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GDC 2007 Day 5

By dcacho
Friday, March 9th, 2007 at 1:44 pm in Gieson Cacho.

When you mention the press, numbers don’t usually come up in the conversation. But at the session earlier this morning, that’s what the editors of Wired magazine, Game Developers Magazine, Electronic Gaming Monthly and the IGN Web site focused on. More specifically, the four talked scores and how they relate to their designated games.

There were some public relation folk in the room along with some developers. The editors – Chris Baker of Wired; Brandon Sheffield of GDM; Dan Hsu of EGM; and Talmadge Blevins of IGN – had a spirited give-and-take with the people they work with. They each gave their take on how they score the reviews. They defined “average” for each publication and how the school system of A-F grading influences how people think of their scores. Some like using 5s for average while the public believes a 7 is an average game.


Another angle the discussion took was the role of reviews. Readers often read reviews to justify their own opinion, Blevins said. Hsu agreed. But what was interesting about how they looked at these articles is that reviews should be compared to other games of that time. It’s difficult to compare a game from the 16-bit era and its score against one from today. Often, it’s unrealistic not to mention impossible.

But with the Virtual Console and the Xbox Live Arcade, readers now have a chance to see how those games hold up to their review. Does “Super Mario 64” still hold up as well as it did to justify its high scores. Should we re-review games and find real classics? One interesting comment from Blevins was that games that rely on graphics don’t age as well as those with good gameplay.

Elsewhere in the Moscone Center’s North Hall, the four teams working on four different games on the XNA platform showed off the titles that they’ve been working on in the past four days.

Patrick Glanville and Jonathon Stevens both from Minneapolis had their game “Simian Escape” turn out well. From an earlier bid, it looked in a word primitive but with a different art direction, the game real turned a corner. The idea of making an “Okami”-like art style with Neanderthal painting was a brilliant idea. It melded with the simple yet addicted gameplay in which you fought off prehistoric creatures while gathering items to stay alive.

Glanville gave the credit to the help from Garage Games who helped them out with the artwork. “Big ups to the Garage Games artist,” Glanville said. That team helped the Americans out.

Josh Butterworth from the United Kingdom created a title similar to “Geometry Wars.” “Damage Control,” a four-player game, takes players and puts them in control of spaceship. In the game, players will have to defend a point in the center of the screen against a swarm of enemies that trickle in through a maze of crevices and gasp.

Like most of the designer, he didn’t get much sleep. “I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep. Four hours on average,” Butterworth said. But despite the chaotic conditions and grind of pulling out a game in four days, he says he would do it again.

For Brazilian Andres Furtado, the design process went smoothly. He designed “Abdux” with a set of core set of ideas and added new wrinkles as he got more time. His title puts players in the role of an alien, trying to abduct humans running into underground shelters. Despite the childish appearance, the game looked fun and incorporated voice recognition to activate special abilities such as earthquake that scares humans from shelter.

Furtado has been using the software for about two months and didn’t have much problem using it. It’s probably the most innovative of the bunch just because of its control scheme.

The fourth team had the best-looking game though it was the most conventional. “DungeonQuest,” a 3D action RPG, takes place in a cave and is the most elaborate with lighting effects and detailed enemies. As the hero, players walk around a cave bashing goblins that get in the way.

It’s not the most creative title but it likely took the most work. The German creators Benjamin Nitschke and Christoph Rienaecker averaged about two hours asleep a night working on the title. From the start, Nitschke was already an expert with the design program. Last year, he created “XNA Racer” in about a month.

It looked like a great title coming from a person who didn’t normally play racing games. “I had to buy a lot of games and play them,” Nitschke said. He wasn’t of the genre in the beginning, but over the course of playing, he developed a feel for the game that eventually led to “XNA Racer.”

With such different people developing titles, it wasn’t really a contest. Actually, it was more of a demonstration that developed over four days. Can you make a quality game in that time span? With the right amount of dedication and help, these four teams showed that you could.

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  • Bitsy

    That’s cool. For me, the most interesting game is the one with aliens abducting people. I would buy that. From what I’m imagining, a game like that relies on gameplay (hey, look what the humans do when there’s an earthquake) instead of graphics, or maybe the simplicity of the graphics add to the experience. Think Katamari or LocoRoco; those games wouldn’t work if the graphics were hi-def.