Tony Dorito - October 11, 2015
Proper introduction are surely in order, so allow me to introduce myself, I am Tony Dorito. I am the lead programmer for Cryogenic Entertainment and have put a lot of time and effort into one of my favorite projects, CURE.
What better way to break the ice, than answer some random questions from the internet. I found these questions (while doing some exploring on Kickstarter — we are doing a Kickstarter soon after all), and I think they were really interesting to read, so I am sharing them with you too!
How do you describe game design to people who don’t know what it is — say, when explaining your job at parties?
Game design is the science of figuring out what is fun and why, then using those principles to make an interactive experience.
What are the best 30 seconds of game design ever?
Any 30 seconds from Portal. From gameplay, level design, character design, lore, gameplay, and even crazy amounts of secrets… Portal is flawless from end to end. (unlike it’s successor, which was a long game of ‘find the place you can shoot the portal’). Oh… did I mention that I love Portal?
Do you think of game design as similar to other forms of design (industrial, graphic, etc.)?
Nope. I think the only common thread is the artistry of it… like that feeling of immense joy when you are playing baseball and you feel and hear the crack of the bat… it is hard to explain… The same is true with art and programming (and other creative endeavors), when you look at what you had done is it just ‘feels perfect’; Not like “hey that’s pretty good, it looks like what I wanted”, but more like it was destined to happen, and that you were just out of the way long enough to allow it to take shape. Outside of that, game design is very much its own beast.
What’s the biggest thing players just don’t understand about game mechanics?
Hard games are good games. This deserves its own post,… but in short, many gamers shortchange their experience by wanting quick rewards with little effort. The cry against ‘the grind’ is one that personally I find to be only addressing the symptoms but not the root cause of the issue. If a game is fun while you play it, grind or otherwise, then developers have done their jobs properly; If the game is challenging, and it is not fun, then the challenge is not the failure in that equation, the lack of fun is. If the developer needs to short-change your experience by making it easy so you can get to the end of the game quickly, then they are only hurting the people that really really like the game and wished that there was more to it. So, in short, it is the journey that is important, not the destination.
Deep down in your heart of hearts, which are you more partial to: simplicity or complexity?
Complexity. Of course finding the happy middle ground is best, but in a pinch I would think that overly simple gameplay is deadly boring, whereas overly complex gameplay gives the more adept something to cut their teeth into. In truth, overly simplistic and overly complex games both suck… I just think overly complex might suck less.
Should you design for yourself, or should you design for your audience?
I am the Liquor I mean… I am my audience (one of the best things about being a indie dev is this fact – I get to make games that I would ‘actually’ enjoy, rather than making games that a board member though would make the best ROI quickly). Whereas I could write my own ticket and ‘get a real job’, I do what I do because I want to make the games that I like and that I want to play. At launch of CURE (as with every alpha test of yet) I am the first in line to play CURE… but that is a claim that very few non-indie game devs can make. Being a rather die hard gamer, I will tell you right off the bat that the games that I make are not going to be liked by everyone, but I think others like me out there will really appreciate some of the pretty neat things we have come up with, and that is the audience I design all my games toward. tl;dr Syntax error: The game design is built for gamers that like challenging and fun rts gmes, and that includes the members found on the Cryogenic Entertainment Team, myself included.
Who do you consider at the top of your field, and why?
Hard to say. To be honest, I think more in the way of good games than good individuals. As far as good games go, the team is divided on which RTS is at the very top of the list… since you are asking me, I would say Starcraft 2, because it is much more ‘serious’ and ‘less casual’ than any other RTS that I have played. James, a fellow programmer on the CURE Team swears that Forged Alliance is where it is at.
What are the essential tools of your trade?
Persistence, Courage and Fortitude. You will hit brick walls, and you will spend hours pulling your hair out over impossible to answer problems. If you don’t have the heart, you physically and emotionally won’t be able to be an independent video game developer.
How does the hardware or platform you’re designing for change your design? Does your work conform to its container, or do you find the right container for your work?
For CURE, RTS’s are always the best on PC; So CURE will be released for the PC (even though, a really early build of CURE was tested on a tablet/touchscreen and it was ridiculously fun). I personally think that good design keeps the platform/hardware in mind and best utilizes it; And perhaps even more accurately, hardware is a very real limitation, for instance you can make a game that only a super computer from the year 3093 can run, but what good is that for any of us? I want it, and I want it NOW!
What’s the most important game mechanic of the past 10 years?
Incremental games… they showed us exactly how ridiculous ‘fun’ can be. I am hopelessly addicted to Clicker Heroes (of no affiliation) and I have it open nearly nonstop, and it is really one of the most impressive games I have played in a really long time. To be able to make something so very simple, and yet so rewarding really speaks to the fact that graphics are nothing in comparison to a good game mechanic. I think for the same reasons, that is why Minecraft was so wildly popular and entertaining.
How does your office or workplace change your work?
Whelp, because I read this at one point in time (of no affiliation), so I think that your workspace impacts your ability to be productive. If you live in a mess (which is my natural state), then all that does is gives you a distraction from what you ‘really should be doing’ – so at our Cryogenic Entertainment Offices I am forced to keep it nice and tidy.
What non-game art influences you the most?
Granted that everyone is influenced at least a little bit by the vast amount of art that is out there in nearly all mediums… If I had to say what I am most influenced by, I must admit it would be Jurassic Park; From the hacker
Newman Dennis Nedry from the Jurassic Park movie… as a kid I one day hoped to be able to say with conviction “It’s a UNIX System! I know this!” and that movie is most assuredly why I got into programming to begin with. If you look around for it, I am sure you can find little references to this in nearly everything I make… then again I really love cheesy movies about hackers, so they all rank up there too.
And… I ran out of questions. If you have any questions, be them technical or about game development stuff, don’t be a stranger. I have a twitter and I need more friends @_TonyDorito
Thanks for reading!