GDC 2013 – Monday notes

1 04 2013

The Weekend

Tenya Wanya Teens

A sneak peek at the controllers and a chat with The Wild Rumpus side of the team about the naming of the game.

‘Tenya Wanya’ equates to ‘Topsy Turvey’ from Japanese to English. The game designer Keita Takahshi wanted the game to feel like the awkward phase of life when you’re not quite sure how to do things the right way.

The controller has 16 buttons which control social interaction in the game, but getting more and more confusing as you play. More on this later.



How to Make an Original Free to Play Game


Spry Fox make one of my favourite puzzle games; Triple Town. (Go play it – it’s on FB, iOS, Andriod, Chrome & Steam – pretty much every non-console platform!)


They were showed a game that they’d taken quite far in development but ultimately killed because it wasn’t the right kind of fun to sustain long term play.

“Games that are ‘services’ need to last a long time, so must have a robust universe-of-fun.”

I hadn’t thought of a long term social game as a ‘service’ first and foremost before; it’s an interesting distinction.

To make a game that is going to be played everyday by it’s audience, you must play it everyday as you make it, if it doesn’t remain fun for more than a few plays then you have to start over.

“Have chunky intergers” by which they mean, set the prototype up so as to be able to make meaningful changes with simple tweaks – this way you can test the game at it’s extremes to see if there’s enough flexiblity to push the gameplay in a new direction when the players have been playing a while and need to spice it up (but without having to bolt new features on to extend the games life).


They talked about the difference between the game as described in the pitch and the end result. The Pitch version of the game is an ideal, untouched by reality – it might turn out to not be at all what you wanted it to be when actually made real. So throw away the pitch-perfect game – it’s never going to be what you end up with and trying to stick with it will force you into a corner. By finding the fun and working on that you’ll end up with a game players will love.


Triple Town isn’t actually incredibly sucessful financially. Turns out people aren’t paying more that $7 on average per active player. They blame it’s lack of traction on the fact that it’s not a social game and that it has limited resources as part of the gameplay. They tried lots of things to try and get people to buy stuff, but nothing worked.

They added ‘gifting’ to other players. Added a metagame outside the levels, added premium items in a shop.


They talked about their prototyping process. They keep the team size to two people, working full time on the project; an engineer and an ideas guy (they used The A-Team as an example with everyone crossed out except Mr T & Haniball). Any more and you have to start allocating tasks and putting time into communicating which distracts from the concepting process. (I’m not entirely sure I agree with this, cutting out having to talk to people sounds a bit unhealthy to me!)

As the project goes on, add in the people you need until you have a full team.


No features in a prototype, only build the fun. And no art either – nice art provides an emotional tie to a prototype which means you find it harder to kill bad ideas. They use perfunctionary creative commons art assets for a prototyping. But you can’t be completely abstract either as the player needs to know what the things they are seeing are meant to be. So they choose graphics which are symbolic (ie a mean looking animal as a monster, a tree for an obstacle etc).


Notible tech mention:

Loom for Unity – (I’m guessing it’s this? useful prototyping tool as it allows you to see edits to your assets in real time on a mobile device.



Train by Brenda Romero

There is a section of boardgames designed by computer game makers. We played Train by Brenda Romero nee Brathwaite. This is quite a contraversial artwork and I was keen to actually play it having read about it. Thing is, it’s a thought experiment kind of artwork and so knowing about it actually changes it.

Sensus: touch responsive iPhone Case/peripheral


We lined up for the Candy Crush Saga post mortum talk, I don’t know if it was the subliminal messaging of us all having sponsered candystriped lanyards round our necks, or because it’s the number 1 social game on a whole array of lists, but the line was epically long and we didn’t get in – which if you’ve ever played Candy Crush, is kind of apt.


However, entertaining the crowd like performers at Disneyland distracting bored queuing children, were two guys from a company called Canopy. They had two little glowing robtic balls that were rolling around their feet controled by an iPhone.

The actual magic is the iPhone case. It plugs in to the port at the bottom and allows you to use the side and back of the phone as touch sensitive control surfaces. Drawing on the back works like a PS Vita and lets you touch ‘through’ the screen from the back.

The sides can act as a scroll bar or as shoulder buttons. They’re looking for people to makes apps with their API. Each case is going to cost about $60 – $100.


The photo above doesn’t show a game, but instead a Braille writing app that allows the user to use 3 fingers on each hand to tap the back and type Braille characters.




Superhexagon is a game by Terry Cavanagh that is torturously difficult. The lowest setting is ‘hard’ the highest is ‘hardestest’. Wild Rumpus ran a Superhexagon tournament to find who could play the longest without dying. The winning time was 122 seconds. As i’ve never gotten beyond 4 seconds, it was an eyeopener for me to see the game played for so long. It is utterly hypnotic to watch, I felt myself involuntarily cry out when a particularly narrow miss happened and the crowd did likewise – this is an entirely abstract game, but still it gets such a viseral reaction, which is pretty incredible.


Talking to players, I learned how the game is so hypnotic. The action you control is in the centre of the screen and the impending danger you have to be aware of is on the edges. You have to use your peripheral vision to focus on both simultaneously, which induces a state of Mindfulness – a form of meditation.

Combined with the Flow state created by the constantly changing environment the player has to respond to and the pulsing music, this is game has it’s grip firmly around the player’s unconscious mind. Let’s just hope Mr Cavanagh doesn’t intend to use this for evil 😉


General observations


• Sony have been reaching out to lots of Indie designers and reports are that they seem to know what they’re doing. So PSN is probably something to look out for in coming years.

• Big AAA companies, Indies and Free to Play shops all seem to agree on one thing, and that is that QA (Quality Assurance) should be something that happens at every step of the production process and even the concepting process.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: