Grasshopper’s Suda 51, Bethesda’s Emil Pagliarulo and SCE Japan Studio’s Fumito Ueda took some time at this year’s GDC to discuss their attitudes and experiences as design leads.
Much of the talk was dedicated to the process of realising mistakes in the original game plans and rectifying them.
"One of our unofficial mottos at Bethesda is that games are played, not made," said Pagliarulo. "So it’s all about playing it. We put stuff in and then play it, and you have to be brutally honest. If those ideas suck, you have to change that. That can seem wasted time, but it’s not; it’s iteration. So until you can get into the game and play it you don’t know if your idea is any good.
"To give you an example from Fallout 3," he continued, "there’s the sequence with the giant robot, Liberty Prime, that acts as the game’s climax. The original pie in the sky idea was that he was about five times the size he ended up, and you rode in his head. We had this idea or the longest time, Todd Howard and I, and people thought we were crazy. In the end, technical limitations and time limitations meant we had to scale it back."
Revealing the birth of his widely-celebrated titles, Fumito Ueda also gave examples of how the team’s concepts changed during production. "In terms of Shadow of the Colossus, originally we wanted to have similar people working together to kill the colossus. But when it came to thinking about team strength, and how this team would work together, we had to modify our idea a little bit. But I love that process. We always make the effort to make the best thing, so changing the plan is not a bad thing."
Another topic of conversation was how to balance the opinions of the team with their own gut instinct as the lead.
Suda 51 spoke on the importance of intuition, saying: "As a game director, we create games based on our intuition. It’s a bit difficult to express, but we have to try to talk to our staff about comuing up with the right answer. So as soon as I say yes to my intution, we know it has to change. But even at the very very end stage, I try to listen to my intuition. I really try to act on that and listen to my feelings."
He also revealed that, at times of conflict, he tends to ask the producer’s opinion. "In my experience, when I made Killer7, it was a really new concept. Even when I tried to explain that to people working on it, not everyone could understand. Sometimes it’s difficult to put ideas into words.
"But when I judge whether to do it or not, I think it’s really important to realise that we can’t look at subjectively because I and the team are so focused on the game. But producers look at it from a slightly different perspective. They have connection with the business side of things, so they’re probably in better position to judge reaction of game when release. Focus tests are important, and the team’s opinions are important, but when I have my opinion and the team is against it, I think it’s important to think about how the producer will react."