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GDC Diary: Day Two


Day two of GDC 2005 was slightly more relaxed, with more conference attendees already registered and getting into the flow of things. First up was the film tutorial, entitled Composition and Sequential Storytelling: Using Visual Language for FMV Sequences. The session dove right into the rich technicalities of the cinema, discussing the four aspect ratios used as North American standards, as well as basic camera movements and shots, and more academic fare like the sequential storytelling ideals hinted at in the session’s title.

The hardest part about the day-long tutorials isn’t sitting through them without losing concentration, but rather deciding on which one to attend in the first place. Being taught simultaneously alongside the Film session was the Quality of Life session conducted by prominent IGDA figures. Created to help combat the unhealthy standard of working conditions, the Quality of Life session dealt with possible improvement implementations in industry practices. These included the history connected to poor quality of life, the reasoning behind the circumstance, and the critical need for the industry to mature past its juvenile tendencies of abusing employees in order to adhere to a shipping date. Other obstacles were the current state of technology, requiring an ever-increasing staff to manage modern productions, and likewise business pressures initiated by management.

While these two sessions were being conducted, an Audio Boot Camp was kicking off in the next room. Industry figures Dave Ranyard and Scott Selfon led the session in understanding the role of sound in today’s games, with Halo musician Marty O’Donnell appearing for a mini-keynote speech later in the day. Still, with all these varied and interesting sessions going on at once, I finally decided on something more in tune with yesterday’s game design class.

It was my first time at Creativity Boot Camp, but it was veteran game designer Paul Schuytema’s 7th year teaching the workshop. Schuytema, a designer with 30 years of experience, worked on such projects as Mechwarrior 3 and the PC Survivor game, and managed to accumulate a wide catalogue of tips and hints for stirring creative juices up to the perfect boil.

An early main idea of the tutorial was that play is intrinsic to all creatures, human and animal, but that the human is capable of so much more due to its ability to make creative associations between seemingly unrelated things. Emphasizing the strength of an “athletic mind” routinely exercised and primed for creativity, Schuytema suggested finding a “mastermind group,” or collection of people who not only share your interests but who also maintain them at a higher level than you. Thereby, through group interaction with them you slowly absorb their knowledge and attain an evolutionary process.
A great emphasis was placed on the importance of regular sleep, exercise, and dietary habits – which may have been bordering a trifle too much on the side of simple common sense – before delving into the actual design aspect of the tutorial.

Before we could crack into creating our own game rules, there were some exercises to be completed. The audience was subjected to some basic math problems with a time limit to stretch the left, more logical side of the brain, followed by less mathematical and more verbal exercises designed to work the right, intuitive side of the brain.

After that exhausting activity (I personally haven’t done long division since 4th grade), it was time to exercise the eating part of the brain. At lunch, Large Animal producer Coray Seifert got the jump on a few conference goers as he paraded around the third floor in a gorilla suit – ala his company’s logo – while I snacked over a smoked turkey sandwich with A Few Screws Loose designer, Chris Kreager. Fresh from the Serious Sam 2 mod titled Warped, Kreager spoke enthusiastically about the future of his company’s next project, a fully independent shooter. Although no specific details were divulged at the time (though not through a lack of trying to pry it free), Kreager maintained he had been in contact with a few publishers interested in furthering the project. With so many industry players in one building, it didn’t seem possible that he wouldn’t run into a publisher at some point through the day’s events.

Returning to the tutorial, Schuytema plunged back into the exercises, concerning more overall cerebral matters like speed reading, automatic or stream of consciousness writing, and “mind-mapping” ideas out to chart their progressions. Moving into the realm of design, the audience reacted to a projected picture of an old grizzled prospector holding the reins of a couple of cows, taking his picture as direct inspiration for a character. Extrapolating information such as “what is his darkest secret?” and “what is his greatest strength?” the collective crowd ended up with a character who’s a hired gun with poor eyesight, has the power to command cows to do his bidding, and cheats on his wife every Friday night! We continued with a few exercises in this vein before splitting into groups and tackling the final and most demanding assignment yet – creating a game from scratch. Every team of 4-5 people was handed a few templates for a board game, a smattering of plastic player pieces and some dice, and had 30 minutes to sculpt a game. Our team ended up using a pentagonal board with concentric circles; the game’s goal being to have your pieces start at the center and strategically expand out into the outer circles. While not as engrossing as Splinter Cell, our creation titled

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