When I was growing up, the first thing I would do when opening a new computer game (or a new wargame, for that matter) was flip to the back of the manual to see if there were Designer Notes. It was always a thrill to see them, giving me a little insight into the decisions, compromises, and challenges faced by working game designers. I regret that the industry has moved away from this tradition over the years (although the blogosphere is on its way towards replacing it), and so I was very happy to get a chance to write a lengthy Designer Notes section at the back of the Civ 4 manual. Since then, people who don’t have access to the paper manual itself have often asked me if this piece was available somewhere on the Web. Well, thanks to Steam, now it is!
Here’s the link.
Well written! I too wish there were more of these in games, though blogs have tended to replace a lot of written works in the world. 🙂
Is it legal to post it? 🙂
I like your afterword in the Civ4 manual… one of the better things about it is that it’s long enough, not a two-paragraph blurb. I hope they keep creating good afterwords even with you gone from Firaxis 😉
Blogs are fairly different, IMO. Blogs are usually an accumulation of thoughts over time, and with individual postings being shorted. A true afterword has the beauty of being a single, monolithic piece with the designer’s thoughts. That’s good.
Perhaps not… but they are posting it, not me! :hides:
I’m not sure about the legality of replacementdocs, but at any rate, the manual is legally available from the Steam website (view manual link on the right):
They routinely put manuals for games they sell online, so that one is surely legit.
You can have my spiral-bound hard-copy when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. 😀
I’m a huge advocate of designers’ notes, development thoughts and afterwords. Given DVD technology, even director’s commentary is a good idea in some situations.
And I don’t understand why more developers don’t do it. Sure, it’s all about time and money, and no one makes big manuals any more, so where would they put them, etc, etc.
But I think you learn a lot about a game by reading what the makers’ think of it. And the Civ 4 one stands out as one of the better ones I’ve read.
Yeah, the Orange Box commentary is a really interesting idea. I have a hard time imagine that working for a strategy game though. RTS’s don’t just wait for the player if they stop doing things. TBS’s are a more likely candidate, but I would imagine the trigger system would be a nightmare, not where you want to be spending your resources at the end of a project.
Triggers wouldn’t need to be much more complex than what Civ4 has for advisor tips – first time doing this or that. And you don’t even need to have commentary as triggered in-game, like Valve games do – you can just record it on the DVD and leave it in as a separate option from the game’s menu.
Actually, Dorian and I did a version of the Civ4 development talk we did at GDC and PolyCon for the DVD extras disk on Civ Chronicles. Haven’t heard too much about how people liked it (or not).
Director’s commentary in a RTS would be fun. People could explain why their story based campaign was lame, why they couldn’t fit a fourth faction in and why everyone has a British accent.
I’d love more developer commentaries. Like DVD commentaries, mostly only good for the game buffs, but why not?
For any game type it’d typically be very easy to implement – TBS, RTS…you’d do it like TF2 – a inherently non-linear multiplayer game, it needs separate “commentary levels” to work. With a easy way of navigating to each one, can work the same for RTS’s, and TBS’s – a new level specifically for commentary on units/layouts/design decisions, with a setup like TF2’s click-to-activate points.
For the singleplayer stories of RTS’s – it’d be pretty easy to have special versions of the levels (or a toggle) to turn it on to explain the story elements and other parts (or for cutscenes, be more like a DVD commentary of it 🙂 ).
I also forgot to add; I got the Civ Chronicles, I have not watched the extra’s DVD yet, I’d better do but instead I keep putting in the Civ4 disk! oops! 😉
Since I’m involved in archival things, I think videos like extras for games should (eventually) be put on the web at the Internet Archive, which would make them a lot more accessible (when before they’re part of collectors packs and stuff).
It looks like the link has become dead. Is there a new source available?