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What Does a Game Designer Do?

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Daniel Steamer
Photo by Cláudio Luiz Castro on Unsplash

Like most people, you probably like playing games. You’ve probably even had moments where you wish you could improve a game you were playing. Maybe you have an idea for an original one. Perhaps you thought you could be a game designer?

In my first post about the game industry, I discussed a bit of what it’s like to be a game developer in the industry today. Today I’m going to dig into the role of a designer a bit more.

When people ask me what I do as a game designer, my usual answer is something like, “I take the art that artists made and use the code that engineers made and put them together to make a game.”

It’s not the most detailed explination, but it’s enough for most people. The truth is, though, game designers do so much more than just put code and art together. In my career, I’ve built levels, scripted systems, and developed tools for other designers. A lot goes into making games fun.

While it’s hard to explain exactly what a designer does, especially since every project has it’s own it needs, there are a few things that are universal.

Lots of people like playing games. It’s a huge part of modern entertainment. But playing lots of games doesn’t make you a designer; Just like watching movies doesn’t make you a director or reading books doesn’t make you an author.

Playing games, to a game designer, is nothing but research. We play games; we see things that work and things that don’t work. We question why certain choices were made. And then we take the parts that work and incorporate them into our toolset.

Games are meant to be played by other people, and designers understand this. Every person is different, and what is fun for one person might not be fun for others. If you only build things that you enjoy, you risk closing your game off from being enjoyed by many other people.

Throughout the years, many designers have tried to classify different types of gamers. But what really matters, is being able to put yourself in other’s shoes and look at your designs from other views. How do people who care about competition look at your game? What about people who care about the story? Or achieving challenges? Or freedom of choice? And so on.

Lots of people have ideas about games, but having lots of ideas doesn’t make you a game designer. Ideas are quick and fleeting, and usually incomplete. Designs, on the other hand, are holistic solutions to problems.

Like an architect accounting for everything in a building, from structure to plumbing to electrical, designers consider the impact of every idea on the game. Every element in a game combines into the bigger picture. A good design is complete, removing any confusing or conflicting details.

Any design, no matter how good on paper, needs to be tested with players to be real. Putting your game int front of others and seeing how they play it can be humbling, but it’s the only way to make it great. It’s also the only way to grow as a designer.

The good news is, you don’t need to be a professional to test your designs out. It’s easier than ever to make games today. With toolsets like Unity and Unreal4, just about anyone with a computer can try making a game. If you think you have a great game idea, go make it.

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49ers Win Mistake-Filled Game Against Steelers, Move To 3-0

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The San Francisco 49ers are 3-0 for the first time since 1998. It did not come easy in their home opener at Levi’s Stadium on Sunday.

San Francisco turned the ball over a whopping five times in a 24-20 win over the Steelers, including four times in the first half alone. Three of the turnovers came inside the red zone, making this game closer than it should have been.

Though, the 49ers’ defense stepped up big time late in the game. They forced a James Conner fumble just a couple plays after San Francisco turned it over for a fifth time.

Once Jimmy Garoppolo connected with Dante Pettis for a late touchdown, the 49ers’ defense held Pittsburgh with a tremendous pass rush on the final possession to clinch the game.

Sure there’s going to be a lot made about the turnovers. It’s unacceptable and can’t happen against better opponents. Even then, a 3-0 record heading into the bye is all sorts of sexy for the 49ers.

Here are some game notes.

The 49ers put up 26 first downs and 436 total yards of offense on Sunday. They’ve now gained a whopping 1,008 total yards over the past two games. It’s the most yards San Francisco has put up in consecutive games since the first two weeks of the 1998 season.

San Francisco also held Pittsburgh to 11 first downs and 239 total yards of offense. Outside of the two long touchdown passes from youngster Mason Rudolph, the Steelers had 124 yards on 49 plays.

Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida combined for 147 rushing yards on 26 attempts. This came after the two put up 283 total yards in last week’s win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Defensively, San Francisco got to Rudolph with four quarterback hits and two sacks. They had a couple more pressures that resulted in a short gain for the young quarterback. Nick Bosa and Dee Ford combined for seven quarterback pressures. Meawnhile, Arik Armstead forced the game-changing fumble of James Conner late in the fourth quarter.

Jason Verrett made his 49ers debut on Sunday, taking over for a bit when Ahkello Witherspoon went down. He was immediately called for a pass interference on his first play before giving up a long touchdown on the very next play. Needless to say, there was some rust on Verrett’s part.

The extent of Witherspoon’s injury is not yet known. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said they’ll find out more on Monday.

Dante Pettis’ game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter came after he caught a total of one pass over the first two games. It should act as a confidence builder for the second-year pass catcher moving forward.

The same can be said for rookie second-round pick Deebo Samuel. He continued to play a large role in the 49ers’ offense, catching 3-of-4 targets for 44 yards in the win. Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle added six catches for 57 yards on eight targets.

Back to the defense for a second. Richard Sherman continued to play elite-level football in helping San Francisco hold starting receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington to five catches on 11 targets. Sure JuJu had that big touchdown, but he was quiet for the remainder of the game.

We’ve covered it before. An improved pass rush has helped San Francisco turn a pass defense that was among the worst in NFL history last season into a top-10 unit.

The defensive front was also up to the task against the above-mentioned Conner in this one. He went for just 43 yards on 13 attempts. They might fly under the radar, but the likes of Arik Armstead, Sheldon Day and D.J. Jones played extremely well against the run.

Despite turning the ball over three times, Jimmy Garoppolo improved to 9-2 as San Francisco’s starter and 11-2 as a starter in the NFL. The 49ers are 4-20 in games Garoppolo doesn’t start since the beginning of the 2017 campaign. All he does is win.



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