A couple of legendary designers and the rising stars of the MMO field will drop some knowledge at GDC 2012

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This year's Game Developers Conference, held March 23-27 in San Francisco, will kick off with a bang; event organizers have announced Nintendo president Satoru Iwata will keynote the festivities with an address entitled "Discovering New Development Opportunities," his first GDC keynote since 2006. Read More...

We all want to know more about "Brutal Legend," and March's Game Developers Conference could shed some new details. Double Fine is hosting a panel on the game's art and in the description, the studio re-confirmed it would include a multiplayer mode, something we haven't heard about since 2007. Read More...

First there was "Mass Effect." Next there was the Fox News' report on the game's alleged "Luke Skywalker Meets 'Debbie Does Dallas'" themes. Then came the subsequent fallout.

So at Game Developers Conference last month I asked the founders of "Mass Effect" developer BioWare how they'll handle love and sex in future games

Their response:

As with all MTV.com videos, it is not available to anyone using computers with IP addresses in Japan, the U.K. and Canada (sorry Ray and Greg!).

Here's an excerpt for people who can't watch the video:

Mirror's Edge Flying LeapI've been excited about "Mirror's Edge," the upcoming console and PC first-person parkour game from EA's DICE studio, since I read a cover feature about it in the magazine Edge. Just look at the screenshots!

Last month at GDC, EA hosted an event showcasing DICE's work, which included a live demonstration of "Mirror's Edge." The sight of the game's heroine running through a stark, gleaming city, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, taking enemies out with her hands, was impressive. Seeing it all in first-person was exciting. But, watching what it looks like when she tumbles forward into a roll and the game stays in first person was... disconcerting.

I wondered if presenting parkour in first-person might be asking for trouble. My head was spinning:

  • Is this game going to make us all sick?
  • In the era of "Assassin's Creed," what's the point of having a parkour game played from a "Halo" perspective?
  • Where did the color green go?

I had to talk to the developers. EA PR obliged, setting me up with two quick, on-the-spot chats. We talked about several key issues and I got some intriguing answers...

(Warning to EA marketing team -- there's a possible surprise in here for you...)


If I was making a list of top 10 answers I ever got in an interview, the following honest, open, emotional video from Silicon Knights president Denis Dyack would be included.

At GDC I asked him why, with more than a decade of development work done on "Too Human," he didn't at some point decide that this game just wasn't meant to be. This is what he said:

As with all MTV.com videos, it is not available to anyone using computers with IP addresses in Japan, the U.K. and Canada (sorry Denis!). Read on for an excerpt: Read More...

"We have a powerful medium, and we can do more. We should do more, and we may be able to do more than only entertain."
–Rusel DeMaria, Author/Analyst at GDC 2008

Ken Levine, Chris TaylorIt's not uncommon for GDC attendees to start scratching off end-of-day sessions after sitting in panels for hours on end. Unfortunately, anyone who decided to passed on DeMaria's panel as day one of GDC closed missed out.

The ambitious panel asked whether games were capable of achieving more than sheer entertainment, and while everyone there had something interesting to say, it was Gas Powered Games' Chris Taylor and 2K Boston's Ken Levine that found themselves at opposite ends of the spectrum, yet on surprisingly common ground in regard to what designers bring to their games.

Taylor kicked things off with an untold tidbit about his breakthrough RTS game, "Total Annihilation": he purposely removed blood from its art direction. In his eyes, war wasn't meant to be cool, and even though his passion was to develop war games, real war involved young soldiers dying and never coming back. He kept this part of the design a secret. "I don't think anybody cared. I was on my own little thing," he said.

Later in the panel, Levine would come to defend the use of blood in games from an artistic standpoint. "For the healthy mind, for the thinking mind, the advantage of blood, the advantage of gore, the advantage of keeping it on a level that makes it true is powerful. [In "BioShock"] if you didn't have that level of pain and realism and nastiness, people wouldn't think about it."

Both designers are 41-years old. A key difference between the two, however, is that Taylor is the father of four boys. "As a father, there's this genetic sort of trigger that [tells me] I have four boys, and when I make games and I come home every night, I want my boys to see my work. It would really suck if they couldn't see what I did every day. That's probably got more to do with [my beliefs] than I care to admit," confessed Taylor.

One of Taylor's favorite shows growing up was "The Brady Bunch," but he found himself annoyed with the preachy tone of some episodes. As an adult, he understands why the writers took that route: they were "slipping medicine" to kids in an attempt to give back to society through their creative work. "Here I am, 41, I'm kind of slippin' a little medicine into my games and I'm hoping that kids will play the stuff that I create and they become better kids."

On the other hand, there's Levine. "I'm not the guy you want to look towards for a teaching moment," he said. Read on to find out why that is.


At the Game Developers Conference last month, we asked a few developers some of the most important questions about video games.

Like... "What's your favorite video game dog?"

In our quest to find the Greatest Animal in the History of Video Games, this month we highlighted the best dogs and wolves for consideration.

First, we had Epic Games' Cliff Bleszinski and Mark Rein weigh in with their picks. Then we had Lionhead Studios' Peter Molyneux talk about his favorite virtual dog, which happens to be to his own four-legged furball from "Fable 2" (and our one and only canine nominee from a game that's not yet released). See why he thinks his "Fable 2" dog deserves top prize and which other dog inspired him to create it:

(And don't forget to check back later in the week to see if Molyneux's dog wins or not.)

WolfQuestAs video games become more sophisticated, game makers are finding themselves asked what they're teaching players. How many gamers knew the name Ayn Rand before "BioShock"? Ken Levine might not have set out to teach, but he did.

On the other hand, "WolfQuest" is an online game designed to teach.

The last time I encountered "WolfQuest" was mocking it during a segment for The 1UP Show, but my actions were only somewhat in jest. "WolfQuest," an online space where players live the life of a wolf, is a compelling idea. The program's designer, David Schaller of eduweb, discussed this during a behind-the-scenes panel at GDC last month.

Ironically, Shcaller's biggest obstacle came from the education community. Educators hoped to see children hovering around a computer monitor less often, while Schaller believed it better to communicate with kids using a device they're already hooked on. For Schaller, that required a four-step process. Educators wanted it to happen in one step.

1. Children are already at the computer due to games
2. "WolfQuest" is a game, but meant to be a learning tool about wolves
3. Adventures in "WolfQuest" lead to an interest in wolves
4. Kids finally end up outside to learn about wolves in real-life

From the educator's point of view, providing children with yet another reason to sink time into a computer is counterproductive. For "WolfQuest," it's a bit of a gamble. If "WolfQuest" proves too compelling of a video game, what is the incentive for the player to leave the virtual world? Ultimately, Schaller's argument implied that if kids never left "WolfQuest" to learn about wolves at a zoo, at least they learned in "WolfQuest" itself.

Schaller pointed the audience to James Paul Gee's book "What Video Games Have to Teach Us," in which Gee introduces the same subjects Schaller is riffing on:

"In the end, then, video games represents a process, thanks to what Marx called the "creativity of capitalism," that leads to better and better designs for good learning and, indeed, good learning of hard and challenging things. ... How are good video games designed to enhance getting themselves learned -- learned well and quickly so people can play and enjoy them even when they are long and hard? What we are really looking for here is this: the theory of human learning built into good video games."

You can download a free copy of "WolfQuest" for PC and Mac at the official website. Oddly enough, now I kind of want to check it out. Who wants to be in my wolf pack (learning not guaranteed)?

Have a hot tip? Is there a topic that Multiplayer should be covering and isn't? Maybe you just want to swap online war stories. Either way, drop me an e-mail.

Why would Tomonobu Itagaki implement a YouTube-like capture-and-share video system in the upcoming Xbox 360 "Ninja Gaiden II"? I didn't know last week. So I asked him, backstage after the Microsoft keynote at GDC.His answer -- and a classic Itagaki moment of turning the tables on the interviewer -- are above.

An excerpt from the above clip:

Itagaki: Well, we had a lot of feedback that the first "Ninja Gaiden" was a little bit too difficult. And we're taking a lot of steps for the sequel to help alleviate that. But one thing that we thought is if we give people an example, a reference, say this is how you get past this certain encounter this is the moves you can use in order to play the game better, if you give some advice in the way of a video that would help increase their proficiency in the game."

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