Back from GDC

I think it was around the time that I staggered out of the Portal postmortem, exhausted, sick, after surviving on a meager ration of burgers and pizza for a week, that I realized that GDC was the best thing ever


The conference wore me out. Every minute of every day presented another unmissable opportunity. I got to meet famous designers, or old friends I had never actually seen before. There was always another presentation or roundtable. Every night there were several parties full of industry folks, which were genuinely fun. Unfortunately for my health, I consistently decided to spend my time taking opportunities instead of eating properly or sleeping. It was totally worth it.

There are two main parts to the GDC: The presentations, and the networking. I’ll start with the presentations. Namely, three of my favourites:

Conflict Resolution Without Combat was a roundtable discussion focusing on creating games wherein a player can resolve conflicts using methods besides blowing people apart with large guns. I have a strong interest in this subject. Most games seem meaningless to us because they deal with subject matter – war and ruthless violence – which is so narrow and outside a normal person’s experience. The people at the roundtable brought up a variety of examples of games which have done conflict resolution in the past, possible methods of moving forward, and how people in real life resolve conflicts without murdering each other. It was great to see how much interest there was in this area.

The Portal postmortem, subtitled Integrating Writing and Design was interesting, and not just because it was hilarious. I came away with a variety of ideas and principles to explore relating to achieving tighter integration between story and gameplay, designing carefully mediated experiences which don’t leave players stuck, and achieving a high happiness-to-production-cost ratio using creative design methods. It was also interesting to see how the creators of Portal achieved so much by really putting a personal touch into the game.

Finally, Chris Hecker’s Structure vs Style was a very interesting look at attempting to apply similar method to solving what look like very different problems. Chris wants to find a way to apply the philosophy that drives triangle-based 3D rendering to artificial intelligence design. The ideas he presented demand a lot more thought and touch on almost every part of the design process.

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