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One man watches 10 developers present 10 mind blowing games. Confession: Mind only slightly blown. Starring a lot of cool, strange people.

Jim McGinley, Blogger

March 29, 2009

8 Min Read

Confession: Extra excited about this session.
Jugglin' shown in 2006, unable to attend.
Session Hideo packed. Record 60 submission received, chose 10.

The Unfinished Swan - Ian Dallas

- Completely white world revealed via black paintballs

- Players understand quickly, and lose interest... quickly.

- Gameplay too pure, too powerful, too intense. good in short bursts. need more to do.

- Future lies between the first 5 minutes of Portal and Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree"

- Trying not to wimp out and use puzzles

- Used word "affordance", that word should be outlawed.

Shadow Physics - Steve Swink, the underappreciated Scott Anderson

- Platformer with a twist: Play as Mario's shadow, jumping on shadows from 3D platforms

- Mario's shadow can interact with real world 3D objects

- Repositioning a light source, or changing a camera angle,
  changes the shadow which changes the gameplay
  and makes things really, really interesting

- Shadows falling on a corner hurt brain

- Why is this a platformer? [See comments below]

Miegakure - Marc ten Bosh

- Platformer with a twist: Playing in 4 dimensions.

- Playing 3D slice of 4D world no different than playing 2D slice of 3D world

- 4D hard to grasp. Marc did admirable job of explaining.

- Moving 3D slice in 4D essentially changes 3D world completely.
  What's in the 4D world? Switch to find out!

- Chaos is controlled by:
  a) 3D world composed of LARGE 3D squares that snap to 4D grid.
      Staying within same 3D square, or along same 3D row,
      helps player predict/learn 4D transformation.
  b) 3D shadows (cast from 4D objects) that hint at what 4D change will cause

- Lots of applause. Curious what reaction would have been without explanation.

- Why is this a platformer?

Spy Party - Chris Hecker

- 20 people at cocktail party (some players, some A.I.). 1 is a spy.
  Assasin observes party, attempting to determine who the spy is. Bam!

- Spy can only be distinguished by subtle "tells".
  i.e. spy reads book from bookshelf, but places it back strangely
  i.e. spy secretly slipped a piece of paper from someone
  i.e. spy wears a T-Shirt saying "spies do it in the dark"

- "affordance" and "actors" mentioned. must... remain... calm.
   [Chris has would like to know

- Game demoed. Audience plays assasin watching 20 people, attempting to finger the spy.
  Laser pointers highlight innocent man. Audience shoots - "you killed a civilian"
  Audience quickly picks someone else (game developers are cold hearted bastards)

- Most memorable moment: When civilian was shot.
  Ambient chatter stopped, replaced by piercing female scream, everyone ran from victim.
  [Shocking. Can't remember last time I felt bad for killing someone.]
  Reminded me of wedding.

Stuff - Daniel Benmergui

- Daniel demoed some short "art" games that featured utterly brilliant ideas
  and empathetic characters.

- "I Wish I Were the Moon" - Take snapshot to capture moon, use results to impress sweety.
   IGF "Snapshot" eat your heart out.

- "Trials" - Take photos of yourself to make clones, create human pyramid.

- "StoryTeller" - Show Past, Present and Future of 3 characters simultaneously.
   Moving people in past immediately impacts present and future.

- "Fate" (prototype) - Mario's entire path is laid out for a level.
   Tweak Mario's path for perfect run while fate interferes.

- "Today I Die" - text poem is displayed, along with related game.
   Player can change the text, which changes the game

- I like the cut of this boy's jib.

Flower - Jenova Chen, the overlooked Nick Clark

- You're the wind. aka. a floating camera.
  Extremely atmospheric, attempts to make my dead heart feel something

- "we start with the experience first"

- showed all the prototypes that led to Flower.

- after discovering "it was kind of fun to fly around", attempted to add more mechanics.
  mining sunflowers to grow flowers everywhere you travelled - fail!
  land petal in grass while avoiding desert - fail!
  travelling in roller coaster tubes - fail!
  teleporting via a focus mechanic - fail!
  time limit - mega fail!

- First prototype looked like the closest match to final Flower,
  doubt another company could have tossed out all that prototype work/ideas

- Jenova re-used colour wheel slide from this morning - felt robbed

Achron - Hazardous Software

- RTS that allows players to travel backward & forward in time.
  It's multiplayer. I repeat... it's multiplayer.

- Started by explaining game design complexities. They were... complex.

- Gameplay Example:
  In 1960, Andy builds base + units.
  Mike heads to 1980, creates nuclear weapons, brings them back to 1960
  Mike wipes out Andy's base + units using nuclear weapons.

  Andy goes back in time, changes history so he never builds base + units.
  Timeline changes, Mike now winds up destroying himself with his own nuclear weapons.
  Mike lacks time energy to pull same trick.

- Supports time paradoxes. i.e. You can go back in time and kill yourself.
  In the future, Player needs to fix repercussions.
  Explains why game has taken 10 years.

Closure - Tyler Glail

- Platformer with a twist: You carry a torch and can only be blocked by what's lit up.
  i.e. Leave your torch behind to walk through walls.      

- Great ambiance. Amazing integrated Tutorial + Credits

- Only adding mechanics that adhere to the core rule: what you can't see doesn't exist.
  Too confusing/overwhelming to add lots of light based objects

- Mechanic lends itself to level solutions designer didn't expect.
  i.e. Lighting half a wall provides a platform, but can still be jumped

- Why is this a platformer (complete with precision jumps)?

Where is My Heart - Bernhard Schulenburg

- Platformer with a twist: Screen is collage of different sized panels,
  each showing different fragments (usually overlapped) of a level.

- Collage of viewpoints makes simple world artifically complex.
  Adds interest to Lost Vikings style gameplay.

- Polished Pixel art. 8 bit music (why god why).

- Inserting the 3 dwarves into the final tree got the biggest reaction.
  Utterly charming. More of that please.

- Why is this a platformer (complete with precision jumps)?

Rom Check Fail - Farbs

- Take 7 famous retro gaming heroes (PAC man, Asteroids ship, Space Invaders ship, Zelda),
  multiply by 7 famous enemies (Defender aliens, Pac Man ghosts, Asteroids).
  Mash them together into 49 possible gameplay combinations.
  i.e. Asteroids ship fighting Pac Man ghosts
  i.e. Space Invaders ship fighting Zelda enemies

- Spacer Invader ship caused controversy since it sucks so badly (can only shoot up)
  Some people found it hilarious, others found it annoying
  Since it "evoked a strong, emotional, response", Farbs kept it.

- Game constantly switches between random variations.
  Some hard. Some easy. Players anticipation of the change, and consequent adjustment,
  keeps the game pacing extra interesting.

Extreme Consequences - Derek Yu

- Overview of Rogue (1980) style games and what they had in common

- 2 Things Rogue's do well: Procedurally generated levels and Permanent Death

- 4 Things Rogue's do badly:
  Complex interfaces, Micromanagement, Poor presentation, and Slow Moving

- With this in mind, Derek created Spelunky.
  Platform game with a twist: Procedurally generated, terribly hard, only 1 life.
  While death is permanent, and often, it is FUN. Dying means whole new adventure.

- Quickly highlighted other Rogue-Likes, time was not on his side.
  Demoed variation where player and monsters were chess pieces.
  Read a morbid-but-hilarious passage auto-generated by Dwarf fortress ending with
  "the baby committed suicide"


For GDC 2010, plan to submit platformer featuring mutliple simultaneous zoom levels,
5D to 3D projection, and ability to walk on flashlight beam.

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