1.30.2007

Christmas

Last year was my first GDC. The conference comes again in March, and I couldn't be more excited about it, honestly. The sessions, keynotes, and Game Developer's Choice Awards were all outstanding and tend to make one terribly excited to be working in games. As I was telling a colleague, GDC has given me that sense of anticipation I used to get as a kid waiting for Christmas. It's the most wonderful time of the year.

It goes without saying that I'll be there for Miyamoto's Keynote, and the GDC Awards. Phil Harrison's thing, I dunno, probably not. I got my fill of his shitty infomercial company line at last year's Keynote. Why does this guy get to Keynote two years in a row?

I'm also planning to take the whole week off and attend...

(305) Game Design Workshop Marc LeBlanc
Monday, 10:00am - 6:00pm
— Tuesday, 10:00am - 6:00pm
Game Design/
Two-Day Tutorial
Overview: This intensive 2-day workshop will explore the day-to-day craft of game design through hands-on activities, group discussion, analysis and critique. Attendees will immerse themselves the iterative process of refining a game design, and discover formal abstract design tools that will help them think more clearly about their designs and make better games.

I've heard from a number of people that the workshop can be really fun, not to mention enriching in how one thinks about game design. LeBlanc has pioneered some of the biggest "Big Ideas" in design philosophy since his stint at Looking Glass, and I think it'd be fascinating to have two full days of intensive work study with him and my fellow attendees.

Let's take a look at some of the other sessions that have grabbed my attention:


Chaos vs Control: Creating Gameplay From Crowd Behavior in Assassin's Creed Jade Raymond
Matt Mazerolle
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: Crowd Gameplay is one of the big promises of Next Gen consoles. Having seen the consoles of the future, we thought "Bigger, Faster, Stronger!", "More Polygons, More AI, More Physics!!", "More Enemies, More People, Real CROWDS!!!". Bigger can be better, but it rarely brings anything new to the player experience. This talk explores how the Assassin's Creed team hit upon the interesting conclusion that lots of people on screen does NOT equal crowd gameplay.



I think that fully-realized, engaging NPC crowds are going to be one of the big leaps from this to the next evolution of games, not to mention that I'm psyched for anything related to Assassin's Creed.


Creating and Extending Original Franchises Samantha Ryan
Matt Allen
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: Hear hard-won lessons from Monolith's CEO and lead artists on creating and extending these original franchises from inception through sequels across multiple platforms.


I love studios that bank on their own original IP, and the Lith maybe most of all. Sign me up.

Designing GEARS OF WAR: Iteration Wins Cliff Bleszinski
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: Cliff Bleszinski, designer of GEARS OF WAR, outlines the design processes that yielded GEARS OF WAR. He takes the various features that worked in the product and breaks them down, step by step, describing how the collaborative and iterative process made them shine.

Designing Games for Everyone: Harmonix Design in Practice Tracy Rosenthal-Newsom
Rob Kay
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: Why does Harmonix design accessible games? Because we want everyone to have fun! It's often said games should be "easy to pick up and hard to master", but that's easier said than done. In this talk we share our design insights, best practices and production experiences (both good and bad!) to illuminate the craft of accessible game design.





These both sound like excellent design overviews/postmortems from a couple of wildly divergent but highly successful developers. One is a breakdown of how the most successful recent "core gamer's" game was designed, and the other how the breakthrough mass-appeal title Guitar Hero came to be. Tell me all about it.

Experimental Gameplay Sessions Jonathan Blow
TBDGame Design/
2-Hour Panel
Overview: A collection of short presentations showing new and experimental game designs.





This is a big one-- a showcase for recent, usually small-scale experimental game design hosted by Jonathan Blow, whose time-bending Braid brought the house down last year.

Exploration: From Systems to Spaces to Self Clint Hocking
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: Whether we are exploring a system-space or a simulated two or three dimensional space, every game is in some way an exploration game. This presentation examines exploration in games, and how designers can better utilize our human compulsions to explore in order to offer players a more meaningful experience.

Clint Hocking is always a fascinating thinker and speaker. He's heavily into the MDA thing and the whole emergent/Looking Glass philosophy, which should come into full practice now that he's broken the bonds of Splinter Cell. I wish his talks could go on for longer than an hour.

Game Design in Agile Development Rory McGuire
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: In the leap to next-generation, traditional development methods are starting to show their seams. Larger technical complexities are giving designers shorter periods to find the fun and polish game play. This session covers Agile and Scrum methods, focusing on how their fundamentals benefit designers in the next generation development environment.

Game Design: From Blue Sky to Green Light Tim Willits
Deborah Todd
Matt Costello
Chris Charla
TBDGame Design/
2-Hour Panel
Overview: A fast-paced and hands-on audience participation experience in game design from the blue sky process though character development, story wraps, puzzle design, level development, and ultimate greenlighting. Come ready to play, think, and be challenged!





Two sessions addressing two cutting edge approaches to design, iteration, and production flow. Maybe they'll be a little dry or over my head, but I'd love to be up on the newest approaches to next-gen studio game making.

Innovations in Fable 2 Peter Molyneux
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: When attempting to create a sequel the temptation is to add more of everything but is this enough? Lionhead Studios ambition for Fable 2 is to create a sequel which is truly a land mark title and to achieve this there must be evolution and revolution. This talk will centre around revolutions in Fable 2. This talk will examine how key game play elements have been refined and expanded. It will also look at what inspiration was drawn for the original game and what lessons were learnt from Fable. The processes used to arrive at these design decisions can be applied to a broad spectrum of genres and so are relevant to a large sector of the development community.

Plus Peter Molyneux has promised to reveal a totally unexpected feature in Fable 2.





Molyneux is generally full of shit and ditched out on his session last year, so hitting up this presentation should be good for gossip-making at least.

Interactive Cinematography Thiery Adam
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: Film has developed a set of camera rules and influences that have become the language of cinematography. For some reason, its wealth is largely unapplied to the camera in video games. This lecture is about learning from other mediums and figuring out how to go beyond with interactivity's possibilities.

Active camera control is so much more important to the player's perception of a game than most people give it credit for. The incredibly dynamic camera in God of War, Gears of War or Resident Evil 4 are great examples of an effective, active in-game camera. I'd like to see what this guy has to say.

Narrative Landscapes: Shaping Player Experience through World Geometry Brian Upton
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: When a player moves through a game world the physical geometry of the virtual space imposes an implicit structure on the play experience. This session explores practical level design techniques for shaping that experience, drawing on examples from real games and theme parks as well as academic research in virtual environments and city planning.

Directly tailoring the player's experience through space design? Yes please.

Reflections of Zelda Eiji Aonuma
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: Aonuma explains the development team's formidable task of progressing the epic franchise across multiple generations of Nintendo systems. This is a rare opportunity to learn behind-the-scenes development challenges and triumphs from Link's latest installments.

Zelda... Seeee-crets! Sounds like fun if there's nothing else going on in this slot.

Punk's Not Dead Goichi Suda
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: Creating successful games from original IP

Grasshopper is not a big company, and each member of our staff has something important to contribute to the games we make. Just like in a band, if the one of the members leaves, the product and the team is forever changed.

Game creators should be faithful to their vision and instincts, if original games are what interest them. The players in turn will respond favorably to this originality, as there's an innate desire to experience something new. There is severe stagnation in terms of game design these days however, as creators are afraid of taking risks. This talk will discuss our production style at Grasshopper, which is rooted in appreciation of our native Japanese culture and aesthetic. This is how I worked as director, game designer, and scenario writer for Killer7 and the upcoming title, No More Heroes.





I love, love, love Suda51's crazy ass. If you think I'm missing him in person you've got another thing coming.

SPORE's Magic Crayons Chaim Gingold
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: This lecture discusses the appeal, challenges, and techniques used in the design of games with a strong player creativity component. Many programs will be compared and analyzed, but specific emphasis is placed on the design and methodology used in the development of SPORE's editors.

Spore session. Pretty much a given.

The Future of Storytelling In Next-Generation Game Development Warren Spector
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: A follow-up to the session, "What Would Aristotle Do?" presented at GDC 2004, Spector looks at recent developments in game narrative and what the power of next gen hardware allows developers to do - and players to experience - that may not have been possible before. What's the current state of the art in game narrative? Where will progress be made? Where must progress be made? Are the challenges facing interactive storytellers technical, creative, or simply a matter of will? A partly philosophical, partly practical, partly ranty talk about games and stories, past, present, and future.





Warren Spector musing about the state of the art in game-driven narrative? I'm not missing this one.

The Imago Effect: Avatar Psychology Harvey Smith
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: The Imago Effect: Avatar Psychology Creating an in-game representation often holds a strange fascination for players; for some games, we spend more time crafting our avatars than we do playing. On the surface, character creation seems simple. This session explores the notion that there's much more going on in the player's mind, taking a look into the ways we let our audience engage in self-express through avatar.

Avatar creation and customization is one of my favorite feature of any given game in practically any genre. Being able to fully customize my own avatar in the upcoming Mass Effect sold me on that game about twice as hard as I would've been otherwise. I don't know if I can ever forgive Harvey Smith for Deus Ex 2, but I'm into this subject and he seems like a smart guy.

The Game Design Challenge: The Needle and Thread Interface Eric Zimmerman
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Panel
Overview: The Game Design Challenge is back for another year, with three talented designers tackling a very unusual design problem. Their assignment? Design a game with a highly unorthodox input device: a square of fabric, a needle, and some thread. At the session, each panelist will present a unique solution to this game design enigma, and the audience plays an important role as well � by voting in the winner of the Game Design Challenge 2006.

The Metagame: A Battle of Videogame Smarts Frank Lantz
Eric Zimmerman
Warren Spector
Marc LeBlanc
Jesper Juul
Clint Hocking
Jonathan Blow
Tracy Fullerton
TBDVision/
60-minute Panel
Overview: The Metagame combines a gameshow format with strategic competition and lively debate. Inspired by Herman Hesse's The Glass Bead Game, in the Metagame six videogame sages compete in a battle of aesthetic analysis and critical connections.

Here are a couple of frivolous, fun sessions run by the insufferable Eric Zimmerman. But everybody likes seeing design superstars playing little games. I'll be there.

Writing Great Design Documents Damion Schubert
TBDGame Design/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: A brilliant design idea is worthless if you cannot communicate it to your teammates and publishers. This roundtable discusses strategies to improving your documentation style and processes to improve inter-team communication, reduce rework, and ensure that great designs get executed well.





Sounds useful.

Censorship of Video Game Content: Time to Fight Back Lawrence G. Walters
TBDIGDA/
60-minute Lecture
Overview: The intent of this lecture is to educate the attendees regarding the current legal climate associated with video game content laws, and evaluate some potential future trends.

Who's the Real Bully?: Rights and Responsibilities in the Anti-Game Debate
Daniel Greenberg
TBDIGDA/
60-minute Roundtable
Overview: Beating up on the games industry is easy and grandstanding carries little political price. Defending any new media is very difficult. What can developers do? What are our rights, what are our responsibilities, and what are our choices in defending ourselves and protecting our work?

A couple of sessions about the current state of games, regulation, censorship, and freedom of speech. Zeitgeisty!

Preserving Games: Saving the Past and Setting Safeguards for Today
Henry Lowood
TBDIGDA/
60-minute Roundtable
Overview: This roundtable meets twice. The first meeting emphasizes preserving digital games of the past, many of which are rapidly becoming endangered. The second shades towards organizing an archiving strategy for games produced today.

I've started to think about historical game archiving and game culture heritage preservation. I'd hate to see so many games of today and yesterday go the way of the thousands of films that have been lost to history through neglect. Games have the advantage in that they're non-physical in their essence so there's no flimsy film to dry out or burn up. This seems like an interesting topic to explore.

Game Criticism: Opportunities and Approaches (Day One) Ian Bogost
TBDIGDA/
60-minute Roundtable
Overview: What contributions can criticism offer to the medium of videogames? What unique opportunities exist in different critical media, for example, blogs, traditional journalism, and academic criticism? What techniques are most useful for such critics? What are the good and bad examples of game criticism that already exist, and how can we learn from them?

Games are just now developing their own critical approaches and language. As representative of an arm of critical thought still in its gestation period, I'd look forward to what these guys have to say.

Ten Games You Need to Play: The Digital Game Canon Henry Lowood
Steve Meretzky
Warren Spector
Matteo Bittanti
Christopher Grant
TBDIGDA/
60-minute Panel
Overview: This panel mixes up game designers, researchers, and journalists -- all players, too -- to answer this question. And expect to hear an appeal or two about the need to solve the problem of long-term preservation of these games as part of our cultural heritage . . . before they disappear forever.





Game design icons discussing what they'd term as the most significant games of all time. Sounds like fun.



Looks like the space under my Christmas tree is overflowing! Hope to see you there.

2 comments:

Harvey said...

Ha!

Thanks for the comments. Hope you liked the speech at GDC07.

While I'm still proud of Deus Ex 2 (Invisible War), we had major, major problems with our renderer (and tech effort in general), which really hosed our maps and made us re-work a bunch of stuff near the end. I made some mistakes (in terms of team management and fiction) that I wouldn't make today. But really the tech mismanagement was a group effort...I only own part of the blame for that one. Still, Invisible War was super ambitious, it was my first multi-platform project, and the gameplay is interesting. Sorry you didn't like it.

Steve gaynor said...

Almost every day, you get another reminder that things you put on the internet do not exist in a vacuum.