Posts Tagged ‘GDC 2018’

Embracing the bluff: how SpyParty’s long development changed the game

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Chris Hecker has been working on SpyParty for almost a decade now and I get the impression he’d be happy perfecting it for the rest of his career. Some developers want to move from one project to the next, an internal clock ticking down and reminding them how few ideas can be realised in a lifetime, while others are better suited to exploring one design from as many angles as possible, pushing every aspect to its limits.

“I love Go,” Hecker told me at GDC. “I wanted to make Go, but then I realised I was making a different kind of game. I realised part of the way through that SpyParty is more like Poker.” Embracing what the game is rather than what he originally wanted it to be has been key to the whole process.

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The games of the year, according to GDC’s award winners

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The awards ceremony at this year’s GDC was fun. At least, that’s what John told me from his seat in the crowd, where he saw the winners mount a stage some would consider too colourful for this planet. The Independent Games Festival Awards and subsequent Game Developer’s Choice Awards saw a range of trophy-grabbers, from indie students to adventure game veterans. Unfortunately for them, I was hiding backstage, skulking behind a black curtain and holding a voice recorder like a cudgel. I had one question to ask them all: If they had to give their award away, who would get it?

It’s like re-gifting, except you worked really hard for the gift and now you have to hand it over three minutes after your acceptance speech. Life is pain.

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Podcast: The GDC special (with bonus Far Cry 5 chat)

An artist's impression of the Game Developer's Conference 2018

♪♫ When you go to San Fraaaanciscooo, be sure to wear a lanyard with ‘Media’ inscribed on it round youuur nnnneck ♪♫ That’s what Adam, John and Brendan sang to each other as they gleefully skipped through the streets of California’s tram-infested hill city. The crew were in town for the yearly Game Developer’s Conference where they spoke to developers, played games, and gambled on the results of the annual awards show. Now they’re back and ready to tell you all about their Stateside adventures on the latest RPS podcast, the Electronic Wireless Show. Read the rest of this entry »

6 exciting VR games we saw at GDC

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The blessed boys and girls of Valve were showing off some VR games for the upcoming Vive Pro at the Game Developers Conference last week. They were encamped near the press room in a large chamber split up into little shacks, each running a game such as the robot-avoiding comedy stealth of Budget Cuts, or the sunbathing relaxation of Vacation Simulator. I went on a rapidfire journey through this shantytown of virtual reality, jacking into game after game, each lasting about 20 minutes. The results: this round-up, and an intense visual migraine that rendered me incapable of reading for a full 5 minutes. I’m being serious. I thought I was having a stroke.

But enough about visual anomalies that float around the inside of your eye like a terrifying optical aurora, let’s talk videogames. Here are the strange worlds I entered and all the ways in which I tried to undermine the developers from inside their own game. Sorry, VR fans!

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Noita lets you break the world in beautiful ways

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Noita is how Spelunky looks in my dreams. It’s a game in which the world is simulated down to each individual pixel, so that liquids drip, flow, splash and stain. You’re tasked with travelling ever downward through a series of caverns, collecting new magical weapons and slaying beasties.

That wasn’t always the case though. As I learned when I sat down with the developers at GDC, Noita was once more Dwarf Fortress than Spelunky, but changes had to be made when the wildlife kept drowning in pools of their own urine. Now, Noita is a real-time roguelite, and a beautiful cocktail of fire and fluids.

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The game industry needs to change and it begins now

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“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

Steve Kaplan was in GDC to take part in a roundtable discussion about the pros and cons of unionisation in the games industry. He works in the entertainment industry and had travelled from Los Angeles, where he organises unions for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, to be the union rep in the room during the talk. He gave the impression he wanted everyone to be at the table, even the one person in a room of between 150 and 200 people who tried to put across anti-union arguments.

The room was noisy, with applause, appreciative clicking of fingers, and some mocking laughter alongside the occasional raised voice, but the corridor outside had been quiet. The roundtable was removed from the expo’s usual bustle but it was one of the most important events of the show.

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Learning the ancient language of Heaven’s Vault

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“That’s the Ancient word for ‘writer’,” says Jon Ingold, pointing to some indecipherable symbols on his business card. “What it breaks down to is ‘Person-who-speaks-without-speaking.’”

Ingold is the writer for Heaven’s Vault, an upcoming sci-fi adventure from Inkle (the folks behind 80 Days and Sorcery!) You play an archaeologist investigating the remains of an ancient civilisation in an otherworldly “Nebula”. He and some others from Inkle Studios have been watching me waddle around a garden of strange monuments, trying to discern meaning from the faded words I find carved into trees, walls, rocks and reliefs. In creating this game, they’ve constructed a fictional language of over 1000 words. They’re so proud of this new language, they’ve even used it on their business cards.

Ingold examines a card from Joseph Humfrey, the studio’s co-founder and programmer who is sitting nearby. He thumbs over the pseudo-ancient script.

“Joe’s means: ‘Person-who-controls-robots’.” Read the rest of this entry »

The battle royale of Mavericks is stalking a big game

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A man in black scrambles through the overgrowth, looking lost. So I shoot him. Puffs of bloody air erupt from his body, but he runs on. Behind him something explodes from a stray bullet – my bulet or somebody else’s? I don’t know. But the man in black keeps moving, dodging behind some trees, over a ridge. Behind me, a wall of wobbly energy closes in. I give chase to the man in black, and we come face to face in a dirt glade with a tall, odd structure that might be a radio tower. I lift my MP5 submachine gun and mow him down. Soon afterwards, the game ends. I’ve won. I won’t claim my performance in the upcoming 400-person battle royale game Mavericks: Proving Grounds was a heroic victory. Because there were only 5 people playing. It also lasted less than 5 minutes, and the man in black was the lead devleoper. He definitely let me win. Read the rest of this entry »

Bad North and the golden age of micro-tactics

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Into the Breach is one of the most perfect games I’ve ever played. It’s tactical warfare with every sliver of fat trimmed away and I’d put it up there with Chess and Invisible, Inc. in the pantheon of turn-based games.

Bad North will not be entering that pantheon. Not because it doesn’t seem capable of reaching lofty heights – it absolutely does – but because its own take on micro-tactics takes place in real-time. It’s a game of positional play, providing a handful of units and gorgeous, tiny, procedural islands to defend.

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Night In The Woods wins IGF Grand Prize

Rad trash mammal simulator Night In The Woods scooped this year’s Grand Prize during the 2018 Independent Games Festival Awards at the Game Developers Conference last night, also lifting the award for Excellence In Narrative. Baba Is You, an upcoming puzzle game about shifting words to change how parts of the levels and game work, also picked up two awards. Looking across all the winners, ah yes, there certainly are good video games going around. Read the rest of this entry »

EA’s Project Pica Pica leads new wave of photorealistic ray-tracing graphics demos at GDC 2018

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You love games. We love games. We love 2D games, 3D games, pixel games, life-like games, even slightly shonky-looking games. But what about if games looked, I don’t know, even better? Like, cinematic rendering, photorealistic kind of better? Well, Nvidia are on the case, as they’ve just announced their brand-new, not-at-all-incomprehensible “RTX Ray-Tracing” technology at GDC 2018.

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Frostpunk will be mod-friendly and very cold

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Hello from the Game Developer’s Conference, where every building comes with a blizzard-spewing air conditioner. I’ve just been to see Frostpunk, the societal survival game set in a pseudo-Victorian hellwinter, from the developers of This War of Mine. The frosty management game will support modding, they say, and there are plans for “additional scenarios”. That means both smaller, free updates and bigger packs of paid DLC. Although mod support “probably won’t be from day one”. And the developers haven’t decided what these later scenarios will contain. Read the rest of this entry »