GDC 08: Experimental Gameplay Workshop

23 February, 2008 (12:54) | Games | By: Olivier

One of my favorite session at GDC is the Experimental Gameplay Workshop, where a bunch of games that are “experimental” in nature are presented.

This year, a number of patterns emerged in what the judges have seen so games were presented in groups:

- Replay

This pattern was all about single player games that toyed with the idea of replaying over your previous “ghost” session.

Cursor*10: i had played this one before coming to GDC. It’s an interesting solitaire game where you use your cursor to solve puzzles and climb to the highest level. You have a fixed number of cursor each of limit use in time but you can play over your previous cursors’ actions. So you’re basically cooperating with yourself over time.

Timebot: same concept of playing with yourself but you control the spawn of your clones. Seems very hardcore once you reach high levels.

Jonathan Blow then made another demo of Braid his soon to be released XBLA game, showcasing the “repeat” mechanic.

The Misadventures of P.B Winterbottom: a flash game (made by Tracy Fullerton’s students) with the aesthetic of old silent films that also plays with the concept of clones.

- Obfuscation

This pattern was about making things hard to understand for the player.
According to Doug Church, it could be obfuscation in the presentation or obfuscation in the gameplay. Personally I’m not convinced by obfuscation as a specific gameplay mechanic. To me all games are more or less opaque and it’s only a question of where you want to stand on the accessibility curve. So all they’ve shown here are games that have crappy accessibility and – although it can be funny for about five seconds – I’m not sure how this pushes the envelope of game design.

Lost in the Static: is a windows game with a very simple (transparent) gameplay but the visuals are completely opaque. This was idea #56 out of Sean Howard’s 300 mechanics.

Wrath of Transperator: (made by the same team as P.B Winterbottom – unreleased?) Your avatar is invisible. You can only judge where you are by environmental clues. It’s a game where the player can be intensely captivated by the interaction but spectators have a hard time understanding what’s happening.

Jeff Minter’s Space Giraffe: (released on XBLA) Jon blow stepped up in defense of Space Giraffe and stated it’s a game that’s not so much about the immediate destruction of enemies and more about management, controlling the situation. Wich is very much opposite of what the visuals convey. The game fights you trying to understand what’s happening.

La La Land 4: A windows game. Totally cryptic. I have no idea what’s happened. Jon Blow said: “One of the delightful thing about this game is that you have no idea what’s going to happen next.” In this given case, I’m not sure if that’s delightful or terrifying…

- User-Generated content or levels.

Next pattern was about games that use content or levels generated by the user.

Line Golfer: A web game similar to Line Rider in that you can draw (and share) your own level and then go golfing in it. Simple and powerful.

Bernie the pyromancer: This was a weird one, down to the exploding cows… You play a fire wizard and you try to burn everything in a little village. I’m not sure I completely understood the gameplay but it looked like some kind of physics based solitaire. I also didn’t grok the relation with user created content/levels…

Crayon Physics Deluxe: This is the upcoming PC game that won the grand prize for this year’s Independent Games Festival. Its very cool looking but the gameplay seems very brittle: sometimes you spend a lot time designing a solution that could work but is broken by the physics’ precision. The nice touch IMO is that Petri Purho, the designer, made it all about finding creative solutions to the puzzles and not so much about finding the most “efficient” solution. So he didn’t include time or scores for example to avoid pushing players in that direction.

Audio Surf: This extremely cool looking game is all about uploading your music tracks and then actually playing a kind of racing/match three game on it. I had read about it before coming to GDC, now I have to play it…

- Two Levels at Once

The last pattern was about playing in two levels or game spaces at one. This is where I found the most exciting games.

Yin Yang: Extremely cute and cool web based plateformer with two avatars each “trapped” in a gameplay space but that can interact with each other through objects.

Shift: Same sort of concept: a puzzle platformer that allows your avatar to “shift” from one game space to another. The main difference is here you control a single avatar that freely moves from one game space to the other. Very nice minimalist aesthetics.

Shadow: A game that is still in development and is about moving between 3D and 2D spaces. The shadow space is in 2D and you need to reach the “green box” in the 3D space. Velocity is carried from 2D space to 3D space. Amazing concept, extremely impressive technologically and probably really hard to play.

Then there was a game standing on it’s own, out of any pattern:

Stars Over Half Moon Bay by Rod Humble – who previously did The Marriage and is also head of the Sims studio at Maxis on his spare time. After The Marriage he couldn’t come up with a new art game idea in 6 month. He thinks it’s because he didn’t care enough about what he was pursuing. Then he saw the stars in the night sky and that gave him inspiration as a methaphore for creativity. First part is on the “organic”, self feeding aspect of creativity and the second part is a lot more about the intellectual aspect of creation. My first impression is that it is much less interesting than “The marriage”: the metaphore does not seem to emerge naturally from the game as well as it did in his previous experiment. But I’ll have to play it to make up my own mind.


Comment from Flash Game Funny
Time August 5, 2008 at 2:31 pm

Good site I \”Stumbledupon\” it today and gave it a stumble for you.. looking forward to seeing what else you have..later

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