The festive advent of the Game Developers Conference is here. The conference basically starts a day early for me each year, with the pre-conference faculty meeting for the Game Design Workshop. Getting to California early is hardly an unwelcome thing after a winter in Boston.
How much time I’ll have to collect my thoughts about the conference remains to be seen. But, hey, if you happen to be here because I gave out my timstellmach.com contact information at the Workshop, then welcome!
I’ve had a busy week for a guy who thought he was still taking the summer off.
The other day, I was at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab to record a podcast. Matthew Weise invited Sara Verrilli, Laura Baldwin and me to talk about our work at Looking Glass. As we started, I wasn’t sure whether I’d remember bygone days well enough, but that doesn’t seem to have been a problem. We ended up chatting for a good hour and a half, so I imagine someone’s got a fair bit of editing to do. I’ll post here when I found out it’s online.
As I write this, I’m on my way to Manhattan, where I’ll be guest lecturing at Columbia for Prof. Yee’s class on Game Design and Production. My material is a talk on creativity exercises, based on stuff I’ve given before at GDC. Here on the train, I’m still in the process of adapting it to their syllabus, pulling out stuff I haven’t found useful, adding stuff I have, and generally punching up at least some of the tiresome bullet-list wrongdoing it originally committed.
I’m glad I took the opportunity to relax and get in better shape since my bout of gangrene in April (yeah, gangrene; it’s not as fun as it sounds). But I’d kind of forgotten the thrill of a good intellectual workout, too.
Oasis is a crackerjack little game by my friends at Mind Control Software. The original version took home an Independent Games Festival grand prize a few years back, and I always thought it deserved wider attention. Hopefully, an all-new iPad version of the game, titled Defense of the Oasis to avoid search confusion with the English rock band, will help with that.
Full disclosure: I have a scenario design credit in the game, for helping to brainstorm the “Plagues of Egypt” campaign.
One of the highlights of this year’s Game Developer’s Conference was Harvey Smith and Matthias Worch’s talk, “What Happened Here: Environmental Storytelling.” There’s not much point in my going into great detail about what they said, because they have posted extremely thorough slides and lecture notes. Suffice it to say, the talk is about the way that set-dressing choices provide a parallel narrative channel, which is powerful in the way that it invites acts of interpretation from the player, at his own pace.
First, as an aside, I seem to not be the only one interested in this topic, as Emily Short (I think it was) drew comparisons between this player experience and Interactive Fiction at the IF panel at PAX East. Many people don’t seem to even realize that games have storytelling methods available to the designer other than non-interactive cutscenes, so this is a topic I was very happy to see getting some attention.
The really thought-provoking part of the talk for me, though, was what the presenters called “Systemic Environmental Storytelling.” Continue reading Environmental Storytelling and Emergence