GDC 2009 - Day 3.1 - Hocking's Faults, Wu's Momentum, Dim Sum 13/17

One man's experiences learning improvisation, watching animation, and paying affirmation. Starring: Clint Hocking's charisma, David Wu's physique, and Sam Roberts' brain.

Bonus Nintendo Keynote Summary
Wii rocks. Yuu suck.
Note: Missed actual keynote, blame nightly blogging.

- - -
1. Fault Tolerance: From Intentionality to Improvisation - Clint Hocking

Clint great presenter. Self-depreciating, hypnotist, geek cred earned via constant Cthulhu.
Fast, chain-gun style. Stream of logically growing ideas interrupted by unexpected asides.
Made me feel smart. Explained complex topics clearly, with humour. Doesn't spoon feed.
Like Pope.
Squirrel finally met match. Give edge to Squirrel due to unsexy spline content.
Hideo had better production values, but one third the content and ideas.

   "Richly connected systems produce emergent gameplay"
   i.e. Combat A.I + Random Maleria + Fire Propagation = Stuff developers couldn't foresee
   Removing a system exponentially reduces emergence.
   Too many systems means chaos, which sucks since the player must be in control.
   Need "continuity of intent", so player can execute plan.

   "Composition versus Execution"
   Half the fun in killing your mother (the execution) is the planning (the composition).
   Bled into "Intentionality versus Strategy"
   Intentionality "the ability of the player to devise his own meaningful goals",
   Strategy is subset of intentionality exclusively concerned with winning.
   Strategy concerned with beating GTA, Intentionality trying to jump motorbike onto boat.

Far Cry 2 had numerous systems to increase intentionality (Combat A.I., Morale, Maleria).
Systems allowed player to compose elaborate plans, then execute.
Combination of systems produced unexpected results, thwarted original design.

Greatest Crystallization of GDC 2009

   The Plan
      Player waits until evening, sends wall of fire towards enemy camp.
      Ensuing chaos reduces enemy morale. Allows player to knife kill each enemy,
      increasing player infamy.
   The Reality:
      Player gets maleria during evening. While recovering, enemy spots player and attacks.
      Starts fire for defense, which instead surrounds player. Rifle jams while fighting back.


Systems produced little composition, all execution.
But inexpicably it was MORE enjoyable then the original design! So...
"They embraced what the game wanted to be, and it didn't want to be composition.
  It wanted execution and it was GREAT! WTF!"
They tolerated the fault, and the game design became something better...

Thought: What's Clint's epsilon? (thanks Math and Physics tutorials!)

Everything Clint knew proved that Execution without Composition sucked.
Why was improvisation fun? Clint reconciled his life with this discovery:
Improvisation is simply about constantly switching between composition and execution.
"A game is a river where the player is constantly escaping (to composition),
 then being pulled back in (to execution)."

Break the player's "continuity of intent" while executing, forcing player back to composition.
i.e. Extra troops unexpectedly arrive during a firefight.
Can't be a drastic change, or player will reload from previous save.
Player death must not feel like a restart, or player will reload rather than deal with change.
Jim Addendum: Change can be drastic IF it helps player i.e. Elephants join your cause.

Bonus: Hard to demo Far Cry 2. You perform rather than play it.

"Intentional play is play as domination. When you master it, you destroy it.
 Mastery is not a prerequisite for improvisational play,
 anymore than musical talent is required to be in a Punk Band.
 All the player needs is confidence."

"It's a beautiful thing not being in control
 Be the lion, not the trainer that whips the lion to go through the hoops.
 Design games for jazz players (players who improvise)."
Don't fully understand quote, but like it.

Clint can't tell you how to design an improvisational game,
he can only tell you that you want to.
Thanks for nothing Clint.

People asked questions, but sat down before Clint answered.
Left Clint talking to no-one.

- - -
2. Momentum vs. Character Animation - David Wu
aka. Let's Torture Rag Dolls!

Why does David Wu have muscles?
Where can I get them?

David presented various papers, mostly from recent SIGGRAPH conferences.
Summarized various techniques developers could use to simulate real people walking,
rather than current animations. Techniques added weight and balance to movements,
the difference was palpable.

Highlight: SIGGRAPH videos "man fall down", "man hit by ball", "man fall down again"

Noticed techniques unexpectedly made rag dolls empathetic.
Despite no character development beyond movement,
audience felt for the poor things - consequently laughed more.

Tip: Don't show black ragdolls on black landscapes.

David highlighted fact humans only care about certain aspects of movement.
i.e. Can easily detect whether rag doll is balanced properly,
      don't care about conservation of energy.
i.e. Father can't tell if fist transferred proper energy to face.
Optimize accordingly.

Have seen future:
   Throw giant red medicine ball at walking blue ragdoll,
   watch struggle to maintain balance, then throw another ball.

Unexpected bullet from slide: Couldn't find the video.

David Wu human Google.   Search: Complicated Walkin'
Could have perhaps summarized papers myself.
Desired more Wu in my SIGGRAPH.

- - -
3. Lunch - Dim Sum with 13 people.

Invited to join Toronto based Dim Sum possee.
Wandered streets of San Fran, arrived Chinatown.
Table large enough for 13. Ordered little bit of everything.
Vegetarians screwed. Food amazing.

Better than Toronto Chinatown? Downtown - maybe. Markham - no.
Cost: $17 per person (including tip, calculated by Indiecade Sam Roberts' head, impressive)
Despite horrendous 13-17 split, payment perfect.
Best food transaction ever.
Wept like child.


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