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
|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:
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.
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||TBD||Game Design/|
|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.|
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.
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||TBD||Game Design/|
|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||TBD||Game Design/|
|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.|
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.
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||TBD||Game Design/|
|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||TBD||Game Design/|
|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||TBD||Game Design/|
|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.
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||TBD||Game Design/|
|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.
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||TBD||Game Design/|
|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||TBD||Game Design/|
|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|
|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.
|Censorship of Video Game Content: Time to Fight Back|| Lawrence G. Walters||TBD||IGDA/|
|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||TBD||IGDA/|
|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||TBD||IGDA/|
|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||TBD||IGDA/|
|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.
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.