Outsourcing Best Practices
Chico Carey, Executive Art Director from Pandemic Studios, gave a great talk on how to handle the outsourcing of game assets. Mainly art, of course, but the practices he described can also be largely applied to sound, which is another field that sees a lot of outsourcing in the industry. Chico went through the various stages of producing an asset, from design to delivery to revision/completion and along the way detailed hurdles that can crop up from things like improper communication of ideas and how Pandemic sets up its off-site studio partners so that everyone remains on the same page throughout the production process.
FarCry 2 Narrative
I was going to sit in on a studio start-up tips roundtable, but when I walked in I saw the moderator was Scott Simpson (should have realized that from the conference schedule, duh) who's talk on studio start-ups I had attended earlier in the day. The repetition smacked me in the face and I returned to the schedule to see what else was in that time slot. That's when I noticed a session on FarCry 2 narrative. Having heard much on the topic from mitten's twitter feed, I decided to sit in on that one instead - to which mittens of course responded after I tweeted my current session "REPORT BACK IN DETAIL OR DIE". [smile]
Patrick Redding, game designer from Ubisoft Montreal, talked in depth about the ideals behind the narrative gameplay that occurred in FarCry 2 - had I played the game it all probably would have been a lot more relevant but I was still able to follow him fairly well. He talked about how they structured the narrative to drive the player to certain key story points, but at the same time they realized that this was one of the problems that they couldn't completely overcome, and that the pacing of the game suffered because of it. He also went into how they modeled the AI after The Sims, with NPCs having wants and needs that directed them about the game world like needing to socialize or having to check out a suspicious area. When they were together, the game would draw clips of dialogue from buckets covering certain things like the progress the player had made through the game, how the AI felt towards the player, and would peice together the dialogue while conversing. He also explained how the Malaria drove things in the game as well.
Jonathan Blow closing keynote
Jonathan's closing keynote was entitled "Fundamental Conflict in Contemporary Game Design" and in his typical deep fashion he proceeded to delve into why story and challenge in today's games are fighting against each other, and how fundamental 2D games with no story but lots of expression in their gameplay are giving rise to new ways to approach creating compelling games. One example he gave for where story and game design aren't jiving is in Half-Life 2, where Alyx has a lot of narrative to deliver but of course she can't do it while you're in a firefight, so she does it when she's opening doors for you at the end of an arena and that draws out the process of continuing and moving on to the next area and where a new supply of ammo and stuff is awaiting you that you just worked hard to achieve. Of course there's lots more - Q&A ran a good 15 minutes past the end of the talk even - but that will have to wait for the full write-up.
Kokoromi Gamma 3D party
This year Kokoromi again threw a game jam party, or the results of a game jam I should say. Last year they challenged developers to come up with games playable at 256x256 resolutions. This year it was games that use stereoscopy (you can't just say 3D :P). The result was 6 games on display, and my favorite was one by the Kokoromi guys themselves, which was a block puzzle game where you have an irregular-shaped 3D object made up of cubes and an opening matching the silhouette of a certain side of the shape in a wall. The shape slowly drops "down" towards the wall Tetris-style and you have to orient the shape properly to slide through the opening. They even used an IR light attached to the 3D glasses and a Wii-mote for head tracking so you could lean to see around the shape and help determine if it is lined up properly. Confused? A picture is worth 1000 words: