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GDC 2013: Wednesday

Notes on my Wednesday sessions.

FarmVille 2 Postmortem: What Grew Wild & What Withered Away - Wright Bagwell, Mike McCarthy 

Farmville 2 is a video game about having a pretend farm. It's also the sequel to one of the biggest hits in Facebook, Social, and Free to Play history.

  • Didn't want to turn off FV 1. 
  • Decided they needed to make spiritual successor
  • Talked to players in office. How does game fit in life?
  • FarmVille was an escape. 
  • FarmVille was about transformation, building something. 
  • FarmVille was about collaboration, nagging people. 
  • Sequel wasn't about just adding features, but recreating feeling. 
  • Doing old game p,us better features means cannibalizing old game. 
  • Lead designer was console guy, hadn't made game as service. 
  • Used design pillars to focus on experience, not features. 
  • Don't take pictures of slides with your iPad, that's awful. 
  • "Everything Levels Up" pillar conflicted with other pillars, had to reworked/largely cut. 
  • Turned into the Prize Animal/Prize Crops
  • If you cut/change a pillar, you need to get everyone on the team on board with that. 
  • Added a new pillar after launch as player desires and successful decisions focused them on what worked. 
  • Actually gave everyone a laminated sheet about the pillars. New team members got a presentation about what the experience is supposed to be. 
  • 80% of revenue on FV came from high FPS players. Improving frame rates improved monetization. 

Tokyo Jungle and Japan's Gaming Potential - Yohei Kataoka

Tokyo Jungle is the first console game from independent Japanese Studio Crispy's. Yokei Kataoka discussed the formation of the team, the development of Tokyo Jungle, and Japan's place in the future of game development.

  • Started in 07, made My Stylist, girls' Fashion game
  • Let you take pictures of your clothes and build a database. 
  • Next game was Tokyo Jungle. 
  • Performed well given budget
  • How did tiny new company make a 1st party game?
  • Was a 21 year old art school student, dropped out with friends to start Crispy's  
  • Worked freelance designing websites
  • Started making an RPG that was basically Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
  • This was a time before smartphones and Steam
  • No one in Japan wanted a PC game
  • Hated working for other people, so started his own company. 
  • Saw a poster for Playstation C.A.M.P., submit ideas to Sony, they'll fund development. 
  • Started in a studio apartment
  • Pitched 3 wildly different ideas. 
  • Silly group photo got them noticed. 
  • After My Stylist, team split 
  • New team made concepts like
    • Planet and Baby, about a giant baby that can eat mountains
    • High Speed Hikyaku was Edo period delivery man game. 
    • World of colors is about man stranded on planet exploring
  • World of Colors had idea about a big world without stage breaks 
  • New game was designed to combine Universality and Originality
  • A game that is just new isn't that hard.
  • Combine two common, relatable ideas, and create something new, but relatable. 
  • Animal X Ghost Town
  • Animals need to survive. Simple mechanic combined with exploration. 
  • With name and idea, name came easily. 
  • Made a Target Image of an ad for the finished game. 
  • Design doc was over 100 pages. 
  • Game was approved by Sony Producer on title alone. 
  • Made a video of the concept to get everyone on the same page. 
  • It was 2D!
  • Howling was in, as were dinosaurs
  • Video is actually very close to real game. 
  • Studio was just in a house. 
  • Advantages of a lack of "common knowledge" as dev
    • Let them make crazy decisions, like 50 playable characters. 
    • Lack of experience freed them to focus on cool stuff over reasonable stuff. 
    • Bringing in elements like a Pomeranian lead, Mating, and robot dogs. Having the weakest character start as the lead communicated the setting that pets are vicious now. 
  • Disadvantages of lack of experience
    • Needed 3D for stage variety, but lacked skill to do it. Threw out 2D work. 
    • The power at their house/office had insufficient power. Fuses kept blowing in the summer.  
    • Tools were a weak spot, since they were developed concurrent with content creation. 
  • Did all their own marketing. 
  • Sales wanted box to have tons of animals, lots of noise and violence. 
  • Actual box is empty street, Pomeranian with leash dragging is only character. 
  • America was last to accept. "Why is the setting in Tokyo? Why Animals? It won't sell outside Japan."
  • Success in Japan changed their minds. 
  • Reviews are decent, not great. Player response is excellent. 
  • Are Japanese games dead???? (No). 
  • Japanese games aren't over, but they are "Wandering Around"
  • Japan is very different. 
  • American games at E3 were very bloody and violent. It felt bad, as a Japanese. I cannot make that game. 
  • Japanese developers should make fun, exciting games we believe in. Having our own style, like ukiyoe, is what is enjoyed overseas, not attempts to look western. 


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