Monday, April 16, 2007

Think Happy Thoughts

My occasional reading of Click Nothing has found me this link to a demo of software trained to make you "think happy thoughts". No kidding.

Anyone care to pop their bubble? Anyone?

Ooh, me! Meeee!

This is a pattern recognition game. But it's not smiles that you're learning to recognize. Because they only have half a dozen smiling faces, I started to learn to identify them by their faces rather than by their expressions. However, because there were enough of them, this actually ended up slowing me down as I would pan past a face I didn't recognize, even though it was smiling. I imagine that if I kept playing the game, I would eventually have a complete filter. But it's such a bad game, who would do that?

At the end it said "improvement from your best time to your worst time: 26%!"

Yeah, except my "best time" was the first round, before I started automatically "optimizing" my gameplay, and each round thereafter was worse.

Maybe I'm autistic. Maybe I'm just too hardcore a gamer for such straightforward games.

Or maybe the game design is deeply flawed, as are all games made by outsiders who don't have a pro helping them.

You wouldn't want a psychologist to design your car, would you? Even if it's a happy car, you aren't going to be happy when it breaks down every mile. Psychologists (and other people interested in games) need to get professional help. Har har.

Fortunately, it appears they realize that - Click Nothing is going to help them out.


Patrick said...

Maybe you're mildly autistic, too hardcore a gamer, and their design is deeply flawed. ;)

But you're absolutely right. I've seen this issue plague some serious games I've seen, but more than that, the casual segment seems to be suffering quite a bit from the same problem. On that end, a few programmers think they can make a game, but nobody knows how to design something novel and test it. So they clone. Overseas development in India/Latin America/Eastern Europe/South East Asia also suffer from an expertise shortage. My point is that being a programmer, in itself, doesn't qualify someone to design a game.

Clint said...

Well, popping bubbles is a lot easier than inflating them I guess. Yeah, the game does not work as a game yet - you're seeing 5% of it, there is a limited data-set, and - you're not wrong - there are some important design problems.

Therefore we should publicly mock them to prove how we are smarter and better instead of helping critically analyze their design and providing meaningful and/or useful feedback. Let's label them outsiders and state that ALL games made by non-game-designers without the help of a 'pro' are necessarily flawed. You know, games like... chess. I hope you (or anyone 'bothering' to read this) won't include me in the group of 'pro-designers' who you are 'on the inside' with.

I spent two hours with them this morning (our very first meeting) and raised all of the trivial and obvious concerns that your oh-so-wise post raises. We also discussed at length a handful of other problems. You're playing a pre-release mock-up of 5% of their game concept and saying it's 'such a bad game, who would (bother)'.

Well, I would bother - but maybe I'm just an unwashed 'outsider'

Your premature and elitist attitude not only makes you look foolish, but also implies that the jurors, mentors and industry advisors who have evaluated and promoted this team to the second round of Telefilm's competition are incompetant despite having significantly more information than you.

Craig Perko said...

Yup, that sums it up. I'm a rabid monkey. I also fling feces. It's quite a sight.

I've seen too many of these games. They all reek of poor design, but the psychologists/moralists go on and on about how they are doing something, proving something, etc. Then they're surprised when their boring, badly designed games fail to catch anyone's attention.

And they get funding to do this!

What would you rather I have done? Sent them a private email which, as you pointed out, covers things that you'll cover anyway? Ignored it entirely, thus contributing by silence to an epidemic?

You want an easy fix? Have a smiling and frowning version of every face, so you're not pattern recognizing faces. Why didn't I suggest it? Because you're helping them, so I knew it would come up without me.

These are not trivial concerns. They may be basic concerns, but they determine whether the game works at all. And it doesn't. Even as a 5% mock-up. (Presumably, the best 5% - why would you choose a bad 5%?)

That's what you're there for, right? To fix their beginner's mistakes.

My goal is not to fix their mistake, but to try to keep other people from making the same mistake.

Which, yes, I do by flinging feces.