USC’s Mixed Reality Laboratory (MxR) is leveraging virtual reality to better view, explore, and comprehend complex data. We are happy to be working with Dr. Tyler Ard, a neuroscientist and new addition to the lab, in developing a functional brain data viewer termed Data Immersive Virtual Explorer: Neurological (DIVEn). With DIVEn both time-series and functional connectivity data can be interactively explored in 3D, allowing the considerable advantage of viewing and comprehending complex results quickly while still preserving data in its natural, ‘raw’ form.
Speaker: Refik Anadol
Time: Wednesday, March 25, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 206
Speaker: Refik Anadol
Refik Anadol is a media artist, director and designer born in Istanbul, Turkey in 1985. Currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He is a lecturer in UCLA’s Department of Design Media Arts.
Refik is working in the fields of site-specific public art with parametric data sculpture approach and live audio/visual performance with immersive installation approach, particularly his works explore the space among digital and physical entities by creating a hybrid relationship between architecture and media arts. He holds a master of fine arts degree from University of California, Los Angeles in Media Arts, master of fine arts degree from Istanbul Bilgi University in Visual Communication Design as well as bachelors of arts degree with summa cum laude in Photography and Video. Co-founder and Creative director at Antilop.
As a media artist, designer and spatial thinker, Refik Anadol is intrigued by the ways in which the transformation of the subject of contemporary culture requires rethinking of the new aesthetic, technique and dynamic perception of space. Anadol builds his works on the nomadic subject’s reaction to and interactions with unconventional spatial orientations. Embedding media arts into architecture, he questions the possibility of a post digital architectural future in which there are no more non-digital realities. He invites the viewers to visualize alternative realities by presenting them the possibility of re-defining the functionalities of both interior and exterior architectural formations. Anadol’s work suggests that all spaces and facades have potentials to be utilized as the media artists’ canvases.
He has been given awards, residencies and has served as a guest lecturer. His site-specific audio/visual performances have been seen in Walt Disney Concert Hall (USA), Hammer Museum (USA), International Digital Arts Biennial Montreal (Canada), Ars Electronica Festival (Austria), l’Usine | Genève (Switzerland), Arc De Triomf (Spain), Zollverein | SANAA’s School of Design Building (Germany), santralistanbul Contemporary Art Center (Turkey), Outdoor Vision Festival SantaFe New Mexico (USA), Istanbul Design Biennial (Turkey), Sydney City Art (Australia), Lichtrouten (Germany).
This is my first GDC. I spent most of my time in talks. In this piece, I want to talk about a lecture I listened to in GDC. It was given by creators of Diablo III, about how they faced the failure of the launch of Diablo III, and how they found out the problems and fixed them, then got redemption with an expansion. This piece is a rough stenography of this talk, and I’ll add some comments. Because of my listening skills, there may be some misunderstanding, and I’ll check this talk on vault later to figure out.
This talk was given by Josh Mosqueira.
At very beginning, he talked about one of their principles: listen to players. They cared about that players thought and cared. That’s why Blizzard pays so much attention to their community. My personal advise here is to read the official response from Blizzard’s designers. They always explain the reasons why they changed of added something, including a lot of design experience and considerations. That helped me a lot.
And he explained it was true. In Blizzard, they did have a deadline for each game or expansion.But if the they feel not right, they’ll ask for more time to make game right (attention: “right” instead of “better”).
He started to review the way they experienced. After ten years of waiting, players and press were all exciting about the new Diablo. The launch day was a global celebration, and that was an epic moment for the development team. (So did I. I was working in Sina when Diablo III launched, and I asked for two days leave to play it.) The sales broken the record, and the reviews were high too. But after that, problems came. The servers always melt down, and the players’ review were very low. Josh said: “We failed them.”
He started to review what were broken. The first was about difficulty. He said this was a bad design that players had to play the same game four times with only differences in difficulty. And also, in the hell
difficulty, players had to keep running away from over strong monsters. It didn’t like being a hero at all. The second point he mentioned was loot. The loot looked a lot, but almost trash. He personally spent a hundred and four hours to get the first legendary weapon, and what was worse, it was a quiver (he was a warrior and would never use a quiver). Besides, the auction house was a good experiment, but it broken the core reward loop of game.
The first one was their original launch philosophy. The problems here were stingy loot drops, too higher difficulty, and to treat randomness as king. And also, the rarity vs power was unclear.
The second one was misunderstood player psychology. When players were playing, they prefer efficiency instead of fantasy. To get equipment as soon as possible, they will buy them from the AH. And also, they’ll do flip farming with several people, which was fast but not fun.
After that, he started to talk about what changed. He said the entire team agreed never give up, and they must solve the problem. They wanted the expansion to be awesome. He talked something about how they made the console version. They changed the camera system and difficulty and something else. The biggest change what console version brought them was loot. Originally, the looting fountain was cool but almost everything was useless; now they agreed “less is more”. The looting became less, but has higher quality, and more relevant to player’s class. He also mentioned another problem: hard to compare two items. To solve this, they added compare item tips. And also, they shut down the auction house.
At last, he talked about lessons they learned from this expansion. I missed the second one here.
I came into this GDC much like last year: No Conference Pass. I wasn’t part of a team exhibiting, nor did I successfully get a scholarship, I didn’t have a talk to give, nothing this year. When people ask me how many times I’ve gone to GDC, I say 0. Plus SCA scholarship apps were due.
I started to get anxious on the second day of the Game Developers Conference. What exactly was I doing in San Francisco this week? My peers and colleagues were showing off games they made, attending sessions, and some were even giving talks. I… uh, had some glamor photos I took to pass around as business cards and a handful of EventBrite reservations for parties that, really, anyone with the links could have gotten. Plus I had to finish up some scholarship applications.
It’s hard to not have a fear of missing out when in that situation. So I asked myself, what are my goals with this trip?
After all, this was my second GDC, that is, the second time I’ve been in town during the week of the conference, but so far I’ve yet to attend a single one in an official capacity. What am I doing?
Well, considering my situation, what could I do? Without a pass, the best I could do was hang out with my friends. So I did, and it was chill.
Looking around the permitter of the Moscone Center, I realized that I knew quite a few people from the past 9 years of being in the industry. Hell, I even knew a lot of people from my year and a half at USC and last year’s visit.
So my goal was just to say hi and catch up with everyone. To touch base. To have my name pop up again on peoples’ radars. To stay relevant.
Also, I wanted to meet new friends. People I met through mutual friends on Twitter. Random other people. Just to be around creative people and having these conversation became apparent how important it was. I realized that I’m probably going to attending every following GDC for the rest of my career. So if I didn’t have anything to show this year, if I didn’t hear many talks, nor was I ready to give a talk, that’s all OK. Because the goal is to just build my presence, friendships, and contacts in the industry, and I think I was definitely successful in those efforts.
Plus we got to party!!!
At times the nearby park seemed like the place to be. I would chat with my friends from LA, and people they knew would come by too, and soon there would be a nice crowd hanging out, talking about games or not games.
A lot of people joke on Twitter about having all these friendships and connections with people on the microblogging platform and only see each other a couple times a year at conferences. I see the value in that now and am committed to doing at least that every year to stay relevant. Then when I am ready to show some work, to give a talk, or to listen to sessions, I can be in a better, sturdier position to do so.
So it was another great GDC week for me in terms of networking. I can’t wait to see what next year will be like when I can build some more and maybe even attend the conference!
By far the most interesting thing I saw at GDC this year (admittedly with only an Exhibitor/Expo pass, so I can’t speak for any of the talks) was a motion capture system called Perception Neuron created by Noitom. Instead of using a complicated array of high-speed cameras that is difficult and expensive to set up and configure, it uses a series of inertial sensors to determine the position of various joints.
My interest in the Perception Neuron booth stemmed from several key advantages that a system like it has over traditional methods of motion capture. Apart from the obvious advantage in price, the use of inertial sensors means that the space actors can move is limited only by reception range, and many actors can be captured at the same time with greater ease. Furthermore, while traditional optical motion capture systems can encounter problems with occlusion of joints (especially those that use markers to track positions), this system has sensors on the actors themselves, eliminating this problem.
There are some problems that usually appear with inertial motion capture systems, most notably lower positional accuracy and positional drift that can accumulate over time. However, for independent games that do not need exceptional accuracy and have relatively short animations (instead of long cutscenes, for instance), these limitations are not particularly burdensome. In any case, the demo video below seems to have sufficient capture quality; and this test was a year and a half ago.
I also found this technology exciting because I think it could be useful to me personally. I’ve been somewhat concerned about how much 3d animation my thesis may potentially require, and my hope is that this system or something like it could significantly cut down the amount of work required to have animated human models in my thesis. It will probably still require some cleanup and may not be good at certain kinds of animation that normal mocap would be fine with, but I’m optimistic nonetheless.
Last week, I was a Blacks in Gaming Scholar for GDC. Originally, diversity in games was not something I brought up very often with designers and peers, because I was afraid of being perceived as “that guy”. Where “that guy” is a hush tactic used to change the subject when the majority of the room cannot (or will not) relate to the important topic that someone brings up. Much like religion or politics, no one wants to add to a conversation that could potentially offend people, and in such a small industry that it is very convenient to remain neutral. But after going to the talks for having diversity in games I have come to realize that this topic needs to be addressed more often than just one day out of Black History Month.
Through discussion I learned that my demographic (Black males over 18) did not strictly play sports games like Madden and NBA 2K (the way biased commercials would have us believe), but rather represented a large percentage of the fighting game community. Even more surprising, was this percentage only accounted for communal play, or arcade and tournament players. In face, when playing by themselves, many non-white gamers play games spread across multiple genres. My take-away from this is that it would be irresponsible of our industry to lump an entire demographic with a single genre of games. The other week I did a presentation covering the common patterns and tropes of minority characters in games. The characters I used as negative examples easily overlapped with the examples the speakers at GDC gave. The conclusion the speakers gave for why these tropes were consistently used in games is that, “designers don’t know what they don’t know.” In other words, it is easy to rely on pop culture and depiction of minorities in western media when writing non white characters. It’s possible that designers don’t want to risk creating a deep, multifaceted character that could offend an entire culture and effectively hurt sales. On the flip side, designers may attempt to write their own perspective and bias onto a character of a different ethnicity. In either case, non white players find it somewhat difficult to resonate with many video game characters that represent them.
I would hear all kinds of stories during GDC from other Designers and Entrepreneurs. Carl, one of the leaders of Blacks In Gaming, gave one interesting case when an indie developer asked a studio exec why he didn’t make the main character of his game female. The exec’s answer was simply, “It’s not my problem.” As you can imagine, this lead to a spirited argument between the two. Eventually they both looked to Carl as if it was up to him to declare which side won. Carl asked the exec if he had any kids, to which the exec replied he had a daughter. Then Carl’s follow up question hit home. “Why wouldn’t you want to make a game your daughter would enjoy?” The exec went silent. It seems like an easy answer, why not make girls the star of a block buster action adventure title, or first person shooter? Why not make non hetero heroes and flip the script on traditional gender roles? If studios don’t want to make an effort to diversify the palette of pale, hard boiled, hetero men; then we need to bring in the designers (and publishers) that do.
Looking back, 2014 proved to be a terrible year for race relations here in America. The shooting of an unarmed teenager sparked a huge debate that revealed all the pent up tensions that our country managed to suppress over the past decade. In the wake of the death Michael Brown, came the sad realization that race relations did not improve (and probably haven’t since the 80s). It wasn’t the events leading up to the shooting, or the response to the protest shortly after. No, what made this setback unmistakably clear was how divided the masses became over social media. This was quite a treat for me personally, because I got to see first hand how so many of my “friends” really felt. I would sit back and watch as people demanded to know “why?”. Why now? Why Ferguson? Why Michael Brown and not any of the other tragedies reported in the news?
My response was this: “The system cannot fail those it was never designed to protect.”
So what does this have to do with GDC!? Valid question, sir! It’s no secret that aspects of our society permeate the Industry. Right now, blacks make up 2.5% of the industry (climbing only 0.5% in ten years). What scares me worst of all is how passive the games industry has been in spite of these numbers. In the moments before Michael Brown’s shooting, our country had this perceived notion of progress and equality. Only to realize that the only indication of that false sense of peace was silence. If we as an Industry remain silent and assume the issue is improving, we face the possibility of a huge divide in the coming years.
On that note I’d like to share with those who didn’t go to GDC my other take-away. Behind the Moscone Center (North Hall) is the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Those who were there may have noticed the giant waterfall. On either side are granite panels:
Underneath the Waterfall, continuing along the “floating bridge” walkway, one can read quotations of Dr. King carved onto 12 transparent glass tablets. Over the span of GDC week, I walked through this memorial on two separate occasions, carefully reading the text all the way through to the end. Each tablet would convey, more or less, the same lesson. The very last glass tablet, however, was absolutely heartbreaking to read.
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has it’s place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will; and he’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you; but I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promise Land.”
This is my first GDC experience. It’s fun, exciting, and exhausting.
I’ve got an Expo Pass. I haven’t been to many talks because I prefer to watch videos back home on GDC Vault.
Among many other parts at GDC, I want to talk about two of them.
1. Bring a game
Many people told me that GDC is about networking before I went there. Yes it is. And I found it’s hard to talk to a random person and make him remember me, without a game I made. When I talk to the developers of the indie games showcased at GDC, I remember them more because of their games.
Luckily we’ve brought Daunting Dollhouse, the final project for Tracy’s class last semester. And the several times we’ve shown this game did get us a lot more to talk with other people.
We went to a prototype and playtest event held by RIT and showcased our game. Around ten persons came to play our game and talked to us a lot. I think it’s a great way to build connections.
We’ve also got an interview because of this game. Joseph Knoop, a game journalist, interviewed us about students developing games. It’s nice to learn a lesson about being interviewed.
2. Gameloading: Rise of the Indies
I love this movie. I’ve watched Indie Game, the Movie several years ago. But it’s so depressed and full of complaints.
While in Gameloading, indie game developers are much more mature and optimistic. They talk about their thinking and their love of indie games, instead of their anger, depression and complaints.
I think this is exactly how we feel about making indie games and attending GDC. It’s tiring. It costs much money. But you love it. You’re optimistic and enjoying it so much. That’s why we are here doing what we are doing.
Because I was helping out around the Pry booth I was lucky enough to get VIP seating for the GDC awards ceremony. I didn’t really think it would be all the great, but turns out there was free booze. It was really nice to see Indie games get the same sort of appreciation as mainstream titles. Growing up, becoming a game maker seemed like an unobtainable dream, but today its a world I get to exist in and making an award winning game feels like a real obtainable goal (God I hope I’m good enough to do that).
I was so impressed with USC, we won so much! Outer Wilds took home the top honors and Close Your won Best Student Game! I was a little surprised by some of the other winners, Monument Valley won for Innovation and Best Handheld Game, which I just don’t get, but maybe I didn’t play enough of it. To me it always felt beautiful but slightly derivative of Echochrome.
Conversely, I was quite pleased to see Shadow of Mordor win Game of the Year as it was the game that sunk its hooks into me this year. I love the innovative Nemesis System and the brutal action is top notch.
The awards ceremony itself was exciting and fun. Being in the VIP section was such a thrill. I was able to rub elbows with some of my heroes. Seeing Sakaguchi in the flesh was a treat and the Mega 64 sketch with him in it was hilarious. Getting to heckle Tim Schafer might be the pinnacle of my life’s accomplishments! I was kind of dazzled that I was allowed to sit in the VIP section of what is the video game equivalent to the Oscars! I made some new friends with some very cool developers and got to say hi to some old and equally awesome friends. Overall it was a great experience I’m extremely grateful to Samantha Gorman for allowing me to tag along for.
GDC 2015 was a bullet train of a conference. It feels as if it hasn’t even begun, and yet it’s already over. Every day was packed: full of people, full of events, never enough time to meet everyone or go to everything. On top of all the regular conference happenings, I was selected to be one of the 18 IGDA Scholars to GDC.
The IGDA Scholarship provides the scholars with a full all access pass along with a daily QA with heads in the field and studio tours. More valuable than all, it allowed us to bond with each other and to join the larger IGDA Scholars family.
On Sunday morning my brother and I flew out from LAX to SFO to arrive at our hotel before noon. The conference was already gearing up with a dinner meet and greet planned that night with the other scholars. Coming from different backgrounds, geographically, educationally, and age wise, there was a lot of information for us to swap and we quickly took to one another.
Besides various gathering every night, the daily routine was easy to slide into. USC, IGDA scholars, and personal events combined created a wonderful collage of happenings. On Tuesday we visited two polar opposite environments: that of Zenga and then Double Fine. It was interesting to get an inside peek at both of these studios within the same few hours. One a powerhouse of facebook games, the other a renowned workshop of narrative masterpieces. Zenga’s office could easily house over a few hundred employees, while Double Fine’s had a small crew of a dozen plus.
Being part of both USC’s Interactive program, meeting up with developers, as well as being an IGDA scholar, there wasn’t much time for me to attend talks. Out of the talks I was able to attend (the one I enjoyed the most) was Lindsay Grace’s talk on Affection Games.
Affection Games are games about showing affection, rather than games about killing or puzzle solving. These games usually revolve around kissing mechanics. Even so, Grace’s game Big Huggins is an affection game where the player hugs a giant teddy bear to get a bear on screen to jump over obstacles.
What I found interesting is how this genre of games is often barred from the app store, although it is most commonly harmless. The hits of this genre most often come and go with celebrities of the time: ‘Justin Bieber Kissing Simulator’ to name one.
Previous years at GDC were fine. I went to talks, slept a good 6 or more hours a night, and meet many new people. This year was different. This year I felt connected, tied both into the IGDA scholars as well as the USC community. I met less new people than I had before, but those I did meet I felt deeper connections with and have ongoing bonds with. It is a truly good feeling to be tied into a community, especially one as welcoming and wonderful as USC’s.
I attended a talk about making sidescroller games on mobile devices. The talk was presented by Kayla Kinnunnen, one of the makers of the mobile game Carnage. Kayla taught by example, taking us through the many iterations of mobile controls for carnage.
When designing buttons for mobile, the biggest problems are mis-clicks and thumb-drift (thumb being in the entirely wrong place to reach all the buttons). When either of these problems occur, the player is brought out of their flow state. These problems are specific to touch screens because unlike old-school console controllers and laptop keyboards, the buttons give no tactile feedback.
In order to solve these issues, the makers of Carnage decided to make the hit areas as large as possible. They studied the movement of the thumb, and decided on three distinct positions:
The comfort level of the position determined what the button would be used for. For example, tucked is the least comfortable of the three positions, and should be used for an action that’s rarely needed. Vertical is the most comfortable, and should be used for a common action. In the case of carnage, this worked well because they needed a comfortable button for jumping, and since players already correlate pointing upwards with jumping, vertical was the obvious choice. The following is the button layout they chose for iPad during a past iteration.
Next, the Carnage team needed to apply the same concepts to mobile. You can’t simply shrink your iPad controls to solve for mobile. On any device less than 7 inches long, the players’ thumbs are likely to touch. For this reason, you should split your control scheme into two categories: devices less than 7 inches, and devices 7 inches and larger. The following is the layout they chose for iPhone.
In general, when designing controls for mobile, remember that this stuff is difficult. There’s no predefined user experience or standard physical input. The lack of tactile input means many console schemes won’t work.
As designers, we can look at this challenge as an opportunity. Console controls for games have a sharp learning curve, and thus exclude large populations of would-be gamers. As we approach game design for mobile, we can use the fresh start to target a new audience, and make games more accessible.