Mar 092007
 

This was one of my favorite GDC sessions ever. It was, alas, a little sparsely attended compared to some of the other sessions I was in — maybe 50 people. But it was so worth it.

There were four of us on the panel: myself, Rod Humble, Chaim Gingold, and Jon Blow. And basically, everyone came in with a laptop, our games were installed on everyone’s machines, and then we played the game for a half hour while the games were talked about.

And the result, IMHO, was a sort of master class in game design. It was fantastic.

Rod was the guy who first turned me on to BlitzBasic as a rapid prototype tool. He showed two games — and one of them, The Marriage, can only be called art. Picture a field with a blue square and a pink square. They are bouncing around the screen very slowly. They represent the husband and the wife. They fade out of the relationship if they do not see enough of each other — via touching. Each square changes size based on the “ego” of the person in the relationship. Things are bouncing around the screen that raise and lower ego — the husband who collides with a problem and solves it boosts his own ego, but might reduce that of the wife, and so on. If one’s ego gets too large, then the blocks cannot connect well — “kiss” as Rod calls it. One block subsumed inside the other is a bad thing. Lose all ego or fade out and the marriage ends. But if you stay together, then eventually you die — and are left with memories.

Did I mention that basically you have one control? All you can do is mouse over the husband or the wife in order to send them towards each other, because love is the only control you have.

It’s hard to describe what it felt like to play this game. It wasn’t what you would call fun. But it really made you think.

He did report that his wife didn’t like the rules. 😉

Chaim’s presentation was of a movement prototype for the cell portion of Spore. He had special permission from EA to show it specifically just for this one session, then it had to be deleted off of everyone’s machine. Basically, you moved a little circle dude around the screen. A whole bunch of toggles were available so you could add eyetracking, a tail, automatic tail movement, waves in the trail, acceleration factors, a “force field” effect so that it never stayed still, and so on. And the talk was basically nothing more than walking through each o these tiny tiny additions, one at a time, and seeing how they affected the player perception of the movement. A great great example of essentially a polish process — because the first version worked fine, but the final version felt great.

And Jon showed a really fun puzzle sort of game where you move a spinning star around a field andaccomplish various tasks — touching two circles of the same color one after the other, or hitting eight circles in a specific order, and so on. Basically, these target circles were bouncing around the screen. The thing is, there were tons of variables here — size of circles, colors, order to hit them in, speed, number of them, etc. Each of these were really tiny tiny changes to the previous — but as we kept trying variants, we learned a lot about our own limits as players — how much small versus big affects our sense of a task, how many circles versus few affected our sense of pace, and so on. Simple, miniscule changes having truly enormous impact on the final experience.

Finally, there was me. And here’s what I showed:

Have fun!

  23 Responses to “GDC 07: Jon Blow’s Nuances of Design session”

  1. As for the conference, it was great. It was my first GDC, and I really enjoyed it. I got to attend some really great lectures, like Chaim Gingold’s Spore’s Magic Crayons and Raph Koster’s Where Game Meets Web, but my favorite was easily the Nuances of Design session by Jonathan Blow. At the Nuances of Design session we had our own laptops there and we played the games as the designers talked about them. I really hope there will be a Nuances of Design session at GDC 2008. Other thing I really enjoyed about GDC, was the fact that I

  2. GDC 07: Jon Blow’s Nuances of Design session

  3. No Mac version? 🙁

  4. I have to agree with Raph. This session was great fun to be a part of, I hope the audience had as much fun as we did. It was fantastic to share a stage with Raph who turned me on to games as art many years ago, Jon Blow whose Rapsberry was so inspirational and Chiam whose design work is phenomenal.

    Great great fun, we were literally giggling with delight as we played the games. High point of GDC for me.

  5. polish isn’t everything raph. wowcraft is polished…ummm.. but boring polished is still boring?

  6. ferum, once he gets back from sxsw, I’ll bug him about compiling a new version on my mac and see about putting it up for everyone.

  7. […] GDC 07: Jon Blow’s Nuances of Design session […]

  8. suske: polish isn’t everything but it DOES make a huge difference.

    WoW was way more polished than anything I played before: everquest, DAoC or even (being brutally honest) SWG.

    WoW is essentially EverQuest with less grind, better quests and more polish. Blizzard doesn’t do wild innovation but they do look around at what others have done, and then do that except do it really really well.

    Now that millions of people (and in fact a large percentage of all MMORPG players worldwide) have played WoW, many of them for months or years — they are going to want and expect that level of polish from future AAA-scale MMOs. Anybody can spend 10 million building a graphical DikuMUD clone but I bet most of ’em will fail in the marketplace because WoW has set the QUALITY bar so high in terms of polish, and very few MMO companies can measure up.

  9. […] From another session at the GDC '07:QuoteChaims presentation was of a movement prototype for the cell portion of Spore. He had special permission from EA to show it specifically just for this one session, then it had to be deleted off of everyones machine. Basically, you moved a little circle dude around the screen. A whole bunch of toggles were available so you could add eyetracking, a tail, automatic tail movement, waves in the trail, acceleration factors, a force field effect so that it never stayed still, and so on. And the talk was basically nothing more than walking through each o these tiny tiny additions, one at a time, and seeing how they affected the player perception of the movement. A great great example of essentially a polish process because the first version worked fine, but the final version felt great.quoted from https://www.raphkoster.com/2007/03/09/gdc-07-jon-blows-nuances-of-design-session/ […]

  10. I’m sure everyone’s worked it out by now, but the real link for Andean Bird 0.5 is here.

  11. Thanks. Fixed it.

  12. […] let Raph describe it for you with some text I ripped from his report on the panel in question (link): He showed two games — and one of them, The Marriage, can only be called art. Picture a field […]

  13. […] at the same time in different buildings, so no one person could see them all.) I also missed Nuances of Design: An Experiment in Visceral Communication, where everyone in the audience use laptops to […]

  14. It was a great session. The idea makes perfect sense for game design talks, I’m surprised it hadn’t been attempted until now. I had played older versions of GDC Dots (Raspberry) and Andean Bird before the talk, but it was nice to have you guys explaining your design as we played.

    The big take away for me was playing The Marriage, which I was lukewarm about at the Experimental Gameplay workshop but it really clicked when I actually got a chance to play it.

  15. […] mentioned in my discussion of Jon Blow’s Nuances of Design session that to my mind, Rod Humble’s The Marriage was clearly a game that was intended, and […]

  16. […] scores or tutorials. You are supposed to feel the game, and I did during Jonathan Blow’s Nuances of Design session, where I spaced out and started empathizing with my own experiences until I started feeling that […]

  17. […] of at least half a dozen bloggers ( Arthouse Games, Joystiq, Indygamer, TIG Source, Man Bytes Blog, Raph Koster, Jonathan Blow ). Probably precisely because of its explicit purpose of trying to express something […]

  18. […] some stuff about Areae, some stuff about old days at SOE and at EA/Origin, and a lot of stuff about Andean Bird and game design stuff. F13: So what have you been occupying your time with in the past six months […]

  19. […] Wow, it sounds like I haven’t seen the most recent version of that flapping game. It’s here: https://www.raphkoster.com/2007/03/09/gdc-07-jon-blows-nuances-of-design-session/ […]

  20. […] 8th, 2007 at 8:47 AM I’ve been researching game development and came across a blog entry recounting a game design conference; the following concept really struck me:The Marriage, can only […]

  21. […] control mechanism, yet that is a small issue and should not detract from the game’s enjoyment.13. Andean BirdQuite unlike anything else out there, Andean Bird offers a leisurely glide across the landscape to […]

  22. […] even used by Ian Bogost in class, probably as a bad example, and culminated (for now, anyway) in presenting the game in a GDC 2007 session entitled “Nuances of Design,” in which several designer/programmers showed off […]

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