Wow. Good times at GDC this year. The tutorials, keynotes and sessions all had their moments of awe and inspiration, and yet I have to say that it was the meetings and the parties and the schmoozings that were the highlights for me. Great things are just bound to happen when you get a significant portion of the games industry together under one roof.
During my stay in San Jose last week I had the privilege of attending a party that was thrown by the Entertainment Technology Center of Carnegie Mellon University. I received the party invitation after attending a session given by two (2) of its former grad students, Kyle Gray and Kyle Gabler, both of whom participated in the Experimental Gameplay session last year. They gave a great talk about rapid prototyping gleaned from their experiences last spring when they each set out to build a game every week for 10 weeks. To keep things interesting the games were usually based around a predetermined theme such as: gravity, vegetation, swarms, flight, etc.
Their experiences are valuable to game designers everywhere since it is often necessary to build many game prototypes before finding one that may work. The words of wisdom they had to offer the packed conference hall was excellent advice to anyone with a desire to design and build games: (I did some cherry picking here)
- Embrace the possibility of failure
- Encourage taking creative risks
- Enforce short development cycles
- Add constraints (they increase interest)
- Gather concept art and music to create an emotional target
- Build the toy first
- Know when to shoot your baby
- Complexity is not necessarily "fun"
- Build toward a well-defined goal
Both Kyles have moved on to professional full-time positions at EA—Gabler at Maxis and Gray at Tiburon—but the Experimental Gameplay Project lives on with another group of students making games under similar constraints. Be sure to visit the site often to see what those brilliant CMU peeps are up to.
In fact, the Experimental Gameplay Project has been so successful they are opening up the fun to anyone who wants to get involved! They are holding a 2-week game design competition to build a game based on a theme they will announce on April 1st at the Experimental Gameplay website:
- On April 1st, 2006, they will announce a gameplay theme (e.g. gravity, vegetation, flight, etc.) on experimentalgameplay.com
- You'll have 2 weeks to design and build a game based on this theme; the deadline is April 14th, 11:59 PM PST
- All games submitted will be posted for everyone to download and review. The winners will be selected by a panel of industry pros and the experimental gameplay community. See official rules for more info.
The top 5 competitors will receive an interview with THQ's Heavy Iron Studios. One will be selected for a paid summer internship with the company.
To enter you must register with them by creating an account at the Experimental Gameplay website.
Cheers to Kyle for the party invite and to the other Kyle for keeping me laughing throughout the presentation! You guys rock! =)
For more details about the GDC presentation, check out Raph Koster's blog where he expounds on the concept of rapid prototyping and even offers up a "game design prototype kit" to use when fleshing out that killer game design idea. Cheers, Raph!