environment design

GDC 2016 Personal Highlights

This year was the first time I’d been able to attend the Game Developers’ Conference in San Francisco. I went primarily to talk on the subject of women-in-games initiatives and how they make a difference. This panel session – in which I was joined by Zoë Quinn, Rebecca Cohen-Palacios, Sagan Yee and Stephanie Fisher – will be made available on GDC Vault in the coming weeks.

Photo credited to GDC / Trish Tunney

Delivering my micro-talk as part of the “Ripple Effect” panel. Photo credited to GDC / Trish Tunney

I also attended in order to seek inspiration and some new direction, and to meet people working outside of Europe. Although I skipped past many talks in favour of the sorts of activities I couldn’t simply catch up on online afterwards (a strategy I’d recommend strongly to future first-timers), I did nevertheless come away with new insights – some whimsical, and some practical.

What follows, then, is a collection of personal reflections on the talks I saw, along with my tips for recommended GDC Vault material.

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StarCraft II Achiever

A handful of zerg Roaches recover under an escort of terran Vikings.

A handful of zerg Roaches recover under an escort of terran Vikings.

My game du jour is still StarCraft II. As I mentioned in my recent review of the game, I tend to play co-operatively; “Linithiari” and I have a run of around 150 games logged now, almost always playing against the AI. It continues to be an exciting, amusing and educational experience for both of us, having played with each race in turn.

While the single-player campaign teaches players how to play with Terran forces, the Zerg and Protoss are left largely to individual experience. Co-operative play really helps in this regard, as two players can easily share new insight and support each other when exploring new and dangerous tactics, all within a social environment. Toying with the game and its rules is a much more frustrating experience when playing alone. Given my overall lack of skill with RTS (real-time strategy), this is why I consider co-operative modes to be a must in this type of game.

Events during our 4-hour play session last night shed some new light on the way I play this game: uniquely, because no other RTS has offered me achievements in the same way StarCraft II does. “Lini” and I are well-accustomed to achievements, having played World of Warcraft together for over a year too (I reviewed his achievements as his “Coffindodger” alias back in August). We’re as guilty as any other ‘achiever’-type player when it comes to chasing these achievements down. Why else would we subject ourselves to ‘/hug’ emoting on every critter we see, or gathering countless cooking recipes in order to be declared “Lunch Lady”? This sort of behaviour continues in StarCraft II, but in such a way that it literally keeps us hooked.

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