Monday, March 5, 2007

Taking a pass on GDC this year

I made a tricky choice this year. I have a 1.0 product in the mad throes of being released. I also have the other half of my wedding to complete in Tokyo. Hmm...timing, timing, timing.

So I bit my lip and made the ever pragmatic and responsible decision to not attend GDC. Oh, the partying, inspiring talks and the old friends I'm missing. Bummer. Instead, I'll be tipping back a frosty beverage in the privacy of my own home and toasting to all the fine folks in this marvelous and vibrant industry. Indies, publishers, 1st party, 3rd party, MMO devs, lunatics and dreamers, rock on. It isn't a hotel bar, but it will have to do.

Good luck and have a brew for me. There will always be next year.

PS: If folks reading happens to be at GDC, I'd love to hear the most interesting game design technique that you happened upon during your travels.

PPS: Anyone playing with Linked In? My contact is danc-at-lostgarden-dot-com. It has an experience point system! I love how they use social pressure to encourage participation. "This is how many connections normal people have."

I'm curious how you could build a game using this concept of local social networks limited by degrees of separation. Guilds sort of have this built in, but imagine a world where you start only knowing your friends and then grow your network as you grow in experience. There would need to be a good hook to get your friends to sign up in the first place. Fun stuff.


  1. Heya, I also play Linked In (needs a tagline: Game Developers - collect the whole set!). Sent you an invitation to mine . . .

    It'd be interesting to have actual stats influenced by social standing. Hm. I'm reminded suddenly of the superman game, in which you had no personal life bar, instead the health of Metropolis determined mission failure.

  2. I started writing a flash "card battle" game that would use your LJ friends as your cards and pull stats from LJ for the cards' stats, but I got distracted by something shiny and forgot about it.

  3. I'm missing GDC this year as well (new baby)...

    I did a pitch long ago for a game who's exploration space was based on your social network.

    Basically, it was based off of something I saw when a friend of mine started handing out tails at live concerts. Yes, like animal tales. Anyway, after a show one night I noticed someone wearing one - I asked him if he knew my friend, and next thing you know we were crashing on his couch that night instead of getting a hotel.

    Anyway, in game form it went something like this:

    The game revolved around user created/customized spaces. I might hand you an invitation to come to my space. It might have rules about how you can invite others; perhaps you can invite three friends, or you can invite three friends and they can only invite one. Point is, the invitation can spread based on rules I set up when I create it.

    We end up hanging out and you essentially equipt my invitation. Suddenly, instead of seeing me standing next to you in slacks and a t-shirt, I'm wearing leather and chains. A door appears where there was once a wall, and all the decorations in my space are different.

    In essence, all the content is filtered based on an ID system, and your view into the 3d space is essentially determined by who you know, not traditional spacial rules.

    Now litter that space with goals, and you have a need to traverse the social network in the way you would traditional traverse a spacial one.

  4. Most interesting game design technique I saw was "The Marriage" by Rod Humble, as shown in the Experimental Gameplay and Nuances of Design sessions.

    Early in the week I got into a discussion with other designers on whether games could evoke emotion from their mechanics. Normally when we talk about "games that make you cry" we refer to noninteractive cut scenes and the like; stories can be emotional, but what if you strip out the story entirely? Can game mechanics carry an emotional payload?

    "The Marriage" is proof that it can. It's an abstract representation of a relationship between a married couple, represented in gameplay. The graphics are circles and squares; no art to distract from the game rules. It can't really be described... it must be experienced. But Rod did say that he'll make it freely available for download soon.

  5. Hunty:
    Funny you should mention that :D

    I have you friended on LJ . . .

    LJ's quite a compelling game, with a unique advancement system, allowing progression by number of friends, number of comments to your posts, with the manifestation of your power showing in your support in conflicts in communities. Lots of additional frills like cosmetic character customisation that appear to give you bonuses to your progression in friends numbers etc.

    Is there a way of winning? Maybe if you friend everyone in the whole LJ network . . .

  6. Ian:
    Regarding whether game mechanics can elicit emotion, I feel you wouldn't have to go as far as "The marriage" (which, while I realize it was a prototype and being presented to a lecture hall, I felt didn't explain its rules well enough to elicit the emotions it claimed to pursue). Paranoia and the the thrill of recovery from the brink of defeat are emotions as well. Simply playing the party game of Mafia (werewolf) or Super Puzzle Fighter will give you those emotions respectively.

    The most interesting design thing I saw was a demonstration of some "accessible" games, ie made to be playable by those with disabilites. I have long been skeptical of the practicality of some of these systems (such as audio games for the visually impaired) as something that would be wonderful to produce in theory, but impractical. The demonstration I attended basically reminded me that when creating (for example) and audio game, its important not to simply map visual games to an audio context, but rather to exploit the unique strengths of audio. A simple, and perhaps obvious conclusion, but one I'd been unable to fully understand until I saw it in practice.

    For instance, vision is very good at providing things with relative position (the cat is behind the dog), but audio seems to be better at positions relative to the player (the cat is behind me, the dog is to the left of me).
    Better yet, designers can abandon the idea of trying to build a virtual space and use abstract representations that utilize sound's unique features.