GDC Europe 2013 – Tuesday

Getting Physical with Tablet Multiplayer

A pretty entertaining talk, because he showed several examples. For one, there was the one I was immediately thinking of, Fingle. But there were also several others, which he used to describe his thoughts on tablet multiplayer. Another example was Chicanery. Funny idea: The game consists of up to 4 characters which are put into guillotines. You hold the guillotine up by keeping your finger on it. The goal is to make the other players to kill their characters by moving their finger away. How you do it is up to yourself – trickery, force, confusion, …

O by Michael Brough was another example as well as his own game, Slam Jet Stadium. He has a blog over at with more information. Take away was that tablet multiplayer has several unique strengths, including low barriers, the emotional quality of real human touch, and the possibilities for game design not possible in other areas. One prominent example was cheating: In a tablet game, no one is keeping you from reaching over into the part of the screen designated to your opponent and manipulating their game pieces. Instead of somehow stopping this altogether, he described how the design can allow for something like this, such as keeping an eye out that there are always game objects both in the reach of the player and on the other side of the tablet.

Designing Games with Procedural Content and Mechanics

One of the very few talks at GDC by someone with a background in academia. Joris is both active as a researcher at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam and as a designer at Ludomotion. So his talk was also basically separated into two parts: PCG from a practical example, where he explained how two of his games, bezicle and another one (of which I can’t remember the name – have to check the GDC Vault), and the academic side, showing some of the scientific backgrounds of the PCG. It was interesting to see how the two games differ in their approach. In bezircle, he starts from a “recipe” which is pretty much a grammar that describes how the game levels should be built. In the overworld view of the second game, Joris’ method starts out with procedurally generating terrain, which is then analyzed and has game objects placed on it according to some parameters such as difficulty.

Cloned at Birth: The Story of Ridiculous Fishing

To be honest, I’ve heard of Vlambeer but not about the story behind their first game, Ridiculous Fishing. The game started out as Radical Fishing, which they released as a freely playable flash game. They then started work on an iPhone version, on which they were beat by another studio which cloned the whole game down to (almost) every unlockable item and feature. They were really demotivated by the other studio raking in money on their game idea, but got the final game together and published it, resulting in a still quite successful game.

After playing it for a while, I can see why it might be alluring for someone to clone. It’s not very technically difficult to implement and has a very nice three-stage game mechanic that translates very well to a mobile tilt and touch screen device. But while I think that starting out with a clone is a very good thing to learn and get ideas from, releasing such a 1:1 clone is not a nice thing at all.

Unity, Wii U and You (Presented by Nintendo of Europe GmbH)

Not that much to learn here in the end, they described their efforts to support HTML 5 on Wii U with the Nintendo Web Framework. They offer a toolkit which can upload and debug a HTML 5 application on a Wii U dev kit. Also, they offer a support library which makes porting easier (e.g. mapping touch/button inputs to keyboard inputs) and exposes Wii U functionality such as the tilt sensor. The most interesting part was seeing the impact.js engine being demonstrated by it’s developer. Other libraries have been tested by Nintendo to work on the platform, which wasn’t that much of a surprise, I would expect them to write a Javascript engine of their own.

While Nintendo seems to be opening up for indie developers, they still require you to buy a dev kit. While they seem to have removed a bit of an obstacle by allowing you to use it from home, I highly doubt that getting one without connections or a good track record will be easy.

 Why Education Really Matters for the Future of the Industry

Jörg Müller-Lietzkow was the second speaker after Joris Dormans with a background in academia. And his talk focused on exactly this interplay between the game industry and the universities. His call for action was to start approaching each other: the game industry by collaborating more with universities, giving talks, giving insights into their practices; and the universities by offering more and broader support for games.

One point he touched upon is that, in Germany, it’s supremely hard to get funding on games in general. The only hole that some faculties have found is the topic of Serious Games. But often, working on a Serious Game will not necessarily push the state of the art forward for game technologies and game-related sciences, as the research is often applying existing game technology to build a game with a specific purpose, instead of working on the foundations of games.

Building Epic Worlds Through the Strengths of Outsourcing

Not that much to learn for me in this presentation. Epic manages to create a lot of art by outsourcing, especially those aspects in-house artists would be encumbered with.

I guess the major takeaway for any art subcontractor is the list of questions Epic will ask before outsourcing to a studio.

The Art and Rendering of Remember Me

Remember Me has largely gone by me, as a colleague told me it wasn’t that great. Still, hearing from the developers how they made it was fairly interesting. There was an artist and a programmer, so they covered both the artistic direction as well as the implementation.

A lot of the talk was focused on how certain effects were implemented. For example, a lot of the game was planned to be in the rain, so they needed a nice shader for physically-based rendering of wet surfaces. They noticed that wet surfaces tend to get darker and reflect light. The reflection was pre-computed, with additional hand-placed high-resolution reflection textures placed by artists to emphasize parts of the game or hiding places where the pre-computed reflection didn’t work 100%.

Designing Assassin’s Creed III

Another talk that was very well attended. The stages they go through are really interesting. I think two years before publishing the game, they created an in-game video that demonstrated their vision of the final game, with a lot of the ideas already in place. They prototype a lot and make sure that the effects they are going for are doable in their budget and development time.

The game design documents he showed were also very interesting. The whole game is broken down into about 150 features that are described by a list of sub-features. Each of those is pretty much a user story. The example he showed was from a bow. It had elements such as “The bow is shown in the weapon selection screen” “You can shoot the bow from land | horse | …” and so on. Each element is decided upon in a meeting with all involved parties.

And a major takeaway was to not give too much information in the game design document, and to leave the process of figuring them out to the people working on them. Also, they have a system in place in which open design questions can ripple back “up” to the lead designer to be handled there. Very interesting to see, because it made the design document very short and concise.


See also the posts on this year’s presentations on Monday and Wednesday.

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