Friday, March 27, 2009

GDC Friday

Today, the conference caught up to me, and it was somewhat lazy. With the exception of getting up at the ungodly hour of 8:00am to go to a Schell Games breakfast, I spent the morning in full nappage. After we checked out of the hotel, I took my napping to the little park area behind the Metreon, where I was lulled to sleep by the water feature.

For lunch I had 2 banana-strawberry-nutella crepes from the fancy food court, which perhaps wasn't the wisest decision I've made, and resumed my lazy day at the bean bag lounge in the conference center. I happened to run into Olivier there, and eventually Drew showed up, and then some Schell Games people, and so on (the more people in a cluster, the more magnetic it is, I guess).

Several of us went to the afternoon talk about level design in Far Cry 2, and how it supports varying player types and allows for player expression. It was certainly an interesting lecture, and drew some fascinating analogies that I'm not sure I agree with, but were interesting nonetheless. More delicious food for thought.

The Schell Games crew bid the fancy food court a final farewell, and now I'm chilling with Andy and Edmundo, waiting for M.E. Chung to come and fetch us and bring us to her abode.

Overall, I had a fantastic GDC! I got to see so many people again, and the talks I did see were very good. A worthwhile experience for sure!

GDC Thursday

Goodness, today was a very busy day! I'll be friendly and cut it for my LJ list.

This morning I went to Valve's talk on Playtesting, which turned out to reflect a surprising amount of tips and techniques that we use at the ETC and at Schell Games. The things that we don't do which I find super interesting are the physiological tests - monitoring heartrates and EEGs and eye-tracking and such. It made me think of Scott, who was wondering if there was a role in the game-industry for a full-time scientist. So it would appear! At least on the front of collecting playtesting data. That sort of thing, however, is way way expensive, and likely out of the scope of the ETC (though I can imagine a future project working with the psychology department on main campus and what that might yield).

Afterwards, I got to meet up with Colin, who was my lead from the summer. I love Colin! He is one of the awesomest of people, and we strolled about the Expo floor for awhile whiles't catching up on one another's adventures. I am ever grateful for Colin's trust in me over the summer, which gave me a huge confidence boost, and transformed me from pre-Insomniac Lisa to post-Insomniac Lisa. It was delightful to spend time with him once more.

In the afternoon I went to Blizzard's talk about how their quest system evolved from Vanilla WoW through WotLK. It was pretty interesting! I especially liked the "lessons learned/mistakes" portion of the talk, where they went over problem points that needed to be improved, and how they were problematic from a design standpoint. At some point I will have to type up the notes I jotted down during all these talks.

Today was a day for reunions, and in the evening I met up with Steph, seeing her for the first time in 4 years! Amusingly, the last time we were able to visit we were both in New England, and now we both happened to be on the West Coast. I went out with her and some of her friends to Bucca de Beppo, and was graced with the delightful gift of two of her print book collections! (You can take a look via her art blog: ) So good! It was wonderful to catch up, and hopefully I'll get to hang out with her more tomorrow.

The night ended with a very pleasant gathering in the 5th floor lounge of the Palomar. Comprised mostly of ETCers, and joined later by Drew, there was a lot of catching up and story-swapping. Also, there was the revelation of the app that makes it so I MUST OWN AN IPHONE.

Sooooo good! Bryan Cash said that I was reaching some point of Critical Delight while playing with it, and feared an explosion. I managed to contain myself, though.

I've really had a splendid GDC so far, and I hope it will finish out strong. We shall see!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

GDC Wednesday Night

I'm chilling out in my hotel room wearing an outrageous zebra-print bathrobe, for it seems that the hotel provides tacky animal-print bathrobes for all its guests. Classy!

I spent the afternoon schmoozing about the expo floors. The amount of booths on the floor was somewhat dismal, and the career floor was packed, but I suppose that isn't surprising given the times. There was a lot of me introducing people to other people, and a lot of randomly bumping into folks, and other such socialization.

The evening was a restful one - Tracy, Chris and I ordered in food and hung about the hotel room. Afterwards, I joined a pack of ETCers and headed to the ETC Gathering, picking up Drew along the way. The party was loud and crowded in a small space, and I was proud of myself for lasting a good 15 minutes in there. I am, as always, terribly apt to be drained by large and loud social gatherings.

Drew and I then headed over to the top floor lounge at the Marriott to meet up with a bunch of people from Project Horseshoe. Much like the gathering on my first night in San Francisco, this social setting was MUCH more to my taste. We didn't sit and chat for long before someone busted out the card games - Family Business taking the forefront.

Family Business is a fun little card game in and of itself, but the true joy in the game is from the gimmick where all the players have to speak like mobsters. This, of course, amplifies hilarity in every action, and I was happy to observe the rise and fall of the city mobs, particularly the vicious rivalry between Olivier and Brenda (I suspect that feud may last for generations on end!)

Tomorrow I'm planning on hitting up the Valve and Blizzard talks, and hopefully catching up with Steph and Colin if I am lucky.

GDC Wednesday Morning

After a whirlwind of excitement (by which I mean a 5 hour delay in Dallas), I finally arrived in San Francisco last night to be bombarded with social greetings. We're staying at the Hotel Palomar, which is multitudes better than they sketchy place we stayed last year (sans purple track lighting and a palm tree painted on the wall, though) and much much closer to the convention center.

Andy and I met up with Drew and some of the Insomniacs and there was much greeting and hugging. Amusingly, Insomniac and Schell Games seems to have booked the same hotel. Before long, Reagan joined us, having "heard my laugh" from God knows how far across the floor. I'm flattered that my laughter is a beacon, but occasionally embarrassed by how loud it apparently is!

There was chattering and drinking and people came and went and I gave out many hugs. Jesse stopped by, and Schell Games Austin showed up, and then the ETCers started filing in. It was much fun! These are the sorts of social encounters that I truly enjoy, rather than exhausting myself at the IGDA party.

This morning I hit up Clint Hocking's lecture on Fault Tolerance, which was about Intentionality and Improvisation in the design of Far Cry 2. There, Drew and I found and greeted Olivier, and subsequently threw things at Brenda Brathwaite a few rows in front of us (she brandished threateningly and there was much giggling from our row).

The talk itself was very interesting! I thought that looking at gameplay patterns in a cycle of composition/planning phases and execution phases was a pretty insightful way of analyzing how a player interacts with the game, and one I hadn't thought of before. While I think his use of the word "Improvisation" was misleading, the ideas behind it were sound and fuel for much thought. Plus, after chatting with Brenda Harger afterwards, we agreed that having the phrase "Improvisation" more accessible in this industry was a good thing, even if it was not being used accurately. Having it get exposure may lead people to investigate, and that's always good!

After the talk, Drew and I went and grabbed lunch with a friend of his from Infinity Ward whose name slips me. The fancy food court in the shopping center is just as delicious as I remember it! Paninis for the win!

As I expected, I was exhausted after lunch, and in need of a nap. I think I'm pacing myself much better than last year, now that I have an idea of how GDC is gonna roll. Looking forward to social gatherings tonight! Stay tuned for ADVENTURE!

Monday, March 16, 2009


I noticed a weird thing that my brain did the other day...

I was at the animal shelter, and went into one of the cat colony rooms to work on cat socialization (read: petting and snuggling). The cat colony rooms are setup to be like a living room of sorts: a couch, coffee table, some tables, and an abundance of cat trees and toys and hidey holes. This is where they keep cats who enjoy being around other cats.

Anyway, as I sat down to join one of the cats lounging on the couch, I noticed my brain processing information in a particular way, and I found it rather interesting.

When I looked at the cat, I realized "that cat has three legs." But, I noticed that it took me until I sat down beside him for several moments before I'd registered *which* of the three legs he was missing.

I find this kind of bizarre. It wasn't as though I thought "there is something different about that cat" and then after a bit of observation noticed he was missing a leg. No, my brain processed the fact of his three-leggedness all in one go, but it took extra time to notice the specific of which leg was missing. I recall that I even spent several moments looking at his hind legs to find the missing leg before seeing that it was one of his forelegs.

Is this not a strange ability? Maybe it is similar to reading - how I tend to process text in big chunks at a time before actually seeing their individual components.

Or maybe I just think too much.

As an aside, the three-legged cat was very friendly and snuggly and seemed perfectly at home with only having three legs.