Crispy Gamer

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    Even though the Game Developers Conference is supposed to be about, y'know, game development, it was actually a game distribution system called OnLive that quickly became the talk of the show. It's not hard to see why: the service promises to revolutionize gaming by running high-end games on remote servers, taking in player input over the Internet and sending the experience back as a simple video stream that can be run on any low-end computer or a low-cost set-top box. If it works, OnLive could make the cycle of buying expensive video game consoles and top-of-the-line computers utterly obsolete.

    Of course, the "if it works" part of that sentence is the key. The company showed a demo of the technology at GDC, and while my experience playing Crysis from a remote server hundreds of miles away was passable, it was far from...


    Here's the picture Keita Takahashi drew. As you can see, it doesn't look too much like me. I was wearing a tie, glasses and a lanyard around my neck. I'm not sure what I'm holding in my left hand. Is it a handbag? A bullhorn? A thought bubble?

    My intent was to get Mr. Damacy to draw a character that wasn't the King, the Prince, Boy or Girl. Unfortunately I think my request for "something that isn't in any of your games" was interpreted as a challenge. Since Takahashi's games include virtually everything that exists (and some things that don't), his first impulse must have been to draw me, or a somewhat formless character with some of my attributes.

    I should take a moment to thank...


    I picked up my mail on Saturday morning after taking the red eye home from GDC only to discover an invitation to the PlayStation party--an event that had happened three days earlier. The invitation is more than a little indulgent (and is more typical of Sony's largess prior to the folly of the PS3). It's a big piece of plexiglass cut into the shape of a cartoon word balloon with the event details carefully etched into it. Not only did this arrive days after the event--it's not Sony's fault; the U.S. Postal Service apparently sent it on a wild ride--this is also officially the least-practical, most over-produced party invitation in history.

  • As I watched Gus Mastrapa and Ryan Kuo play Where is my Heart? at the IGF Pavilion at GDC, built by Bernhard Schulenburg and friends, I pondered the title. Did it have meaning? Was it purposely cute or melancholy for the sake of blatant self promotion?

    I asked Bernhard (who was on hand to explain how this platformer inspired by Lost Vikings worked) how he came up with the title.

    Where is My Heart? was apparently a response to a bad camping trip. Bernhard and his family were out camping and he had a big fight with his parents and ran away into the woods. There was a lot of yelling and screaming and searching for this lost and angry young man. Bernhard felt bad about the whole thing afterwards and created this game. You can learn more about the game at Bernhard's bushghost....

  • I missed my first GDC in eight years because of the death of my father. As much as I love games, it is something like this that puts things in perspective. While I was at the bedside of my father, l watched the life slowly drain from him. The light and passion in his eyes slowly faded after a week of waiting, and he was finally at peace. My father taught me a dedication to what I love, be it family or my job. About a month before he died, my dad asked me if I still liked my job. I told him I loved it. He smiled that knowing grin that only a dad can offer, and he told me that I should always be passionate about what I do, or I would just be going through the motions.

    So it is understandable that while I was with him, I also felt an emptiness at not being at a show that is such an integral part of our business. I knew the show was in good hands with the Crispy crew, but I missed being in the thick of it: digging for stories, talking to the companies about the latest games,...


    The last night of GDC was a time to take off or blow out. While many were skipping town, licking their wounds on flights to their respective homes the Destructoid crew decended upon Annie's Social Club for a night of hardcore karaoke. I'm bummed I missed that party because cheif 'toid Nick Chester has a damn fine set of pipes. Instead I slipped over to the Haight to check out a gallery opening at Giant Robot. In the tiny, treasure-packed shop four indie game designers unveiled their collaborations with contemporary artists. The ARTXGAME collective teamed Hellen Jo with Spelunky's...

  • Maybe they'll send me an angry email later on denying it, but I overheard the PlayStation Network guys and certain third-party iPhone game publishers pitching to many of the IGF finalists. I had a casual talk with one of the developers there and he told me that his game had gotten lots of attention from those guys. Oddly enough it seems like the Xbox Live Arcade guys didn't seem to care about a lot of these games, even though some of them were clearly built with that network in mind.

    It's good to see that there's some interest in these games from places that clearly need different kinds of titles to differentiate themselves from the competition and from the...

  • The oddly dressed man pictured  above was a constant pressence on the street corner between the North and West halls of San Francisco's Moscone Center during GDC 2009. The thousands of people passing by couldn't help but notice his loud, paranoid ramblings, which I found distrubingly reminiscent of those of many of San Francisco's real homeless population. Even though I knew he was probably just promoting another alternate reality game that I'd never have time to really get into, I couldn't resist the urge to interview this odd character. Below is our conversation, recreated from my rough notes and memories.

    Me: Hello.
    Dry Bones: Hi, Dry Bones. *He shakes my hand* So let me tell you about... shit there he is...
    *He hides behind a lamppost*


    In the world of sports that American’s don’t understand, curling has to be up on the top of that list. Gliding rocks across ice while men and women in tights sweep madly in front of the advancing stone seem so, well, silly.
    Don’t tell that to the Canadians. This Scottish-born game is something of a national sport in the Great White North and they even play it In the Olympics. Maybe they know that that it’s goofy. Then again, they also know that we likes us a monster truck rally. So shame is really in the eye of the beholder.
    Manitoba-based Complex Games was commissioned by the government to create a Wii-based version of the sport, dubbed Wee Curl as a part of trade event. And company head Noah Decter-Jackson was on hand to demo the game and explain the basics of a sport that’s a lot like shuffleboard.

  • There couldn't be a bigger contrast between The Cellar, the neon lit dive bar where indie-centric 10-bit party went down Tuesday night, and the perpetual scene in the W's lobby. The swank San Francisco hotel is spitting distance from Moscone, where the GDC takes place. I joked earlier that bizdev types regain hit points when they within the joint's walls. I think it goes further than that. They gain strength, earning buffs with every business card they collect and drink they comp. Meanwhile, at the indie party the scene was a uneasy, but refreshing, mix of dance floor exuberance (totally earned) and abject nerdery. So it was totally my kind of party. 

    No diss to the denizens of the W. I couldn't pick out clothes like...

  •  GDC is one of the few events where indie developers, students, big time publishing houses, developers, and tool makers can all co-mingle, congeal, communicate, socialize and not worry too much about being hassled with idol worshipping fans and fawning sycophantic press. Even the parties are tamer.  Where else can Tim Schafer bullshit in a lobby of thousands the day after being the center of attention at an awards show and not be mobbed? Don't say E3 or i'll punch you in your mouth.  

     I just feel like GDC makes everyone equal in a lot of ways  and  I...

  • Moderator Scott Jones

    Scott Jones did a great job as the moderator of the panel "But What We Really Want To Do Is Make Games," but anticipation was high before it ever started, and many of our home team didn't make it in (a LOT of people didn't make it in). I feel bad for everyone that missed out or skipped this talk altogether.

    The discussion revolved around how each panelist went from being game journalists to game designers, producers, etc. The short answer was that it happened through a combination of luck, a love for gaming and good relationships with companies.

    While I'm happy for the individuals on that panel (if you're living your dream, then great for you), it also worries me that many up and coming writers may be more interested in furthering  ...

  • There's a well-worn path between games journalism and game making. N'Gai Croal just made the leap. Luke Smith from EGM defected to Bungie before. A good friend of mine made a similar transition several years ago as well. I met Ara Shirinian when he was working as an editor for Tips & Tricks. I was down the hall at Hustler writing smut, but what I really wanted to do was write about games. Ara had ambitions beyond writing about games. So he took some initiative and created level for Unreal. He said it was the hardest thing he ever did in his life – learning how to mod from the ground up. But his efforts paid off. He landed a job with Acclaim and worked on the ill-fated,...
  • Valve's talk on coop and artificial intelligence was standing room only and it was one of the first talks I've attended at this year that people were turned away from. I was in the nosebleed section of the room, crammed into an adjacent wall armed with only a tape recorder and disarmed by a nagging pain in the neck, ankles and feet.


    The talk was a dissection of Left 4 Dead's AI - what's its origins were, how it was used to enhance gameplay  and how every element of the game behaved based on the player state. It was a fascinating discussion and I didn't understand why so many people walked out early – mostly during the Q&A portion of the discussion.  I recorded the entire session so I'll be...

  • I had a brief  look at Parabellum this morning from K2 Networks. I don't really have enough data to form an opinion on the game at this point, and to be honest – I only looked at...

  • Want to impress people at your next Rock Band party? Buy a tweed jacket with those leather elbow patches, pick up a pipe and practice your British accent. Ready? Now memorize these top game research findings, fresh from your local academics and brought to the GDC crowd by brainy profs, Ian Bogost, Mia Consolvo and Jane McGonigal:
    Fear of failing. Juul. People like a little failure in a game. Fail too much, the game is too hard. Don’t fail enough, and it’s just too easy.

    Game Sound. Collins.  Not a lot of games take advantage of the idea of a variable rhythm.  Really? Hmm, Next finding please!

    Relating the pleasures of violent...


    I’m still digesting all the ideas that were flying during the 9 a.m. panel I went to this morning.

    A rapid-fire intro by Naughty Dog’s Richard LeMarchand kicked things off. In his talk titled The Primacy of Play, John Sharp dug into historical and philosophical precedents that said that play deserves to evaluated on its own merits. Sharp referenced the Dutch scholar Johan Huizinga, who observed that people submit to the unusual in the name of playing a game. He also quoted German philosopher Friedrich Schiller, who says “Only play can embody beauty and reason.”

    Tracy Fullerton talked about the concept of Masterful Play, saying it begins in a deep understanding of the play system. But, what also makes masterful play possible is a culture of appreciation that exists around them. “There’s always a witness,” she said. As a...

  • I think of GDC as a giant television with a million different channels.
    And I think of being a journalist at the GDC is sort of like being a stoner with the TV remote. It’s a weird stream of consciousness interupped by the occasional moment of clarity.
    What’s stuck out in the last few days?
    The Media Molecule guys designed some really vicious death animations for Sackboy—catching on fire, having his stuffing eviscerated and chomped in half by creatures—but decided to go with a kinder, gentler form of death for the game.
    People have used the apparently simple tools in LittleBigPlanet to create staggering, complex mechanical computers in the game. And they put it on...
  • 10. Avoiding Pre-Alpha Blues: How Adding A Monkey Or a Dog Playing A Banjo To Your Game Can Emotionally Reinvigorate Your Dev Team.

    9. Nintendo Wants To Know What The Hell Is Wrong With The Rest Of You Goddamn Lazy People: A Wordless Series Of Very Colorful Slides Proving Once Again That The Wii And The DS Are Very, Very Successful (May Include Pictures Of Old People)

    8. Wait So What You're Telling Me Is That You Want To Make The Burger King An Unlockable Character In My F***ing Game?: Taking The High Road (And Not Breaking Anything Including Glass-top Tables) When Having Conversations With Your Biz-Dev. People.

    7. Growing A Better Developer Beard In The Age of Metacritic (Moderator: Pete Wanat.)

    6. At $0.99 No One Will Care If It's Totally Crappy: Finding The Ideal Pricepoint For Your Crappy iPhone Game.

    5. You Got Your Mo-Cap In My Sound Design! (You Got Your Sound Design In My Mo-Cap!)

    4. Postmortem: A Postmortem Of...

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    Margaret Robertson makes me want to
    start some sort of Bolshevik-style revolution against the current
    crop of game stories.

    I'm not usually one for violent
    revolution, but the former Edge Editor-in-chief's talk
    yesterday at GDC raised with me an ire about the current state of
    video game storytelling that I hadn't even fully realized had been
    lurking there.

    Don't get me wrong, the Video Game
    Story Reformation League (VGSRL) that I am now forming in my head,
    with Robertson at the helm and me as her trusty right-hand man, isn't
    totally opposed to the idea of stories in games. We're just against
    the expensive, hard-to-localize, clunky,...