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GDC: Online Panel Discussed Future Of Connectivity

In this panel of luminaries, higher-ups from BioWare, Blizzard, Nexon, Valve, and Zynga discussed the new frontier of connected gaming, while Valve's Jason Holtman touched on Steam's move to the Mac.
A panel of online luminaries – including Valve’s Jason Holtman, Zynga’s Brian Reynolds, BioWare’s Ray Muzyka, Nexon’s Min Kim, and Blizzard’s Rob Pardo – discussed the new frontier of connected gaming. “If you’re going to design a game that has multiplayer of some element of connected gameplay,” said Pardo, “really understand what you want to get out of it. What you want out of that connectivity. Once you get into asynchronous connectivity, like you have on Facebook, it’s a very different experience. But you still want to leverage that social connection.” “People are content for other people,” added Min Kim, “and you can’t really control what that is. That plays into the experience.” When they launched the game Combat Arms, “half the game when they started were Brazilians. It really made it different.” “For a connected experience key takeaway is that its own service. It’s not a fire and forget,” said Muzyka. “It doesn’t have to be only multiplayer – can be social engagement, or user generated content.” “There are a lot of different ways to make a connected game or experience,” said Reynolds. “But the huge area we’ve had the good fortune of exploding into is the area of social games, specifically social network games. I can tell you for sure the one important thing to be thinking of as you make it is not ‘what are the game mechanics,’ but rather what are the social experiences.” “The usual kind of multiplayer we’ve been used to first in the ‘90s was going online playing a shooter or RTS,” Reynolds continued, “trying to blow up some people that you got maybe randomly introduced to on the net. You’re looking for the human competition, but maybe not the friendship. Then we got to World of Warcraft and we got these situations where maybe you make some friends, but they are very separate from my real world friends.” With Facebook, “you are in effect on stage in front of your actual friends,” he said. “The thing to remember is that you’re going to be much, much closer to your customers,” Holtman mentioned. “It’s not just about game design, it’s about something you want to do. It’s entertainment as a service. The thing isn’t just bits and the way something moves around anymore. It’s how people interact with your entire experience or IP.” “We look at the PC and we look at the Mac. We look at those two things and we say ‘there are a lot of people with Macs out there,’” added Holtman, referring to Steam’s new functionality on Apple PCs. T”he old fashioned barriers of retail are not so relevant anymore, he said. “They don’t want to be a PC buyer of the game, or Mac buyer of the game – they want to be a fan of the game. Of course you want that experience to travel across. It’s expected. If you’re a PC owner and you buy it on PC, you will get the Mac version. It’s super important.”

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