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GDC Vault uncovers XNA's debut, behavioral game design lessons

[GDC organizers have digitized and made available for free on GDC Vault classic videos from Game Developers Conference 2004 on the debut of XNA, the essentials of behavioral game design, and more.]

This edition of Tales from the Vault looks back to 2004, where a Microsoft keynote announces and demos the XNA software development platform, a programming lecture from Sony PlayStation R&D focuses on simulating character animations, and a game design lecture ties heavily with behavioral psychology.

In the Microsoft keynote titled 'Turning Innovation into Impact', executives Robbie Bach and J Allard discuss the importance of software in game development amid surging development costs and consumer expectations.

Those wants in 2004 seem similar to what they are today: games of epic scale, more immersion, and more online social connection. The challenge escalates as consumers expect to pay the same price for each game, when development costs were already exceeding $5 million per title.

Allard says that it's software, not hardware, that is the "key that unlocks the potential" of developers and can move the industry forward. During this presentation, he announced and demoed the XNA software development platform that the second generation Xbox console would be firmly rooted in.

The Microsoft team used third-party testimonials to evoke hope in the future of XNA, too. Among those, Valve's Gabe Newell professes that "XNA combines the power of the PC and the power of the consoles into a best of breed platform." [GDC Vault free video]

Next, in the programming lecture 'Practical Physics for Articulated Characters', Vangelis Kokkevis from Sony PlayStation R&D speaks about using physical simulations as a source of animation for a skeleton. Kokkevis echoes the sentiment that hardware and its speed are not the issue with getting character animations up to the same quality of game visuals. He says the key is to find the appropriate algorithms.

These algorithms should produce character animations that respond naturally to typically unpredictable user input and to interactions between characters and between characters and the environment. He goes through the pros and cons of a series of algorithms his team implemented to build a simulator and arrive at these goals. [GDC Vault free video]

GDC Vault video: Create new genres (and stop wasting your life in the clone factories)

[Note: To access chapter selection, click the fullscreen button or check out the video on the GDC Vault website]

Indie developer and Spry Fox CCO Daniel Cook is tired of seeing games that lift ideas from other titles. He believes too many studios focus their efforts on deriving their content from the industry's existing successes, rather than inventing new types of gameplay.

In a popular lecture at GDC 2012, he spoke out to change all that, urging developers to stop designing and start inventing. A video of that lecture is now available (above) for free, courtesy of the GDC Vault.

"I think of myself as an inventor. I think an inventor is a very honorable career to have, and it's not something you normally see," Cook says. "Usually you hear, 'I'm a game designer,' which means, 'I research other people's titles, and then I add my own +10 percent on top of that to make a market leader.'"

"Instead, let's be inventors!"

Simply click on the Play button above to start the video.

GDC 2012's 'Indie Soapbox,' Halfbrick, Moriarty sessions debut for free on GDC Vault

GDC 2012 may have come and gone, but the GDC Vault service is working to keep the show's spirit alive by debuting new free videos of its most popular lectures. This week, the service has added a handful of free sessions that offer a glimpse at GDC 2012's notable Summits.

This new batch of free content includes the extremely popular 'Indie Soapbox' panel, a postmortem from Fruit Ninja developer Halfbrick, an education-focused talk from adventure game veteran Brian Moriarty, and an overview of online globalization from the CEO of social game developer Wooga.

As part of the GDC Summits, all of these videos provide a targeted look at some of the most pertinent and emerging sectors in the modern game business. Each session offers some important insight on game creation, and developers looking to stay on top of the latest industry trends might learn a thing or two from these various GDC 2012 Summit speakers.

Here are the newest free Summit videos to join the GDC Vault:

- The 'Indie Soapbox' session, part of GDC 2012's Independent Games Summit, gives 10 prominent independent developers a chance to tell the world about the things they care about most when it comes to making games. The session features developers like Polytron's Phil Fish (Fez), Team Colorblind's Ben Ruiz, and Lazy 8's Rob Jagnow (Cogs), and covers everything from the "egocentric" indie community to how games function as "3D media objects."

It's a wild, fast-paced session to be sure, but it offers the rare chance to peek into the minds of some of the industry's most eccentric, creative, and influential indie developers. If you've ever wondered what makes these successful indies tick, now's your chance to find out. [GDC Vault free video]

- Elsewhere, over in the Smartphone and Tablet Games Summit, Hafbrick's Luke Muscat looks back at the studio's popular Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride, and shares some important lessons about maintaining support for a mobile game after its initial launch. Along the way, he points to several occasions in which Halfbrick's game updates introduced some severe problems on the app market, and explains how other developers can avoid making these mistakes themselves. [GDC Vault free video]

- As part of GDC Education Summit, Infocom and LucasArts veteran Brian Moriarty (Beyond Zork, Loom) outlines the "sinister" approach he uses to teach game design to students at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Rather than teaching them about the development process step by step, Moriarty provides his students with a custom, simplified game engine, dubbed "Perlenspiel," and tasks them with making their own pixel-based game from scratch. This approach gives students direct hands-on experience with game creation, and the simplicity of the Perlenspiel engine encourages them to focus on design above all else. [GDC Vault free video]

GDC Vault adds free GDC 2012 videos featuring Meier, metrics, and more

Following the debut of numerous GDC 2012 videos earlier this month, the GDC Vault service has debuted a trio of free video lectures from last March's show, featuring talks from the legendary Civilization creator Sid Meier, iWin VP Laralyn McWilliams on the importance of metrics, and White House analyst Constance Steinkuehler Squire.

These free videos join a host of other free and notable lectures already available on GDC Vault, including the recent release of classic game postmortems (Gauntlet, Harvest Moon and more) and track keynotes (from Blizzard, Plants Vs. Zombies creator George Fan, and more) from GDC 2012.

The following lectures provide a varied sample of the show's informative and inspiring content, covering in-depth design philosophies, tricks for data analysis, and even how the government is impacting games as a medium.

Here are the newest free videos currently available on GDC Vault:

- In Sid Meier's presentation, the acclaimed Civilization creator and Firaxis co-founder looks back at a statement he made at GDC in 1989, that "a game is a series of interesting decisions." Meier picks apart this statement, and explains how it applies to modern design, and why developers should keep it in mind when crafting their own titles. Along the way, he provides some useful tips on making a player's decisions more interesting. [GDC Vault free video]

- Elsewhere, iWin lead and former Free Realms creative director Laralyn McWilliams explains why metrics should play a role in nearly all forms of game design. That's not to say that metrics should drive a game's content and development, as it's the designer's job to guide how everything comes together. Rather, McWilliams argues that metrics can serve as an essential tool in understanding a product or its audience, thereby allowing studios to make decisions with more confidence. [GDC Vault free video]

- The final free video lecture comes from Constance Steinkuehler Squire, a senior analyst for the U.S. President's White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. During this lecture, she details the numerous ways in which the White House hopes to use video games as a means of addressing national challenges. Games can help inform and encourage the national public, and this presentation details how the industry and the federal government to bring these initiatives into fruition. [GDC Vault free video]

GDC Vault debuts 'Classic Postmortem' videos, GDC 2012 lectures

The GDC Vault service has debuted both free and members-only video, audio, and slides from last month's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, including free postmortem videos for games like Fallout and Harvest Moon.

Following the conclusion of the record-breaking 22,500-person conference, these Classic Postmortem sessions, along with many other notable talks, are now available GDC 2012's "Free Recordings" section on GDC Vault.

Now in their second year, the Classic Postmortem lectures stood out as a particular highlight from this year's show, as once again offered unique insight from some of the industry's most seminal game creators.

The series included notable talks from Frederick Raynal on the making of Alone in the Dark, Ed Logg on crafting the classic arcade game Gauntlet, Yasuhiro Wada on the quirky and successful Harvest Moon, and Tim Cain on the original Fallout, which spawned one of the industry's most popular RPG franchises of all time.

Also available for free is an intimate chat with Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson, hosted by SpyParty developer Chris Hecker. This session delves into Persson's creative process, and provides a look into the mind the indie game juggernaut.

In addition, GDC Vault has debuted a panel featuring Persson alongside industry figures like Jordan Mechner, Tim Sweeney, Adam Saltsman, John Romero, and Jane Pinckard on the budding indie renaissance. Elsewhere, GDC Vault visitors can check out a lecture from Plants vs. Zombies creator George Fan on the best ways to teach players via game design.

Other free Main Conference talks include a look at the art of Diablo III, an audio session on Supergiant Games' indie hit Bastion, and production tips from Bungie's Brian Sharp.

GDC Vault Debuts Raph Koster, Riot Games Videos, Free GDC Online Slides

The GDC Vault service is proud to announce that videos and slides for last month's GDC Online are now available, with free videos that include Playdom's Raph Koster on social media convergence, BioWare San Francisco on Dragon Age Legends, and Riot Games on poor design decisions.

Along with these free videos, slides for all of GDC Online's sessions are now available for free, providing a glimpse into the range of notable topics discussed at the recent show.

The full catalog of video for GDC Online is also now available to GDC Vault members, which now includes All-Access Pass holders from last month's show in Austin, Texas.

The following lectures are the first highlights to be made available for free from GDC Online 2011:

- Over in the show's Customer Experience track, Playdom's Raph Koster hosted "It's All Games Now! How Games and Social Media are Converging," a talk that notes the ways in which games and social media are becoming more alike, and examines what this means for game developers. Koster frames his talk with a fantastical allegory for game development, illustrating how the games industry exists in its own "magic circle."

- Next, the GDC Vault offers a Business track talk hosted by BioWare San Francisco's Ethan Levy. His talk, "Dragon Age: Legends' Road to 100K Likes," looks back on the development and promotion of Dragon Age's recent Facebook spinoff, pointing to the challenges that come with building momentum for an online social game. Along the way, Levy offers tips to help developers plan and promote their games for long-term success on social networks.

- The final talk to be made available for free is "Designers are Human Too - Causes of Poor Design Decisions," from Tom Cadwell of Riot Games. Here, Cadwell teaches developers to let go of design ideas if they won't work in the game. Drawing from a number of League of Legends anecdotes, he explains what happens when teams spend too much time on ideas that just don't work.

GDC Vault Debuts Game Ratings, Shadow Complex, Far Cry 2 Free Videos

This week, the GDC Vault service has debuted specially picked free videos from previous Game Developers Conferences, including talks on the problems with game ratings, reflections on Chair's Shadow Complex, and design lessons from Far Cry 2.

These talks come from various GDC events from the past few years, and cover some particularly notable games and issues, providing just a glimpse of what the Game Developers Conference has to offer.

The following are the newest free video lectures to be made available on the GDC Vault:

- In the GDC Europe 2011 talk, "Game Content Rating Systems Must Change," Quantic Dream's Guillaume de Fondaumiere (Heavy Rain) contrasts video game ratings to those of film and other media, arguing that video game ratings are far more strict than they should be.

These restrictions, de Fondaumiere says, are hurting the industry, and this session explains why game developers need to do a better job of protecting their creations.

- During GDC 2010, Chair Entertainment's Donald Mustard reflected on the studio's hit XBLA title in a session titled, "Designing Shadow Complex." Here, Mustard points out the key pitfalls the team encountered during the game's development, and how the team learned to embrace the limitations of the platform to streamline Shadow Complex's design.

- This week's final talk comes from GDC 2009, and features Ubisoft's Jonathan Morin as he outlines the ways in which the critically acclaimed Far Cry 2 strove to support player expression in its game design. The session, dubbed, "Player's Expression: The Level Design Structure Behind Far Cry 2 and Beyond?," explores the game's open design and explains how lessons learned from this project could apply to other games.

GDC Vault Adds Free Jon Blow, Douglas Wilson, Zombie Lane Talks

The GDC Vault service has debuted its second group of free lectures from last month's GDC Europe, this time featuring Douglas Wilson on intentionally broken games, Digital Chocolate on Zombie Lane, and Braid creator Jonathan Blow on truth in game design.

In addition to these and other videos, slides for all of GDC Europe's sessions are now available for free, providing a glimpse into the wide range of notable topics discussed at the show.

GDC Vault also hosts videos from previous conferences, including the classic postmortem series from GDC 2011, and other recently-debuted free videos such as this trio of strategy game lectures from some of the industry's top developers.

The following are the newest free videos to make their debut on GDC Vault:

- As part of the show's Independent Games Summit, Copenhagen Game Collective co-founder Douglas Wilson hosted a lecture titled, "Intentionally Broken Game Design and the Art of 'Deputizing' Players," exploring how "incomplete" games can still be successful. Drawing from his experience working on the IGF finalist B.U.T.T.O.N. and titles like Johann Sebastian Joust, Wilson explains how games can encourage players to improvise their own rules.

- In the Social Games Summit, Digital Chocolate's Rob Unsworth provided an in-depth look at the development of the studio's hit Facebook title Zombie Lane. The session, dubbed, "The Evolution of Zombie Lane - How to Successfully Develop a Casual Social Game with a Hardcore theme," examines the studio's "rigorous end-user focused creative process," and how it helped the team create a game that appealed to seasoned and novice gamers alike.

GDC Vault Debuts Amnesia, Ubisoft Talks, Free GDC Europe Slides

The GDC Vault service is proud to announce that videos and slides from last month's GDC Europe are now available online, including free videos from Ubisoft's Jason VandenBerghe on established IP, wooga CEO Jens Begemann on the implications and future of social games, and indie dev Thomas Grip on the design decisions that fueled the success of Amnesia: The Dark Descent.

Along with these free videos, slides for all of GDC Europe's sessions are now available for free, providing a glimpse into the range of notable topics discussed at the recent show.

The full catalog of video for GDC Europe is also now available to all GDC Vault members, now including All-Access Pass holders for last month's show in Cologne, Germany.

The following lectures are the first highlights to be made available for free from GDC Europe 2011:

- The lively Design track session, "The Magic Gun: Surviving IP Development Through Embracing Your Constraints" features Jason VandenBerghe, the narrative director on Ubisoft's FarCry 3, discussing the ins-and-outs of working with established IP.

No matter how familiar a developer might be with a given license, VandenBerghe encourages developers to embrace these constraints and "revel in what makes your IP different." [GDC Vault free video.]

- Elsewhere in the conference, wooga founder and CEO Jens Begemann gave a keynote titled, "Playing is a Core Human Desire - How Social Games Change the Entertainment Industry," offering insight into the influence of social games on the industry at large.

During this session, social game leader Begemann (Diamond Dash, Magic Land) outlines how social games can coexist with core-focused titles, detailing how and why these games fill a new niche in the ever-evolving games market. [GDC Vault free video]

- The final session to be made available for free is a talk from Amnesia: The Dark Descent developer Thomas Grip, dubbed, "Evoking Emotions and Achieving Success by Breaking All the Rules." Here, Frictional Games' Grip examines the success of his hit indie horror title, noting how the omission of some common horror game tropes made the game far more interesting -- and far more terrifying. [GDC Vault free video]

GDC Vault Adds Trio Of Free Strategy Game Sessions

The GDC Vault service has released several new free videos from the Game Developers Conference 2011, this time featuring a collection of strategy game talks covering StarCraft II's e-sport aspirations, a behind-the-scenes look at League of Legends, and a panel examining the future of the strategy genre.

These talks join recently-debuted free videos including GDC 2011's social game developers rant, sessions from successful indie startups and industry veteran Don Daglow, in addition to GDC 2011's classic postmortem series and a slew of other sessions from throughout the history of the Game Developers Conference.

The following video lectures are the newest highlights to be made available for free from GDC 2011:

- When Blizzard set out to create StarCraft II, the studio had to reinvent the rules of one of the most popular competitive games of all time. In "The Game Design of StarCraft II: Designing an E-Sport," lead designer Dustin Browder outlines the obstacles Blizzard had to overcome to make the game suitable for spectating and high-level competitive play.

- Riot Games' Tom Cadwell and Steve Snow discuss the development process behind the studio's hit MOBA title in "League of Legends Postmortem -- Beta, Launch and Beyond." Here, Cadwell and Snow "discuss the three major areas that were particularly challenging: Recruiting a team without a reputation or a product, interacting with an existing audience with large expectations, and organizing teams to be successful amidst the distractions of a live game."

- In "Strategy Games: The Next Move,"
a panel of strategy game experts discuss rising trends, overlooked
innovations, and the overall trajectory of the strategy game genre.
Speakers including writer Tom Chick, Civilization veteran Soren Johnson, Civilization 5
lead designer Jon Shafer, Robot Entertainment's Ian Fischer, and
Blizzard's Dustin Browder discuss the implications of free-to-play,
online persistence, and more to offer insight on where strategy games
are headed.

GDC Vault Adds Free Social Game Rant, Indie Startup, Daglow Sessions

The GDC Vault service has released several new free videos from the Game Developers Conference 2011, this time featuring rants from the industry's top social game developers, a panel on successful indie startups, and career lessons from industry vet Don Daglow.

These talks join recently-debuted free videos including GDC 2011's Game Design Challenge, indie sessions on Osmos and Super Meat Boy, GDC 2011's classic postmortem series, and a slew of other sessions from throughout the history of the Game Developers Conference.

The following video lectures are the newest highlights to be made available for free from GDC 2011:

- The first talk offered for free is the high-energy social game panel, "No Freaking Respect! Social Game Developers Rant Back." This session, co-hosted by Eric Zimmerman and Jason Della Rocca, features a handful of the most outspoken and influential social game developers out there, with each focusing on a topic of their choosing.

The talk includes developers such as Cow Clicker's Ian Bogost, Loot Drop's Brenda Brathwaite, and more as they cover pressing issues facing the occasionally stigmatized realm of social game development.

- The next session, dubbed "From AAA to Indie: Three Start-Up Stories," showcases three recent success stories from developers who jumped from big-budget, AAA development into the indie space.

Jake Kazdal of Skull of the Shogun developer Haunted Temple, Spry Fox's Daniel Cook (Triple Town), and AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! creator Ichiro Lambe all look back upon their careers in traditional development, and provide an inside look on how they transitioned into the indie space.

GDC Vault Debuts 2011's 'Game Design Challenge' Session Video

This week, the GDC Vault has debuted a free video of GDC 2011's Game Design Challenge, which saw the rise of the unorthodox multiplayer title Chain World.

This session, officially dubbed, "The Game Design Challenge 2011: Bigger than Jesus," tasked developers with creating a game that also served a religion, and this premise spawned some very interesting results.

The August 2011 issue of Wired magazine recently ran an in-depth feature discussing the challenge, titled 'Chain World Videogame Was Supposed to be a Religion - Not a Holy War.' The article, which is also available online, offers a fascinating look at this standout session from GDC 2011, and provides a look at what happened afterward.

As author Jason Fagone explains in the introduction, independent game designer and IGF Nuovo award winner Jason Rohrer (Between, Passage) created an unusual game based on a USB memory stick and Mojang's hit indie game Minecraft.

Fagone writes, "According to a set of rules defined by Rohrer, only one person on earth could play the game at a time. The player would modify the game's environment as they moved through it. Then, after the player died in the game, they would pass the memory stick to the next person, who would play in the digital terrain altered by their predecessor -- and on and on for years, decades, generations, epochs.

In Rohrer's mind, his game would share many qualities with religion -- a holy ark, a set of commandments, a sense of secrecy and mortality and mystical anticipation. This was the idea, anyway, before things started to get weird. Before Chain World, like religion itself, mutated out of control."

GDC Vault Debuts Free Indie Summit Talks On Osmos, Depression, Super Meat Boy

This week, the GDC Vault has released free lecture videos from multiple Independent Games Summits, featuring the making of Osmos, a talk on 'turning depression into inspiration', and a rambunctious Super Meat Boy postmortem.

These talks join the many other free talks available on the GDC Vault, which include recently-released talks from Valve Software, GDC 2011's classic postmortem series, and a slew of other sessions from throughout the history of the Game Developers Conference.

The following free video lectures, newly available, are highlights from GDC's Independent Game Summits from 2010 and 2011.

- Firstly, Hemisphere Games' Andy Nealen and Eddy Boxerman host a 2010 Independent Games Summit talk dubbed, "Minimalist Game Design: Growing Osmos." Reflecting on the development of the ambient, physics based IGF finalist puzzle game, the two explain the evolution of Osmos' core mechanics, and the how the team discovered the benefits of minimalist game design.

- In an acclaimed Independent Games Summit 2011 talk "Turning Depression into Inspiration," game developer Michael Todd from explains how developers can cope with the immense pressure of game development, and successfully "design and develop games while depressed." Drawing from his own experience, Todd outlines a number of ways to manage stress and use depression as a source of creative inspiration.

GDC Vault Adds Free Valve Biofeedback, Counter-Strike, Half-Life 2 Talks

This week, the GDC Vault has debuted a special selection of free lectures from Portal and Half-Life creator Valve Software, with topics including the studio's use of biofeedback, a look at Left 4 Dead's development, and the design philosophy behind Half-Life 2.

These talks join the recently released free videos on the GDC Vault, which include the GDC 2011's classic postmortem series, as well as lectures and panels from speakers such as Playdom's Raph Koster, GDC founder Chris Crawford, and more.

The following free lectures include video, audio and slide-based highlights from Valve Software's sessions at a handful of different Game Developers Conferences, with talks dating from 2011 back to 2004.

The first lecture offered for free in video form is a GDC 2011 session from Valve veteran and experimental psychologist Mike Ambinder, titled, "Biofeedback in Gameplay: How Valve Measures Physiology to Enhance Gaming Experience." This session examines how information regarding a player's physiological states can help developers "explore new avenues of gameplay and to improve in-house playtesting processes."

Using Valve's own Portal 2, Left 4 Dead 2, and Alien Swarm as examples, Ambinder explains how the studio measured players' skin conductance response, heart rate, and eye movements to design titles that effectively toy with player's psychological limits.

Next, a newly free GDC 2009 talk video, "From Counter-Strike to Left 4 Dead: Creating Replayable Cooperative Experiences" features Turtle Rock founder and Valve designer Michael Booth on the high-level design of the studio's cooperative zombie shooter.

Booth provides some background on the game, and explains "how it evolved from Counter-Strike, and the importance of procedural systems such as the AI Director in creating replayable and compelling cooperative experiences."

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