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GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Archive For September, 2008

Austin GDC: The Best Of Wednesday's Coverage

September 18, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [Wow, we're basically done - I'm about to hop on a plane back to California - but here's the remainder of the AGDC pieces we haven't features. Hope you liked our show coverage!]

Gamasutra was at Austin GDC 2008 this week, and we've compiled the best of our industry-leading coverage of the major MMO and virtual world, game writing, and audio lectures presented since Wednesday. You can also read our coverage from Monday's presentations and Tuesday's sessions.

AGDC, which is organized by Gamasutra parent Think Services, is took place in the Austin Convention Center from Monday 15th-Wednesday 17th September, and multiple Gamasutra reporters were on hand to document many of the lectures and panels taking place there.

Here are the highlights of Wednesday's sessions at AGDC 2008:

AGDC: Storytelling at id Software: The Experience Matters
"FPS pioneer id Software doesn't exactly have a reputation rooted in strong game stories. But in his presentation at AGDC, Rage creative director Tim Willits urged developers to change the way they look at stories -- and emphasize just what's important to players in delivering them -- and also offered a few new tidbits of information about the upcoming Rage."

AGDC: Building Battlefield Heroes, EA's First Free To Play Game
"How did EA DICE's free to play Battlefield Heroes take shape? Development Director Bjarne Rene delivered a comprehensive pre-mortem on what he would probably call the beginning of the project -- getting the game and the service that supports it up and running."

AGDC Interview: How NetDevil Got The LEGO Universe Deal
"The 'hot thing' in recent months has been branded online worlds -- the industry's now got multiplayer spaces for everything from Hello Kitty to Build-a-Bear Workshop, and toy tie-ins like Webkinz are beginning to crop up everywhere."

AGDC: Sony's Page: 'Next Gen Audio - Is That It?'
"In his delightfully morose keynote at the Austin Game Developers Conference, Jason Page, Sony Europe's R&D audio manager discussed the present and future of game audio, musing that 'working in the games industry can be an insular experience,' but then going far beyond -- revealing new Sony tools Sulpha and Awesome along the way."

AGDC: If You Build An Online Game, Will They Come?
"Margaret Wallace of venture-backed startup Rebel Monkey -- itself developing an MMO -- was at Austin GDC's Worlds in Motion Summit to discuss user retention in multiplayer spaces. The question she posed: If you build it, will they come?"

AGDC: Arkane's Smith Reveals iPhone Strategy Game, 'Immersive' First-Person RPG
"Former Ion Storm and Midway designer revealed that Arkane Austin is working on both an "immersive first-person RPG" and an iPhone casual strategy title at the Texas developer."

AGDC: Advanced Storytelling Techniques in Tomb Raider: Underworld And Beyond

September 18, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [Christian Nutt has written up what seems to be one of the best-received AGDC Writer's Track talks, both from an conference and external point of view - high levels of thinking here on the practicality of writing for games.]

Eric Lindstrom, creative director of Tomb Raider: Underworld at Crystal Dynamics, delivered an impassioned and even frustrated presentation about the need for more nuanced storytelling techniques and roles within the development team, to create satisfying next-gen game stories.

Setting up his talk, Lindstrom says, "I am a creative director which means I don't actually do anything -- what that means I get a lot of other people to do things. I am a designer, and have been for many years."

This is the understanding and leveraging of how to use all of the techniques available to make games more meaningful -- from game design to cinematic techniques. And Lindstrom's argument is that the understanding and effective us of the latter must improve.

AGDC: Krawczyk, Cooper On Getting Game Dialog Right In God Of War 3

September 18, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

-[Alongside all of the online game stuff at Austin GDC, let's not forget that there are audio and writing summits, too, and this neat melange of the two has a voice actor and a writer discussing how dialog comes out correctly (and not horribly!) for AAA games.]

In a talk at the Austin Game Developers Conference, God Of War 3 writer Marianne Krawczyk and voice actor DB Cooper discussed some notable changes needed to stop terrible game dialog or voice acting that might "haunt game writers for the rest of their lives."

Cooper explained to the audience, which was divided between audio professionals, writers, and voice actors, that "we want to keep your game off of AudioAtrocities.com," noting that it's the lack of useful direction on the character's intent or in terms of how you want the gamer to feel that can hobble things for everyone.

AGDC: Paharia, Andrade On Making Dunder Mifflin Infinity

September 17, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

-[On the last day of Austin GDC, there was a rather neat lecture about the Dunder Mifflin Infinity website at the WiM Summit - and I had a lot of fun in writing it up. Actually, I'm tempted to join up to the website now and flex my ASCII skills for the season premiere - corporate drone-age is what everyone should aspire to.]

In a unique keynote for the Worlds In Motion Summit, Bunchball's Rajat Paharia and NBC.com's Stephen Andrade discussed the creation of the Dunder Mifflin Infinity website, a promotional website for 'The Office' TV show which has surprisingly detailed and game mechanic-inspired social website.

Paharia explained the concept behind his firm Bunchball, that "gaming should be multiplayer".

The firm originally developed a synchronous game-related set of websites, and gradually built 'level up' mechanics into their business model, and have essentially "turned game mechanics into a service" for multiple websites - rewarding achievements.

Thus, Bunchball and NBC Universal created the DunderMifflinInfinity.com website, which is essentially a 'level up' centric social website, including lots of in-game game challenges and competitions to win 'Schrutebucks', with teams competing against each other to be the best 'branch office' in the game.

Austin GDC: The Best Of Tuesday's Coverage

September 17, 2008 12:00 PM | Simon Carless

- [Still hanging out in Austin for AGDC, and here's the best stuff we haven't GSW-featured in terms of neat online, writing, and other lectures - enjoy.]

Gamasutra is at Austin GDC 2008 this week, and we've compiled the best of our industry-leading coverage of the major MMO, virtual world, and game writing lectures presented on Tuesday.

AGDC, which is organized by Gamasutra parent Think Services, is taking place in the Austin Convention Center from Monday 15th-Wednesday 17th September, and multiple Gamasutra reporters are on hand to document many of the lectures and panels taking place there.

Here are the highlights of Tuesday's sessions at AGDC 2008:

AGDC: Property Rights In Online Games - Who Owns What?
"Raph Koster from Areae, Scott Hartsman of Ohai, game lawyer S. Gregory Boyd, author Erin Hoffman, and moderator Erik Bethke of GoPets discuss how to improve the EULA for all – with significant conversational travel into real money trading (RMT) territory."

AGDC: Hanna Talks Google Lively's Game API Extensions
"Google Lively's Kevin Hanna explained the genesis of the search engine giant's online world space, along the way revealing an upcoming API to embed playable games inside Lively."

AGDC: Jim Lee On Translating Comic Book Designs To A 3D Game
"Speaking in an Austin GDC panel on the art of upcoming Sony Online Entertainment MMO DC Universe Online, noted DC comic artist artist Jim Lee shares some insights on translating 2D characters and designs from comic books to fit an online 3D game's style and needs."

AGDC: Sterling Keynote: A Creative Call To Arms
"Futurist and author Bruce Sterling delivered the Tuesday keynote speech at Austin GDC -- a dual message of the way improved technology will change games and how stagnation in the creative side of the industry will hamper their evolution."

AGDC: ZeniMax's Firor On The Quandary Of The Subscription MMO
"ZeniMax Online president Matt Firor took the 'subscription MMO' end of a subscription vs. free-to-play debate, explaining the current state of the triple-A MMO space, and discussing World Of Warcraft's 'perfect storm' and why there will be million-subscription games post-WoW."

AGDC: Nexon's Kim On The North American Free To Play Business
"Nexon's Min Kim discussed the free-to-play online game model pioneered by his company in Korea, revealing U.S. revenues of almost $30 million in 2007 for their MapleStory-including slate of products -- details within."

Advice: How To Avoid Getting Caught In Managerial Rhetoric

September 17, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

- [Veteran, possibly pseudonymous game developer Matthew Wasteland writes the 'Arrested Development' humor column for Game Developer magazine, and we're now reprinting his best insights on Gamasutra. This installment helpfully translates common instances of producer-speak into painfully direct English.]

The path of career development in the game industry is fraught with strange hazards, not the least of which are the odd delusions that may be foisted upon you by your Management such that you may be a more productive and harmoniously integrated Work Unit.

Now, far be it from me, an established professional both famous and important, to stir up a hornet's nest of raving discontent -- I simply mean to help you keep a careful eye on your situation. It can spiral out of control very quickly and, like the lovely and tragic GLaDOS, you may find yourself in a kind of frenzied denial about how things really are.

In that light, here are some patterns you should learn to recognize so that you may have some signposts to guide you into the bracing realizations that may eventually lead you along the path of truth -- one which may lead you to greener pastures or to a fortune sought elsewhere. Or at least to an embittered and spiteful temperament that will scare the producers off so you'll be left alone.

AGDC: Sterling Keynote: A Creative Call To Arms

September 17, 2008 12:00 AM | Simon Carless

-[From what I gather, Bruce Sterling's keynote at AGDC could definitively be described to be 'insane', with varying opinions on ensuing awesomeness. Actually, Christian Nutt's write-up for Gama makes me wish I had a chance to check it out - it's definitely a different perspective.]

Futurist and author Bruce Sterling delivered the Tuesday keynote speech at Austin GDC -- a dual message of the way improved technology will change games and how stagnation in the creative side of the industry will hamper their evolution.

As Sterling was tasked with imagining the next 35 years of the game industry, the address began with the premise that he was a time traveling graduate student sent in lieu of the 89-year-old Dr. Bruce Sterling from the year 2043. According to the "anonymous graduate student," future Sterling sent him back with the warning: "It's all completely real -- but they're not going to believe any of it."

Road to the Austin IGF: Guildhall At SMU's Toybox Heroes

September 16, 2008 8:00 PM |

tbh1.jpg[Our new series of ‘Road to the IGF’ profiles the nine recently announced winners of the IGF Showcase at Austin GDC - with the local Southern U.S. indie developers to be showcased at the Texas game development show next week.]

Continuing Think Services' ‘Road to the Austin IGF’ feature, we talk to Ryan Jenkins and Kyle Pittman about four player PC fighter Toybox Heroes.

Pittman and Jenkins developed the game as part of a team of 15 for their final year project at the Guildhall at SMU. Toybox Heroes uses the Source engine to allow players to “select one of four action figures, each available in four colors, and duke it out in a variety of household environments”. The game is primarily weapons based, with armaments ranging “from crayons to cherry bombs to Rubik's Cubes”.

What is your background with video games?

Ryan Jenkins: I’m currently working as a designer at Volition, Inc on Red Faction: Guerrilla. Before that I attended the Guildhall at SMU and got my Masters in design. Before that, I just played a ton of video games!

Kyle Pittman: I’ve been playing PC and video games for most of my life. I started teaching myself to program in BASIC when I was about six years old because I wanted to make my own games. My earliest efforts were mostly awful clones of popular NES games, but quality was never an issue – I just enjoyed being able to create something and see it come to life on the screen.

I dabbled a little in art and level design here and there, but I chose to pursue programming as a career, eventually migrating to Java, C, and C++ during my college years. In 2005, I enrolled at the Guildhall at SMU, where I received a Master’s degree in game development. I’m now working in the games industry and continuing my hobbyist development in my spare time.

Austin GDC: The Best Of Monday's Coverage

September 16, 2008 4:00 PM | Simon Carless

-[We've posted a couple of write-ups here on GSW already, but mainly not so much - so here's the full list of Gamasutra write-ups from the still in-progress AGDC. Apologies in advance if coverage gets a bit AGDC-heavy for the next couple of days, but it's mainly cos we don't have time to write anything else, and, heck, it's our conference and we'll cry if we want to.]

Big sister site Gamasutra is at Austin GDC 2008 this week, and we've compiled the best of our industry-leading coverage of the major MMO, virtual world writing, and audio lectures presented thus far.

AGDC, which is organized by Gamasutra parent Think Services, is taking place in the Austin Convention Center from Monday 15th-Wednesday 17th September, and multiple Gamasutra reporters are on hand to document many of the lectures and panels taking place there.

Here are the highlights of Monday's sessions at AGDC 2008:

AGDC: Austin's Schum Talks Future Of Austin Game Biz
"Talking to Gamasutra as the Austin Game Developers Conference kicks off, Austin Chamber Of Commerce's Tony Schum says there are vibrant opportunities for industry growth in the area -- despite recent layoffs at Austin."

AGDC: Club Penguin's Merrifield On Why Genuine Counts
"Customer service, above all, will drive all online game creators to create better games and businesses, said Club Penguin co-creator Lane Merrifield in a densely-attended Austin GDC keynote. Merrifield looked to his Disneyland origins -- and now his Disney-owned online game smash -- to explain why genuine respect and caring make a massive difference."

AGDC: The Psychology Of MMO Players: Community Managers, Psychologists Speak
"Anyone who has played an MMO or participated in any online forum or service knows that anonymity creates problems -- and large groupings of people invites those with psychological issues to act them out on the larger populace. A group of MMO community managers and psychologists from the University of Texas came together at GDC Austin to examine common scenarios -- and take a peek into why these problems persist, and maybe come up with new ways to solve them."

AGDC: Multiverse's Moore On Why Social Worlds Need Games
"Multiverse's Bob Moore, a sociologist, says games have always been social -- even Pong had a two-player mode. But most of the sociability that occurred happened around the game. With MMOs, sociability has moved further into the virtual environment itself, where players interact avatar to avatar instead of face to face. So how can we design environments for sociability?"

AGDC: Graner Ray On Bringing In More Players With Better Tutorials
"Tutorial design may create one of the largest barriers to entry in an MMO, according to veteran creator Sheri Graner Ray, who spoke during Austin GDC about ways tutorials can welcome in more players by speaking to a broader variety of learning styles."

AGDC: BioWare's Schubert On Why The MMO Endgame Matters
"Damion Schubert, lead combat designer for BioWare Austin, argues that your endgame -- what happens when MMO players have finished all the lower level quests and “made it” in the game universe -- realizes the true potential of MMOs."

AGDC: BioWare Duo Dish On 'Cinematic Design' For Mass Effect
"In a fascinating lecture on the first day of Austin GDC, BioWare senior writer Mac Walters and senior cinematic designer Paul Marino talked about the concept of cinematic design for games such as Mass Effect, sketching the move from 'The Dark Ages' through today's 'Golden Age.'"

AGDC: A Generative, Adaptive Music System for MMO Games
"Bay Area headquartered, John Romero-headed MMO developer Slipgate Ironworks has developed a robust system for its music, which audio director Kurt Larson considers the only viable way to move forward with MMO soundtracks -- which he presented with programmer Chris Mayer and composer Jim Hedges."

AGDC: MGS' Abernathy Talks Importance Of Game Characters
"In this presentation from Tom Abernathy (Destroy All Humans), formerly of Pandemic and recently moved to Microsoft Game Studios, a call to arms for both more compelling characters and tighter integration of writing and design is heard -- with the benefits clearly enumerated."

AGDC: BioWare's Schubert On Why The MMO Endgame Matters

September 16, 2008 8:00 AM | Simon Carless

-[Lots of MMO-friendly GSW goodness from Austin GDC this week - and this time, Brandon Sheffield has extended highlights of GDMag columnist Damion Schubert's excellent talk on endgames in MMOs.]

Damion Schubert, lead combat designer for BioWare Austin, argues that your endgame – what happens when MMO players have finished all the lower level quests and “made it” in the game universe – realizes the true potential of MMOs.

“People talk about massively multiplayer online games – whenever they gravitate to one of these games, they always gravitate to one of the big ideas,” says Schubert. “What would happen if you could burn down another guild? What would happen if you had a boss that needed 25 people to kill? What if you had a battle that was 100 ships versus 100 ships?”

“The most important thing about your endgame, about elder gameplay, is that it’s one of the few things in your games that’s actually massive. And at the end of the day, that’s what we’re talking about here.”

“Whenever you’re talking about things with your producers, (the endgame) looks like something to cut,” he says, “because maybe nobody will even get to that level. I think a lot of producers underestimate what happens at the endgame.”

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