home // text // multi-media // misc // info

[ video-games food-drink computer-science travel game-design gdc09 ]

GDC09, Day 3: It Has Begun

Day began with perhaps the greatest blunder of the trip, which was skipping Satoru Iwata’s keynote speech on how to get your Nintendo Wiis to print money for you. I was told keynotes are skippable. I was not told they would be handing out free DS games.

Next was an opportunity to sit in with Emil Pagliarulo (Fallout 3), Fumito Ueda (Ico, Shadow of the Colossus), and Goichi Suda aka SUDA51 (Killer 7, No More Heroes) as they discussed their approaches to game design. The discussion wasn’t mind-blowing, but SUDA51 is certainly a character.

This was followed with a panel of devs working on “smaller” downloadable platforms such as the iPhone, XBox Live Arcade, etc: Vlad Ceraldi, Mike Mika, Jonathan Blow, and Kraig Kujawa (titles and credits to be posted at a later date). This talk I found really fascinating: they delved into the pros and cons of going from large companies/production lines to smaller groups, of developing for one’s self, of working with the various publishers, how and when to put your game out (if indeed that’s under your control), and so on. Really interesting discussion… and as was pointed out, not all panelists agreed on every issue. Good for a dynamic, that.

After lunch was the game design challenge, where three parties were asked to come up with a game design around a specific theme. This year’s: “My First Time,” an autobiographic look at sex. Naturally, this was a giggle-fest. Regardless, the designers really threw themselves at the problem: Heather Kelley and Erin Robinson (pinch hitters at the last minute) took the humourous, mini-game centred approach; Sulka Haro went for user-generated content (and was actually my pick for best design: he managed to solicit a huge range of responses apparently, both the very silly [obviously], and the very touching); and finally last year’s design challenge winner, Steve Meretzky, whose take was much more akin to an old-school adventure game, mixed with text-based IF awesomeness. The award went to the ladies, which, I’m almost embarrassed to say, is to be expected from an audience composed of 90% males. What can I say, we’re easily manipulated.

After this, I wanted to catch Chris Hecker’s (EA/Maxis) lecture on meaning and aesthetics in user-generated content, but unfortunately had to cut it short for a meeting. I did however catch Will Wright’s Russian Space Minute, in which he discussed a Space Shuttle-esque Russian space vehicle (the Buran) capable of delivering multiple badness to enemies of the Paternal-land. Gotta love that man’s passion for just about everything.

As mentioned, this was followed up by a meeting with Dustin Clingman, my mentor, who introduced me to his bud Larry Mellon, a fiend for analysis, metrics, automated testing, and apparently also studies of ancient civilisations. Larry took me across town (well, 10 blocks) to another academic party, and swept me right off my feet. Frigging intellectuals.

Afterwards, I came right back to the hotel (well, “right” meaning I walked around on my own for about an hour), and relaxed for all of 10 minutes before my roommates and a few other IGDA scholars entered, and convinced me to head back out for some more crawling. We had ourselves some burritos at a nearby taqueria (I think this is what it’s called… a Mexican place with Mexicans in it) along with a Negro Modelo beer, then off to Lefty O’Douls, a nearby Irish pub/cafeteria/restaurant/lounge. Not much action there, so we headed instead to the loft of the Marriot (amaaazing view of the harbour) to hang out with some dudes from Blizzard. As you do.

I am apparently learning.