Tag Archive: GDC 2012


Tally-ho!

There were a lot of great moments at GDC. From the parties to the panels, GDC was a huge learning experience for me and definitely something that anyone interested in game design or the industry in general should look into attending one day. The conference also has a modest show floor to show off games, especially of the Indie variety and I admit, my personal highlight of the show may have been when I stumbled into a ring of people forming an impromptu arena for what became a hot topic of discussion at the show: Johann Sebastian Joust.

This indie game isn’t a video game in the most traditional sense. In fact, it has no video at all unless you YouTube videos of people playing it in the middle of the street. You see the only thing that Johann Sebastian Joust requires really is a PS3’s wireless connectivity and everyone who wants to play, two player minimum and seven player maximum, needs to bring their own PS Move controller.

After activating your Move, the sensor ball will turn a specific color. Your objective is to jostle the other players physically enough for their sensor to turn red, signifying their elimination. The sensitivity of the Move controller also changes depending on the tempo of the music. The music, of course, always being Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto”. The faster it plays, the less sensitive and the slower it plays, the more sensitive.

I played 10 matches of Johann Sebastian Joust, winning all my matches but one, and that was because I was against the idea of roughhousing with a girl I did not know…or pay for. Johann Sebastian Joust appealed to my competitive gamer nature in ways that few games can actually hone in on nowadays while working perfectly with the music set up. The game also forced you to think outside the box in some instances.

My first victory came when I hid my controller in my coat pocket, and when the last man standing assumed he was victorious, I went up to him and pushed him aside for the victory as he forgot that only when the sensor ball flashed multiple colors did it mean he was truly victorious. I also used my coat as a shield in one match and actually won another match by default as a competitor kicked me in the stomach (seriously, dude went all Kung Fu on me), but all his hectic motion caused him to eliminate himself before he even touched me. My favorite though was when it was down to two of us and I yelled “Hey look at out behind you!” and my opponent turned around and let me tap his sensor ball (I actually got an ovation for that one as people were shocked the guy fell for it).

Describing it can only do the game so much justice though, so below is one of the promotional videos for the game. Considering though this likely is only going to be a few dollars on top of the price of a PS Move controller, I think this could easily be the best PS Move game yet if enough people find out about it. Of course, the only drawback is you might need to move your PS3 outside to make sure you have enough space for the game. But if you have the space, this was easily the most fun I had on the floor of a show in a long time and was more than worthy of its 2012 GDC Innovation Award and cannot wait until it becomes readily available everywhere.

One of the major reasons that the Batman: Arkham series from Rocksteady has been so successful is the look and feel of the game. It is as if the Dark Knight has leapt right from the pages of Detective Comics and onto our TV sets. And one of the key men behind this feeling is the Art Director on both games, David Hego. David did a short panel at GDC explaining what inspirations went into Arkham City and also a few problems they noticed in Arkham Asylum, like Detective Mode, and how they tried to fix them.

Right from the get go, David admitted that being Batman is pretty freakin’ cool. And so game play was always the primary pillar for both games. The combo systems, the gadgets, the villains, etc., but this is still a visual medium so although some may see the art of the game as having taken a bit of a secondary role, it was still vital to the experience and knowing this, he and his team had a monumental task on hand as they wanted to give a respectful interpretation and thus created their Arkham-verse. Their representation, although a bit different, still needed to have Batman’s DNA all over it from the locations to the characters designs, like making the Penguin’s monocle a broken bottle.

And so when it came to actually crafting Arkham City, he and his team looked to blend the late 19th century Art Nouveau movement with the very modern Hyperrealism. The hyperrealism comes out best in many of the game’s character models, but much of the architecture took on more of the Art Nouveau style, like the Wonder Tower, which was modeled after the Eiffel Tower, one of Art Nouveau’s most easily recognizable works.

He also spoke to the challenges he had in designing Arkham City, like fixing the Detective Mode as he reminisced about how heart breaking it was to hear players spending the entirety of Arkham Asylum in that mode. And so they removed everything that was not vital from that mode so navigation and combat became much more difficult and compelled players to play the game it was meant to be played.

Another problem Hego spoke to was normalization. “Normalization is when the player stops being in awe of what they see on the screen. And what happens is a normal part of gaming. You start getting into the action and the game play and the narrative and you stop focusing in on a lot of the details of the environment. And even many of the subtle color schemes of Arkham City’s levels hurt us because they appeal to the base instincts of gamers where we have an ice level with Mr. Freeze, the steel mill is a fire level, Poison Ivy is our jungle level, and so on. So we need to combat this with a lot of variety. Contrasting elements and color schemes to keep things entertaining. So we create a lot of clashing in many of the levels. We added a lot of fanfare and the giant white clown faces to the steel mill to help fight the oranges and reds, for example. And so we just keep clashing in the hopes of creating new and still interesting environments.”

Hego also talked about how much the posters and Riddler clues spoke to the world they wanted to create without being too distracting to the player and taking away from the experience and even removing details in many areas with enemies and NPCs so that the player would focus on the objectives at hand.

All in all, Hego’s brief talk was an interesting look into seeing how this gorgeous world was created and how much care went into making sure we players and fans were happy while Hego and his team were still able to express themselves creatively in a way that fit into the game play and story.

Lollipop Lollipop

The twisted mind of Suda51 is prepping to strike again and shortly after last night’s official announcement of Lollipop Chainsaw’s release of June 12th here in North America, several of us in the gaming community were allowed to go hands on with the most involved demo yet of this highly anticipated tongue-in-cheek zombie slasher. And if I was excited before, my anticipation has easily hit a new peak after playing through what is expected to be the fourth level of the game.

Still in pursuit of her kidnapped sister, Juliet follows the trail to the local arcade, a massive structure built to resemble an old-school arcade cabinet. The Fulgi Fun Center though holds more than a bunch of Atari classics as a bevy of new horrors for Juliet to face, including dorky zombies who are happy to waste their undead eternity at the arcade’s cabinets when not feeding on human flesh, await her inside. With the help of her newly introduced father, a tough, but loving individual whose motorcycle helps Juliet get around the town, Juliet must storm the arcade and save her sister from the zombie horde.

The first thing you take note of is the fact that this demo took place completely outside of the high school we’ve seen up to this point, and we also caught a glimpse of a game map highlighting six areas so far: the Fulgi Fun Center, Parking Lot, Cathedral, High School, O’Bannon Farm, and Stadium. This means that Juliet will have a lot of ground to cover and is not confined to the school grounds as some might have thought from the limited game play we had seen up to now.

We also got a look at the upgrade system. As Juliet kills zombies, she collects coins, similar to Travis Touchdown from No More Heroes. She then can use the coins to purchase dumbbells to increase her attacking power, new sneakers for increasing her speed, and various health and combo upgrades as well. And speaking of the combos, I was impressed that after investing only a few hundred coins, I was able to enhance Juliet’s repertoire significantly.

Whereas many games like this would see players easily fall into the pattern of mashing the same attack button over and over again, the combos here actually have a much bigger payoff and encourages you to try to link your moves together. Often, you won’t only get a spectacular light show for a successful combo, but you’ll also dispatch even the toughest of zombies much, much more quickly and this was very satisfying.

But onto the level itself. After disposing of a horde of Molotov cocktail chucking zombies, Juliet is compelled by a mysterious voice to play a game. She is instantly digitized and transformed into a pink avatar of herself. Here, she must work her way through a bevy of spoofed arcade classics including Pac-Man and Pong levels in order to advance through the arcade. Moving back and forth through her world and the digital one, Juliet must work her way towards the mysterious voice that she knows is the one currently holding her sister.

And keeping with the late 70s theme of many of the games inside the game that you must conquer, after working your way to the roof of the Fulgi Fun Center, you soon come upon the nefarious Josey, a disco zombie who reminds you way too much of Baron Samedi from the James Bond movie Live and Let Die. Josey and his disco loving UFO with undead babes draped on it is your classic two form battle where you must first dismount Josey from his smaller UFO before he abducts himself onto a much larger and much more dangerous UFO where a countdown clock starts, forcing you to race against time to power down Josey’s disco derby of destruction or Juliet will lose her sister forever!

Very much keeping in with the themes of the music based undead we saw in our PAX Prime demo last year where we took on the metalhead Zed, combined with some hysterical one-liners we saw both in cut scenes and during game play, and some surprisingly tight controls has me thinking that Lollipop Chainsaw looks like a game that could easily break the chains of its B-Movie premise and make a killing in the mainstream.

And if you’d like to hear a bit more about the game from the man himself, check out Eric L. Patterson’s brief interview with Suda51 by clicking here!

Thousands of games hit the iOS market each week with hopes of breaking through into the pop culture and making an impact. One such game, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP has been considered widely successful with both critical acclaim and solid sales (350,000 units sold in less than a year of being available). But what makes this game stand out above those thousands and thousands of other games out there, and what might keep it from reaching an Angry Birds level?

It was this idea behind Nathan Vella’s panel, the Co-founder and President of Capybara Games, the developer behind Sword and Sworcery, that made it an interesting panel to help kick off Day 1 of GDC, especially for all those prospective iOS developers out there. Nathan wanted to give us a glimpse inside the development process that went into Sword and Sworcery as well as offer advice to those who might be looking to use iOS as a jumping off platform for their Indie game.

Much of the panel’s focus revolved around the fact that the game’s success came from the game’s uniqueness and it’s very specific demographic, which he admitted they had assumed could not have been more than 10% of what the game has actually sold. Condemning the notion of “Everyone” being a demographic, Vella explained that is the target that most of the games released on a weekly basis are also trying to hit and how much harder it is to compete against the world. That’s why Sword and Sworcery, a unique game tailored with a very specific audience in mind, stood a much better chance of floating to the top of the sea of games out there on the iOS platform.

“There is a set of gamers, maybe even a subset of gamers, who really just want to play something new. If you provide that something and its worth playing, you’re not actually competing against 99% of the market. You’re competing against the other one percent. Sure, you’re not reaching for the biggest slice of the money pie, but you’re at least ensuring that your project will be successful and be successful in the right way, which is beginning with the people you care about as a game developer,” said Vella.

He continued on about how nice it would be to sell the millions of units of an Angry Birds or a Fruit Ninja, but that for most people that is just completely unrealistic.

“At Capy, we talk about it a lot as if we are playing the iPhone lottery. And basically that’s what happens when you try to compete against all these guys who are trying to do the same thing. If you’re trying to make the next Angry Birds, you’re basically walking up to a slot machine, putting your game budget into the slot, pulling the lever, and praying to God you get three f***ing cherries,” added Vella.

Along with this, Vella talked about how collaboration and contributions from sometimes unexpected sources were very helpful and even crucial to the project, but that if you and your team believe in your product and stay true to it, while troubleshooting some of the more stressful aspects of going over budget or schedule, that good things would happen in the end. It was refreshing to see Vella’s conviction and that by staying true to the game’s concept, all the way through to marketing and PR and sales of the game in the iTunes store, and by being different, that they were able to rise above much of the mucky-muck out there to make one of the more memorable games in recent iOS memory.