GDC Thoughts, Part 2

First blogging away from home. All two miles of distance.

My best session today was ten sessions long. The problem with GDC is that, even when you know the speaker and the topic, sometimes you don’t get you what you’re looking for. Or the speaker has a bad day, whatever. What’s one answer to that? Shorter sessions. For the second year in a row, I attended the the microtalks panel: Ten speakers, five minutes each.

Tracy Fullerton’s talk on difficulty was interesting. As was Clint Hocking’s rock-throwing at reviews in games. But for information density per second, I enjoyed N’gai’s examination of player controlled difficulty: sometimes overt and sometimes as a dynamic response by the game. There’s obvious value and applicability in letting the player choose difficulty, even in multiplayer (Gears 2), but what interested me was how else you could systematically layer in difficulty without just tweaking numbers and AI reaction times.

mg ssBest example? Ratchet and Clank. Die in the game, and you respawn, of course, but so have the power-up bolts. And you still keep the bolts you’ve already earned. Unlike our usual expectation where the hard core player is the only one to embrace repeated content and grab collectibles, here the power-up wee factor means that the guy who dies doesn’t feel so bad, and the extra power-ups mean an easier experience as he goes.

PS: I love Metal Gear, including MGS4. And what was my favorite takeaway from the Kojima keynote? The stealth genre was born out of a sprite limitation on the MSX.


  • (Sorry for the long-winded post! I saw a Splinter Cell discussion going on and felt coeellpmd to chime in.)It’s interesting that you single out the first and third as being superior (in terms of ports at least), Dennis, especially given the following; the first and third game (Chaos Theory) were done by Ubisoft Montreal, while the second (Pandora Tomorrow) and the PC version of the fourth (Double Agent) were actually done by Ubisoft Shanghai.I first became aware that something odd was going on when I got the PS2 version of Double Agent and discovered that it was almost completely different from the PC version of the same game. My PS2 version played quite similarly to Chaos Theory: I had the old familiar GUI with the light meter and sound meter, and the co-op missions continued to evolve on the two agents working in parallel to the events happening in the single player game thing. (For example, the two unnamed agents are key in helping Sam escape with Jamie Washington during a certain early mission.)And it didn’t have those blasted day levels that TheLaquidara mentions. From what I saw of it, the PC version took things in a fairly new direction. The Wikipedia entry for Double Agent is an interesting read.I liked Double Agent, though I’d probably still put Chaos Theory on top.As for Conviction, I had serious problems with it at first. I’d always role-played Sam Fisher as someone who valued human life at least to a certain extent. I liked that the Splinter Cell games always allowed me to play in that sneaky-sneaky, knock people out without killing them’ kind of way. In Conviction you’ve pretty much lost all capacity to use non-lethal force and are even required to eliminate enemies in order to proceed, more than a couple times. Even when you do manage to sneak by groups, they can sometimes disappear right in front of your eyes, with the game assuming, you must’ve killed those guys if you’ve made it to here. I eventually rationalized it as, The years have been hard on Sam; he’s apparently snapped and become just as monstrous as the people he hunts, and it eased the disconnect I was feeling between the old Sam and the new. I was pleasantly surprised at the end though when well actually I’d better not say anything, to avoid inadvertent spoilers. Overall I thought Conviction was fun, but I felt that it was nowhere near Chaos Theory in terms of story-telling, or whatever those game principles I can’t describe are that made it feel better.

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