Crispy Gamer

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    “You know, if those guys were
    chickens, we could hire a guy in a chicken suit to walk around the
    convention center to promote the game.
    -Activision Co-founder David Crane on how a marketing manager's idea the day before the Consumer Electronics Show forced a
    last minute change to the formerly human protagonist in Freeway


    There's this weird behavior that emerges whenever you're at a conference like GDC. It's the badge glance -- a furtive dash of the eyes South to figure out who you're talking to and what they do for a living. If lanyards were another four-to-six inches longer we'd all be staring crotchward every time we met another peer. As it is the moments are awkward enough. You feel those eyes sliding down your torso. Then there's that barely perceptable pause in the conversation -- when they digest your title and (in the case of the games journalists) media outlet. At this point there's a split second of doubt. Do they think I'm a loser? Have they even heard of the places I work for? That's when it happens. They clear their throat and speak up, "I'm sorry sir, this free coffee isn't for the...

  • I had an interesting meeting with Stardock Systems' Brad Wardell this morning to talk about one of the games I am really interested in - Elemental -  and to talk about the company's new technology that will enable developers and publishers to resell games. Before we got into that, Wardell emphasized how much he thought that GameStop's used games market was so unfair to game developer and publishers. One of the main reasons being that publishers and developers often have to support a product to multiple customers when there are problems instead of just the original purchaser. Support costs money of course and when you have to cover more people you can see why it is kind of unfair.


    But the new system Wardell talked about uses an outer...

  • Sometimes it's embarrassing to be part of the videogame business. And sometimes it's sad. Which is why some of us drink. (Not me.) (OK, maybe a little.) Today I was exiting the Moscone Center when I saw a throng of GDC attendees gathered together on the sidewalk. I thought, Perhaps an elderly man with a dancing monkey and a music box is performing over there. (I love monkeys. Especially when they wear hats or smoke cigarettes.) But instead of finding a dancing monkey, I found some people dressed as zombies, and pretending to slobber on the glass outside the mostly-glass Moscone center. They were really getting into it too, Dawn of the Dead style, clawing at the glass, drooling, everything. It was some sort of performancetisement. These things happen sometimes at conventions, sadly enough. Some maker of something will hire a bunch of people to act like douchebags in the name of, I guess, creating a scene. And lookee here: I'm contributing to this phenomenon by writing...

  • The best place to be is in the IGF booth where all the great games are on display and playable. I didn't get to play everything that I wanted to but Ryan and I took some time to check out a few. I will continue to hang out there in my spare time until I have played every game I want to play.


    A couple of observations: Cletus Clay is fun. It's best described as River City Ransom with rednecks and aliens. We played a few rounds, killed a bunch of aliens and shot our inbred, on-screen selves by  accident and on purpose. When I read about this game and checked out the trailers and screenshots, I didn't think too much of it, but after playing it, I like what little I saw. It's not going to win...

  • I have to admit as I went to check out Warrior Epic, that I thought that the game was going to suck. Surprisingly it did not. Somewhere between a Diablo II clone and Guild Wars, Warrior Epic is all about free-to-play, micro-transactions, digital currency  and a balance of all these things that keep players from being able to buy themselves a path to success. Designed to be played with a small set of friends or even by yourself, the game   reminds me of NCsoft's Dungeon Runners.

    It is hard to ignore that every MMO I see looks like World of Warcraft, but this particular game has its own unique hooks, bells and whistles that make it more akin to the clickity-clickfest of Diablo. I'm looking forward to talking about this game more, but not here and not now...


    Well Nintendo certainly learned from their E3 press conference debacle. Unlike that much-maligned presentation, this morning's GDC keynote was full of red meat for Nintendo fans and "veteran gamers," as Iwata called them. A new DS Zelda! A camera-based WarioWare for the DSi. A new ability to play Virtual Console and WiiWare games direct from high-capacity SD cards! Downloadable classic arcade games... available today (Nintendo pulled an "Apple" there)! Everyone in the audience gets a copy of Rhythm Heaven (Nintendo pulled an "Oprah" there)!

    I'm not going to talk about any of that.

    Instead I want to address a statement Iwata made near the beginning of his talk: <!--
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  • Their games couldn't be more different. Suda 51 (No More Heroes, Killer 7) makes pop culture freak outs. Emil Pagiliarulo, lead designer of Fallout 3, builds vast, intricate worlds woven thick with narrative. Shadow of the Colossus creator Fumito Ueda works in emotional broad strokes, keeping story to a minimum. But during their GDC discussion "Evolving Game Design: Today and Tomorrow, Western Game Design" a similarity...

  • Dinner with Developers rolls on tonight when Scott Jones and I dine with Haden Blackman from LucasArts, the project lead on last year's hit Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Last year, I did a podcast with Haden during New York Comic-Con. Our meal's two hours away so I wanted to give our readers the chance to throw in some questions. If you want to know about the future of Star Wars video games, here's your chance to get some scoop. Post a question to the comments and we'll lay it on Haden once he's good and liquored up.

  • Gus Mastrapa and I just returned from a meet with the Bioware docs, Greg Zeschuk and Ray Muzyka. Since it happened in the afternoon, it wasn't quite a Dinner with Developers. The talk centered around the different ways stories can emerge in video games. Still not sure if it'll wind up in a podcast or a write-up but do expect something soon. The MD's were friendly, engaging and very eager to talk about how they approach not just their own games, but other folks' work, too.

     A demo of Dragon Age: Origins followed and we saw a few things that we're not allowed to talk about yet. I've never been one for Tolkien-esque RPGs but this one boasts some interesting variations that will increase the depth and replay value. Check out Gus Mastrapa's preview...

  • Getting to from Gamesbeat yesterday sucked up a lot of my time, so let's get to the backlog, shall we?


    1. Before heading over to Gamesbeat, I went to a GDC session led in part by Robin Hunicke, an EA designer who spearheaded development on MySims, Boom Blox, and the upcoming Boom Blox Blast Party. The session was mostly attended by other developers and was an enlightening window into game design education and peer relationships between developers. As the speakers described it, MDA–which stands for Mechanics Design Aesthetics–is a vocabulary for discussing play that tries to address the gap between ideas and game mechanics. Mechanics were defined as the rules and concepts that formally specify the game-as-system and Dynamics were defined as the run-time...

  • When I was eight years, I discovered that my Uncle Jack (R.I.P.) owned a pack of playing cards that featured naked ladies on them. He called this very special pack "a conversation piece." Ah, Uncle Jack. This year, the heads of the Game Developers Conference have issued customized playing cards featuring photos of some of the most prominent players in the GDC family.

    As a panel moderator, I was issued a set of these highly coveted--or, more accurately, moderately coveted--cards.
    Titillating? Not unless your idea of Ubisoft's Creative Director Clint Hocking posing as a lumberjack on the king of diamonds titillating. Dave Perry is the eight of spades. Meggan Scavio, Executive Director of the GDC, is a Joker. And, most bizarrely, Ralph Baer is a three of clubs.
    Ralph only rates a three of clubs? Please.



    One day, GDC might not have an Anti-Censorship roundtable. One day, it might not need one.

    For now, game writer and anti-censorship activist Daniel Greeberg made his annual pilgrimage to the conference to talk about what’s new in the world of people that want games to sit down and shut up.

    What’s the latest? It seems that while the mood is pretty good, with games having gained a lot in terms of their reputation to provide family-friendly fare, there’s still on ongoing effort to vilify “those violent games” as a particular kind of digital children we inject into our children.

    Greenberg waved a pile of pending court cases in the US hinged on suppressing certain kinds of games and...

  • "Duke is back," proclaimed the signs and coasters all over the DeepSilver promotional event at GDC tonight. There's even a web site,, announcing the triumphant return of the long-neglected first-person hero.

    Don't get too excited, though... it's not the much-delayed Duke Nukem Forever. Instead, DeepSilver was showing off very early builds of Duke Nukem: Critical Mass for the PSP and DS, neither of which bore more than a surface resemblance to the classic Duke Nukem 3D. Instead, the PSP version presented a standard lock-on-and-shoot, third-person shooter set in a rather generic looking broken down cityscape, complete with potholes and broken phone booths. The demo also saw Duke putting on a jetpack and taking to the skies for a...

  • I am still digesting all of the discussions that went on at GamesBeat today, but it was a relatively entertaining and informative affair. Honestly, a lot of the fun stuff going on was out in the halls, meeting people (I met Kyle Orland, David Thomas, and Susan Lusty for the first time today), eating our lunches on the run because of a fire drill, and hanging out with the Crispy Crew.

    I was very disappointed that Jenova Chen from thatgamecompany didn't get to finish his presentation during the good Mr. Narcisse's panel on "Visualizing the future of games in ten years." What he was proposing would have been the glue to what Raph Koster, Michel Tombroff and Elan Lee were saying.  It was the best discussion of the day.

    There was also an interesting panel on "How are gaming principles stimulating innovation in the non-gaming world" that was brought down by some absolutely jarring hot mic moments that made the crowd...

  • Forgive yourself if you’ve never heard of baseball great Curt Schilling.
    As far as he’s concerned, he’d rather gamers remember him as Curt Schilling the game pioneer, the game innovator, the unbelievably successful owner of global game development powerhouse 38 Studios.
    For now though, he’s the recently retired Curt Shilling, #38, three time World Series champion, opinioned and massively talented right hand pitcher and baseball legend....
  • Unlike our friend Dave Thomas, I didn't make it to today's GamesBeat conference until the early afternoon (I blame the jet lag). There, I spent a good portion of the day listening to interesting but generally loooong presentations by some of the best thinkers in the industry. Here's some of the best and most interesting one-liners I heard from the panelists.

    "Ten million people is a lot of people to have not paying you..."
    -The New York Times' Matt Richtel, to 42 Entertainment's Susan Bonds, leading up to a question about how to make money from popular alternate reality games.

    "Frankly I think there are too many games out there. The world doesn't need another...

  • Indie game makers ranted today. Their rants were on subjects like "Why you should make a demo," "What is indie?" and "The IGF is flawed [for accepting PixelJunk Eden because it's clearly not a bedroom work]." The latter was an impromptu rant given by an eyepatch-wearing Phil Fish (of Polytron, who's making the really excellent-looking 2/3D platformer Fez) that turned into an existential rant about what it means to be indie.

    Fish's sentiment was this: I like being indie. But when I pause to consider the word indie, I no longer know what it means.

    As an artist I think I can extrapolate on Fish's dilemma: I like the process of finding an idea. I like the risk and adventure that comes with following it. I like the commitment of...

  • We've already flogged the "can video games be art" conversation to death. Now that we've determined the answer (yes, maybe, sometimes) it's time to move onto new arguments.  One of the topics of conversation coming out of the Indie Game Maker Rant panel this afternoon was the question, "What makes an indie game indie?" Phil Fish, creator of the upcoming game Fez, used the session to go on a five-minute tirade against the inclusion of Pixel Junk Eden in the Independent Games Festival competition. He argued that though Q-Games is technically an independent studio its size, cozy relationship with Sony and...

  • Thump thump thump.

    (Is this thing on?)

    Greetings from GamesBeat 2009!

    Games what?

    During a week that the focus of the industry is dominated by the Game Developers Conference, a few hundred brave souls gathered on the San Francisco University campus to attend a new event put on by the folks at tech blog VentureBeat.

    Led by superstar game journalist Dean Takahashi, the GamesBeat idea was to take an executive-level view of the games business, and deliver a one-day conference that lets the suits talk about making money off of games.

    And despite the burgeoning recession, the GamesBeat...