Holy cow! I was busy at GDC!

Wow, I was busy at GDC this year!

First off, Prom Week was a finalist for Technical Excellence in the IGF. WOW! That really is the best validation I could have hoped for after all the ridiculously hard work we put into it. Thanks to those who manned the booth, and to all those who stopped by to check it out. Prom Week is an existence proof that much of what was previously thought impossible with characters and story in games can in fact be done. I hope we can take the fact that the IGF judges recognized this and all the attention we’ve gotten from industry as a good sign for the future of storytelling in games.

Speaking of Prom Week, Josh McCoy and I gave a 20 minute talk about how Prom Week works. This was the biggest talk I’ve given yet and, from what I hear, it went over well! Though, I’m sure I’ll be hating it when I watch it in the vault… Still working on getting rid of ums… Anyhow, we’ve had some practice this sort of talk and I feel like we have really distilled the message and figured out how to bring the clear takeaways to the forefront. We had some coverage on gamasutra.

Right after us, Emily Short and Richard Evans talked about their Cotillion, a system that uses a similar approach to social simulation, but a completely different presentation style (pretty much a book where the text is generated based on the simulation and the player’s choices). Seeing it has really inspired me and I have been thinking a lot about how to use Prom Week’s AI system and a more “Cotillion-like” design to make a game about my kitties. We’ll see how far this goes…

The day before I was lucky enough to give a 6 minute “rant” in the “Turing Tantrums” session. What I said was an answer to criticisms I’ve gotten in the last couple years about Prom Week and its AI system from game designers. Pretty much, that AI systems are bad if they don’t serve fun or story. While that is certainly reasonable, I offered a different perspective that at least partially explains why I do what I do: I believe that it is perfectly fine for an AI system to be an end in itself. Note how this puts the AI programmer/designer squarely as an “artist” (i.e. someone who can make weird things and not have to explain themselves). While I definitely think it is in our best interests to figure out how to better share this obsession with systems with players, we shouldn’t necessarily think we need to compromise our visions just because players might not get it. Just be ready to throw on a beret and live poorly. This got coverage on gamasutra too!

And there’s more!!! Ian Bogost demoed the game generator I’ve been working on for the last year or so at the GDC GameIT Summit. Its called Game-O-Matic and it will create a game about anything you want! The demo and talk went very well. Of course, making games isn’t easy, and getting a computer to make them for you is even harder, but I am very happy with where we are and I am confident that when we release (late Summer) using it will definitely be a delight. There was coverage on this talk too!

So in general, I have had an incredibly busy year, and I’ve found myself leading up two outwardly visible, crazy ambitious, projects that people seem to care about. That rules! But my queue of weird things I wanna make for my own sake is getting way too long and dusty. I really wanna make something new! And I need to get out of school someday (year 10 at UC Santa Cruz…). But for now, time to make Game-O-Matic rule!

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