Interview – GameSprout at Schell Games

Interview – GameSprout at Schell Games

By Nathan, revised by Lazaro Gonzalez

This is an interview between Nathan and Mrs. Amanda Lange from GameSprout at Schell Games.

GameSprout is a game development community and platform: a system where people can work together to turn their game ideas into playable, published games.

Purple = Mrs. Lange

1.) Please, tell us a bit about yourself, Mrs. Lange.

 I’m the Community Manager for GameSprout at Schell Games. By and large my job with GameSprout is to communicate with the users to the GameSprout development team, and vice versa. In my past work, I was a game design teacher at a school in Detroit, MI. I’ve also done some small development projects on my own including participating in the Global Game Jam and a few other jams. I like to do 3D game art and I write game critique in my spare time for a site called Tap-Repeatedly. I like tabletop roleplaying games a lot, and almost every type of video game. Basically if it has something to do with games I’ve tried it!

2.) What’s Gamesprout?

GameSprout is an online community for game developers. It’s focused on collaborative game design. 
We’re convinced that the fundamentals of game design can be taught. But there’s a lot of confusion still out there about how games are made. People always walk up to game developers and say “Hey I have an idea for a game you should make.” That’s frustrating for developers, who are working on their own game, and frustrating for the idea-people because they do not understand the process and think the game designers are just being stingy. 
GameSprout is a place where people can post and discuss those ideas. They can learn the first steps to creating a game from their idea, and get real feedback about their concepts. It’s also a place where someone can go if they want to sharpen their programming, art, or other development skills by working on a collaborative project with someone. Basically, it’s a community where people can create games, focused on the games first.

3.) Strange it has never been done before. Where did the idea come from?

The idea came from Jesse Schell, and our own internal iterations. Originally there was a site called Puzzle Clubhouse that was similar-but-different. With Puzzle Clubhouse, the idea was that users would riff on a particular game concept, and then Schell Games would make a game using their input and release the games episodically. But what we discovered was that users were more ambitious than that: they really wanted to pitch more complete game ideas.

During alpha testing we had a site based on the idea that Schell would just make the most popular game ideas for the users. But then we kept getting feedback that the users wanted to work on their own games and didn’t want us to take the development process away from them. They wanted to stay involved. So we want to be sure that users retain control over their idea from every step of the process. This helps us too because we’re surprised at how many users have skills that they can bring to the table, in terms of art or programming or sound. Basically GameSprout is an iterative design of a site to create iterative design… 

4.) The site is based on iterative design. What do you think makes that so important?

One of the most important parts in design is getting feedback. Working alone is good when you have your head down and need to make fast progress, but, working alone means that you’re working in a vacuum where you don’t know for sure if your idea is working or even if it’s workable. The GameSprout community provides that feedback and playtesting space for people who want to try their ideas out, and the idea is that through some iterations, design will improve. This is probably all much better explained in Jesse’s GameSprout Manifesto so be sure to check that out! http://jesseschell.t…prout-manifesto

5.) How does the collaboration system work?

There’s a number of ways to use GameSprout, but the standard flow is that the user posts their game design idea directly to the site – it’s a really quick process. From there they can add whatever they want to the design document page, and there’s a checklist of development and design goals to help them get started. The checklist asks questions such as, have you thought about sound for your game? Have you thought about the main character? We encourage idea owners to fill out as much as they can think of, but there’s also a button to ask the community for help.

Users can browse the site by help requests. And they can request for help with art, programming, sound, or design. Then if a game concept is interesting to them they can offer their skills to one another based on what a game needs at any given time. Schell Games staff is mentoring users through this process.

6.) Where do you see the site going in the future?

Right now GameSprout is in beta, and it will be as we continue to add and test features. We hope to get playable vertical slices of games created through GameSprout and posted and playtested publicly. Ultimately we’d like to get a few of our most popular games into a state where they could be completed into full games. Along the way we also want to get people who have never thought about game development involved in the process. We want to grow the site and make it a more popular resource so it’s accessible for a lot of people. 

There’s also a ton of features we want to add: team-building tools, direct user messaging, a better game browsing experience, a wiki to create a helpful design database, a way to file-share, etc. But a lot of those things depend on what users really want, since we’re working with the community every step of the way. On the site, you can go to the idea page for GameSprout itself to see what features we’re working on and testing.

7.) Anything else to say?

The fact is that GameSprout can’t work without talented and creative community members. So the more people who are looking at the site, adding ideas, and especially giving feedback on the existing ideas, the more we can learn and grow. 
What we really need now is feedback from our users on what’s working on the site and what isn’t! We just want to hear from people as to what they’d like to get out of a community like this. That helps us determine the directions for our iteration, since we are absolutely practicing what we are preaching. So I hope that people from all disciplines, from all levels of interest from novice to professional, will join us!

Thanks so much for letting me talk about GameSprout with you!


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