Note: title of this post shamelessly stolen from Soren Johnson’s twitter feed
This is my first GDC, so maybe they are all like this, but woah it feels like there’s a war going on.
You’ve got Zynga and the social game types doing games like web sites. Lots of metrics and user analysis and iterating versions based on behavior. This process is apparently entirely new to game developers and terrifies them.
Here are some examples from the Zynga talk of their process of trying out features with a few thousand users at a time, and changing their game on what works best: They’ll make the link an unreadable pink since that’s what users click on. They’ll rip two steps of their tutorial since more players stick around if they do. They aren’t really doing game design so much, it is more web like, but it’s working for them obviously.
On the other end you’ve got Chris Hecker (see Charles’ “Rewards Bad” post) mocking this directly and saying Zynga is basically turning games into dull reward treadmills which will ultimately lead to them being slot machines. Quoth Hecker:
“If you are intentionally making dull games with variable ratio extrinsic motivators to separate people from their money, you have my pity.”
And THEN you’ve got Jesse Schell (of the linked-everywhere talk about getting points for everything you do). He referenced his previous talk and explicitly said – this is Brave New World. He said, literally, this is a “war”, defined four types of games designers and clearly labeled the “persuader” type as the bad guys – no secret again he was talking about Zynga et al. He’s all “YOU HAVE TO PICK A SIDE, good or evil” and the audience is cheering (some anyway).
It’s all really over the top and you’ve got a real sense that many game developers view social games as a threat to game design as a discipline.
I hope more of these talks make it online, because it’s all pretty fascinating.