GDC 2014: Critical thinking and analysis in game development programs

Posted on by Dave Voyles in Features | Leave a comment
2014-03-18 13.52.28

Flanagan, Bogost, Brice, and Keough

Game development programs are forever facing a changing landscape. Traditionally, students are provided the tools to prepare them for the AAA industry, but where do they go when they want to learn about game development as a creative form? Music and creative writing have had programs for decades, but games are still struggling to catch on in this regard.

On Tuesday March 18th, at room 3020 in the West Hall, a panel of game development professionals offered their view on how students can gain an appreciation for how critical thinking an analysis can be implemented into the current educational curriculum. Hosted by Brendan Keogh, a PhD Candidate at RMIT University in Australia, his first question to the panelists was “What is critical thinking?”

Mattie Brice, an established game critic, particularly around the topics of diversity issues and narrative, described it as “An awareness that another perspective beside your own exists.” She continued with “Your perspective may give an incomplete amount of information. Other perspectives can help complete this.”

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GDC 2014: Antichamber: An Overnight Success, Seven Years in the Making

Posted on by Dave Voyles in Features | Leave a comment
Alexander Bruce

Alexander Bruce at the 2012 IGF awards

An emotional Alexander Bruce took the stage on Tuesday morning at GDC 2014, to speak during his panel titled ANTICHAMBER: An overnight success, seven years in the making. Bruce had given a similar speech in years prior, but following the release of his recent success, Antichamber, it was interesting to see how his perception of work had changed over the last year.

Bruce opened with the question “What makes me different?” Drawn on his power point presentation were words such as ideas, experience, awards, press, and connections, and in the middle lay the word luck. “Luck is something I don’t control, so I factor it out of all of my business decisions,” Bruce proclaimed.

He continued with a synopsis on how he got involved in the games industry, starting with his education at University in his home of Melbourne Australia in 2005. “I wasn’t the best at ‘X’, but I soon realized that I was very good at being different. So I turned that into a strategic decision.” It was at that point when Bruce realized that he would need to stand out at University to get into the industry, and then necessary to stand out at University to get hired overseas.

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GDC 2014: AAA Academics: Superstar Designers in Academia

Posted on by Dave Voyles in Features | Leave a comment

2014-03-17 13.49.46

Academia and game development are at an interesting crossroads. A new trend is emerging, with prominent industry figures making the switch to academia. While formal education programs for game development were nearly non-existent in decades past, they now exist in hundreds of schools across the country today.

Four such luminaries took to the stage on Monday at GDC to discuss the trials and tribulations of their experiences with making the career move, in a room filled with educators and industry hopefuls. When pegged with the question of why he chose to leave his role as Lead Game Designer Naughty Dog, Richard Lemarchand claimed “I’ve always wanted to get back into a higher education program after making games, so I started volunteering at USC, and got involved with IndieCade in 2009. Soon after, a friend got in touch with me and sad that a role at USC was available, so I jumped at it.”

Brenda Romero, one of the most prominent women in the gaming industry for her leadership previous roles in the IGDA, 30+ years of development experience, and a chair on the IGDA Board of Directors, felt “I was at a transition point, saw an ad for a game designer to teach, and accepted the job. Once I got there, working with the students made it irresistible.”

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GDC 2014: Vlambeer talks live streaming game development

Posted on by Dave Voyles in Features | 1 Comment
Courtesy of GameIndustry.biz

Courtesy of GameIndustry.biz

Vlambeer has been a bit of an anomaly in the independent gaming scene for the last several years. Run by the affable Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman out of the Netherlands, the two have consistently pushed out hit after hit for the last three years, and finally spill the beans about how they do so.

In an overwhelmingly large room filled with nearly 600 individuals, the two studio heads bounced their sentences off from one another in a charismatic fashion which instantly won over the audience.  The first key to the duo’s success is the prototyping phase, in which they quickly build a game in YoYo’s Gamemaker framework to determine whether or not it is fun.

Their upcoming title, Nuclear Throne, (formerly Wasteland Kings) was conceived during a game jam which they live streamed in early 2013. Noticing the instant feedback and attention it was receiving during that process, they soon decided to make the live streaming a frequent event. So frequent in fact, that it is now occurs twice each week, in four hour sprints.

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Candy Box Review: The Sweetest Thing

Posted on by Gil Almogi in Features, PC, PC Reviews, Reviews | 4 Comments

I just finished a great browser-based game, but you have to play it a little to understand what’s so great about it. So go do that right now, and come back.

Candy Box !

I know what you’re thinking. “WTF is this?” Your screen probably looked like this:


If you’ve been eating and throwing candies for 10 minutes now, you’re doing it wrong.

I got the same reaction from a bunch of people. All I can say is click on that link up top, and wait. If you still don’t see any magic, learn the definition of “wait.”

(No peeking. Play!) Read more

Violence in Video Games: Just Another Tool

Posted on by Daniel Campbell in Features | Leave a comment

Bloody Mess

Concern regarding violence in games is nothing new. Usually the conflict comes from outside of the industry in the form of congressmen, parents and lawyers claiming games have a severely detrimental effect on society. Yet every time their arguments have proven impotent and erroneous. Lately however the conflict is coming from within the industry as many of us ask the question, “Is violence really necessary?” It’s an impossible question to answer with a simple “Yes” or “No”. Just like any other topic worth discussing, trying to reduce it down to simple black and white variables is misguided and pointless. This is a piece discussing how violence is simply another tool in a game developer’s tool belt, and not worthy of being the current taboo hot button in games.


Jack Thompson was one of those ignorant people who believe games were the source of all youth violence

Jack Thompson was one of those ignorant people who believe games were the source of all youth violence

First off let’s separate the terms “Violence” and “Gore”. Violence can be portrayed in a plethora of ways while gore is simply the bloody and visceral mangling of a living being. While Gore is not always needed, Violence sometimes is. The need for violence is the same as the need any other game mechanic. It’s the same as including a soundtrack, dynamic lighting, ETC. Violence is simply a basic form of conflict and is perfectly suited for the medium. Why is it necessary? The answer is pretty obvious if you think about it. Imagine one of your favorite games. Let’s use Final Fantasy 7 for example. Now, if you took all the violence out of the game what would you have? There would be no battles, no weapons, no conflict. Also, one of the most iconic scenes in gaming history, the death of Aerith, would never have happened. Read more

GDC 2013: Designing Without a Pitch – FTL Postmortem

Posted on by Dave Voyles in Features, PC | 2 Comments


In a filled-to-capacity room full of developers and journalists, Matthew Davis and Justin Ma of Subset Games, creators of the Indie-darling FTL, gave a postmortem which covered their trials and tribulations during an 18-month development cycle. Designing Without a Pitch: FTL Postmortem proved to be one of the most inspiring tracks during the Indie Games Summit yet.

Originally planned as a 3-month long project, FTL quickly became so much more, largely due to the wild success of their Kickstarter, which began only one week after the Double Fine’s foray into the same space.  Subset’s initial goal was a measly $10,000, yet received 20 times that, for a sum of $200,000. Read more

GDC 2013: Navigating Live Events – From a Big Studio to a Studio of One

Posted on by Dave Voyles in Features | Leave a comment


Image courtesy of GiantBomb
Antichamber booth, PAX Prime 2012, courtesy of Giant Bomb

Day two of the Indie Game Summit at GDC 2013 placed me in the audience of a discussion called Navigating Live Events: From Big Studio to Studio of One, which was held by between Alexander Bruce, creator of Antichamber and Greg Rice of Double Fine. Covering a broad base of topics, they illustrated a list of best practices to make it as an indie and get not only your game, but your name out there.

Bruce began with three key points, the first of which was simply “Have a plan.” “Making my game and selling it on Steam is not a plan,” Bruce continued. The third was “How about marketing materials? How early will you display your title?” Basing his strategy from life experiences, he found that the more people he met, both industry professionals or otherwise, the more perspectives he had to work with. From there, he could establish a plan of attack.
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