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The Road to GDC09, Ep. II: Bluffing Your Way In

So, how do you win a scholarship to the biggest game dev conference in the history of space travel?

It’s simple. You find yourself a sympathetic game developer’s association, become a student member, and answer their psychologically damaging questions (in 100 words or less).

I’m reprinting my answers here for the sake of, well, feeling good about myself. I winned a prix!

What are your career objectives? How will this scholarship help you achieve your goals?

I would like to expand on the subject of my Master’s thesis; that is, procedural content generation in video games, a subject which is of increasing importance, but about which there has still been relatively little research. Ultimately, I would like to begin releasing games that make use of procedural content in novel ways, and make the technology as accessible as possible to all game developers. Attending GDC will (hopefully) provide a glimpse into the current state of the art of procedural generation, and into video game research in general, and how it can be disseminated within the industry.

What do you expect to gain from GDC that is not available from your school?

Most importantly, I am looking for insight into how larger studios currently develop environmental and quest-related content: Is it manually? How much of a game’s development budget is devoted to the process? Have they looked into procedural content generation? How could a procedural tool help their work? What features would they look for? These are questions that can only be answered by professionals who have worked on the problem, and any answers given would contribute significantly to a further expansion (and perhaps more specific direction) of the work that I am doing.

What is your all-time favorite game, and why? What kind of game would you like to make?

My typical answer is to say both Half-Life, and System Shock 2. Both games feature some phenomenal, seamless level design. More importantly, however, is the novel way both games integrate their narratives into gameplay, leaving the larger story arc to the player to discover.

Given the resources, my game would be a sprawling (of course) open-world fantasy simulation with both a strong single-player storyline, as well as a number of avenues for co-op multiplayer adventuring, most likely using some form of (as-yet-undiscovered) procedural generation to ensure new experiences with each play-through.

Describe a game-related project (personal or academic) in which you’ve participated. Why did you get involved, and what did you learn?

I recently produced, with a friend, a game for the “Gamma 3D” indie game competition, which challenged designers to develop games making “interesting” use of red-blue stereoscopy. This was both a unique challenge (conceiving, and throwing away, a dozen ideas), and provided an opportunity for “guerilla game design”: the time frame was short (approximately a month), and the accelerated design-implement-test cycle gave a great introduction to the problems at all stages of game design. Our game ultimately wasn’t shown at the main event, but I took away from it the importance of constant communication during game development.

Is there anything else you’d like the judges to know about you?

I’m a Capricorn, I brew beer, and I really dig Lord of the Rings. Otherwise, I must unfortunately admit that I am somewhat unremarkable, working part-time to cover my tuition, and attempting to put together a bunch of words in the hopes that they some day transcend into thesis-ness.