see what else can be achieved.

- This is very true of large teams, but the ability to communicate via text, via art, via a prototype, or in person why an idea is fun, inspire others, and sell them on an idea... and carry that energy into the design itself.

- This is part of the trend above, but recognize the execution of an idea is important, not just the idea itself. If someone told me they had an idea for a man who dressed up like a bat and fights crime, that might sound pretty stupid at first... but it all depends on the execution. Give ideas a chance, don't discount them at first mention, try and imagine how they could work.

- Give critiques, not trash talk, there's a huge difference. (Opening doors in your game sucks) vs. (I'm used to the A button being the action button in most games I've played, so the fact it's assigned to the B button in your game to open doors is something that seemed counter-intuitive to me.)

- Scope yourself. You can't do everything you want with a game. Know when to hold back and know that the game can be much better for NOT including everything and the kitchen sink in the design.

There are more elements: the ability to critique and analyze designs, training yourself in other disciplines (environment art, animation, scripting, UI), playing your own work, constantly researching new tools, challenging your ideas with others... often, some of the best design ideas come out of debating and arguing those same ideas, and some of the worst ideas justifiably die the same way.


Probably this question will go unanswered, but I must try. When you prepare Kickstarter campaign... how much money should you invest to make it successful? What were your investments - maybe not in money, but in people hours?

About 2 months of at least 5 people prior to the project, as a guess. I don't have the actual numbers. The biggest investments to make are:

- Don't skimp on a good video. That can make/break a KS.

- Your concept artist is going to be busy throughout making art for the page, for journalists, and for updates. Art will help sell your idea more than anything, and if you don't have a gameplay prototype (or even if you do), then your artist needs to concept out why the game will be fun to the public.

- You need a community manager at all times (your KS is going around the world, and the world never sleeps).

- Customer service to handle the influx of backers and helping them with their pledges.

- Marketing drive to get the word out.