Doug Church has been in the game industry since 1990, working on a variety of PC titles (Ultima Underworld, System Shock, Thief, a bit of Flight Unlimited thrown in) at what became LookingGlass Studios. He left in late 1999 and since has consulted on a different variety of titles, including a tiny bit on Ion's Deus Ex and on Harmonix's Frequency for the PS2. Officially a programmer, he actually ends up mostly doing game design and concept work, with varied impact.
Games and Improvisation
An environment that supports and encourages improvisation is one which creates more investment and commitment from the player. Experiences in such environments are owned by the player, not the designer. This makes creation of such environments valuable in creating compelling gameplay, as well as in providing meaningful and effective learning systems.
This talk focuses on the tools we have as designers to provide improvisational environments. We look at existing games and genres, examining successful examples. From there, we talk about the underlying systems, from scripting engines, simulation code, and other mechanical elements that support improvisation.
Many of the most effective learning programs provided open simulation environments for players to explore and improvise in (SimCity, Rollercoaster tycoon, some RTS games). Similarly, some of the most compelling play experiences provide a similar open-ended elements (Sims, Grand Theft Auto, Tony Hawk). Games focused on mastery of single-path rote tasks aren't going away, but the future will more and more depend on putting players into a creative improvisational state.