27 Mar GDC & Fifth Element
It’s hard to believe it’s already been over a month since our first State of the Stallions post. Things are moving very quickly at Double Stallion. Here is a quick update!
Allow me to introduce our very first employee, Nicolas Barrière. He is bringing his game design experience to Double Stallion, and started prototyping with us when he joined us in February. He will also be helping with community management on future games. We’re super excited to have him on the team. I’ll let Nicolas say a few words:
Hi everybody! I am Nick, the newest addition to the stable. The fifth element, if you will. I am super happy to join the team and help everyone produce some amazing things. After working in the mobile game industry for a few years to create games for a large audience, I found that my next step was to join an environment that would suit my creative needs better. Having known our artist Eric for years, the transition seemed all but natural. From this point onward, I’ll be helping the team with anything ranging from game, level and narrative design for our games, on top of assuming roles as both public relations and community manager. It’s going to be quite a challenge, but I am up to it to learn while on the job!
In addition, I am extremely excited to join the independent game development community at such an exciting a time! I have a deep love of games culture as a passionate, diverse, respectful and inclusive community for years now. I cannot wait to make friends and interact online with such amazing creative people on a daily basis. If you want to chat, hit me up on @Soranomaru on Twitter.
Game Developers Conference
Last week marked one of the biggest weeks in game development with the 2014 Game Developers Conference. Nicolas and I were able to attend the conference on behalf of Double Stallion. As always, there were a ton of interesting sessions and we had a chance to meet up with quite a few friends and business partners to discuss what Double Stallion is up to. We weren’t sharing too many details about our next project, since its still quite early. Instead we focused on hanging out with our indie friends and catching some really good sessions. Here are some of the highlights.
One of the stars of the show this year was definitely Antichamber, a mind-bending puzzler by indie developer Alexander Bruce. Alexander spoke in two sessions about his game, and both were excellent. In his first session, he shared the ups and downs of developing Antichamber, from the early successes in the Make Something Unreal contest and small festivals, to the crushing depression near the end of the game’s production. It was a really heartfelt account of a whopping 7 years of development. This earned him a well deserved standing ovation. His second talk was more about the detailed design of the game and how it came to be.
I took away a lot from both of these talks. Alexander makes a very good case for always being prepared to talk about your game and properly marketing it to people before the launch. During the development of Antichamber, he submitted to dozens of festivals and always got their feedback. He says that while luck is definitely a factor in a game’s success, most overnight successes are many years in the making, and that in the end it’s best to ignore luck because it can’t be controlled. He sees luck as a multiplier, and not something that can denote your success. One of my favorite quotes from that talk was:
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity
By making sure that he was well prepared to talk about the game, that he tested it extensively, and that he always followed through with every opportunity, Alexander Bruce ensured his success. He also made sure that his game wasn’t just different, but actually remarkable. With an industry so saturated with creative people, it can be really difficult to stand out, but in the end you have to ask yourself what makes your game truly different.
His second talk, going into the design of the game much more carefully, offered a lot of excellent puzzle design wisdom. One of the most interesting things that he did in Antichamber was actually ‘grade’ players based on their reactions to certain puzzles. This sometimes meant offering an exit or way out even though the player didn’t totally get it. The exit the player ended up taking would then funnel them through to an area of the game where they could learn the skills they needed to fully solve the puzzle, without crushing the player with failure and dead ends. It’s a truly brilliant design.
Nicolas and I spent a lot of time in narrative focused sessions during GDC. We plan to invest more time in developing story and narrative for our next games, and it’s an exciting side of game development that few people on the team have experience in.
One excellent talk that I attended was focused on building unity between your player and your character. Specifically unity of purpose (you both want the same thing) and unity of action (you would both do the same thing to get it). A lot of games fail to match up the gameplay with the character the player is supposed to be playing. Take GTA4: You are trying to prove that you’re not such a bad guy… but you regularly go on murdering sprees throughout the city. The key is that your character has to want something badly, and then be willing to take certain actions (within their character) to get what they want. This seems really basic, but it’s a really interesting model for thinking about narrative, and I am excited to apply it to our next game to start building some really strong characters.
A concept piece from our next game made it on to Facebook while I was away. We’ll be releasing more details on this soon!