GDC 2013: Panels, announcements and more, live from San Francisco

The 2013 Game Developers Conference runs Monday, March 25, through Friday, March 29, and will see dozens of panels, game announcements and hardware demonstrations during its run. For all our panel coverage, game impressions, developer interviews and in-depth descriptions of smells coming from nearby artisanal sourdough bakeries, stay tuned to this stream all week.

Age of Wonders 3 appeals to different play styles, including hardcore and old school

Age of Wonders 3 features turn-based strategy that can be played several different ways for those with varying amounts of free time, Triumph Studios director Lennart Sas told Polygon during a GDC demo.

Age of Wonders 3 is the first title in the series to be released since 2002. Players command armies while conquering new lands and races and establishing an empire. In addition to its single-player mode, the game features an email-driven campaign that works similar to its regular multiplayer, but slower. Once a player takes their turn, an email is sent to the other player, alerting them of a...

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Galaxy on Fire: Alliances is a way to expand the universe and appeal to more gamers

Galaxy on Fire: Alliances will help build on the fictional universe developer Fishlabs Entertainment has already established with past games, CEO and co-founder Michael Schade told Polygon.

Schade demoed an iOS version of the game at GDC. Unlike previous entries in the series, Alliances is a strategy-based, resource management spin-off that Schade calls "the next step" in the series. Fishlabs has built upon many of the assets from Galaxy on Fire 2, giving the team a chance to branch out from their previous creation, rather than totally start anew.

"There's always the risk that people will...

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Disney Infinity hopes to inspire future game makers

It is also a powerful creation engine, like Minecraft and LittleBigPlanet, designed to allow people to invent their own complex games, play them within Disney's many worlds and then share those creations with everyone who owns the game.

The developers of Disney Infinity have already managed to recreate playable Disney-fied versions of a slew of popular video games in Disney Infinity's Toy Box mode using the game's "logic tools."

"We've created games inspired by Donkey Kong, Mario Bros 1-1, Ironman Stewart's Super Off Road, Gauntlet, Contra and Joust to name a few," said John Vignocchi,...

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An interview with Minecraft's maker

An interview with Mojang's Markus "Notch" Persson.

Diablo 3 auction houses 'really hurt the game,' game's director says

Wilson's panel during last week's GDC titled "Shout at the Devil: The Making of Diablo 3," covered the design goals of the long-in-development project as well Wilson's feedback on how well developer Blizzard Entertainment did in achieving them. One of the most notable acknowledgements was the team's displeasure with the controversial real-money auction house, which satisfied some of its design goals but also "really hurt the game."

One of the key goals for the for the auction houses — both the real-money and in-game gold variants — was to reduce fraud. "A lot of people are going to...

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Good Cop, Bad Cop: GDC Edition

We had a bit of trouble filming Good Cop, Bad Cop at the 2013 Game Developers Conference. In case you don't understand the premise of the show — Really? It's the title! — one person defends a game while the another attacks it. One person's the good cop, the other the bad cop. Simple, right?

The premise works pretty well when covering a slew of AAA games that have been homogenized into soulless, but relatively entertaining husks. Well, the format's not as well suited for discussing fantastic independent games, the kind that are fueled by the creative energy of optimistic, uncynical...

New Thief is same as the old Thief, so what's the problem?

The staples of the original Thief games — the sneaking, the stealing, the sly protagonist Garrett — have been recreated in what the developers are calling a "pimped-out" version of Unreal Engine 3. The familiar pseudo-Victorian setting now appears lifelike. Molecular raindrops splash on the stones that construct the streets, factories, shops and mansions. In a brief demonstration, fire breaks down a wooden building, thousands of embers licking the ceiling. Thief looks like a next-generation game, but Eidos was reluctant to say how much it plays like one.

In the nine years since Thief:...

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Armello pre-alpha sneak peek shows a board game brought to life

Kusters demoed a pre-alpha build of the game to Polygon during the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last week. During the demo, he gave us a look at the game's recently-implemented combat system and movement, and also showed off the attention to detail the studio has given to such an early build of the game.

"Typically, when you're getting a game off the ground, you're throwing in all the systems, and then you pretty it up when you get a chance to and the art follows gameplay," Kusters told Polygon. "But we prototyped the game for eight months on paper and were playing it for...

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American McGee on scary games, The Wizard of Oz and what the next Alice could hold

For American McGee, fairytales, mythology and fantasy classics are an endless source of inspiration, "instantly recognizable" elements that allow players to connect to his games on a more intimate level.

"They are wherever you go in the world," McGee told Polygon at the 2013 Game Developers Conference. "Red Riding Hood for instance is a story has been told for tens of thousands of years. It goes back to oral tradition before there was writing: its mankind siting around the campfire, being afraid of the dark, and that fear still resonates today even in the modern world. For us, it's a nice...

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Gears of War achievements designed to encourage 'ideal behavior,' helped catch console hackers

The design of achievements included in Gears of War games served multiple purposes, former series executive producer Rod Fergusson said at GDC, encouraging gameplay skill, keeping players engaged in multiplayer and even helping to identify hackers and cheaters.

Fergusson, who designed achievements for Gears of War through Gears of War 3, described himself as "somewhat of an achievement whore" during a GDC panel about the design of video game achievements. He likened the virtual rewards as like "cheese in the maze" that can help players discover new and better ways to play games.

A...

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GDC 2013 hosted 23,000 attendees, GDC 2014 dates announced

The 2013 Game Developers Conference hosted record attendance of 23,000 people last week, announced UBM Tech Game Network, the company that runs the show, today.

The first two days of the five-day convention focused on mobile, free-to-play and independent games, while the main conference began Wednesday, March 27. Highlights of this year's show included Jason Rohrer's game that won't be played for 2,000 years; a session in which Far Cry 3's lead writer called for Method acting in games; the prototype that Fruit Ninja developer Halfbrick had to shelve; the #1reasonwhy panel; and Hideo...

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Former Battlefield developer brings 'core shooter' to mobile in The Drowning

When DeNA's The Drowning releases on iOS devices, it will hopefully offer core gamers something they want to play, according to veteran game developer Ben Cousins.

Cousins is best known for his work on Battlefield 1943, Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Battlefield Heroes. He is currently leading a team of developers who have worked on franchises like Far Cry, Halo and Crysis to create "core gaming experiences" on mobile devices.

"The reason we're making core games on mobile is because we feel like the casual game market is pretty well-served," he told Polygon. "If you want a casual game on...

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Telltale on why players chose the tough girl instead of the nerdy guy in The Walking Dead

[SPOILER WARNING: This GDC 2013 talk discussed several major plot elements from The Walking Dead. If you have not finished the game and don't want anything revealed, please do not read further.]

According to Vanaman and Rodkin, Telltale set out with a specific question in mind with The Walking Dead: "What does a person do with the time that they have?" Rather than use traditional gameplay, such as shooting, this question was better served with a time-sensitive decision-making system. But they also made sure that system would provide no qualitative feedback on choices that players made, so...

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Dungeon Dashers brings board games like Descent into a fast-paced world

Dungeon Dashers, a dungeon crawler roguelike from independent developers Andrew Sum and Nathan Antony, aims to bring super fast-paced combat and movement to traditional turn-based table-top games.

In a demo of the game shown at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Sum showed a build of Dungeon Dashers where up to four players can play co-operatively as they make their way through dungeons solving puzzle elements like moving spikes, blocks and switches, and fighting off enemies in intense turn-based battles.

Speaking to Polygon, Sum said Dungeon Dashers is inspired by board...

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Adventure games work well through digitally distributed platforms, says Virtue's Last Reward creator

The adventure game genre is "very fitted" to smartphones, Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward and 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors creator Kotaro Uchikoshi said via translator during a recent GDC panel.

The Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd. director and senior writer's talk, "Visual Novels: Narrative Design in Virtue's Last Reward," included Uchikoshi's thoughts on game writing, defining a visual novel and the future of adventure games through digital distribution. Uchikoshi used the example of digitally distributed games Journey, The Walking Dead and The Room, all of which scooped awards at...

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How Crystal Dynamics created cover as a tool for 'emotional synchronization' in Tomb Raider

In a GDC 2013 talk called "Emotional Synchronization and the Croft of Systems Design," Jonathan Hamel, senior designer at Crystal Dynamics for Tomb Raider, explained how he tried to link the game's narrative and the player's experience to form a cohesive whole.

Hamel referred to the process of marrying the two halves as "emotional synchronization."

"I'm going to talk about emotional synchronization as a tool, so that both narrative design and gameplay systems design can work together to make the player's experience more meaningful," Hamel said.

At the beginning of development, he...

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Mass Effect 3’s combat helped support narrative themes

Mass Effect 3's combat was used to convey narrative themes and emotions throughout the game's story, BioWare senior designer Dave Feltham said during a recent GDC Panel.

"Emotional Journey: BioWare's Methods to Bring Narrative into Levels" covered the emotional hallmarks of the series' final entry, including visual manipulation and character connections. While creating the game, designers discovered they could tailor every aspect of Mass Effect 3 to their narrative advantage.

"We know each section of our story and what emotions and things have to be done in those sections," Feltham said....

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Riot Games designer says counterplay, teamplay essential to multiplayer experiences

Including counterplay and team-based attack mechanics in player-versus-player combat will help designers build strong multiplayer modes, Riot Games vice president of design Tom Cadwell said in a panel at GDC 2013 last Friday.

Providing players with "satisfying" attacks is key to good game design, and attacks need to be fun, mentally engaging and have a mechanical payoff, according to Cadwell. Counterplay, or a players' response to opponents' attacks, need to be visually clear, and counterplay added to simply get players out of the way cannot be considered gameplay, he said. Counterplay...

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Gone Home: forging connections without characters

Set in an Oregon family home in the '90s, Gone Home places the player in the shoes of Katie, a college student who returns home to find that her parents and sister aren't there. At first, there is nothing obviously wrong with the situation players find themselves in. There's no ransom note, no exterior motive to find out where the parents are and no radio or commander offering direction. Players are in their family home — they can do whatever they want, or they can do nothing at all. With the right setup, Gaynor hopes player curiosity will drive them to do exactly what feels most natural to...

Deliberately diegetic: Dead Space's lead interface designer chronicles the UI's evolution at GDC

Clarke barely survived his latest encounter with a cabal of zombie-like enemies. There's no way to know what's around the next corner, and supplies are scarce. He uses the computer built into his space suit to check his status. A holographic projection appears in front of him, and Clarke cranes his neck as he cycles through his remaining ammo and supplies.

When a player invokes the user interface in a Dead Space game, it appears within the game's world. The holographic projection of Clarke's supplies appears to the user on the other side of the TV or monitor just like it would to Clarke in...

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The surreal, inspiring and beautiful games of GDC's experimental panel

The Castle Doctrine

The panel began with the latest game from Jason Rohrer, who won the Game Design Challenge at GDC for a game that isn't intended to be played for 2,000 years. Today, he talked about The Castle Doctrine, a "massive-multiplayer" game set in the suburbs of 1991. As the dad of an "iconic" family, you alternate between building a security system in your home and robbing the vaults of other players' homes.

The game features permadeath, the loss of family members and a suicide button. It's morbidly funny.

"I had two aesthetic goals," says Rohrer, sporting that wide grin that...

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Cinematics emotionally connect players to game narratives, says StarCraft 2 writer

Cinematics help pull players into a story, bringing players "down to eye-level" and connecting them to event in the in-game world, according to Brian Kindregan, lead writer on StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm and co-writer for Wings of Liberty.

Speaking in a panel at the 2013 Game Developers Conference today, Kindregan said cinematics help to humanize characters, something you don't get from watching sprites move around the screen. Cinematics bring players out of the basic world map and bring them into the heart of the action, allowing players to experience the "maximum amount of impact" of...

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Far Cry 3 lead writer advocates for Method acting in video games

Video games, Yohalem said, are the latest and most evolved form of performance. As players, we embody characters, just as actors do onstage. But unlike a play or a film, video games put the performer in the character's shoes, not just their costumes, affording them agency.

For the next 30 minutes, Yohalem made a convincing argument for this narrative strategy, occasionally including advice to fellow narrative designers. In Method acting, he said, you must understand a character's psychological motives, perform their actions and connect their experiences with your own. The same can be said...

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World of Warcraft players rack up 8.7 million achievements per day, but only one is a Legendary Pet Brawler

Since Blizzard Entertainment added achievements to its massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft in 2008, players have earned more than 13 billion of the virtual accolades — on average, about 8.7 million a day, said the game's lead content designer Cory Stockton.

Stockton spoke about Blizzard's approach to designing and implementing achievements in World of Warcraft and its many expansions at a GDC panel this week, explaining that the virtual rewards are more than just a "badge of honor" for players, they're also a pathway for players to explore new content. They can...

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Amazon takes to GDC to promote its game platform and services

Amazon welcomed a handful of developers and press to a reception for its growing gaming business this week at GDC, eager to share some statistics about the company's growing Appstore and its Kindle Fire tablet, originally launched in September 2011.

Gaming is an increasingly important part of Amazon's business, Aaron Rubenson, director of the company's Appstore initiative, told Polygon.

Amazon's focus on gaming extends across many of its services including the company's shopping cart service, which powers in-app purchases on both mobile and desktop categories (see World of Tanks on Amazon,...

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Tobii gives developers eye tracking game design tips

Today at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Carl Korobkin and Fredrik Lindh from Tobii Technology held a panel on the right and wrong ways to use eye tracking in games, centered around promotion of Tobii's "Rex" eye tracking peripheral.

Lindh began the presentation by talking about what he considered the wrong ways to the technology. He cited "active" interfaces posing problems, noting that when players feel like they're forced to look at something or look around a lot, they tend to feel tired. Similarly, he said, it's easy to determine where someone is looking but difficult...

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IGDA approved 'all entertainment and related promotion' for controversial GDC party, YetiZen CEO says (update)

The International Game Developers Association approved "all entertainment and related promotion" for a controversial GDC 2013 party, according to a post from Sana Choudary, CEO of party co-host and organizer YetiZen.

IGDA became the subject of criticism following a GDC 2013 party, which featured scantily clad women, who some believed to be hired dancers. IGDA members, including game designer Brenda Romero, resigned in response.

Choudary's statement includes a screenshot of an email apparently from IGDA's executive director Kate Edwards, in which she approved the attire.

"If the final...

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'They don't set the tone': Dragon Age lead writer on the men who don't want women in games

From there, Gaider's Game Developers Conference lecture, bluntly titled "Sex in Games," analyzed players' reactions to various genders and sexualities in BioWare's games, then expanded to explain to how diversity is the obvious next step for an industry addicted to pleasing the male 18-35 demographic.

But first, he wanted to talk about sex and romance, particularly the first time BioWare implemented the latter in a role-playing game. "We had no idea if that's something players would want," Gaider said. "It seems silly now."

"There were four romance characters in Baldur's Gate 2 ... Three...

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BioWare details the bumpy first year of Star Wars: The Old Republic

BioWare's massively-multiplayer online role-playing game, Star Wars: The Old Republic, had a rough launch year because the studio underestimated how much content the game would need and how resource-intensive it would be, according to senior creative director James Ohlen.

Ohlen gave a talk at the Game Developers Conference this week titled "Designing a live MMORPG: The First Year of Star Wars: The Old Republic" where he outlined the growth and bumpy road of BioWare's first MMORPG. He said the studio experienced challenges both before and after the game's launch, and these challenges...

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Game archiving faces challenges as technology evolves, digital-only media prevails, say experts

Preserving video games presents an unique challenge: while physical products deteriorate over time, newer games are increasingly made digital-only and technology rapidly evolves, how do we archive them?

Speaking at the 2013 Game Developers Conference today, a panel of industry personnel, professors and museum curators spoke about these challenges. The panelists discussed what is currently being done to archive games and what can be done in the future to successfully preserve them.

Indie developer Loot Drop's CEO John Romero said we need to archive the creative process, citing older games...

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2013 Game Developers Conference news recap

We've been busy at the 2013 Game Developers Conference this week, working hard to bring you daily coverage of the panels, talks, interviews and previews we've been attending in sunny, frigid San Francisco. Check out the video above for a rundown of the conference's biggest showstoppers and the links below for the full stories. For more coverage, make sure to look at our GDC 2013 StoryStream.

SimCity pedestrians 'teleport' to keep the game fun

Moskowitz, speaking to an audience of game developers at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, described the technology behind SimCity, the "GlassBox" engine powering the game's world-building simulation and the struggles he and the SimCity team faced putting the game together.

But his panel got off to a rocky start, as he opened his presentation and his screen failed to begin loading his presentation slides.

The audience of over 100 laughed nervously as an error message popped up on the screen stating that the presentation could not connect to the servers.

It was a goof, but a...

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Gas Powered Games may be renamed Wargaming Seattle, working on a free-to-play MMO

"It's not a publisher acquiring a developer," Taylor said in an interview with Polygon. "It's a developer acquiring a developer [...] There was a 99 percent overlap in terms of company culture, genre choices, and leadership."

Taylor said his company has tentatively been renamed "Wargaming Seattle," adding, "That's not 100 percent sure, but it's not a bad thing to say."

Though the team is still very early into designing its first game under the Wargaming banner, Taylor confirmed that it will be a "free-to-play, triple-A MMO with PvP," in keeping with the model of other popular Wargaming...

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The early misses of Fortnite's building system

Epic Games' Fortnite — a game about building, combat, character customization and social interaction — may be a long way from completion, but that didn't stop developer Billy Bramer from revealing the tried and failed ideas the development team has tested so far with the game's building system.

Bramer spoke at the Game Developers Conference this week in a session titled "Crafting Fortnite's Building System," where he divulged the studio's ambitions with Fortnite's construction tools and also detailed the ideas that have been discarded so far. Bramer was careful to note that everything he...

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Fruit Ninja studio almost sliced itself in half with experimental prototype

The game he's describing is a prototype built by hand using paper and strips of plastic. Muscat, fresh off the success of Fruit Ninja, was looking for Halfbrick's next big hit. He wanted a game that would be engaging, simple and massively multiplayer.

What he settled on was a tank game, in which players had three action points they could use to either move across a board or shoot at other players. Players could also trade action points, passing them to other players who could then have more action points to make bigger moves or shoot more players.

The big twist, however, was the jury....

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Tomb Raider intended to be a direct sequel, launching in 2012

Although the developers initially set out to create another Tomb Raider sequel, in order to bring the series back to life with a level of quality the team felt they needed they decided to "wipe the slate clean." Gallagher said he took inspiration from the successful reboots of both the Bond and Batman movie franchises, and decided to make the new Tomb Raider an origin story.

But an origin story needed a strong character, and to reinvent the character of Lara, the team looked to tales of real world survival, like the story of Aron Ralston, the hiker forced to cut off his own arm after being...

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Mobile Watch List - GDC 2013 Special

This week I'm in San Francisco for the annual Game Developers Conference and wow, there are a lot of mobile games here. After wandering the show floor in an overwhelmed daze, I stumbled upon four games that are either out, or will be coming out in the near future.

Liquid Sketch (Link)

This game focuses entirely on fluid dynamics, one of my favorite kinds of mechanics. The goal is to fill buckets scattered throughout each level without losing too much fluid. To make things more complicated, some of the buckets are color-coded, which means you have to match the color of the liquid with the...

MechWarrior Online leaves beta 'late summer,' adding guild and faction combat, 12v12 battles and new UI

"We do have a launch date, or at least a fairly defined launch window, and that is late summer," Piranha Games president and cofounder Russ Bullock told Polygon of his studio's free-to-play title, MechWarrior Online. The game is currently in an open beta, so the release of version 1.0 is as much a marketing milestone as a software milestone.

"Of course between here and late summer, we'll have countless updates to the game but there are three in particular that I want to talk about," he said.

The first is the match sizes. "Right now the game is 8 versus 8, so you have eight mechs per...

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DmC: Devil May Cry's art director explores the series' 'visual rebirth' at GDC

At a GDC panel, DmC: Devil May Cry's visual art director, Alessandro "Talexi" Taini, chronicled the process of creating the art that underlies Ninja Theory's recent reboot.

Taini said he was responsible for creating the "syle of game we're making," which encompassed everything from concept sketches to setting the tone of the in-game world. At Capcom's direction, he worked to remake Dante "cool, Western, grounded and stylish." The new Dante needed to be "urban," not boldly styled like a punk rocker or supernatural, he said.

Taini built upon the idea that Dante is a "regular guy," imbued...

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Journey's vast desert setting was chosen to help players connect on a 'human level'

Journey's rolling deserts were designed to help players connect with one another, lead engineer John Edwards said during a GDC presentation.

Speaking at the "Sand Rendering in Journey" panel, Edwards explained how the team wanted to create a game that had an experience similar to finding someone on a hiking trail.

"There's this desire to connect with them in some way," Edwards said. "To say hello. You want to acknowledge them on a human level, which is somehow strangely uncommon in a lot of online video games ... We thought the best environment for this would be a vast and barren...

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How Bungie shaped Destiny from fantasy to 'mythic sci-fi' world

When Bungie set off on its journey to build an all-new universe for Destiny, the mythic science fiction, "shared world shooter" it unveiled earlier this year, it started with a more traditional fantasy concept starring wizards, grub lords and giant frogs battling in ancient settings.

Bungie also wanted to further explore science fiction, design director Christopher Barrett said at GDC today, still enticed by "possibility of a cool future, space ships, different worlds and, of course, shooting aliens, which everybody loves."

"Ancient ruins are cool, but so are derelict spaceships," Barrett...

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Jane McGonigal on the good and bad of video game escapism

McGonigal pointed to statistics, such as that people spend 300 million minutes a day playing Angry Birds or 170 hours per year per player in Call of Duty. These numbers help make sense of why some people are concerned that gamers only want to escape reality, she said, noting that psychological studies link escapism to suicide, anxiety, eating disorders, alcoholism and addiction.

While that sounds dire, McGonigal clarified that all is not lost. There are actually two forms of escapism: self-suppression and self-expansion. She described self-suppression as running away from unpleasant...

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The Kickstarter darling comes home: hands on with the Ouya

On July 10, just one week after announcing the project and less than eight hours after putting it on Kickstarter, Ouya reached its $950,000 goal.

A few minutes later it broke the million dollar mark, only the eighth project in Kickstarter history, not to mention the quickest to do so. In that short window, it introduced more than just a interesting device; it introduced the world to the idea that mobile hardware and mobile software can be used to create something that isn't mobile, but rather something closer to what we'd call a video game console. And it could be yours for just $99.

...

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Mass Effect 3 live producer says multiplayer modes are a service, not a 'ship and forget' package

Launching a multiplayer mode is less about shipping an additional game component and more about managing an ongoing service, Mass Effect 3 live producer Scylla Costa said in a panel at the 2013 Game Developers Conference today.

"Going from a product to a service is a chansge of mentality. It's a 180 degree turn for many people," he said, noting developers can't just "ship and forget" their product after pushing a multiplayer service live. "You have to continue to add value."

Mass Effect 3's Galaxy At War feature forms the backbone of the multiplayer service, Costa said. The system, which...

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Hitman: Absolution AI developed to create story-driven yet spontaneous combat scenarios

Animations for non-player characters in Hitman: Absolution were pre-scripted and story-driven, but still melded with a responsive AI for combat in order to create realistic "breathing" moments, according to members of the development team.

Speaking in a panel today at the 2013 Game Developers Conference, IO Interactive senior software engineer Maurizio De Pascale and senior AI programmer Mika Vehkala said each individual NPC's behaviors and responses to player-controlled character Agent 47 were programmed in ways that made sense to the story.

"The developers were careful to make sure that...

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Infinite Crisis is a friendlier, more approachable MOBA

As announced earlier this week, Infinite Crisis allows players to take control of various altered versions of popular DC superheroes and villains, such as Nightmare Batman (a vampire version of Bruce Wayne) and Gaslight Catwoman (a steampunk interpretation of Selina Kyle). When I sat down to play, I chose a regular (but powerful) villain: Doomsday, the massive alien creature responsible for the death of Superman in the ‘90s.

Playing as a bulky character immediately gave me access to one of Infinite Crisis' biggest additions to MOBA gameplay: destructible environments that can be turned...

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Ubisoft Montpellier developers discuss 'Reinventing Rayman'

First, to explain who Rayman is, the developers introduced a short video from Rayman's creator, Michel Ancel:

"The creation of Rayman was very simple," said Ancel, standing in the bright Montpellier daylight. "It was something I did when I was around 20. It was the character I wanted to make. He's a very simple and direct character. He's not talking, it's really about action. All the animation and design is done so you understand the character just by looking at it. It's not about storytelling; it's about a direct connection between you and the character."

For Rayman Origins, the recent...

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The creator of Just Cause 2 on running a next-gen sandbox developer

"We'll be in radio silence [about the games] until E3," Sundberg said. "We have two bigger projects in development. One in New York. One in Stockholm. And we just started a mobile division - it's just three people." Sundberg wouldn't say what the games are, though he describes Avalanche Studios as a maker of next-generation sandbox games.

Sundberg was eager to talk about the studios, particularly the new office in downtown Manhattan. He calls the low point five years ago an "opportunity to change." His company had grown quickly, but a struggling economy caused a number of expensive...

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Activision Blizzard researchers talk next-gen characters and believable performances at GDC

The key to more believable, realistic skin on characters, van der Pahlen said, is a more refined sense of light playing off of skin surfaces. Done properly, he asserted that this only requires a small amount of extra processing. Van der Pahlen outlined a series of methods to add "micro-geometry" to faces and skin, which created subtle but noticeable improvements. He stressed that artists and engineers need to focus their attention at the microscopic level, which can be worked into existing techniques, and can be used to add variation and unpredictability to lighting on skin surfaces...

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Authenticity vs. reality: designing DayZ

Recalling his experiences in the military, including real-life jungle survival training, Hall originally created DayZ as a mod for ARMA II that prioritized the feeling of authenticity over realism. "That’s definitely something I believe strongly in," he said. "The situation being authentic, but not exactly real."

A pillar of DayZ's design is the idea that the potential for loss provides a sense of real value. Players lose all of their gear when they die in-game, and every death is permanent. There’s no "leveling" or character progression aside from gear collected, so dying carries real,...

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IGDA apologizes for dancers at GDC party, hopes to reconcile with resigned members

The International Game Developers Association apologized today for the female dancers at its Game Developers Conference party last night, and said that it hopes that the IGDA members who resigned will return.

"Both the costumes and activities witnessed at the party — we apologize and agree," said Kate Edwards, IGDA executive director, during the organization's annual meeting today. "It doesn't agree with our core values as an organization."

The IGDA has come under fire for the party, which it co-hosted with startup accelerator YetiZen, because of the scantily clad female dancers who...

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Game designer Jason Rohrer designs a game meant to be played 2,000 years from now, hides it in desert

The designer of Passage, The Castle Doctrine and Diamond Trust of London, Jason Rohrer, has developed a game designed to be played by people he'll never know. Rohrer hasn't played it himself, he says, and has buried the game — designed to survive thousands of years — in the Nevada desert, making it likely that no one will ever play it.

It's called A Game for Someone. The game was inspired by ancient board games like Mancala, as well as the architects and builders who, over hundreds of years, constructed religious cathedrals that they themselves would never set foot in, never see completed...

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QWOP creator says developers can learn lessons from real-life sports at GDC

At a GDC 2013 talk called "Making it Matter: Lessons from Real Sports," QWOP creator Bennett Foddy argued that developers should look to real-life sports to get players to care about their actions in a simulated world with arbitrary rules — video games, in other words.

The primary challenge is that the outcomes in both sports and video games are fundamentally "pretty pointless and arbitrary," he said. Despite that, sports are massively popular, and developers can learn from this.

"The player needs to care about how they play the game," he said.

Part of the reason athletes care so much is...

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How inexperience and failed pitches led to Tokyo Jungle

Before Tokyo Jungle, he said, the team at Crispy's! went through numerous alternative game concepts, including a courier game and a role-playing game about the final days on Earth before a doomsday meteor hit. Eventually the team settled on a platformer that would have taken place in a single 2D world, divided by sky, land and underground settings. According to Sony, the pitch lacked fun, and so the team once again rebooted their development process.

Kataoka said he was motivated by a a desire to make games that enrich lives. Undeterred by the setback, he set out to combine "universality"...

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Total War: Arena announced at GDC, will be free-to-play, multiplayer-focused

Total War: Arena, an upcoming free-to-play multiplayer-focused installment in The Creative Assembly's strategy game series, is in development, series lead designer James Russell announced during a GDC 2013 talk today.

Russell revealed that the game will feature 10v10 battles, with each player controlling three units. Players will be able to both earn and purchase items in-game. He characterized Total War: Arena as a cross between a multiplayer online battle arena and a massively multiplayer online role-playing game.

"It provides a much richer variety of experience," Russell said of the...

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Dragon's Dogma was originally twice its current size

Dragon's Dogma in its original form was twice as large as the game that finally shipped, Director Hideaki Itsuno said during a GDC panel.

Itsuno spoke via translator at "Behind the Scenes of Dragon's Dogma: A Look at the Development of Capcom's Open-World Action Role-Playing Game," panel, a talk that explored the game's development and early conception. According to Itsuno, the game the team mapped out would have been impossible to create.

"There was no way to create this game within the budget," Itsuno said. Dragon's Dogma was further pared down to about 30 percent more than its current...

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If you don't go, you don't know: Why Dishonored's art director traveled to build Dunwall

During a talk at GDC 2013 called "World of Dishonored: Raising Dunwall," the game's art director, Sebastien Mitton, said that visiting locations to study their people, places and things was a key component he used to create the visual design of game's host city, Dunwall.

Narrating a slideshow filled with his inspirations, Mitton showed how Dishonored evolved from its earliest concept stages, when it was set in medieval Japan. The developers then shifted locations to 1660s London because they didn't feel comfortable in their historical knowledge of the Asian setting. They eventually created...

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Tenya Wanya Teens is a game about saying 'I love you' and peeing, and not confusing the two

Katamari Damacy and Noby Noby Boy creator Keita Takahashi showed off his new game, Tenya Wanya Teens, at a party in San Francisco on Wednesday, revealing a two-player game that's about brushing your teeth, doing division, farting, clawing at salmon, saying "I love you" and peeing.

Tenya Wanya Teens is competitive awkwardness, as players try their hardest not to accidentally shower in front of their classmates or fart in front of a girl they have a crush on.

Takahashi's game — a collaboration with Venus Patrol and Wild Rumpus — plays something like a side-scrolling beat 'em up. Two...

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IGDA draws backlash, member resignations over female dancers at GDC party (update: IGDA responds)

The International Game Developers Association is under fire for its GDC 2013 party, which featured scantily clad female dancers, leading game designer Brenda Romero and other members of the organization to resign today.

"I went home last night to work on my Friday GDC talk feeling super uplifted by the turnout and support for the #1ReasonToBe panel," Romero told Polygon in a statement today. "I woke up to DMs, texts and links to news of the IGDA party. It really saddens me. I have been a long-time supporter of the IGDA. However, my silence would have been complicity. I had no choice. And...

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Women in the gaming industry share their reason to be in the business

A group of game scholars, designers, media and developers joined together at GDC to talk about life as a woman in the gaming industry and the challenges that often accompany that title.

The panel was inspired by the #1reasonwhy hashtag that made the rounds on Twitter in November 2012 and inspired an industry-wide discussion about women's roles, influences and challenges in gaming. Some women shared stories of discrimination or prejudice, while others cited problems with game design itself.

During "#1ReasonToBe," six women gave their own reasons to be in the industry, as well as...

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Killer is Dead's episodic structure explained

At a hotel near the Game Developers Conference earlier this week, XSEED and Grasshopper Manufacture showed a boss fight from their upcoming action title Killer is Dead, and revealed new details on the game's episodic structure.

Killer is Dead is the latest stylized action game from Grasshopper, serving as what an XSEED fact sheet calls a "spiritual successor" to the assassin-focused Killer 7 and No More Heroes, with a "high contrast shader" art style designed as an evolution of what Grasshopper was able to do with the visuals in No More Heroes. The gameplay this time around centers on main...

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Game industry veterans discuss how to motivate developers

At the Game Developers Conference this afternoon, a panel of producers, studio heads and creative directors discussed the idea of developer motivation, and how to avoid inter-office rumors and bad attitudes causing problems while making a game.

"Once you've found the amazing engineer, you need to make sure he's working at full capacity," said DeNA general manager Ben Cousins.

Most on the panel agreed that being transparent with employees is the most efficient way to head off problems. Cousins said one of the new ideas his team is trying is making all company email visible to everyone on...

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Total War: Rome 2's Battle of Teutoburg Forest puts players on the losing side

In a presentation at GDC 2013, Creative Assembly showed off Rome 2 with the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, one of the game's historical stand-alone battles. This scenario puts players into a challenging situation, since Tuetoburg is notorious as a battle where Roman forces got completely destroyed by Germanic barbarians. In this virtual re-creation of that event, players are tasked with getting as many of the Roman troops out alive as possible in an ambush they're fated to lose.

Immediately leaning toward its inevitable outcome, the narrow forest map begins with Roman forces beset by flaming...

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Assassin's Creed 3's cross-studio work 'holds the keys to next generation development'

Assassin's Creed 3 was a collaborative process that spanned four different studios, Ubisoft developers revealed today during a GDC panel.

Ubisoft Quebec game director Marc-Alexis Cote, Ubisoft creative director Alex Hutchinson, Ubisoft game director Damien Kieken, Ubisoft Montreal senior producer Francois Pelland and Ubisoft Singapore senior producer Hugues Ricour outlined their strategy at "Three Years of Collaboration on Assassin's Creed 3." The game was divvied up between the Montreal, Singapore, Annecy and Quebec studios. While Montreal was responsible for the game's core design and...

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Journey sweeps the 13th annual Game Developers Choice Awards

At tonight's 13th annual Game Developers Choice Awards, held at the Game Developers Conference, PlayStation exclusive Journey swept the floor, winning all six category nominations, including Game of the Year, Innovation Award, Best Game Design and Best Visual Arts.

Far Cry 3 and The Walking Dead won Best Technology and Best Narrative, respectively.

Dishonored won the Audience Award, Subset Games won Best Debut for FTL: Faster Than Light and The Room won Best Handheld/Mobile Game.

BioWare co-founders Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award, which...

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Nintendo hopes to win app and web devs to Wii U with JavaScript tools

Nintendo started by showing Wii Street U, the Google-powered app that was released for the Wii U last month. As it turns out, Wii Street U was one of the first apps created using the new Nintendo Web Framework, a tool based around HTML 5 and JavaScript. Since Nintendo Web Framework uses WebKit as a core, it's incredibly compatible with existing apps, Nintendo says, making the process of porting an app to the Wii U quick and easy.

Nintendo emphasized that the Framework can help create apps that run on the GamePad, the TV, or both. It can also be used to port games that were developed using...

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Tropes vs. Women creator says we need to understand motivations behind online harassment in order to prevent it

Feminist Frequency and Tropes vs. Women in Video Games creator Anita Sarkeesian believes that trolling and harassment in video game culture is prevalent because there is no regulation and no clear understanding of why it happens.

Speaking in a panel at the 2013 Game Developers Conference today, Sarkeesian said the industry needs to dig into the "cyber cesspool" that marginalizes women and minority communities in the industry, understand why these pockets of negativity exist, and from there form strategies to stop harassment.

After launching the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games Kickstarter...

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Finding feature inspiration at CD Projekt Red

Peppered with stories from the development of The Witcher series, Szczesnik gave the impression of both a tight ship and a highly collaborative environment at CD Projekt Red. Starting with an examination of imagination and the importance of having constraints in the creative process, he immediately went into the importance of asking questions and finding inspiration in new and personal experiences.

Calling the first step the "sheriff’s star" method, Szczesnik and team ask as many questions as possible when considering a new feature. They consider the why’s and how’s, addressing "why add...

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Dishonored co-creative directors advocate attracting players, not dictating their actions in GDC panel

In a GDC 2013 panel today, Dishonored's co-creative directors Raphael Colantonio and Harvey Smith described how allowing players to improvise within a video game world creates a richer experience by attracting them to the goal.

They worked to accomplish this in Dishonored by producing non-linear mission environments that allow players to make their own decisions within a branching storyline.

"It's all about guiding and attracting, as opposed to dictating the player's path," Colantonio said.

Although they admit that improvisation and story-rich environments are sometimes at odds, their...

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Injustice: Gods Among Us app launching for iOS

NetherRealm Studios will launch an app for Injustice: Gods Among Us, the developer told Polygon today during a hands-on demo.

Injustice: Gods Among Us is a fighting game based off the DC Comics universe from the makers of Mortal Kombat. The game features famous super heroes and villains such as Superman, Lex Luthor, Joker, Captain Marvel and more. Details about the mobile version have not yet been released.

Injustice: Gods Among Us launches April 16 for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U. We spent some time with the title and will release our hands-on experience soon.

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Media perception of video games can be changed with diversity, say industry veterans

Video games have a less-than-stellar public image, earning a bad rap over the past several years and accused of being everything from an immature medium to a dangerous one, according to a panel held by industry veterans today at the 2013 Game Developers Conference.

Georgia Institute of Technology professor Ian Bogost said that one way to combat the perception of video games as violent and having negative influence is to make more games that doesn't focus on killing.

"It's kind of true, most games are violent, and it's reasonable on some level to come to this conclusion," he said. "It's a...

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Rune Factory producer on why not all RPG heroes have to save the world

Role-playing game developers can avoid overloading their players by grounding their games in realism, Marvelous AQL Inc. executive officer and CCO Yoshifumi Hashimoto said during a GDC panel.

Hashimoto spoke at the "RPG Development: Inspiration and Perspiration" panel through a translator. Hashimoto offered development insight by outlining many of his methods on Rune Factory and Muramasa. According to Hashimoto, when there's too much info on a game, players can get lost or forget where they are. Developers need to streamline the information remembered to create an "invisible staircase,"...

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Miiverse to come to smartphones and PC by May, 3DS version in the works

Nintendo's social "empathy" network for the Wii U, Miiverse, will come to smartphones and web browsers sometime in April or May, with a 3DS version to follow at a later date.

The producer of Miiverse, Kiyoshi Mizuki said during a talk at the Game Developers Conference that the Miiverse mobile and web browser app should be available by May and will, at first, provide basic Miiverse functionality, like posting comments, drawing doodles, and viewing and engaging with communities.

A 3DS version of Miiverse is also in the works, although a release date was not confirmed. Mizuki said unlike the...

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FarmVille 2 director encourages developers to 'never insult your players'

Developers of casual games should not fall into the trap of thinking players don't understand games, because "casual players will surprise you," according to FarmVille 2 developer Wright Bagwell.

Bagwell — the director of design on FarmVille 2 — said during a FarmVille 2 postmortem at the Game Developers Conference that it's important for developers, especially developers of casual games, to "never insult the player."

"I often hear people say of casual games that their players are not 'real gamers,' that we need to get them up to speed," Bagwell said. "Well, my grandmother plays FarmVille...

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Game Composers Get the Shaft, Argues Rights Attorney

Charne says the first music deal he oversaw was for the first original piece of music composed for a game: Pressure Cooker for the Atari 2600. Although the device was designed with a chip capable of reproducing 12 tones of music, in practice, it could only faithfully produce eight, all "bleeps and bloops." For Pressure Cooker, a professional jingle writer was hired to create a piece of music using only those eight tones. The result: the first video game soundtrack.

Now here's a test: Name that composer.

Chances are, unless you know him personally, you won't be able to. And not...

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Full Sail study explores the value and hidden weights of Metacritic

Greenwood-Ericksen says his team started by reading various criticisms of Metacritic around the web, much of which boiled down to a single issue: All of the value of a game is boiled down to a single number, which in turn is used by some publishers and studios to determine bonuses, hiring, firing and more. A strong streak of review scores hitting Metacritic can even impact stock prices.

Greenwood-Ericksen noted that there is some transparency on Metacritic's process buried on its website but also some frustrating ambiguities. Most notoriously, Metacritic openly weights each publication's...

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Developers should 'think like a fan,' be transparent when pitching on Kickstarter, says Double Fine producer

Indie developers looking to launch projects for crowdfunding on Kickstarter should "think like a fan," altering their mindset and tailoring pitches to best inform their gaming audience, according to Double Fine Productions producer Greg Rice.

Speaking in panel today at the 2013 Game Developers Conference, Rice said 2 Player Productions' ongoing documentary helped attract backer interest for Broken Age, the studio's upcoming point-and-click adventure game.

"We knew if we were doing a documentary, we needed to be really open and transparent and honest," he said. "Funding through Kickstarter...

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Halo 4 designer chronicles building the Prometheans

At a GDC 2013 panel today, Scott Warner, Halo 4 project lead designer, discussed the iterative process and key moments in creating the new Promethean enemies for developer 343 Industries' first foray into the Halo universe.

The broad talk covered the Promethean's inception to what you fought against in the shopped game. Warner said that his intent was to give insight into the challenges and decisions the studio had to make and to help developers learn for their own games.

Warner stressed that, although he was presenting, the Prometheans are a result of the works of artists, engineers,...

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Kojima Productions L.A. building campus in Playa Vista, the 'Red Fox' to Tokyo studio

Kojima Productions is expanding to the West with the arrival of Kojima Productions Los Angeles, a secondary development studio to complement the original Kojima Productions in Tokyo, tasking itself with the mission to become one of the "top studios in the world."

While Konami and Kojima Productions have been hiring developers to work in a Los Angeles-based studio since September — with recruiting for "the 'next' MGS" kicking off in February 2012 — the game developer made the studio, its title and its redder Kojima Productions logo official at GDC today.

Kojima Productions Los Angeles'...

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PlayStation 4 specs detailed further at GDC

As part of a PlayStation 4 developer panel at the Game Developers Conference today, Sony revealed more of the official hardware specs for its next home console, adding to what it announced back in February.

It will feature a 64-bit x86 architecture, with what Sony refers to as minimal power consumption, eight cores and hardware threads with 2MB L2 cache for each of the four-core groups (each of which also has a 32kb L1 I/D-cache). The PS4's dev tools run on Windows 7 64-bit, and PS4-specific tools have been integrated with Microsoft's Visual Studio 2010 and 2012. This includes the...

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Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain revealed, preceded by Ground Zeroes (update)

A new trailer for Hideo Kojima's latest Metal Gear Solid game shown at GDC today confirms that Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain are the same game, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.

Kojima Productions first teased The Phantom Pain at last year's Spike VGAs, announcing the game as in development at Moby Dick Studios. Prior to that, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes was announced in September at PAX. Kojima says the new Metal Gear Solid is an open world game starring Snake, who has been in a coma for nine years.

In a gameplay demonstration shown at GDC, Snake's mobility...

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Opinion: Battlefield 4 totally eclipses the heart

The decadent presentation took place in a downtown San Francisco movie theater, a not-so-subtle hint at the cinematic aspirations of the franchise. The intentions were logical, but the venue inadvertently did a disservice to the first-person shooter. Never before have I been more aware how few people die in films — or maybe I should say, how many people we kill in video games.

For 17 minutes, scene after scene, the audience was privy to gameplay featuring a band of four soldiers overcoming the odds, unloading hundreds of rounds into their enemies. There was a rifle and a shotgun, both...

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Vendetta Online iOS port will allow players to transition seamlessly from desktop to tablet

Twitch-based multiplatform MMO Vendetta Online will add iOS to its roster this spring with a launch that's been "awhile coming," Guild Software creative director John Bergman told Polygon at GDC during a hands-on preview.

Launched in 2002 online and 2004 for retailers, Vendetta Online has already spread to Windows PC, Mac, Linux and Android. Bergman said that players can expect the same experience no matter what platform they chose with the game's uniform interface.

"The way I approaching designing anything, I really design for what I want to use," Bergman said. "In this case, the [iOS...

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Limbo on PS Vita won't feature touch controls

The PS Vita release of Limbo will be a straight port and won't feature the handheld device's touch controls, Playdead CEO Dino Patti told Eurogamer.

According to Patti, incorporating touch controls did not feel like the right move for the game; instead, the developers chose to recreate the original title's experience and market the game to new players.

"We're not using any touch. We didn't feel it would suit Limbo at all," he explained. "It would feel like a patch if we did it. And we really like the original experience. The Vita allows you to have the original experience.

"It would...

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Battlefield 4 executive producer Patrick Bach on the next-generation of 'human, dramatic and believable' Battlefield

The next-generation Battlefield 4 will be a war story that focuses on a "human, dramatic and believable" vision of war, according to DICE executive producer Patrick Bach and executive vice president Patrick Söderlund.

"With Battlefield 4, we are creating experiences that touch us emotionally," Söderlund said following the official unveiling of the game in San Francisco, "experiences that are human, dramatic and believable. The stress of the moment, the feeling of imminent danger, the connection you have to the characters; it's all very real, very human and, frankly speaking, damn...

Battlefield 4 17-minute trailer hits, game arrives on PC, PS3, PS4 and Xbox 360 this fall

Pre-orders of Battlefield 4, which hits stores this fall, will include a "premium expansion pack", while an Origin special download edition of the game will include the premium pack, bonus in-game digital items and access to the multiplayer beta, according to a press release.

The game is coming to the Windows PC, PS3, PS4 and Xbox 360, according to Electronic Arts officials. While the PS4 edition is not currently listed on the official pre-order site for the game, an Electronic Arts official confirmed that the game is coming to the platform.

No price for the PS4 version of Battlefield 4...

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z's anti-hero is part cyborg, part foul-mouthed comic book killer

The star of Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, the ninja versus zombie action game collaboration from Team Ninja, Comcept and Spark Unlimited, sounds like a teenage boy's bloodlust-fueled fantasy. The cybernetic eponymous ninja, Yaiba, is part machine, sporting a mechanical arm and eye, part ruthless killer and part wisecracking comic book character.

He rattles off expletive-laced one-liners like Marvel's Deadpool and rips apart foes like DC's Lobo. Co-creator Keiji Inafune, founder of Comcept and producer behind series like Dead Rising, Onimusha and Resident Evil, says the idea behind Yaiba is...

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Spec Ops writer thinks violence is too easy

The enemies in Spec Ops: The Line, however, were meant to have character. Killing them was supposed to feel weighty. It was intended to be a thing which would give you pause, even if you were enjoying it.

Williams says he considers Spec Ops:The Line to have been an experiment, and one that he's still a little surprised by. What Williams and developer Yager set out to do with Spec Ops was prove that violence could be used as a core component of a game narrative, but not necessarily as an end to itself. They wanted to give the violence meaning.

"It was a hard game to get out the door," he...

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Blizzard GDC panel elaborates on the challenges of localization

Localizing Diablo 3 was no easy task and required thousands of new audio lines, hundreds of movies and more for each localized game, a team of Blizzard employees revealed during a GDC panel.

"Implementing Blizzard's Localization Vision in Real Time" featured senior manager of global localization William Barnes; Arthur Flew, associate producer; Ines Rubio, European localization manager; and Jason Walker of project management and analytics.

According to Flew, with male and female hero options, each new translation required 125 movies, 17,000 audio lines and more than 600,000 words.

Diablo...

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Character diversity means better games, says Microsoft Studios writer

Creating stories with a range of characters spanning different ethnicities, sexual orientations and genders will help developers make more satisfying, richer game experiences, according to Microsoft Studios narrative designer Tom Abernathy.

Speaking in a panel at the 2013 Game Developers Conference today, Abernathy, who has written for titles including Halo: Reach and Destroy All Humans, said the market for video games is changing faster than developers and creators can keep up.

"Our audience is leaving us behind," Abernathy said. "The world is changing, it has already changed, and we...

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Look to LucasArts adventure games for exploration cues, Blizzard AI engineer says

When designing artificial intelligence, developers should look to classic LucasArts adventure games for inspiration and avoid Sierra adventure games, Brian Schwab, senior AI/gameplay engineer at Blizzard said today at a GDC 2013 talk.

Schwab believes that artificial intelligence needs to give players options, not confound them.

"Asserts are not cool," Schwab said, referencing a programming function that stops code from running if certain conditions are met. He gave a real-world example of the Compact Disc market, which he said almost died because early CD players would cut audio if they...

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How Halo 4 developer 343 Industries made Forward Unto Dawn on a 'threadbare' budget

Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, the live-action webseries from Halo 4 developer 343 Industries, took its form by making the best of a limited budget, the developers said during a panel at GDC 2013.

343 Industries, which inherited the Halo universe after original developer Bungie moved on to Destiny, wanted to use the series as a primer for the Halo universe and an introduction for Halo 4. It takes place about 30 years before Halo 4, where viewers meet a live-action version of Halo protagonist Master Chief and a cadet, Thomas Lasky, who also appears aboard the UNSC Infinity in Halo 4.

O'Connor...

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TowerFall brings the bow and arrow craze to indie games

Bow and arrow was the weapon of choice at last year's E3, the bacchanalian celebration of million dollar, big-publisher video games. Computer-animated trailers showcased AAA shooters in which steel tips whizzed into the guts and necks of hyper-realistically rendered humans. Franchises like Tomb Raider and Crysis came out as "pro"-and-arrow. Some opinion writers questioned the role of violence in video games. It was a thing.

Yesterday, at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, we had the chance to see TowerFall, a same-screen competitive multiplayer bow-murder simulator.

T...

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Harmonix narrative designer discusses authorship 'myth' and challenges of narrative

In order to make progress in game development, people in the industry need to understand that authorship is collaborative, Harmonix senior narrative designer Matthew Weise said during a GDC panel.

Weise, formerly a Massachusetts Institute of Technology game scholar, spoke during the "Getting a Team On Board with Narrative Design" panel, which covered the challenges many face when attempting develop a game for narrative design. According to Weise, there is a certain myth about singular authorship that needs to be debunked. Narrative authorship doesn't have to be all about the "heroic...

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Magicka: Wizard Wars streamlines the PvP experience of the original and makes it 'twitchier'

In a demo shown to Polygon at the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco, lead designer David Nisshagen and the EVP of Paradox North, John Hargelid said Wizard Wars is something the studio created for the Magicka PvP community.

"When PvP was introduced to the original Magicka, so many players just lit up. It was like, 'Oh! This is what we've been waiting for!'" Hargelid said. "So we really wanted to give the PvP community a full, dedicated game experience."

Cue Magicka: Wizard Wars, an online PvP game that removes the campaign and puzzle modes from the original Magicka and focuses...

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Warren Spector says gaming can only borrow and steal so much from other narrative media

First, Spector asked the audience to excuse his often declarative statements, for example suggesting that there are right or wrong ways to make successful games. "In those cases, just assume I'm exaggerating to make a point, or a really bad joke, or both," he said, laughing. He pointed out that his two favorite games of last year were The Walking Dead and Heavy Rain ("I came to Heavy Rain pretty late," he admitted) though both contradict some of what he presented.

"Why is it important to not be too judgmental?" Spector asked. "It's important because imitating other media seems to be a...

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Dust 514 narrative and beta structure designed to encourage player-driven stories

The saga of CCP Games' Dust 514, the PlayStation 3 first-person shooter component to the Eve Online universe, will continue with the release of its latest build in May, Uprising.

Uprising will launch just one month before the Odyssey expansion for Eve, which is designed to encourage players to once again explore the Eve universe. The release of Uprising alongside the expansion will be "that first step to real persistence and real meaning in Dust 514," according to vice president of business development Thor Gunnarsson.

Gunnarsson told Polygon that the ability to conquer planets, which...

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Piracy and plush counterfeits key to Plants vs. Zombies' surprise success in China

PopCap found success in China with Plants vs. Zombies in part thanks to software piracy and counterfeit goods, according to developer James Gwertzman, who said that piracy, copycats and clones — frequently viewed as negatives of doing business in China — can be a boon to innovation (and profit) worldwide.

Gwertzman, head of strategic development at PopCap Games, said at the Game Developers Conference this week that China can be a "sandbox of innovation" for companies looking to bring their business to the country's potential billion customers. While high piracy rates should be a deterrent...

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Sex, religion and violence: The big concerns for international game ratings

Speaking during a GDC panel about localization and ratings, Zeb Wedell, localization producer at Microsoft Studios, said that he knows of about 70 games that were released in a country and then pulled because they were banned.

"There are probably a lot more," he said. "There are probably hundreds."

During the panel, titled Best Practices for Leveraging Worldwide Age Ratings Submissions and Geopolitical Content Reviews, Wedell walked through some of the historic mistakes developers and publishers have made over the year that led to bannings, poor sales or costly last-minute changes.

He...

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Cut the Rope developers expanding with four new games this year, focusing on quality over quantity

Today, the Moscow-based developer has nearly 60 employees spanning three continents. Cut the Rope is available on multiple platforms, and they told Polygon that it recently passed the 300 million download mark. By the end of the year, Zeptolab plans on releasing four new games, beginning with a new Cut the Rope-related game in April.

Polygon spoke to the brothers Voinov at GDC 2013 about the studio's past, future and how they've coped with a magnitude of success they didn't foresee by staying focused.

"Our plan is to release four games this year," Semyon said. "Some of them are related to...

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Wideload Games on the difficult transition from console to mobile development

"I come from console game development and in console game development you make the best game you can, put it in a box, and ship it," Moran told the audience. But the world of mobile game development isn't that cut and dry. In fact, the entire mobile gaming landscape changed during the relatively long development cycle for the studio's game, a Marvel-themed iOS brawler called Avengers Initiative.

"This game took longer than 12 months [to develop] and the market was different when we released than it was when we started," he said. That shift was specifically one from premium games on the iOS...

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Assassin’s Creed 3 is a marriage of narrative and mission design

Assassin's Creed 3 blends narrative writing and mission design in equal and cooperative parts to create its final product, according to a recent panel at GDC.

Level design director Philippe Bergeron and consultant and scriptwriter Corey May spoke about the combination during "Balancing Act: Narrative and Mission Design in Assassin's Creed 3." The game undergoes several different stages, beginning with basic conception. After details on the era, protagonist and location have been decided, the game goes through several "blueprint" steps. While May begins writing key scenes that take place in...

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Game AI should evolve through gameplay to better serve players, says Blizzard dev

Video game AI, whether it be NPCs or enemies, should be "smarter" and evolve to better serve players as they progress through the game, according to Blizzard senior AI and gameplay engineer Brian Schwab.

Speaking during a panel at the 2013 Game Developers Conference today, Schwab said that AI has "very little I." In-game characters and stores should remember what you do as you play. Stores should have your favorite potion ready for you when you enter, or stock items you've been looking for or might need based on your activities.

"Stores should have the dagger you are looking for or your...

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Limbo coming to PlayStation Vita later this year

Playdead's dark puzzle-platformer Limbo will make the jump to handhelds later this year with a PlayStation Vita port of the game, Sony Computer Entertainment announced today at GDC.

Sony's announcement of Limbo for Vita was made alongside confirmation of independent games like Spelunky for PS3 and Vita and Metrico, a PlayStation Vita exclusive based on navigating infographics filled with pie charts and bar graphs.

Limbo was first released on Xbox Live Arcade in the summer of 2010. The game was later ported to PlayStation 3, Windows PC and Mac OS X.

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Spelunky coming to PlayStation 3 and Vita this summer

Platforming roguelike Spelunky is making its way to PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita later this year, Sony Computer Entertainment announced today.

The announcement was made at Sony's PlayStation Indie Arcade at GDC, where Sony was showing off indie games like Hotline Miami, Luftrausers and Guacamelee! Spelunky was originally released as a free game for Windows PC and later updated for release on Xbox Live Arcade in July 2012.

Derek Yu of Spelunky developer Mossmouth tells Polygon the PlayStation port of the game will be handled by another developer.

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The time to evolve emotional game content is now, developers say

Video game content is ready to evolve emotionally, and it is up to game developers to take responsibility for that change, according freelance game writer Susan O'Connor and Electronic Arts' Chuck Beaver.

Speaking at a session at the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco titled "Evolving the emotional content of games," O'Connor and Beaver ran through some of the ways game developers can evolve the emotional content of games beyond predictable and clichéd experiences.

"I know so many game developers, and so many of them are wonderful, smart, creative, considerate and adult, and...

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Blacklight: Retribution and Primal Carnage: Genesis coming to PS4

The PlayStation 4 lineup has two more confirmed games, Zombie Studios' first-person shooter Blacklight: Retribution and Primal Carnage: Genesis from Lukewarm Media, a pair of independently-developed titles due to be self-published on Sony's next-gen console.

Sony calls the PS4 version of Blacklight: Retribution "a further evolution of the futuristic free-to-play first-person shooter" that launched on PC in April 2012.

Primal Carnage: Genesis will differ substantially from the asymmetrical humans versus dinosaurs multiplayer game Primal Carnage released last year. Sony describes it as a...

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ZombiU's permadeath mechanic built to move narrative forward, says writer

ZombiU's core mechanics, notably its permadeath feature, are tailored to keep the narrative moving forward even when a controlled character is killed, according to story design director Gabrielle Shrager.

Speaking in a panel at the 2013 Game Developers Conference today, Shrager said that the game's infection mechanic inspired "one of the creepiest thing you will do in a game this year": killing your former self. After a character is bitten, players in ZombiU will leave that character behind to become a zombie and start with a new character. In order to get back all the gear and items the...

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Authentic games require the 'flavor' of an experience, not the whole package, narrative designer says

Creating an authentic game is more about trying to "capture the flavor" of an experience, rather than re-create it, Red Storm senior narrative designer Jay Posey said during the "Tastes Like Chicken: Authenticity in a Totally Fake World" panel at GDC.

Red Storm is best known for its work on the Ghost Recon series and has strived to create authentic experiences in game. According to Posey, simply "knowing how it ‘really' is doesn't guarantee" that a game will deliver the experience its audience is looking for. "Authentic" games are not necessarily "real" games. In Posey's example, a real...

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Mark of the Ninja devs explain 'the theory of failing quickly' at GDC

At a GDC panel today, Klei Entertainment founder Jamie Cheng discussed how the developers of Mark of the Ninja use their "theory of failing quickly" to create games, a sustainable studio and keep developers sane.

Jamie Cheng, founded Klei Entertainment in 2005, with a goal in mind.

"I wanted Klei to be a place where we're continually building amazing games over and over," Cheng said.

The only way to make that happen, he said, is to "make sure the process is sane" and "sustainable."

The studio's development process grew out of Shank's development, which was so stressful that Cheng...

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Oculus Rift developer kit hands-on: As advertised

Like a pair of binoculars, the Oculus Rift has a sweet spot.

Moments earlier, I'd sat down at a demo outside of GDC and strapped on the virtual reality headset. For a device that obscures the outside world, it was unobtrusive, light and comfortable. But it also wasn't quite right.

I reoriented the device around my head, deliberately pushing it outside of its comfort zone. I could see what wrong and right looked like. If it was off, the image of Hawken on the 720p screen in front of me blurred and distorted. The sweet spot was obvious.

I turned my head left, right, up, down and 180...

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Some of the best virtual reality experiences will come from indie devs, Oculus Rift developers say

In an interview with Polygon, Luckey said the makers of the Rift are trying to support game developers — especially indies — as much as possible because the success or failure of the virtual reality headset will be determined by its content. Oculus VR wants to make it as easy as possible for developers to make Oculus Rift-supported games.

In addition to announcing that both Unity and Unreal Engine will support the Rift, Luckey told Polygon that Oculus VR will also provide hardware and software support to developers.

"There's never been a virtual reality headset with a really good set of...

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Open Me! heading to PlayStation Vita in North America, playable at GDC

PlayStation C.A.M.P! will bring box-centric puzzle game Open Me! to North American for PlayStation Vita, SCEA assistant producer Dais Kawaguchi announced via the PlayStation Blog.

Originally debuted as Box! Open Me at the 2012 Tokyo Game Show in Japan, the game uses the Vita's cameras and augmented reality capabilities. Players work out different puzzles through touch in order to open boxes.

The game includes a multiplayer aspect, where two players work together to open a box on separate Vita systems. One player will hold open the box's lid, for example, while the other looks inside....

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GameStick shipping to developers next week, will make first public appearance at GDC

Developer kits for the GameStick portable Android console will begin shipping next week alongside the hardware's first public appearance at the 2013 Game Developers Conference, PlayJam announced on the GameStick Kickstarter page.

The kit, or DEV unit, is a pre-production prototype slightly larger than the finalized design and includes debugging components, special loading apps and a Type A USB slot for hooking up keyboards and mice. According to PlayJam, more than 500 developers including "many great indies and a number of major publishers" are in the lineup to receive kits.

The software...

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Square Enix's Japanese arcade shooter Gunslinger Stratos will be playable at GDC

Square Enix's arcade shooter Gunslinger Stratos will be playable for the first "and potentially only" time outside of Japan at the 2013 Game Developers Conference next week, middleware company Silicon Studio announced today.

Silicon, which assisted developer Taito in building Gunslinger Stratos and provided middleware for Square Enix's Agni's Philosophy Luminous Engine tech demo, will exclusively host the arcade machine at its company booth in San Francisco's Moscone Center.

Gunslinger Stratos is a multiplayer arcade shooter in which players wield dual pistols, which can also lock...

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GDC Experimental Gameplay Workshop returning for 11th year with Journey, Uncharted developers

The Game Developers Conference's 11th annual Experimental Gameplay Workshop will be hosted by Journey producer Robin Hunicke, Uncharted designer Richard Lemarchand and Storyteller developer Daniel Benmergui, the show organizers announced today.

It will run for two hours on the afternoon of Friday, March 29.

The Experimental Gameplay Workshop is a popular session every year in which developers showcase unique, innovative gameplay ideas. Numerous well-known games such as Portal, Braid, World of Goo and Everyday Shooter have premiered at the event. Both Hunicke and Lemarchand have taken part...

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Among the Sleep headed to Kickstarter and GDC this month

Among the Sleep, Norwegian developer Krillbite Studio's first-person horror game in which you play as a two-year-old child, will be at GDC and on Kickstarter later this month, according to an email from the developer.

The game's Kickstarter campaign will launch on Thursday, March 21, and cover "the last phase" of Among the Sleep's development. The developers will also bring a playable build to the 2013 Game Developers Conference, which will take place from March 25-29 in San Francisco.

The first-person horror game takes place in the "borderland between dream and reality" where players...

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GDC 2013 Game Design Challenge will be the last one

The annual Game Design Challenge has become a highlight of the Game Developers Conference, and it's going out with a bang this year: GDC 2013's Game Design Challenge will be the last one, and it will take a special format.

This year's Game Design Challenge will feature a number of winners of previous contests: Jenova Chen (thatgamecompany), Richard Lemarchand (ex-Naughty Dog), Steve Meretzky (ex-Infocom), Erin Robinson (Puzzle Bots), Jason Rohrer (Passage), Harvey Smith (Arkane Studios), Will Wright (ex-Maxis) and Eric Zimmerman (NYU Game Center). They'll all be competing against each...

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GDC to run 'bootcamps' for iOS developers, animators and producers

The Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this year will run three all-day "bootcamps" led by industry professionals to give attendees a crash course in iOS game development, game animation and production.

The all-day events will run on Monday to Tuesday, March 25 to 26 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. The first of the events is an "iOS games in a day" bootcamp that will include lessons on Cocos2D, openGL and Unity 3D. There will also be lectures on popular and essential iOS APIs for games, and "a deep dive on game architecture selection and best practices."

The second...

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GDC Play 2013 announces 'Best in Play' winners

This year's winners of the new Game Developers Conference award program "Best in Play" were announced following the three-day GDC Play 2013 event that allows new developers to showcase their titles.

The eight winners, decided upon by the organisers of the 2013 Game Developers Conference and Gamasutra editors, were chosen from over 70 exhibitors. They include mech-centric shooter Hawken by Meteor Entertainment, Spin the Bottle by KnapNok for Wii U, Impire by Cyanide Studio, Grooh by digiDingo ag, Monsters Invade: Oz by Little Box Apps, Krautscape by Team Krautscape, Mini Moto Racing EVO fr...

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Sony to host 'Overview of PS4 for Developers' at GDC 2013

Sony Computer Entertainment America is set to host a presentation titled "Overview of PS4 for Developers" at the 2013 Game Developers Conference 2013.

The session brief states: "This presentation will discuss the technology from a development standpoint as well as from the design side."

Speakers aren't specified on the brief, only a sweeping "Sony Presenters" is offered. The session is scheduled for March 27 from 11:00am to 12:00pm, Room 2002, West Hall.

Oculus VR chief software architect, Micheal Antonov, and VP product, Nate Mitchell, will present "Running the VR Gauntlet — VR Ready,...

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