Spector: Good design is “not about how clever and creative” the dev is

Wednesday, 4th July 2012 01:09 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Warren Spector’s famous sandbox-style gameplay leanings makes a return in Epic Mickey 2.

Speaking to OPM UK, the Deus Ex designer reiterated that his approach to design involves giving players problems and tools, not guiding them to pre-determined solutions.

“A lot of games are all about trying to read the designer’s mind. A designer creates an incredible puzzle and you have to try and solve that puzzle in the one way that the designer lets you,” he said.

“I don’t make games like that/ The games that I make are about offering problems to players. In Epic Mickey you’re constantly making choices. It’s all about you deciding what’s important.

“It’s not about how clever and creative I am – it’s about how clever and creative you are.”

Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two is due on Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360 in November.



  1. TheWulf

    That might be true, but how important is ‘good design’ as Spector sees it is the question. I’m not sure that his view on ‘good design’ is that relevant, at least it isn’t to me.

    I mean, the games I play are usually a little off the beaten track. Right now I’m loving the heck out of LEGO Batman 2: DC Heroes. And the reason I love that so much is because it has such a strong sense of fun, and a really creative spirit. It’s what draws me to the games Traveller’s Tales release.

    A lot of Tt’s attitude is basically: “We don’t give so much of a shit about gaming standards because we know this is fucking awesome!”

    Earlier today I was Man-bat riding around on a war-giraffe, combating evil robots. And… you know what? They’re right. That is fucking awesome. I think that a lot of games today fall into this pit trap of upholding the industry standards of ‘good design,’ and yet ‘good design’ can also be boring and uninspired.

    I hope Epic Mickey 2 doesn’t fall into that pit trap, because I’m quite looking forward to it. But if they’re so hell bent on upholding standards of ‘good design,’ then they might actually miss the point of making a game, and making a game that’s fun, or genuinely enjoyable.

    The fact of the matter is is that triple A developers these days tend to have their standards. Great graphics, a lot of polish, and so on. But the games are exceedingly tiresome. I can play one for 5, maybe 10 minutes and then I’m bored. Name me most of the triple A titles of late and I’ll tell you that that was my reaction.

    I’ve had more fun with indie titles, iPad titles, and titles that stray off the beaten track.

    So ‘good design’ can go to hell if it’s what the industry believes good design is. I think that something being creative, and either fun (if it’s a game) or intellectually and emotionally compelling (if it’s more of an interactive story) are more important values than trying to uphold some legendary standard of ‘good design.’

    Fuck ‘good design.’ Design isn’t law. (Sorry Romero.)

    Again, I just have to cite Traveller’s tales stuff, because they pretty much toss the notion of the industry standards of top-notch design out of the window, and they replace it with creativity, cleverness, and just general awesomeness. All of my favourite developers do.

    Whether I’m talking about MacGuffin’s Curse, Gemini Rue, To the Moon, Guild Wars 2, New Vegas, or Lego Batman 2, they all do a lot to shirk existing conventions and try to change how things are.

    I mean… let’s be honest.

    Assassin’s Creed is so much like Splinter Cell, which in turn is like Uncharted, which in turn is very much like the Lara Croft games, which in turn are very much like all other triple A titles. It’s like we’re playing the same thing reskinned over and over. So yeah, being creative and clever is definitely more important than good design.

    At least to me, anyway.

    But I don’t find the same old shit over and over as palatable as the majority of gamers apparently do.

    — EDIT —

    In fact, I think I’ll go over the games I cited to show why they’re clever and creative.

    To the Moon: The game is an interactive medium, but it doesn’t need to be stuffed full of ‘gamification’ (interactive elements which are competitive) in order to actually be compelling. Interactivity doesn’t naturally imply ‘gamification,’ and you can tell a genuinely poignant and compelling story with just the basics of interaction, and even just with pixel art. It shows that there’s a lot to explore within this area. In fact, To the Moon is one of the most memorable games I’ve played.

    Gemini Rue: The worth of slow pacing and that of a good mystery are present, here. A game that does its best to keep you guessing and speculating at the end, like Doctor Who when Moffat is at his best. How often does a game have you speculating as to what’s going to happen, simply because it doesn’t put the cards on the table right away? These days, game storylines tend to be kept simple, as many developers are worried that if they challenge us dimwits overly we might be less inclined to buy their games.

    MacGuffin’s Curse: It’s been long believed that puzzle games have to be flavourless affairs, where elements such as story and exploration can’t be a part of them. You can’t have quirky, enjoyable characters whom you look forward to meeting again in a puzzle game! That just isn’t done. Nor can you have genuinely warm and witty dialogue. The only other game that’s ever really achieved this is Portal 2.

    Guild Wars 2: With gleeful abondon GW2 defenestrates the rulebook for what an MMORPG can be. It tosses the competitive elements of PvE out, and makes it impossible to grief, and encourages large scale co-operation in a way that’s never been seen in a game before. And it does this without the need for raids or armchair generals. And it creates a living world, one where quests are not only needed, but simply just not present at all.

    New Vegas: This game proved that it was possible to overlay a complex, nuanced story over a triple A game, one where the more you explored, the more you dug into it, the more layers of it you’d find. And it managed to tie up all of these layers into an ending which completes it. It has an ending which reflects every action you took in the game, and leaves you with no questions. It’s an ambitious undertaking that hasn’t been seen before or since.

    LEGO Batman 2: “If it’s fun, we’ll find a way to fit it in there. We’ll create a new section, or even a new level just to work this in because it’s so fun. If someone has a fun idea, it’s in our game. We won’t sacrifice fun ideas just because they might ‘upset the balance’ of our game.” And it works. It really bloody works. There’s just so much variety in the LEGO games, and LEGO Batman 2 especially. It takes ages just to sample it all. It’s condensed variety. And each little nugget of fun is as clever as the last. It even has the Superman film theme playing whenever Superman flies!

    I want to see more games just… do something. Something which is theirs. To try and push the boundaries and be unique, to be their own entity because of a passionate developer who cared about what they were doing. But it’s so rare.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Ireland Michael

    I agree with Warren’s sentiment, but as good as the message is, he promised the exact same thing with the first Epic Micky. Although the game is certainly decent, the message fell flat on its face within the game itself.

    @1 Have you ever considered writing for a living? =P

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Sini

    whoopty fucking do. 3 choices; shoot out, sneaking past, or go through a fucking vent. I shall try to contain excitement for the choices presented in best of games.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. Telepathic.Geometry

    “It’s not about how clever and creative I am – it’s about how clever and creative you are.”

    I disagree with this, it’s about how creative and clever the devs are in giving the player opportunities to feel creative and clever.

    I like Ni No Kuni, but they don’t half tell you exactly how to beat every puzzle. :/

    #4 3 years ago

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