The conference opening keynote - after a bunch of conference execs came on stage and gave their obligatory speeches on the conference and the people involved in organizing - was given by Warren Spector, now working with Disney Interactive which acquired his startup Junction Point. His lecture was on the renaissance of the gaming industry, which was a topic he proposed months ago as a follow-up to his 2005 MIGS talk where he gave his thoughts on the future of the game industry. However it was also before the global market tanked and so he felt that the up-beat message of his talk was a bit dimmed, but still viable.
In addition to admitting that pretty much everything he predicted back in 2005 didn't come true, Spector went on to cover his key topic which centers around the fact that games are poised to become the dominant medium for the next century. He also went on to argue that games are still in a period of great change and evolution, likening us to the pioneering age of figures similar to Lewis and Clark. the analogy goes much deeper too as he compares the evolution of the game industry from scientists to explorers through to settlers. He really wants to see three things happen in the industry:
1: Publishers - don't be conservative! Take in the exploitable franchises but leave room in the portfolio for the "out there" projects
2: Indies - dare to be great! Be innovative and take the chance that traditionalists aren't willing to go for
3: Team members - be the agent provocateur! Find a way to introduce at least one new thing or new way of thinking into the game you're working on
He also went on to cover a variety of things the industry still has to work on achieving, like more interactive non-combat AI, games that can better adapt on the fly to a player's likes (combat, collecting, etc), better virtual actors, and much more. All these things and more are waiting for people to revolutionize and keep the industry fresh and flowing.
What he considered his most powerful point of the lecture in relation to games as popular media was a quote from Playboy magazine (to which he added "don't ask me how I saw this" [wink]) which read "players have unprecedented control over their experience - whether competing with one another on Facebook, building worlds with LittleBigPlanet, evolving a life form in Spore, or writing music in Guitar Hero World Tour." It amazed Spector to see this coming from a mainstream writer.
A little break
After the keynote I grabbed some quick breakfast and logged on to check email and... stuff (*cough*Facebook*cough*) then took a quick tour of the Expo, which is in the same room as the keynote hall oddly enough. Last year it was way better - it was still the same size (small) but it was artistically lit and was a refreshing break from the normal conference expo floors. This year it's just like all the rest. Anyways after a quick walk through and picking up my pass to tonight's UBISOFT/Microsoft party I headed out to my next session
Petri Purho on Game Prototyping
Petri's talk on game prototypes was hilarious. First, while people were filing in he was just playing Crayon Physics Deluxe up on the projection screen, earning a round of chuckles and applause when he would find a creative solution to a level... and laughs and a jokingly "you suck!" callout when he failed [smile] To which of course he pointed to the door and yelled "out!". Then when everyone was seated he started by recording himself with Audacity after telling everyone he was going to introduce himself and that we should all applause and chant "Petri! Petri! Petri!" so he could play it back for his mom and make her happy. So of course that's what we all did, hahaha.
He then went on to talk about how he prototypes games and why he thinks that game prototypes are so important, citing the fact that 5/6 of the IGF finalists this year were built of off games that were originally 7-day prototypes. He explained how difficult it was to take the SUPER AWESOME idea in your head and push out a game that was similar to that initial concept that didn't end up "totally sucking". Moreover, how many times the SUPER AWESOME idea churns out a mediocre prototype that still winds up becoming a mediocre game because people are so attached to their idea they want to believe it's better than it really is.
Of course all this was revealed after Petri disclaimed that he SUCKS at game design, and that he hasn't actually released a game yet because he's still working on Crayon Physics Deluxe - which according to the checklist he put on the screen has the Crayon, has the Physics, but he's still working on the Deluxe. But I think everyone was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on all that [smile]
His talk basically reflected a point that Warren Spector made in his talk which he picked up from Pixar which is (in Warren's words) "fail fast, fail often". The sooner you can play something, the sooner you can determine whether or not it sucks. Petri has heard several things like "I don't need a prototype because my idea is awesome" or "I'm going to make the prototype once I finish the engine" - wrong wrong wrong! He then gave Phil Fish's (Kokoromi) rule of prototyping - Just Fucking Do It!
So after Petri's talk it was time for lunch. I took my $15 meal ticket upstairs and bought some food that I'm thankful I didn't have to pay for with my own money, but it was filling.
I have three more sessions this afternoon - the first is from Clinton Keith on scrum, then a talk about game audio as a design element, then a report from Eidos Montreal's general manager on the studio's start-up for the past year. I'm also going to try to hand off my voice recorder to Tom Buscaglia to tape his session where he's on a panel with studio execs talking law and courting publishers.
Then it's out to dinner - hopefully with some Eidos Montreal guys so I can talk about Deus Ex 3 with them (off the record, sorry!) and then the conference party later tonight.