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GDC Europe 2012 adds new BioWare DLC, Bigpoint, HTML5 talks

The session lineup for August's GDC Europe 2012 in Cologne continues to expand this week, with BioWare talking post-release DLC lessons from Mass Effect and Dragon Age, plus Bigpoint on free-to-play game design and YoYo Games on HTML5 programming.

These talks all fall within GDC Europe's Main Conference, which takes place Monday through Wednesday, August 13-15, 2012 at the Congress-Centrum Ost Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany.

The full details on these new sessions are as follows:

- In the show's Business and Marketing track, BioWare's director of online development, Fernando Melo (Dragon Age, Mass Effect franchises), will outline how the major studio has organized and crafted a long-term plan for each of its major new releases.

The session, titled "Leveling Up Your AAA game - BioWare's Post Release Content Insights," will examine downloadable content strategies, online game passes, microtransactions, and more, and Melo will argue why all of these additions can augment a game's initial sales and make a big-budget title far more successful.

- Over in the Design track, Jan Richter, CTO of the major German-headquartered online game company Bigpoint, will look at the positive implications of free to play business models in "Free to Play Game Design Is F*#!1ng Awesome."

During this session, Richter will leverage Bigpoint's experience operating titles like Dark Orbit and Battlestar Galactica Online to discuss what it truly means to make a free to play game. Meanwhile, he will share some "free to play design secrets" and "the latest design evolutions" that every developer should know.

- Finally, YoYo Games CTO Russell Kay will explain how older development philosophies can benefit new technologies in a Programming track presentation dubbed, "Applying Retro Techniques to HTML5 Development."

According to Kay, modern web technologies like HTML5 make it "difficult to give consistent performance across target platforms, particularly for mobile and lower powered devices." He believes these problems are not unlike those developers in the "early days of games," and he will provide a number of classic tips and techniques to improve HTML5 game performance.

GDC Europe 2012 debuts talks from Dear Esther, Amnesia creators

With the session lineup for GDC Europe 2012 quickly expanding, event organizers have debuted a second batch of talks, covering everything from unconventional gameplay mechanics to operating large-scale game sites.

This trio of new sessions includes speakers such as thechineseroom's Dan Pinchbeck (Dear Esther), Frictional Games' Thomas Grip (Amnesia: The Dark Descent), and IMVU's Jon Watte, each of whom will present robust talks targeted at the pan-European game development community.

These sessions all fall within GDC Europe's Main Conference, which takes place Monday through Wednesday, August 13-15, 2012 at the Congress-Centrum Ost Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany. The full details on these new sessions are as follows:

- As part of the Game Design track, thechineseroom creative director Dan Pinchbeck will reflect upon his studio's atmospheric indie title Dear Esther, which "abandoned traditional gameplay altogether" in favor of creating a rich and complex interactive story.

Throughout this session, called 'Ambiguity and Abstraction in Game Writing: Lessons from Dear Esther', Pinchbeck will detail the game's "deliberately problematic" approach to in-game narrative, offering insight into how defying conventions can help a game really resonate with its players.

- Elsewhere, Amnesia: The Dark Descent creator Thomas Grip (who's now working with Pinchbeck on an Amnesia sequel) will present a psychology-focused talk that examines how video games differ from film and writing in how they capture their audience.

Grip will explore the ins and outs of interactivity in game design in 'The Self, Presence, and Storytelling', noting that "when interaction is no longer about conquering a system, the underlying mechanics can be kept obscure and opaque to the player, leaving the imagination to do most of the work."

- Finally, IMVU technical director Jon Watte will host a talk in the show's Programming track detailing the essentials of operating an online game site. These sites often grow to include everything from real-time messaging, microtransactions, to user generated content, and Watte will use IMVU's web service as a case study to outline the pros and cons of various approaches to operating a game site at scale.

GDC Europe 2012 opens registration, debuts Cousins, Blue Byte talks

Following the recent lecture submission deadline for GDC Europe 2012, early registration for this August's show in Cologne, Germany has officially opened, as event organizers have revealed the first talks in the show's burgeoning lineup.

The debut sessions taking place at this August's gamescom co-located GDC Europe, which include talks from some of the notable new Advisory Board members, with new talk announcements planned weekly, are as follows:

- As a follow-up to his breakout GDC 2012 lecture, Ngmoco exec and former Electronic Arts veteran Ben Cousins (pictured) revisits his session with new market data and a fresh perspective.

Part of the Business , Marketing & Management Track, 'When The Consoles Die: Redux' will examine what happens to dedicated platforms as the industry and consumer audience increasingly shift to social and free-to-play games, and multi-use devices like tablets or smartphones.

- Using examples from both the European hit The Settlers Online and the just announced Silent Hunter Online, Ubisoft Blue Byte's Christopher Schmitz and Benedikt Grindel will use the Production Track to "impart key understandings on how to successfully develop and operate browser games through the free-to-play model."

- Finally, writers Alexander Sliwinski and Ben Gilbert of major games site Joystiq will host a panel discussing "the past, present, and future of critical writing and reporting in the games industry." Joined by an international press line-up, 'How Gaming News Works: A Guided Tour' will explain how news dissemination works, providing a nuanced understanding of how the games press functions as a whole - with concrete takeaway for game creators.

GDC Europe 2012 reveals major additions to main conference, Summit advisory boards

With GDC Europe quickly gaining steam, show organizers have added 14 leading European game developers to the event's main conference and Summit advisory boards, where they will help program the lectures, panels and roundtable sessions taking place at this August's conference in Cologne, Germany.

The newest members to join the main conference advisory board for GDC Europe 2012 include former Battlefield Heroes developer Ben Cousins (now general manager of ngmoco Sweden), Playdead CEO Dino Patti (Limbo, pictured), DICE creative director Lars Gustavsson, and Christopher Schmitz, head of production at Ubisoft Blue Byte (The Settlers and Battle Isle).

All of these new advisory board members come from notable and varied backgrounds in the European development community, and given their range of expertise, they will be able to ensure that GDC Europe 2012 offers even more insightful content targeted at developers all across the continent.

Other new additions to GDC Euope's main conference advisory board include Crytek veteran and Yager Interactive design director Bernd Diemer, EA Phenomic VP Dirk Ringe, Kuju Entertainment COO Adrian Hawkins (Battalion Wars), Guerrilla Games technical director Michiel van der Leeuw (Killzone series), online game consultant Teut Weidemann, Secret Exit co-founder Jetro Lauha (Zen Bound series), and Sven Liebech, head of art at Bigpoint GmbH.

These developers will join continuing board members such as Remedy Entertainment's Matias Myllyrinne (Alan Wake franchise), Avni Yerli of Crytek, and Harald Riegler of Sproing.

Helping to program the increasingly vibrant GDC Europe submarket Summits will be Thomas Grip, one of the key creatives at Amnesia studio Frictional Games, who will join the advisory board for the Independent Games Summit, alongside Knap Nok's Lau Korsgaard (who previously worked on Die Gute Fabrik's B.U.T.T.O.N.).

Elsewhere, Jami Laes, general manager and co-founder of social game giant Playfish, and Henric Suuronen, head of studio at Non-Stop Games (and formerly at wooga) will both join the board of the Social & Online Games Summit.

In addition, Ansu Lonnberg, chairman of the board at Secret Exit, and Semyon Voinov, co-founder of Cut the Rope creators ZeptoLab will join notables such as Fishlabs CEO and co-founder Michael Schade (Galaxy On Fire) on the advisory board of the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit.

Reminder: GDC Europe 2012's call for submissions ends Monday, April 23

GDC Europe 2012 organizers are reminding that the call for lecture and panel submissions for this August's pre-eminent European game creation event ends on Monday, April 23rd.

This year, the event's call for submissions for lectures includes main conference tracks in Business & Marketing, Game Design, Production, Programming, and Visual Arts.

This year's event has a major focus on lectures with practical takeaways for today's video game market for all disciplines, from business strategies through postmortems to in-depth analyses of games. An expanded European advisory board -- to be revealed in the near future -- will be overseeing the submissions.

Organizers are also accepting submissions for content for the three GDC Europe Summits: the Social Games Summit, Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit and Independent Games Summit, all of which were introduced in 2011 and will be held concurrently with the main conference.

The conference is now in its fourth year, and will take place Monday through Wednesday, August 13-15, 2012 at the Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost in Cologne, Germany, just before the before the major European gamescom trade fair.

By once again pairing up with gamescom, GDC Europe can offer content to address the development community at a central location in the heart of Europe, and reach the critical mass of the European games sector.

GDC Europe reminds on Summit submissions, reveals extended deadline

Organizers of the upcoming Games Developers Conference Europe have extended the submissions deadline by one week to April 23, and are currently seeking additional content for the Social Games and Smartphone & Tablet Games Summits.

When GDC Europe returns to Cologne, Germany on August 13-15, these Summits will once again showcase the insight held by the best and brightest developers in the social and mobile spaces. Show organizers hope to make these Summits better than ever, and are especially looking for 25 and 50 minute talks from European and global developers in these fields.

Last year's Social & Smartphone/Tablet Summits at GDC Europe were particularly well received, and featured lectures, panels, and roundtables from some of the most influential social and mobile developers in the business.

Over in the Social Games Summit for example, Playfish studio director Jeferson Valadares (The Sims Social) gave an in-depth look at metric-driven design, outlining how to balance intuition and raw data.

Elsewhere, Digital Chocolate's Rob Unsworth reflected on the development of his studio's popular social game Zombie Lane -- this lecture, like numerous others from the show, is available as a free streaming video on GDC Vault.

In addition, the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit featured notable talks from Fishlabs Entertainment's Marc Hehmeyer on bringing Galaxy on Fire 2 to Android, and Exozet Games' head of mobile development Matthias Hellmund on making mobile versions of popular board games like Settlers of Catan and Carcassone.

GDC Europe also featured numerous keynotes covering the social and mobile realm, as Wooga CEO Jens Begemann offered his thoughts on the appeal of social gaming [free GDC Vault video], Ultima creator Richard Garriott charted the industry's social future, and Epic president Mike Capps revealed the origin of the Chair-developed mobile hit Infinity Blade.

GDC Europe reminds on Indie Games Summit submissions for 2012 show

Organizers of the upcoming Games Developers Conference Europe are reminding prospective speakers that the submission deadline for presentations is Monday, April 16, and the show is currently seeking additional content for the growing Independent Games Summit.

This popular GDC Summit, a staple of the San Francisco event since 2007, first debuted at GDC Europe in 2011. When the show returns to Cologne, Germany on August 13-15, organizers expect the Summit to debut more notable content featuring the best and brightest of indie game development, and are especially looking for 25 minute and 50 minute talks from European and global indies.

Last year's successful Independent Games Summit at GDC Europe covered a wide swath of games, developers, disciplines, and issues, and featured talks from some of the most influential names in the indie game community.

For instance, the Summit featured an inspiring presentation from Independent Games Festival chairman Brandon Boyer on the importance of supporting indies.

There were also design-focused talks from prominent indie developers like Frictional Games studio head Thomas Grip (Amnesia: The Dark Descent) - whose acclaimed talk is streamable for free on GDC Vault as well.

In addition, Douglas Wilson, the creative mind behind B.U.T.T.O.N. and Johann Sebastian Joust (pictured), discussed the implications of breaking conventional gameplay tropes [GDC Vault link], German indie devs outlined the possibilities of public funding, and Tale of Tales' Michael Samyn (The Path) explained why indie devs might save the European games industry.

GDC Europe opens lecture submissions for 2012 event

The UBM TechWeb Game Network, organizers of the industry-leading Game
Developers Conference, have announced the call for submissions for this
August's GDC Europe conference in Cologne, Germany.

GDC Europe, taking place Monday through Wednesday, August 13-15, 2012
at the Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost, will again provide the essential
pan-European perspective of game development and business trends
currently happening throughout the continent.

The conference is now in its fourth year, and will once again occur in the same week as the European gamescom
trade fair. With this pairing, GDC Europe can offer content to address
the development community at a central location in the heart of Europe
and reach the critical mass of the European games sector.

This year, the event's call for submissions for lectures includes
main conference tracks in Business & Marketing, Game Design,
Production, Programming, and Visual Arts. Organizers are looking for
leading practitioners to propose lectures and panels with major
practical takeaways for today's video game market.

Organizers are also accepting submissions for content for the three
GDC Europe Summits: the Social Games Summit, Smartphone & Tablet
Games Summit and Independent Games Summit, all of which were introduced
in 2011 and will be held concurrently with the main conference.

"GDC Europe offers the pan-European game development community a
unique opportunity to come together and dialogue about the local and
global changes happening in the industry, from their perspective," said
Meggan Scavio, general manager of all Game Developers Conference events.

"As the conference heads into its fourth year, we are pleased to be
able to return to Cologne and to continue providing a venue for
developers to gain priceless learning experience featuring leading
industry tools and techniques."

2011 Game Developers Conference Europe Hosts More Than 2,100 Attendees

The 2011 GDC Europe concluded on Wednesday, August 17 with a successful showing and a final attendee count of more than 2,100 game professionals representing 57 countries.

A marquee keynote lineup of notable industry veterans, from wooga founder and CEO Jens Begemann, to co-creator of the legendary Ultima series and founder of social media games developer Portalarium Richard Garriott, to Epic Games president Dr. Michael Capps, among others, joined an additional 170 European and international speakers, a total of 46 exhibitors and 35 sponsors and more than 300 media representatives covering game development on PC, social networking sites, consoles and mobile platforms.

Event organizers also announced that GDC Europe will return to Cologne, Germany on August 13-15, 2012.

In its third year, GDC Europe continued the tradition of bringing high-quality content to the European game development community. The introduction of the Social Games, Independent Games, Smartphone and Tablet Games, and Community Management Summits demonstrated the increasing importance of these developing areas that are pertinent to European game development. The Social Games Summit also proved to be a forum that showcased the spirit alive across both European and Western independent developers including speakers Kellee Santiago from thatgamecompany, Frictional Games' Thomas Grip, and Spaces of Play's Marek Plichta.

Highlights of day one at GDC Europe included wooga CEO Jens Begemann giving a keynote discussing today's social games and how they are not designed to turn all core gamers into FarmVille farmers. In his talk, Begemann surprised attendees with the live, real-time launch of Magic Land, a title that contains an exciting mix of social gaming elements with aspects from the dungeon-crawling genre. The first day of GDC Europe also featured a keynote talk by Enric Alvarez, game director and co-author of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and founder of its development studio Mercury Steam, who discussed how the small Spanish studio met the challenge in taking on a beloved franchise from a Japanese developer.

GDC Europe 2011 Reminds On Registration Deadline, Details Events

With just a day left to register online for next week's GDC Europe event, organizers have chosen to highlight the various events and parties that will take place during and after the Cologne show.

These social events are hosted by some of the show's sponsors, and serve as a great opportunity to relax after the conference and get to know other industry professionals and developers.

A GDC Europe pass is required to get in to each of these parties, so make sure to register online while there's still time. Once online registration closes, passes will be available only via on-site registration, which opens Sunday, August 14 at 3:00PM.

The following are some of the biggest sponsored events open to GDC Europe attendees:

- On Monday, August 15 at 8:00PM, Crytek will host its very own Crytek GDC Night, offering a venue for show attendees to relax, chat, and network with game developers from around the world. The event will take place at Rheinterrassen, Rheinparkweg 1, 50679 Cologne and is open to all GDC Europe pass holders.

- On Tuesday, August 16 at 6:30PM, Glu Mobile will sponsor the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit Mixer, an event that ties in with the titular GDC Europe Summit. Here, pass holders can drink, mingle, and meet other industry professionals involved or interested in mobile and tablet-based games. The event will take place on the Expo Floor at the Congress-Centrum OST Koelnmesse.

- At 9:00PM that same evening, pass holders can head over to the Diamonds Club at Hohenzollernring 90, 50672 Cologne for the GDC Indie Party. Here, badge holders can dance, have drinks, and chat with fellow developers, students, and high-level professionals from throughout the industry. Attendees will also get a taste of Europe's nightlife with a live act by Sound of Games.

For more information on any of these events, please visit the official GDC Europe events section.

GDC Europe Unveils Keynote From Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow Director Enric Alvarez

GDC Europe has announced a new keynote from Mercury Steam founder Enric Alvarez, who will reflect on the development of the studio's recent action title Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.

Alvarez will join other speakers such as Epic's Mike Capps, Ultima creator Richard Garriott and Wooga founder Jens Begemann as the fourth keynote speaker to be announced for GDC Europe. This year, the event will take place August 15-17, and is located in Cologne, Germany alongside gamescom, the leading European trade and consumer show.

The keynote, titled, "Postmortem: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - How To Succeed And Not Die Trying," will provide an in-depth look at how the Spanish developer Mercury Steam took the reins of one of gaming's most classic franchises.

In addition, Alvarez will also delve into the origin of the project, how Mercury Steam handled its relationship with a Japanese publisher, as well as what went right and wrong throughout the course of the project.

Prior to working on Lords of Shadow, Alvarez and the rest of Mercury Steam worked on projects such as Codemasters' Clive Barker's Jericho, and the American McGee-designed game Scrapland

Following the production of these titles, Alvarez began co-writing and directing Lords of Shadow, a game that eventually set a new milestone for project scope and size in the Spanish development community. The game also had the support of Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima, who served as the title's project advisor. Alvarez will elaborate on this relationship and more in his upcoming keynote.

GDC Europe 2011 Reveals Crytek Keynote, Ninja Theory, Boyer Talks

This month's GDC Europe has debuted a new track keynote from Crytek's Cevat Yerli, as well as talks from Ninja Theory on performance capture, plus the IGF's Brandon Boyer on how indies will drive the future.

Taking place Monday through Wednesday, August 15-17, 2011 at the Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost, Germany, alongside the major gamescom trade show, GDC Europe will again provide the essential pan-European perspective of game development and business trends.

The new highlights from the Main Conference, which features tracks on Business & Marketing, Game Design, Production, Programming and Visual Arts, include the following:

- Crytek president and CEO Cevat Yerli will give a track keynote in the conference's Game Design track titled, "An Old Horse Learning New Tricks - From AAA Retail to AAA Online." Here, Yerli will examine Crytek's history as a traditional, retail game developer and its experience transitioning to the online space with its upcoming shooter Warface.

Looking back at the company's previous retail offerings such as FarCry and Crysis, Yerli's keynote will also outline the biggest challenges Crytek faced when adapting to online game development, noting the "insurmountable differences" that forced the studio to learn new approaches to game production.

- Also in the Game Design track, UK-based Ninja Theory co-founder Tameem Antoniades will offer a in-depth look at cut scene production in, "Performance Capture: A Creative Primer." This talk will detail how Ninja Theory cooperated with movie studios such as Weta Digital (Lord of the Rings), actor Andy Serkis, and numerous other movie professionals to create believable, high-fidelity scenes in titles such as Enslaved and Capcom's DmC: Devil May Cry.

GDC Europe Speaker Spotlight: VandenBerghe On Embracing Established IP

In the latest in a series of interviews with speakers from this August's GDC Europe, Ubisoft creative director Jason VandenBerghe discussed how he maintains his creative drive when working on someone else's game concept, noting why all developers should "become a fan" of their IP to stay passionate about their work.

VandenBerghe has been in game development for over 16 years, and much of his career has been spent making games based on popular movie licenses including James Bond (007: Everything Or Nothing), Lord of the Rings (Lord Of The Rings: The Third Age), and X-Men.

During his time working on these well-known franchises, VandenBerghe (Red Steel 2) learned to stay passionate and enthusiastic about his projects, even when a powerful brand offered his team little control over a game's creative direction.

With GDC Europe almost upon us, VandenBerghe teased his upcoming talk, "The Magic Gun: Surviving IP Development Through Embracing Your Constraints," diving in to his approach on IP-based development, and providing tips for making games based on popular licenses.

What do you do to maintain your creative drive when working on an established franchise?

For me, it came easy. I grew up sitting around with my D&D buddies talking about what our own Alien film would be like, or playing through a Traveller campaign based on The Terminator, and even in these early experiments, we were nailing the tone of our beloved franchises.

It was only later, when I came into the industry, that I realized that this was something that was even an issue for people. Working on the James Bond franchise, I was stunned by how many people wanted to utterly change the very nature of that character, simply to suit their personal creative tastes. While I could understand the drive to create, doesn't James Bond deserve to be James Bond?

So, I developed the "Magic Gun": a way of thinking about what I think of as "other people's ideas" that could help my teams re-orient their thinking. It's easy to learn... but extraordinarily difficult to master.

The Magic Gun is this: Learn your constraints, and then embrace them. Simple -- yet so hard to do.

Learning is actually the easiest part: I find experts on the IP I am working on, and I interrogate them mercilessly. It's the embracing part that is truly hard. To succeed as a designer, I must learn to love my IP for the same reasons that the fans of that IP do. Truly, unreservedly, I must become a fan. Then, the real work can begin.

What are some titles you've worked on that most challenged your creative control? Why were these titles particularly challenging to work on?

Few franchises can rival the Bond franchise for challenges related to creative control. James Bond is a $3 billion+ annual industry without the games, and if you think that those guys are going to let you kill the golden goose by incorrectly re-interpreting their character, you got another thing coming.

Strangely, though, the fans of James Bond are almost harder to deal with. Not individually, mind you, but as a group. Ask yourself this: have you ever met anyone in your life who doesn't have an opinion about James Bond?

Chances are, you haven't. That applies to your team as well. And everyone's vision of Bond is just a little bit different.

Getting everyone to see the same creative vision is hard enough. Getting everyone to see the same creative vision when that vision is different from the strongly held, personal vision in their mind? Nearly impossible.

GDC Europe 2011 Highlights Driver, Publisher Panel, Supercell Talks

GDC Europe 2011 is highlighting three new talks, including a look at how Driver: San Francisco balances art and tech, a panel on what publishers really want, and a lecture from Supercell (Gunshine) on browser-based games.

Taking place Monday through Wednesday, August 15-17, 2011 at the Cologne Congress-Centrum Ost, alongside the major gamescom trade show, GDC Europe will again provide the essential pan-European perspective of game development and business trends.

The new highlights from the Main Conference, which features tracks on Business & Marketing, Game Design, Production, Programming and Visual Arts, include the following:

- In the Business & Marketing track panel, "Ask the Decision Makers: Find Out What Publishers Want and How to Get What You Want," representatives from some of the industry's top publishers will discuss what they look for when evaluating a potential product or development partner.

Speakers in this panel include Chris Charla of Microsoft Game Studios, Christian Svensson of Capcom, and Jeff Hilbert of the talent agency Digital Development Management, as well as Martin De Ronde of Vanguard Games (Gatling Gears).

Each of the industry veterans will outline their company's philosophies on game development, teaching attendees what needs to happen before a publisher decides to support a game.

- Also in the Business & Marketing track, CEO Ilkka Paananen of web developer Supercell (Gunshine) will host, "Next Generation of Online Games: Accessible yet Deep and Immersive - and Truly Social via Real-Time Multi-Player!," a talk focused on the overlooked potential of browser-based online games.

Paananen's talk, referencing the Finnish firm's popular browser MMO, will discuss how browser-based games can combine the benefits of social networks with the appeal of hardcore games, simultaneously offering both accessibility and depth. Paananen will also note the obstacles that come with developing for a browser, and his talk will outline "a lot of challenges that must be addressed."

GDC Europe Speaker Spotlight: B.U.T.T.O.N.'s Douglas Wilson On Breaking The Rules

In the latest in a series of interviews with speakers from this August's GDC Europe, Douglas Wilson, developer of the IGF-finalist B.U.T.T.O.N., discusses how to design multiplayer games that don't adhere to strict rules.

In 2009, Wilson (pictured, right) co-founded the Copenhagen Game Collective, a non-profit game design group in Copenhagen, Denmark He is also a Ph.D. candidate at IT University of Copenhagen's Center for Computer Games Research, where he teaches and researches game design. In addition, his upcoming dissertation will discuss intentionally abusive, unbalanced, or broken game design.

Next month at GDC Europe, Wilson will host a talk as part of the Independent Game Summit titled, "Intentionally Broken Game Design and the Art of "Deputizing" Players," where he will examine "traditional folk games, design research, and precedents in other media forms" to explain how players tend to enforce game rules without strict systems in place.

With GDC Europe just weeks away, Wilson discussed the concept of his upcoming talk, outlining the core design of his unusual multiplayer title B.U.T.T.O.N., as well as the benefits of creating games with lenient rules.

Your recent multiplayer title B.U.T.T.O.N. used a very minimalist approach, omitting some of the traditional systems and rules most often seem in multiplayer games. What inspired you to take such an atypical approach?

One of the core ideas behind B.U.T.T.O.N. is that modifying and negotiating the rules is sometimes the most enjoyable game of all. I feel like this is a lesson that we computer game designer sometimes forget. The system itself is never what comprises the game. Rather, it's what the human players do with that system. Just think about the kind of improvisational play that underlie kids' playground games, or the "house rules" that inevitably crop around boardgames and pickup sports.

Some game design theorists have argued that these ambiguities are a "problem" that computer technology can fix. How dull! As I see it, the key is to actively embrace these ambiguities in a way that feels intentional and fun. To this end, we conceptualized B.U.T.T.O.N. not as a "computer game," but rather as a game that just happens to use a computer. I do admit that all games -- even the most traditional and "closed-system" games -- are subject to these kinds of negotiations and house rules. What we tried to do with B.U.T.T.O.N. was to actively call attention to the ambiguities of gameplay, in attempt to convince players to revel in and enjoy them.

Your talk description says you examined "traditional folk games, design research, and precedents in other media forms" when looking at alternative methods of multiplayer games. Can you describe what this research entailed and what you learned from it?

For my Ph.D. dissertation I've spent a lot of time studying folk games and sports, from old Danish children's games to the American New Games movement of the 1970s. One of my favorite examples is the traditional Inuit game of Iqiruktuk, also known as Mouth Pull. In Mouth Pull, two players stand side-by-side, placing their arms over each other's shoulders and hooking their thumb into their opponent's mouth. When the game begins, both players start tugging away at each other's mouth! The first player to surrender loses.

 

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