I did some reading on holiday. I read three game development related books as cased on recommendations from twitter. Here’s some of my favourite quotes.
Not gonna lie, I didn’t know who Satoru Iwata was before getting this book. When you’re in the game industry a lot of the time it feels like you’re expected to know everything about it. I don’t know who anyone is.
The short version is that he was the CEO of Nintendo for over a decade until he died in 2015. He started off as a programmer in the 70’s. As far as I can tell the book is a collection of blogs he made. It has a lot of insight, a lot of which extends into general life tips. Here’s some of my highlights.
As human beings, unless we have someone to compliment our work and enjoy what we’ve created, we’re not apt to go out on a limb.
He made this observation when talking about his early game experiments.. showing them to friends and getting a positive feedback loop. . which he credited to pushing him on to continue. I know I’m guilty of only giving negative feedback and looking for things that are wrong, so I think this is good to always keep in mind.
So how do you know when a project is going well? When someone points to a gray area in the initial plan, then asks you “Hey, can I take care of this?” and follows through. Projects where this keeps on happening tend to end up going well.
“Programmers should never say no.” When you’re making games, if a programmer says, “That’s impossible,” it not only puts the brakes on a valuable idea but makes it harder for the next idea to come. If programmers only focus on things that are easy to program, they’ll never break the mold and come up with fascinating ideas.
“What would it take to make it possible?” And from there he establishes the necessary conditions. This is about “cornering the opponent and jabbing at the weak points they can’t block.”
This is a really good point. Saying shit is impossible or won’t work is something I’ve been guilty of myself. It usually happens when I don’t want to try making someone else’s idea. I heard Valve have a thing where if you have an idea you have to implement it yourself, not sure how that works out for them. It’s worrying if the only ideas that can be implemented are the ones by people who can implement them.
A good strategy here I’ve found is to come at it from another angle. If I tell Layla that I don’t think it’s possible to do something, he’ll usually have implemented it by the time I wake up the next day.
One way of defining a genius is “a person who can endlessly continue doing things that other people might dislike or easily grow tired of and be unable to continue.”
Something I always run into when talking to bank managers, solicitors, investment people etc (real people) is that they always assume that I’m really smart. I think everyone that has seen my twitter knows that isn’t that true. I’m really dumb in a lot of ways.. I’m just good at sitting at a computer all day and googling stuff I don’t know.
Really loved this book. Would totally recommend it. I never comprehended how much we all owe Carmack and Romero before. All the innovations that came out of those early years.. First person shooters, view models, multiplayer deathmatch, multiplayer coop, opengl, graphics cards.
After much arguing in the company, Jay was granted permission to post legal terms for prospective Doom hackers. “Id Software requires no fees or royalties,” he posted online. “You may require user payment for your work; Your utility must not work with the shareware version of Doom; You must represent that your utility is not an id Software product and id Software cannot and will not provide support for your product, nor for Doom after the data has been changed by your product; You may be required to include some legal text in your utility to make our lawyers happy; There may be more or some of the above may not be in the final document.
It really cannot be understated how much this decision positively changed hundreds of people’s lives, over multiple generations. Carmack was militant about letting people hack (mod) the game, and totally opposed to patenting the stuff he came up with. From a business position it made totally no sense to give out a level editor and let people create (AND SELL) their mods. The business move would have been to keep that all locked down and pump out new level packs every month.
Carmack knew well and good what he enjoyed—programming—and was systematically arranging his life to spend the most time possible doing just that.
“You have to give yourself the freedom to back away from something when you make a mistake,” Carmack said. “If you pretend you’re infallible and bully ahead on something, even when there are many danger signs that it’s not the right thing, well, that’s a sure way to leave a crater in the ground. You want to always be reevaluating things and say, Okay, it sounded like a good idea but it doesn’t seem to be working out very well and we have this other avenue which is looking like it’s working out better—let’s just do that.”
Good life advice
When the first demo of Half-Life came through the doors, many insisted it would do nothing less than fail.
One of the main sources of distrust among the employees was id’s competitive bonus structure. Every quarter or so the owners would meet to assign a dollar amount to each employee. They would then split up a bonus payment based on those decisions. One quarter someone might get $100,000; the next, $20,000. The owners admitted that it was an arbitrary and imperfect plan, but it was the only one they could surmise.
This hit home. This is our exact bonus system for Rust. We have been talking about finding a more fair, more transparent way to give bonuses for years.. but have never really found anything better. What do other places do?
Despite their working in what felt like perpetual crunch mode—twelve-hour days, six days a week—Daikatana was nowhere near being done. Many felt the project was out of control. One guy produced a series of levels that proved unusable. An artist created a graphical icon for an arrow in the game that was a thousand times the appropriate size.
Love that 1000x sized cursor line.
This wasn’t what I was expecting.. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was kind of a diary.. so it was really easy to read. The guy had made a popular game but wanted to be a screen writer.. but then started making Prince Of Persia.
The new crop of kids coming up are willing to work harder and cheaper, and don’t have girlfriends or families yet to cut into their working hours.
I have found myself thinking this.. and it’s kind of a funny thing to think when you take in the big picture. You are kind of wishing your life didn’t exist so you could spend more time working. Maybe it’s a competitive thing, maybe it’s human nature.. but it does make you question what life is meant to be.
The PC version is maybe 50% of what it should be. I can’t even tell these guys what to fix… it’s a million little things, and they’re just not up to the hassle. That kind of attention to detail is why the Apple version took me two years. This version is probably the best I’ll ever get out of them. Oddly enough, this makes me more psyched to do the new game. It reminded me why I’m good at this – of what I can do that others can’t, or won’t.
Oof. That feeling when someone makes a shitty port.
Like in the old days. I’m starting to see code patterns floating in my brain as I drift off to sleep at night… and, disturbingly, when I wake up in the morning.
When he’s trying to work code out, I’ve totally been in this state. Totally consumed by some problem. Like eating a huge meal and feeling your stomach expand – except it’s your head.
May 11, 1989
Everyone is being nice to me because they think my game is going to be a hit.