GDC 2009 - Day 4.1 - GDC MicroTalks and Hideo Impossible

One man sits in a chair listening to ten speakers with too little time, and one speaker with too much. Starring the whose whose of game design, and Hideo "you know me from Mega64" Kojima.

1. GDC Microtalks - One Hour, Ten Speakers, Unlimited Ideas - Richard Lemarchand

9:00 Richard outlines the all star line up.
  - Rules: 1. Single idea of fun. 2. Slides automatically switch.
  - Richard's single idea of fun was organizing this

9:05 John Sharp. Brief history of play.
  - Plato said that only play can embody beauty & reason
  - Marcel Duchamp found playing chess more pure than art, hence more beautiful
  - Dr. J made a legendary dunk while playing basketball, it was a thing of beauty
  - Hence, "The value of games lies in play"

9:11 Tracy Fullerton. Masterful play.
  - Value of play is up to society (not the players)
    Players perform. Witnesses recognize. History is recorded.
  - Dr. J is a legend because society appreciates what he does
  - Students are taught to appreciate art, this needs to happen for games
  - "deep, articulate appreciation of games is required if games are to become part of culture"

9:15 N'Gai Croal. Player controlled difficulty.
  - not talking easy, medium or hard. not talking pussy, assasin or killer
  - talking GearsOfWar2 seperate skill levels allowing cross generational play
  - talking GoldenEye making things harder by adding more objectives
  - talking GodHand making things harder only if you did longer combos
  - talking Ratchet & Clank keeping bolts when you die, and allowing reharvest
  - talking Resident Evil 5 Sheva A.I. killing the boss for the player
  - talking Halo 3 skulls - why restrict this reward to hardcore players?
  - talking Prince of Persia automatic rescue, which resulted in alienation
    POP designer thought players had moved beyond this

9:22 Robin Hunicke. Sony Home SUCKS.
  - Players can make their own fun (they're already playing on empty benches),
    just give them more 4Cs certified quality

  - Add [email protected] - player can paint graffti anywhere in the world
  - Add [email protected] - different surfaces emit different sounds, world becomes giant instrument
  - Add [email protected] - give player a set of pegs, they can now climb anywhere they want

  - Mix! On my birthday, people will perform a song for me,
    then I'll climb to my secret space, and find a special B-Day message
  - "Make it a place to play, not buy digital jeans."

9:29 Eric Zimmerman. The Power of Play.
  - Every audience member had a piece of paper that was 1 of 6 colours
    Eric announced the audience had to trade papers (without moving)
    to form the biggest unbroken block of colour. GO!

  - Chaos. Everyone was standing and shouting and trading.
    Even the back wall played (my group). We even cheated.
    More shouting. Eric had trouble stopping the game.
  - Winner - a 40 person block of Green.
  - Congratulations, you just played Eve Online (alliances)

  - Just when things started to calm, an energized, excited & elated Eric announced:
    "The Power of Play astounds me" "Litter became meaningful"
    "Play is about transforming identities and breaking boundaries."

9:35 Clint Hocking. 5 Stars and the Truth.
  - The 100% rating system is to granular for game ratings

  - Results in arbitrary thresholds
    i.e. Wine reviewers assign special meaning to 90%+ scores.
         There is a huge difference between an 89 and a 90.
         NO! 89 is just 1 less than 90 (you fucks)!

  - Results in unintentional inflation which ruins the integrity of the system
    i.e. Overall, students have steadily gotten better grades over the years.
    i.e. On Metacritic, 35 of the 50 best reviewed games are from 2001+
    Since they're from different years, Clint can't compare his game rankings. He's "fucked"

  - A 5 star rating is a pressure relief valve (MAC OS refuse to release), solving the above.

9:42 Jenova Chen. Playing outside the hue of fun.
  - Current games, like the first movies, offer primal experiences
  - On a colour wheel, fun was just a small part of the red spectrum
    The wheel is actually 1/3 Intellectual, 1/3 Emotional and 1/3 Social
  - Even when we try to incorporate more hues, primal feelings abound
    i.e. Using more Social doesn't mean just adding chat.
         Want "Hi. How are you?" "I am good." not current "Headshot!"

9:48 Frank Lantz. Games are not media.
  - thinking of games as media leads to incorrect thinking like:
  - games are brand new... but games are NOT brand new
  - games go in computers... but games DON'T go in computers (think board games)
    eventually, you'll be putting computers in your game
  - games are content... but games are NOT content
    "you don't buy a rectangle of content and consume it"
    games are a service / club / community you join
  - a game is NOT a statment, it's a "meaning network"
    meanings emerge from the player participants and the system
  - it's a new age of emergent meaning... or more simply... conversation
  - surprised i understood that

9:54 Jane McGonigal. Fear, Humilation and Chinese Philosophy.
  - "Jen" means smiling at a stranger, and behaving in ways that make us good humans
    i.e. The Burning Man event has a high Jen ratio (makes you feel good to be human)
         YouTube forums have a low Jen ratio (they make you feel horrible)

  - The higher the Jen ratio, the happier the player.
    Left4Dead has the highest Jen ratio.
    No time to be an asshole since there's a zombie apocalypse.
    It's the Bhutan of the videogame planet

  - Humiliation is designed to make us happy. People have fun humiliating themselves.
    Proof: Top Secret Dance Off.

Lotta bang for buck.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
2. Solid Game Design: Making the 'Impossible' Possible

Hideo Kojima talked about challenges of building ALL the Solids.
Hideo would speak some Japanese, and then wait while it was translated. Worked well.
While Hideo spoke, there was always something visual to focus on.

"I'm going to put some entertainment in."
The greatest visuals and audio used in any presentation EVER.
Unbelievable quality, illustrated things perfectly, humorous, clever, painstakingly planned.
By the end, the visuals explained things before Hideo even spoke.
Never seen anything like it. Took a long time to design and create.
Content needed more depth to equal presentation.
Felt like cut scene.

Started with Snake encountering tall, insurmountable wall. Snake sad.
Super Mario comes along and jumps both Snake and the wall. Snake sadder.
Snake can't jump the wall. It's impossible.
But impossible is just a pre-conceived notion.
Snake could pole vault over it, or destroy it with dynamite, etc.

Hideo only needs 3 things to overcome the next impossible version of MGS:
1. A higher foundation - provided by hardware
2. A box on top of that foundation - provided by software
3. A ladder on top of that box - provided by game design

For each MGS, Hideo explained the Mission which visually resulted in a tall, impossible wall.
Hideo revised Mission, watched wall shrink.
Hideo added foundation + box + ladder, allowed Snake to overcome wall. Victory.
Problem: Concept was simple. Constant rinse & repeat effective, but overkill.

During finale, all overcome walls combined into one seamless MGS level.
Imagine 10 micro slides merging into 1 giant macro slide.
How did Hideo make impossible possible? Look at this level.
Now that's planning. Truly Amazing.

1987.07.13 "Metal Gear" for the MSX2
Mission: Create combat game for MSX2
... but system doesn't support enough sprites for bullets
New Mission: Create game about escaping for MSX2
... but contantly running away from guards gets old quickly
New Mission: Create game about hiding for MSX2
... Success!

Every Metal Gear followed this pattern.
Set a Mission, revise it if it's not possible (Captain Kirk would be proud),
and use game design (the ladder) to differentiate the version.

Minor Technical problem encountered during presentation.
Hideo: "sorry". Translation: "sorry about that".

1990.07.20 "Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake" for the MSX2

- Improved vision & hearing
- Radar to track guards offscreen
- 3 Alert modes
Hideo: "this is an NES cutscene - it's gotten a little bigger"

1998.09.03 "Metal Gear Solid" for the PS1

- 3D stealth action
- Dynamic changes in perspective controlled by player (crawling through vents)
- Realtime cutscenes and localized voicework (lots of love shown for that voicework)
Personally, would have addressed 8 year gap,
and beyond exponential jump in technical complexity.

2001.11.29 "Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty" for the PS2

- 60 frames per second, which allowed for more movement animations for players & enemies
- location based damage detection
- ability to shoot in first person mode
Personally, would recommend against having 2 Metal Gear Solid 2s.

2004.12.16 "Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater" for the PS2

- Infiiltration in a natural environment
- Camoflouge
- Food Capture
- Healing
Personally, prefer stealth in Serious Sam.

Monster Rumours

In 2005, there were rumours of a monster machine that would let you do anything you want,
you don't even need a game design! As always, demand for another MGS sequel was high.
"If I create the ultimate stealth game, I won't have to work on MGS anymore!"

Hideo: "a monster machine for monster cut scenes!"
Hideo: "you're supposed to laugh"

Mission: Create ultimate stealth game based on rumours about machine.

Hideo replayed the now familiar animation (hardware foundation, software box, and game design ladder). This time however, the foundation rose right to the top of the wall, allowing Snake to overcome it easily. Suddenly, the foundation dropped away! Snake desperately tried to hang on, but eventually fell back to the lowered foundation.

New Mission: Create ultimate stealth game for PS3.

Huge laughs and applause. Easily the highlight of the presentation.
Best moment of GDC 2009? Possibly.

2008.06.12 "Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots" for PS3
- Infiltration into a situation
  "Gimme confirmation on my information about my transportation from Spadina station"
- Dynamic battlefield alliances
- Octocamo / Disguises / Hero level
Personally, would have mentioned those Cronenberg-esque elephant leg walking thingies.
Find repulsive & disturbing on very base level. 


MGS was born of hardware limitations.
Needed 20 years to get where we are today.
Can I burrow your Unreal Engine?

90% of what is impossible is possible.
The other 10% can be overcome with time and technology.
Make it possible.

Note: It was possible to make this presentation 30 minutes.

Snake? SNAKE!!!

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