Tuesday, March 13, 2012

GDC 2012 -- Day One

So another Game Developer's Conference has come to a close so I've decided to write about my experience and talks. So here is a list of each talk from Wednesday, March 7, 2012:

Another year, another GDC
Quick note, before Wednesday, I explored the conference a little bit to discover a new section of GDC known as GDC Play. It was a small section displaying a variety of games and companies. I heard the goal was for indie or other people to get noticed by possible publishers. It's unlikely, but I was even contemplating on getting a booth one year for my work -- of course I need to actually finish stuff. I played a very nice, yet overly sexual, 3D fighter known as Girl Fight, and an interesting fight simulator called graFighters in which players draw their characters and using some unique, easy-to-use tools, create it and watch it fight others' creations.

graFighters -- interesting concept and name
So Wednesday started out with a new concept for GDC known as the Flash Talks. These, in a way, replaced a universal keynote. During the Flash Talks, 100 speakers pitched the audience their talks in about 45 seconds. Unfortunately, there were more than 100 speakers at the conference as a whole, so there were some that you only had to go by with a description and title -- which I later learned isn't too reliable. Overall, I liked this concept and it definitely helped sway me which talks to and not to attend during the following days.

Laralyn McWilliams worked on Free Realms

Get Over Yourself: Making Someone Else's Game

This was my first real talk given by Laralyn McWilliams of iWin, Inc., and though it may not have been my favorite or the best, it was definitely the one I needed most. It discussed dealing with and motivating yourself and/or a team to work on games that may not be their style or their taste. A couple of weeks ago I was rather depressed with the current projects at my job, and this talk definitely helped motivate and inspire me to continue working and that there are more important things than what I do during my "9 to 5". McWilliams went over things like how to get a mindset for preparing to create a game for an audience you don't belong in or understand and techniques to help satisfy any feelings that your main job might not be satisfying. I didn't suffer a bit from "easier said than done" syndrome, but it was still a good talk.

This guy -- Frog Skin Pro

Upgrade Humanity in 60 Seconds Flat: The Game Design Challenge 2012

Again, I went to my third Game Design Challenge. I sometimes question why I go to these things. This year the theme was to design a game that would have measurable improvements on humanity and only takes a minute to play. After hearing the theme, I wanted to leave. Eric Zimmerman -- the host -- and his themes get more esoteric and confusing it seems, but I guess dealing with such unique and challenging themes is why these guys are famous. Anyway, the contestants were Noah Falstein, the designer of Sinistar; Richard Lemarchand, Naughty Dog designer; and Jason Rohrer, last year's winner. In order of presentation, Rohrer's game, Frog Skin, involved turning your money into a trading card game. The difference is that you can extend your hand by ripping the money in half. How did this help humanity? Well, by ripping money and making it worthless -- much to the audience's chagrin -- it caused deflation, counteracting inflation, which did help the world economy and humanity as a whole -- I guess.
The game presented by Lemarchand -- whose last name I can barely say as much as type -- was entitled The Shame Game. He went through the high-level explanations of what a game is and how shame motivates us and is dangerous -- essentially all done to support the game he was presenting. Said game was entitled "The Shame Game" Essentially, for 30 seconds we looked into the eyes of our neighbors while humming a song, in this case, the Katamari Damacy theme, while thinking about our most shameful moment. Then, for the other 30 seconds, we looked anywhere we wanted, continued humming, and thought without shame. The goal was to help us eliminate shame, which he measured by asking the audience to raise our hands. Overall, I felt more shamed in the second half, because while everyone stood and sang aloud, I just didn't want to but conformed and did so.
The third and final presented by Fahlstein was essentially a YouTube displaying "good deeds" -- moments that you would see on the local news of firemen in action, people saving cats, essentially Good Samaritan acts. It wasn't so much a game though. It felt similar to Jenova Chen's last year. It wasn't so much a game but just socializing and monetizing a site to display good deeds, deeds that I guess helped improved humanity and documenting them made it measurable. It was well thought out, answering questions like, "How do you prevent people doing dangerous, stupid stuff just for possible rewards?" Overall, it just didn't feel like a game. In fact, none of them really felt like real games to me. I know there are board games and card games and all types, but at GDC, video games seems to be the main thread running throughout the conference, so when presented with these, they all felt like cop-outs?
Anyway, Lemarchand won -- I think. The end was very scrambled since Zimmerman had to leave to do his talk. Again, it was interesting to see how famous game designers work and present but it wasn't overly inspiring.

You get nothing but a glare, Nordic countries...

Stupid Nordic Party

So after the Game Design Challenge, a coworker told me about a large party being held dubbed "The Nordic Party". I wanted to go since others were going, but when I went to get a ticket they were gone. Strangely, I don't even know why there were holding the party and the PR lady giving out said tickets didn't know what any of the companies did. To make matters worse, I missed the talk I wanted to go to entitled, "Rapid, Iterative Prototyping Best Practice" being given by Eiten Ginert of Fire Hose Games. His Flash Talk was one of the most memorable, singing a silly song involving frogs and their demise at the wheels of trucks. Anyway, I missed it because it was filled; if I didn't waste time trying to get a stupid ticket for a party I later heard sucked, I wouldn't have missed the talk. That's what I get for trying to be a "Good Time Charlie" I guess.

Your game made more money on Steam than other platforms? I could have deduced that, but getting onto Steam? That's another story.

How Steam Worked for an Indie

This thirty-minute talk was given by Andrew Goulding of Brawsome. Essentially he explained how putting his game, Jolly Rover -- an adventure game involving dog pirates -- made most of its money through Steam. It was probably the worst talk of the conference I attended: boring, information that wasn't overly interesting and could have just been presented in a few slides, and not inspiring at all. I was hoping there was going to be more information on how to get your game on Steam. It was interesting to hear how Steam suggested when to change price and whatnot, but overall, this talk could have probably just been a "Poster Talk".

Anyway, the above was my last talk of the day. I could have attended another short talk, but I was too frustrated. I did hang out with some awesome XBLIG developers that night and that was much better than the either, expensive, overly packed parties taking place that night.

Day 2 tomorrow

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