That doesn't necessarily mean that every single decision is one that everyone loves: that way, we wouldn't get anything done. What I am saying is that there's different people on the team that look at games in many different ways. If you come up with ideas that appeal to those different perspectives, then you really hit on the gold mine.
It depends, too, on the team's dynamics. I've worked with the Starcraft II team for nearly ten years, and I know who the creative and social cliques are, and I know which groups I should bounce ideas off of. I know that if I have a user-interface idea, I know who on the team cares about that. I know who's going to complain if it's not good... so I go to those people... If I have an idea for a new dungeon encounter in WoW, you start to learn who on the team is going to care most about it, and so you go to them... Just make sure you're talking to the people who are passionate about the areas of the game.
In most places I've been to, a lot of the design is laid down early in a long design document, and everything fits into that.
Rob: We don't start with a monolithic design doc. We come up with "what are the fundamentals of this game? What are the top three or four things that this game should be about?" We know that as soon as you can start running a character about on a screen, change is going to happen. We just prepare for that, and prepare our people for that, as best we can. We playtest, get opinions, get feedback, iterate... and then 10,000 times later, we'll ship a game.
Can you remember the first game you ever designed?
Rob: It depends on how you want to classify that. I used to master my Dungeons & Dragons campaigns for my friends - that was probably the first time that I was doing game design.
Did you know then that you wanted to do game design?
Rob: No. Definitely not. That was when computer games were first coming around. I got into them fairly early on. It was something I enjoyed, but there wasn't a game industry per se. There was the film industry, the music industry, the law profession... but when I thought of all the things to do when I grew up, it didn't occur to me until later on in life.
University courses have sprung up around the games industry - and I know you've given a few lectures. Do you think such courses are valuable?
Rob: I think the schools are getting a lot better. This isn't a criticism of any particular school, but one of the things I've noticed in the newer game design programs in particular is that they tend to teach skills that are more useful for a lead game designer, rather than getting an entry level design position in the games industry.
I've seen curricula and topics that ask students to think about the overall game mechanics and how to construct an entire game: I think that's appropriate for a entry level course on game design, but the more advanced courses should be teaching you how to be a level designer in RTS, or a quest designer, or something like that. What I think is happening is that kids would come out of their programs with a four year degree with not many more skills than what a mod-maker has. They should be far, far superior to someone who is just learning on their own, and that's just not the case at the minute.
Have you hired anyone from these courses?
Rob: We've brought in interns. I don't think we've hired anyone with a degree from one of these colleges. I've hired people from the mod community, and I've also hired people straight out of college, but never from a dedicated place like Digipen.
There's a quote from Raph Koster that 'the singleplayer game is an aberration.' Historically, games have always been played together.
Rob: I think that's wishful thinking on his part. I think when you look at Raph, all the games he's worked on have been multiplayer games. I think maybe, to him, that might be true. But I don't see any sort of trend that leads me to believe that we're not going to see Half-Life 3, or God of War 3, or any of those kinds of games. Those games are awesome, amazing experiences.