Interview with Fred Ford

Ahh, vague omens and mysterious portents. Tangled webs of fate intertwined with the branches of destiny, blown by the capricious winds of happenstance. News, news....uh, actually there is some news!

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Angelfish
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Re: Interview with Fred Ford

Post by Angelfish » Sun Oct 10, 2010 11:32 am

Nuclear wrote:I agree, its much more fun to read when you exaggerate the formality/unusualness of meeting with the creators of StarControl and engaging in a spontaneous interview about said game seriess :)-smf .
I don't agree, an interview should be informative, not 'fun to read'. It's quite hard to extract what has actually been said this way ;). But I imagine native english speakers having not so much of a hard time reading it.

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Re: Interview with Fred Ford

Post by Nuclear » Sun Oct 10, 2010 4:40 pm

Angelfish wrote: But I imagine native english speakers having not so much of a hard time reading it.
Bingo, if the person is good at English, the person will abuse it in their writing {and maybe reading} to the dismay of those who have trouble with English, to say the least. :P-smf
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Re: Interview with Fred Ford

Post by Lukipela » Sun Oct 10, 2010 4:51 pm

Meep-Eep wrote:This is really encouraging to read. I've always held the opinion that one of the cornerstones of what allowed SC2 to be so great is that the creators didn't sacrifice fun for realism. It's good to see that this was not an accident, but is something which still guides the development of new games. This makes it all the more likely that they can make another game which is in the SC2 league, if given the opportunity.
Yeah, while I'm obviously a neutral and hard hitting investigative reporter with a thirst for solid facts, I'll admit that the answers I got were really pleasing. Thank you for your post, you put what I felt into words much better (and above all else more succinctly) than I could ever have. The fact that they do rapid testing and that they aren't afraid to make tough decisions such as scrapping two months of development to maximise fun is really something heartening.

I also found the insights into the creative process he gave pretty fascinating really. It paints a picture of a two people that function quite well as a team. I wish I had that at work. All I have is a bunch of Swedes.
Draxas wrote:Don't listen to him. You have the best interview flavor text I've ever read, mostly because you clearly don't take yourself very seriously, so I love reading these pieces.
Well, different strokes for different folks I guess. I got enough good feedback on the last piece to figure I'd do this one in the same vein, but at the same time I tried to format it so that you could get at the Q/A even without reading everything easily even without slogging through the whole thing. Although of course I forgot to make a second post mentioning that right off the bat.

I really don't consider the PNF front page that serious a news site, so I try to spruce things up a little when I can. That, and I enjoy telling my stories out of what may be pure narcissistic delight. We'll see how I continue with the next one.

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Re: Interview with Fred Ford

Post by Meep-Eep » Sun Oct 10, 2010 5:56 pm

Lukipela wrote:
Meep-Eep wrote:This is really encouraging to read. I've always held the opinion that one of the cornerstones of what allowed SC2 to be so great is that the creators didn't sacrifice fun for realism. It's good to see that this was not an accident, but is something which still guides the development of new games. This makes it all the more likely that they can make another game which is in the SC2 league, if given the opportunity.
Yeah, while I'm obviously a neutral and hard hitting investigative reporter with a thirst for solid facts, I'll admit that the answers I got were really pleasing. Thank you for your post, you put what I felt into words much better (and above all else more succinctly) than I could ever have.
I take it you're referring to just the quoted fragment; I don't think the entire posting would qualify as "succinct".
And you're welcome.
The fact that they do rapid testing and that they aren't afraid to make tough decisions such as scrapping two months of development to maximise fun is really something heartening.
Curiously enough, the being prepared to scrap time spent was another positive point which I got from the interview, but which didn't end up in my posting.
I also found the insights into the creative process he gave pretty fascinating really. It paints a picture of a two people that function quite well as a team.
There's also that, but didn't we already know that?

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Re: Interview with Fred Ford

Post by Lukipela » Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:26 pm

Meep-Eep wrote: I take it you're referring to just the quoted fragment; I don't think the entire posting would qualify as "succinct".
And you're welcome.
No, I think your whole post was succinct and to the point, there wee just a lot of good points brought up in it.
Curiously enough, the being prepared to scrap time spent was another positive point which I got from the interview, but which didn't end up in my posting.
This is one of the major issues I see at my workplace as well. Once time or resources have been committed to something, people are really really reluctant to let go if it proves to be the wrong thing to do. It's quite rare for me to see people who can let go of that commitment, no matter what happens

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Re: Interview with Fred Ford

Post by Fred » Sun Oct 10, 2010 6:37 pm

Meep-Eep wrote:
Fred Ford wrote:Another of our cardinal beliefs is rapid prototyping. If you can get to testing and iterating the experience quickly, then you can prove or disprove your ideas in short order.
This is something which only really got through to me relatively recently. Trying to get everything perfect on the first try will often leave you with nothing usable (Nothing concrete that is; you do gain useful experience). In my case, heaps of half-finished projects.
Especially in games, but also in other software jobs I've had, I've watched upfront over-design create huge problems. When you have this big document on which you've worked for a long time, the tendency is to resist changing course (i.e. throwing out large portions of your design) when things inevitably don't go as envisioned. I've seen too many projects flounder, because the architects were too in love with their mapped-out vision.
It's clearly visible in the SC2 code that it is an evolutionary work. In many places there are hacks upon hacks upon hacks.
This must have cost Fred a lot of time on occasion, when the existing code at the time wouldn't be able to support what they were trying to do, and he had to rewrite large parts. (The thing with restructuring this kind of code is that when you pull on one string, the entire fabric falls apart, because everything is interconnected.)
But at the same time, I think that SC2 wouldn't have existed if they had tried to design it all in advance. Pragmatism often wins from perfectionism.
Don't two hacks on top of each other cancel out? One thing to remember is we only had the faintest clue of the whole that we were making. We had some pieces that we liked: melee, cool algorithmically generated planets, MOD music, etc. So the code pretty much evolved to parallel the evolving game design. Paul and I would be sitting side-by-side, one of us would say "What if . . .", I would start coding, and he would create some temporary art and sound assets and the 'hungry monster' would be off and rampaging.
Notwithstanding my earlier remark about pragmatism, and without intending to denigrate Fred's achievement, I think that the development of SC2 would have benefited from some advance architectural design (though not as much over-design as I have been prone to). I bet that Fred will have reached the same conclusion.
I wonder what his code looks like now, after 18 years of additional experience.
I like to think that 18 years has had at least some effect, but I think I will always be a post-architect rather than a pre-architect. What I mean by that is I will always 'hack' something in to test assumptions and then later try to make it 'fit' with the existing code architecture. If this becomes too burdensome, then I will re-architect the code. One side-effect of this, I think, is that I never fall too much in love with anything I've written and so if a better 'mouse-trap' presents itself, I'm happy to use it.
So I'm glad to see that Fred and Paul are using their own judgement, and if either one of them happens to read this posting, I hope it serves to encourage them to keep doing just that.
Thanks - and for more than just your post.

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Eth
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Re: Interview with Fred Ford

Post by Eth » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:46 pm

Great interview, Lukipela and Fred. I'll be very interested in seeing what the creators of Star Control come up with in their spare time.

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Re: Interview with Fred Ford

Post by jello » Wed Oct 13, 2010 9:24 am

I've been lurking here for over a decade and this one finally got a post out of me :lol:
* No in-game tracking of information. But having to mess with pieces of paper has a charm of its own, and helps to raise the feeling of mystery.
I have to agree with this. I still have the pile of papers from my first play through of SC2. There is even a hand drawn map of Quasi-space there. My friends and I spent hours on the phone after school discussing the various things we found as we explored the universe that was created for the game.
* Unresolved questions. I understand that some of the questions which remain open at the end of the game were due to a lack of time (such as the full nature of the rainbow worlds or the Orz). But at the same time, these are what still keeps us talking about the game.
Drove me crazy for a very long time. Perhaps the creators didn't expect 18+ years for a sequel?

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Re: Interview with Fred Ford

Post by Zeracles » Mon Oct 25, 2010 5:21 am

I think the fun/realism thing gets oversimplified a lot. I don't think realism matters much except when the suspension of disbelief is lacking. If you want to tell an epic story, you need some realism. It's not about having one or the other, it's about having the right amount. How much depends on the audience, I guess. The expectations of that audience today is different to what it was twenty years ago.
Twinkle twinkle Paul and Fred (more)

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Re: Interview with Fred Ford

Post by Bleeding Star » Tue Oct 26, 2010 11:04 am

Excellent interview. While I enjoy the story accompanying the interview, it might be a good idea to have a more conventionally-styled version posted elsewhere to cater for those races genetically incapable of humour (Chmmr, the Dutch, etc.).

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