Me, me at GDC

Between all the partying I managed to attend a bunch of talks GDC. The conference was heaps of fun, I didn't get any free tablets despite trying to blag a blackberry playbook and people looked very stupid playing Johan Sebasatian Joust which got talked about alot. Here is the rest of my wrapup:

Fallout Postmortem – Timothy Cain

Development started in 1994 and the game came out in 1997. It had a team of 30 ppl towards the end and a total budget of $3M. There was no plan, no spec, it was totally a side project of Tim who was making his own engine and was then transformed by an amazing team.

Main game influences were XCOM for combat, Crusader for graphics (Super VGA!), Wasteland for general feel and morality system.
Pencil and paper influences were GURPS, WizWar and Gamara World
Books: A Canticle for Leibowitz, I am Legend (Omega Man) and On The Beach
Movies: The Day After, Forbidden Planet, City of Lost Children, La Jetee

Everyone on the team had similar influences, a love of dark humour and an idea of what they were making but it wasn’t till someone produced a clear, concise vision statement that the core of the game could be communicated to marketing, new staff and management. This was my takeaway from the talk and it sounded like a great way to align the teams vision and effort to get the game done.

· The waterchip timer was hugely controversial and there was a day 1 patch to remove it
· Being able to shoot children was a problem for ratings, the children had to be removed in the EU SKUs
· Diablo almost screwed the project because it came out in 96, was isometric and had multiplayer
· It took 8 weeks for each talking head using VO using clay models and point scanners
· The follower system (dogmeat, Iain etc) was all done in script because it was thought up late in the development
· The game failed Windows 95 certification because it worked perfectly on Windows NT. The installer was coded to “crash” on NT because of this.
· The GURPS people didn’t like the violence so they pulled the license. A new combat system was designed and implemented in two weeks.
· There was a commitment to make the game an end-to-end experience from box, manual, interface, bg music (The Ink Spots), web page

In Game Visual Debugging – David “Rez” Graham from EA The Sims
In this talk we learnt how EA’s in game visual debugging tools and expertise for the Sims are kindergarten level at best. I've been watching Archer so lets call it babytown frolicks.

This was a series of 9 speakers giving very quick talks of 16 slides where the slide advances automatically. The theme was “time” and the speakers were a group of smart arses like Cliffy B, Amy Hennig and Richard Lemarchand from Naughty Dog, David Sirlin etc. My “take away points”:
· Unconscious thought is very powerful for complex decision making. Sometimes actively thinking about a problem generates a more convoluted solution.
· You don’t have to know something to be good at it
· What do videogames say about our heritage as a people? Warfare, espionage, snowboarding
· Start with a core mechanic and build everything else around that
· Look at games that tried new things and failed – maybe they didn’t fail because of the innovation but for the marketing or other trivial reasons. Recycle.
· Focus groups are bullshit and a source of bad information (thanks Cliffy)
· Cooperative coordination is as powerful as competition as a driving force for gameplay
· Originality and truth will always win even when the market says otherwise
· People want to identify with cool things, then they attribute value to themselves (look at this cool youtube link, I found it, it’s mine)
· Go for what you love
· Scale small
· Make it for yourself because you aren’t unique
· Games are all about experience – we don’t have to define what a game actually is to make it…
· “Sullivans Travels” is a movie that the writer from uncharted likes a whole bunch
· Entertain people

Practical Physically Based Rendering – triAce
· It’s possible to render photoreal graphics that look like global illumination with a whole lot of post processing real time on the 360 or PS3.
· It’s very complicated.


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