Hey look, there’s a writeup on the game development conference I attended two weeks ago that I felt like blogging about but couldn’t figure out what to say! I missed the keynotes for the most part – work, commute, etc, whatever – but here are some of my highlights.
The session on agile development was pretty good, especially Relic’s success story. Also the final speaker from UBC was simply an amazing speaker, had the best use of PowerPoint I’ve ever seen, and dissected the bizarre pseudo-political spreading of the “agile” meme with such skill that I honestly wish I had that his presentation captured on video somewhere so that I could just point to it when people get confused by all the agile buzzwordology.
The pre-production tricks session was also pretty cool, mostly because it reminded me of a lot of good ideas I’d seen before and forgotten, plus hearing the story of Need for Speed: Carbon’s design team testing out a car customizing feature idea by having a “race” by pushing cardboard boxes around was hilarious. Also the NfS designer talked about how they used a board game prototype to test out their fairly risky feature of introducing a mild strategy element into their latest racing game. Not a new idea to me at least, but it was a great success story. They also used the technique of having one player be the “real” player and the rest use some general guidelines for how they make strategic choices to act out the part of computer opponents. I’d thought about trying this when I whipped up a board game prototype of a single player video game in the past, but wasn’t sure how fun it would be. I never had a group working with me to test it out on, so it was cool to hear that it worked out really well for the NfS team.
The MMO design session was another highlight, although mostly for the unusual reason that I hadn’t realized Sherwood Dungeon was made by an industry veteran living in North Vancouver. I had just heard of the game a couple weeks before the conference and was already impressed that it was the work of a single person. He shared how his games are already profitable and achieve a high amount of traffic simply by creating a linking policy that allows portals to place his game within a frame and keep their own ad and portal content around the game window as long as his own banner ads are kept intact below the game itself. Apparently he’s managed to get traffic equivalent to being on one of the top games portals by accumulating traffic from dozens of smaller portals instead, and all with little or no negotiation required. He’s also done a lot of work done to keep the game small and immediately accessible (no download, no credit card, just type in a player name and start) which had made it all come together into a working indie business model.
That pretty much sums up my favorite parts of the conference. Oh, and the burger buffet lunch on Friday was INFINITELY better than the pasta-on-saucers and (I kid you not) mashed potatoes in martini glasses they served up on Thursday. Thank goodness there’s a decent sushi restaurant within a block of any location in downtown Vancouver!