The highlights for me this conference was the session by Jane McGonigal on alternate reality gaming and the keynote by Richard Bartle; “Why are we here”.
I summarised all sessions i went to, but first some local color:
Austin was good for meat lovers:
... Less good for vegetarians:
Austin had this guy running for mayor:
Friday 28 October 2005
Why are we here? Keynote by Richard Bartle
This was an excellent speech. I'm actually still moved by it. Bartle started out asking the audience why we are here. We are all going to die sooner or later, so why are we spending our lives doing this and not something completely different? Then he went on to talk about the original conception of hackers and hacker's ethics; which was a nice ethics with freedom and decentralization and passion and stuff. Where did all the hackers go? Well, why, into MMO development. Since Bartle and his coauthor consciously also embedded this norm system into MUD1, and since MUD1 constituted the basic game design paradigm of the genre it still lives. Wanted to give people the possibility to be who they really are, instead being what their social real-world context forces them to be. And that this experience is valuable to also bring back into the real life. Bartle seemed to want to get through the message that what designers build into their world have a real impact. And to not forget that by doing this work it can mean something for people. To not get blinded by the stress of the every day life, but actually remember why we are here. In Austin, at a conference about MMO's (ok, virtual game worlds). And to stop repeating the game play paradigms of the past: do more new things!
...it felt a little bit fatherly. I liked that, it moved me. Since he DID build the MUD1 it is appropriate. I guess he is the only one in the world besides Trubshaw that can make this speech. And hey, read his book! It is a good book.
All photo's from the session
East versus West: design differences in MMOs in Asia, panel moderated by Jessica Mulligan
My ears turned into funnels during this session. Marketing budgets of millions of dollars! Campaigns where one publisher pays to have posters from another publisher taken down! Players paying for software that plays the game for them while thy watch! (instead of playing themselves!) Having little number tags on food thingies sold in 7-11 that gives the player items in games! 300 games coming out each month in Asia! Subscriptions where the player can choose the bundle that also makes it possible to play the MMO via the cellphone... Aaaaah I'm so ignorant, i must immediately learn more about this!
User Created Content; Boom or Bane?
Panel - Moderator: Daniel James, Designer & CEO, Three Rings - Andrew Tepper, eGenesis - Richard Vogel, V.P. of Production, Dauntless Entertainment - Walter Yarbrough, Producer, Mythic Entertainment
Burning Man or Las Vegas?
I was late so i missed out on Jeff Hickman's and Brian Green's rants, but Brian posted his rant here: http://blog.psychochild.org/?p=92#post-92; an absolutely hilarous letter to Stephen King, on why he as a reader knew everything better than King since he has read so many scary books.
Jessica Mulligan ranted: Stop making the same mistakes all the time!
Gordon Walton ranted: Don't be such cowards: Dare to take risks!
The panel gave plenty of room for the audience to rant as well, and the session turned into fiest of pie-throwing; very entertaining.
All pictures from the session
Fun Meters for Games: The Ins and Outs of Measuring the Player Experience, Nicole Lazzaro and Larry Mellon
Lazzaro is continuing her work of measuring fun, now with the help of Larry Mellon. She has extended the type of work she presented in “Why we play games” to use metrics.
Thursday 27 October 2005
The future of massively multiplayer gaming, Keynote by Smedley SOE
Smedley gave the audience two visions, one form the player's perspective; how players can tap into the same persistent games from different platforms globally. One player could sit at starbucks in LA while the other is in Tokyo. The other vision was from a distribution and production perspective; how SOE would distribute thin clients for free making it possible for players to use the clients on hardware that lacks big storage space. From a design perspective he stressed the importance of persistence.
More photos from the speech
Alternate Reality Gaming, Jane McGonigal
McGonigal's session was for me one of the highlights of the conference. The way she has been working with this type of low-tech pervasive gaming is fantastically inspiring. The greatest strength as i saw it was the daring and innovative game design, how she and the people she work with manage to create fun experiences that has a built in nice and kind subversity to them. That was most obvious when she explained how they used the concept of pronoia; the opposite of paranoia, that there is a conspiracy to make one happy.
More pictures from the session
Panel: Building MMO worlds through Human NPCs
The panelists were Carly Staehlin, Michael Sellers, Patricia Pizer, Lee Sheldon and Sheri Graner Ray. The discussion revolved around how to create better NPCs... Full notes: http://eladhari.blogspot.com/2005/10/live-blogging-fr-agc-building-mmo.html
What Vegas can teach MMO Designers, Damion Schubert
Schubert made some really interesting observations about how important it is with cozyness of social spaces, how the journey from point A to B should be more interesting, how good it could be with automated spectacular events and how cheaters should be beaten down by “the hammer of god”.
The Language of Games, Hal Barwood, Designer/Writer, Finite Arts
Barwood gave a concise walk through of storytelling, drawing parallels between techniques for movies and techniques for games. Barwood spoke mostly about single player platform games, so when he said that the player character “equals what you can do” and that character development is power ups it makes sense to me. I appreciated his speech.
The session was about that diversity in teams is good.
Alternate Reality Games, Maureen McHugh, 4orty 2wo Entertainment
A look at the work behind ARG games like ilovebees and Beast.
This speech was the highlight of the day for me. McHugh's speech was peppered with historical references, anecdotes from the making and playing of the game. She explained in detail how they needed to, while the game was played, add features like puzzles.
I went to the one about characters and emotion. The discussion was nice, but i think the group was too large for the discussion to get really started. We never really got beyond generalities.