GDC 2013 Day 5

I was so tired last night that I couldn’t keep myself up to write this blog post. As you continue to read this, you’ll know why.

I spent most of the day walking around the expo floor looking around stuff and dropping off my business cards and resumes at career pavilion booths. I also skipped lunch to attend Unity drawing contest. I mainly wanted the Nvidia graphics card, but I didn’t win anything. After that, I met my old college colleague Dan Fornace at Microsoft’s career pavilion booth. We mainly talked about how things were going in our lives. He is still in his same assigned team as a game designer. He is also working on a sequel to his HTML5 game Elementimals. If you want are interested, you can check out his website at His website looks different now compared to the last time I checked it.

When the expo floor closed at 3 PM, I went to check out the Ten Principles of Good Level Design panel. Here are the 10 principles:

1. Good level design is fun to navigate
2. Good level design does not rely on words
3. Good level design tells what… but not how
4. Good level design constantly teaches
5. Good level design is surprising
6. Good level design empowers the player
7. Good level design is easy, medium and hard
8. Good level design is efficient
9. Good level design creates emotion
10. Good level design is driven by mechanics

I would agree with this reason for following the sixth principle:

After this panel, the whole conference closed. I stood outside looking for some people I know or for some last minute networking. Then, I found Makoto Goto (or he found me) walking with his colleagues. He told me that they were going to the IGDA Japan party at a Chinese restaurant. I have already made contact with him on Wednesday. I was interested so I followed along with him. When I got there, I had to wait in the lobby along with other non-ticket holders. Some time later, I finally got into the party after paying $30 for food and drink tickets.

I went to the bar to get a drink. When I found out that I can only use my drink ticket to get either a beer, wine or soft drinks, I went with cola. I’m a sucker for sweet drinks. A game producer who was sitting on my right, Fumio Kurokawa, showed off his game called Monken. You control the wrecking ball to smash the building filled with terrorists in order to free the hostages. I thought it was interesting when I saw the trailer. I’ll be looking forward to its release.

When we were told that we can get food, I got in line. I was told that I could get many bites as I want. I planned to get seconds later. Here is my first plate:

After I finished my first plate, I walked around to meet with other developers there and exchanged business cards with them. Of all the people I met, I met with two notable ones. One was Nigoro, who has worked on an Indian Jones-style action game called La-Mulana. While the WiiWare and PC versions are out, the Steam version will be released next month. I forgot to exchange business cards with him. Maybe next time. The other one, who arrived at the party late, was Yu Suzuki. He is well-known for producing and directing many Sega titles like Virtua Fighter, Virtua Cop and Shenmue series. I am looking forward in doing business with many people I networked in one night.

While we were still dining and socializing, some Japanese graduate students showed off what each of them worked on in front of us. Some were listening to them and some were still socializing (loudly).

After the end of the party, I went with a group of people heading to a local company called Chartboost for some drinking and hanging around. We stayed there for a while and left. Each of us went back to their respective hotel.

This concludes my GDC 2013 journey. As I am finishing this post, I am heading back to Philadelphia on the airplane as of 11:23 PM PDT. Good night or おやすみ(oyasumi) in Japanese.

GDC 2013 Day 4

Right after I finished writing my day 3 post at Moscone North Hall, I went inside the expo floor to see what was going in there more. I briefly stopped by at the Havok booth. I learned that they plan to release a cross-platform engine and toolkit called Project Anarchy to mobile game developers for free later this spring. This should help me reduce my time on working on physics simulation.

After that, I decided to play the Japanese arcade game called Gunslinger Stratos again. This time, I recorded the gameplay on video so you could see it in action.

The first panel I went when I left the expo floor was IGDA Annual Meeting. The main topic of this meeting centered on complaints about the night party that occurred on day 2. The female dancers at the party were dressed “inappropriately” or sexually I should state. I heard from somebody on Twitter that a similar incident happened before. It sounded like IGDA needs to improve itself in planning or managing things ahead of time.

After the meeting, I immediately went to check out Sex in Video Games lecture. This panel covers sex and sexism in the video game industry. Like other types of media, sex sells because people like them. BioWare had received negative reactions as well as positive ones throughout their history. Also, 47% of gamers are female. These are some of the things that probably some people already know.

The next panel is Designing Journey, presented by Jenova Chen from thatgamecompany. He talked about how his 2-hour game took 3 years to finish development, from concept to final product. His team started the concept by identifying the emotion. He met with an astronaut who became religious after visiting the moon. That astronaut started questioning about his knowledge about the universe after he saw that the moon was lifeless and barren. Also, Jenova used a color palette analogous to emotions called emotional palette to determine emotions in other games. I don’t remember everything about this, but I remember that action games were in the red zone. I think social games were in the yellow. Journey was somewhere in the blue. Jenova’s team took a big action game, took away background noise, weapons and some characters and added in dessert props that resulted in what Journey is supposed to be. The early prototypes originally focused on cooperative multiplayer, not single player. Jenova’s team had to make the final version of the game single player as well as multiplayer so it can be played when players are alone and with each other. Jenova used the three act structure, which is often used in Hollywood, to make the game more of an emotional ride. Journey’s game world flow is based on this too. He also mentioned that checking fan art is a good way to see how players see your game. I might try that in the future.

After the closing of the convention center for the day, I went to some fancy restaurant called Roy’s for dinner. I ordered 2 Hawaiian martinis, ahi poke appetizer and misoyaki butterfish. They were all so good, I emptied the plates. One martini was enough to make my head feel light. After I finished my entree, I ordered a souffle for dessert. I only wanted the vanilla ice cream, but I ate the chocolate cake as well. When I looked at my food bill, my total was surprisingly high for few orders. I knew the restaurant was expensive, but I didn’t expect this! I’ll have to watch my spending better next time. Oh well, the food was still delicious.

GDC 2013 Day 3

Hey guys,

I apologize for not writing this post last night. I totally forgot to do it. I’m not used to writing on my blog regularly yet.

To start off, I initially planned to check out GDC Flash Forward in the ballroom in the West Hall, but I didn’t need to. I can check out what was going on through the screen outside. So, I decided to do that before heading off to the next panel about 45 minutes earlier.

I stated in my last post that I was deciding between attending Hideo Kojima’s talk or attending Overview of PS4 for Developers panel. Since the former will be recorded and the latter will not, I went with the latter. There was somewhat a short line at first. Eventually, the line got very long. I didn’t expect this panel to be this popular. I was glad that I made it in time.

I sat somewhere in the center of the section. Everybody had to squeeze in to fill every seat. The room seemed small, so I imagined a lot of people left sitting outside or left. The speaker told everybody in the room not to video/audio record nor take pictures in the panel. So, I prepared to write down a lot of notes as I can on my iPad.

So far, the PS4 is a next-generation hardware that is designed to stay connected, even on standby, and utilize innovative input experiences. Its target audience, obviously, is core gamers. Its user interface should follow 5 principles: simple, immediate, social, integrated, and personalized.

As for most of its hardware specifications, you can easily find them online. I’m gonna focus on stuff I probably haven’t heard before. Its CPU will use 8 cores with 8 hardware threads. Its GPU will run 800 MHz and use extended DirectX 11.1+ feature set with SCE custom features. The shaders will use a proprietary shader language called PlayStation Shader Language (PSSL), which is similar to HLSL. The PS4’s GPU can be used for general-purpose computing.

Its development environment supports 64-bit version of Windows 7. Its tools can be integrated into Visual Studio 2010 and 2012. Its compiler will be LLVM with Clang front end. SCE will put up updates to newer versions regularly. The development environment will be fully integrated into Windows Explorer. It will also include command line tools in case the developers need to write custom scripts for custom building. Its debugger will allow you to debug as you would on PC code.

At the end of the panel, we were shown a video of bees attacking everybody in Oprah Winfrey show. Then, the speaker told us to take out whatever is under our seats. Some people got red slips, while others got the blue. I got the latter. Those with red slips get 1 year of Playstation Plus subscription, while those with the blue ones get PlayStation Vitas with 8 GB memory cards. These Vitas were not Wifi-only models, but 3G/Wifi ones! I already own a Wifi-only Vita. I plan to use the new one for my other PSN account.

After I left the PS4 panel, I decided to go the expo floor and check out Sony’s booth. I talked to somebody there about becoming a licensed Sony developer. It turned out that I no longer need to provide them my financial reports with the developer application. I mainly needed a static IP address for DevNet access and I have to be physically located in North America and other areas SCEA supports. He also recommended that I have a corporate entity and have an Employer’s Tax ID number. This should make my life easier to become an official Sony console developer.

I spent most of the rest of my time at GDC on the expo floor looking around and dropping off my business cards with people. I checked out Silicon Studio’s booth and checked out two of its products it was showing off, Bishamon and Paradox. Bishamon is a visual effects tool and Paradox is a C# game engine. I also played the arcade game called Gunslinger Stratos at the booth. I’ll have to continue playing before I get fully used to using two gun peripherals at the same time.

When the expo floor closed, I went to the West Hall’s ballroom to attend the IGF Awards and Game Developers Choice Awards show. Its host changed from Brandon Boyer to Andy Schatz. I preordered his game Monaco and will play his game next month.

Here is the list of winners in IGF 2013:

Excellence in Visual Art: Kentucky Route Zero
Nuevo Award: Cart Life
Excellence in Audio: 140
Excellence in Narrative: Cart Life
Technical Excellence: Little Inferno
Best Student Game: Zinneth
Audience Award: FTL
Excellence in Design: FTL
Seumas McNally Grand Prize: Cart Life

At the end of IGF, the color of the lights changed from overall orange to blue. This change signaled the start of Game Developers Choice Awards. Tim Schafer, the host, appeared and showed a change in his physical appearance: he shaved his beard off.

Here is the list of the following winners in Game Developers Choice Awards:

Best Downloadable Game: Journey
Best Narrative: The Walking Dead
Best Visual Arts: Journey
Best Technology: Far Cry 3
Best Game Design: Journey
Best Handheld/Mobile Game: The Room
Best Audio: Journey
Best Debug: Subset Games
Innovation Award: Journey
Audience Award: Dishonored
Game of the Year award: Journey

That is all I have to write about my day 3. If anybody has questions (especially about Playstation 4), then feel free to post comments. I’ll do my best to answer them.

GDC 2013 Day 2

Sorry for not posting this sooner. I was tired from walking from the party to the hotel room.

To start off, I spent a whole day attending the Game Design Workshop Day 2. Since I signed up for it in advance, I get to go in ahead of others in line. For our first exercise, we formed teams so each can do a paper simulation of an existing digital game. I proposed Super Smash Bros. because I thought it would be easier to do in paper (or cards).

In order to build a paper version of a digital game, you have to identify your game’s play aesthetics first. Aesthetics are emotional responses that the player makes when playing the game. Next, you choose one aesthetic element you intend to capture in your paper version. You should write it down (on a card) and place it in the middle of your table so your team will be constantly reminded that while making the game. For my team’s key aesthetic, it was frenzy.

While you are making the paper simulation, you shouldn’t worry about the details of the original game. Also, don’t try to duplicate the whole digital game. Just try to invoke a key emotional response from your players in your paper version. In the end, my team has managed to make the game very frenzy or chaotic. However, we made it less Super Smash Brothers. Somebody in my team said it was more like Tekken.

At this point, I have realized that making paper prototypes makes it easier to design your game. It also helps you understand existing games even more. It is also very quick and cheap. I will try doing this so often when I get back home.

After finishing the prototype, I went to attend an elective called Three Musketeers. I chose it because it seemed simpler and easier of all the other electives. I never play the game before so I paired with another person and played it for a while.

After that, we formed a team with another pair to modify the orignal game into a 3-player and 4-player game. For a 3-player game, we replaced one of the cardinal’s men in the corner with a new piece called captain of the cardinal’s men. This piece was obviously controlled by the third player. Unlike cardinal’s men, it can move to another space by switching places with its adjacent cardinal’s man orthogonally and diagonally. If I remember the new rule correctly, the captain wins the game by killing two of the three musketeers. In the 4-player version, the rules from the 3-player remain the same. However, we replaced the remaining cardinal’s man in the corner with d’Artagnon. The player that controls this piece wins the game by lining with the three musketeers orthogonally or diagonally or killing the captain of cardinal’s man. These modifications I believe made our game more fun.

While I learned a lot from this workshop, I also exchanged business cards with people I met there. It seems I made a good start in networking.

Our speakers at the workshop said they will post the materials on their website after GDC. I will post those links when they are available.

I better get ready for day 3! I’m still deciding whether I should attend Hideo Kojima’s panel or Overview of PS4 for Developers panel.

GDC 2013 Day 1

For people who don’t quite know me yet, I am a freelance HTML5 developer currently working at H4B Catapult, which is a New Jersey-based non-game company, who is interested in working in the game industry as a programmer.

To start of my first day at GDC 2013, I retrieved my all-access pass at the registration booth. It is my second time coming to GDC. My first time was in 2011. I didn’t attend last year because I didn’t have enough money. I’ve been saving my money from freelancing for this.

The first summit I attended was How to Make an Original F2P Game. I might have missed the first advice on that. I’ll have to look it up on GDC Vault. However, I managed to write down the rest on my notes on my iPad. Here are what I have wrote down so far:

2. Use (and make) tools that create gameplay quickly
3. Listen to what your customers do (not only what they say)
4. Build games w/ broad design space (and broad monetization potential as result)
5. Keep the team small
6. Big changes post release
7. Bring in art late (focus on making the game fun first, then make the art look good in the production stage)

Overall, these points will help you and your team develop a successful free-to-play (or non-F2P) game. These will help me well. The team I helped form recently ended up disastrous due to multiple reasons (very tiny team working on a big project with no clear deadline and recruited wrong people). It is very difficult for me to find the right people in Philadelphia area who is willing to work with me on a team project. Unless I get hired outside of Philly, I will try forming a team again when I get back.

I thought about writing more about all the other summits and tutorials I attended today, but I don’t feel like wasting a lot of time and space repeating some of the things I already stated on my Twitter tweets. You can follow my tweets through @DimensionalEye if you haven’t already.

I originally wanted to network with people attending this year’s GDC, but more people planned to attend the last three days. I’m kind of bit disappointed that I haven’t done that yet. I may have to try be more bold. I’m hoping that the more people I network with, the higher my chances of getting into the game industry.

Tomorrow, I plan to attend Game Design Workshop Day 2 since I have registered for it. When I tried to attend day 1’s workshop, I couldn’t get in because it was packed. I’ll have to wake up early and be there early as possible so I can be one of the first people in line.

I hope tomorrow will be better.