Okay, now I am almost up to date. Here are my reflections on day 4 of GDC.
Today I went to the Game Studies Download, which I have found to be a consistently interesting session. Ten interesting game studies papers were briefly presented by Mia Consalvo and Ian Bogost, drawing implications for future designs. My favorite papers were on Karen Collins’ book on Game Sound (another one for my shopping list) and Matt Barton’s Game Studies article on simulating weather in virtual environments, but I woudl rather save discussion of both for some time after I have read their writings for myself.
I was also impressed by Brian Magerko‘s poster presentation about studying improv theatre actors at work and trying to formalise the methods they use when playing scenes. A real rigorous study like this will be very valuable for the field of interactive narrative. I’m hoping to arrange a visit to Georgia Tech at later stage of my trip and see what they are doing first hand.
My last session of the day was the Experimental Gameplay Workshop, which was once again impressive and inspiring. It is great to see so many innovative new ideas, both in terms of mechanics and aesthetic experiences. I’m not going to list all the games shown here, but I was most interested in Achron.
Achron is a simple RTS game with a twist: time travel. Your opponent beat you in a battle? No problem, make more troops and send them back in time to help you fight it again. Send any survivors back too, so they can fight alongside themselves. Or better yet, go back even further in time and attack the enemy’s base before he even built his forces. Or hop forces from back in time forwards to a time after the battle and catch him unawares. Except of course meanwhile he is doing exactly the same thing.
There have been a spate of time-travel related games out recently, but Achron is the first I’ve seen in which two players can play together each directing events at different points in the time stream. This very idea raises so many questions about causality and playability that I can’t wait to play the game and find out how the designers, Christopher Hazard and Michael Resnick, could have possibly made it work. Apparently it has taken them ten years to find the answer, so I’m betting its a good one.