GDC16 Day 1: Daily Round Up

Hello everyone! I wrapped up the first day at the Games Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco! It’s the first Monday after daylight savings so a morning cup of joe in Moscone West was a welcomed sight!

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First Thoughts

Wow! All of the VR sessions were very popular and crowded. In the morning, I was seated in the overflow room for the HTC Vive session. Attendees were lucky to be able to go to 2 VR sessions back-to-back. There would be lines wrapping around the halls and running into other lines. By the afternoon, when foot traffic was at its highest, it was easy to get confused as to which line belonged to which session. Luckily, the organizers took into account the popularity of the VR sessions and moved it to the larger rooms for the next 4 days!

On the third floor, there was a board game area where everyone could play the latest board game releases like Pandemic Legacy and Mysterium as well as a VR play area where everyone could try out the Vive and other VR games.

Sessions & Take Aways

I sat in on 6 sessions:

  • A Year in Roomscale: Design Lessons from the HTC Vive and Beyond.
    •  You are not building a game, but an experience. Players are actually doing something actively with their hands vs. a game controller.
    • There are 3 questions that players ask when they are starting a VR experience that should be addressed:
      • (a) Who am I?
      • (b) What am I supposed to do?
      • (c) How do I interact with the environment?
    • Permissability. New players always ask when they are allowed to interact with something, but there are safety issues when they get too comfortable. One developer told a story about how a player actually tried to dive headfirst into a pool while wearing a VR device!
    • Don’t have music automatically playing when they enter the game. It’s not natural in the real world. It’s better to have a boom box and have them turn on the music instead. In addition, audio is still hard to do perfectly. Players expect perfect audio by default. If they pick up a phone, they expect to hear it out of 1 ear, not both.
  • Social Impact: Leveraging Community for Monetization, User Acqusition and Design.
    • Social Whales (SW) have high social value thus have the highest connection to other players and are key to a high ROI . SWs makes it easy for other players to connect with one another.
    • There are 3 standard profiles that players fall under:
      • (a) The atypical social whales that always want the best things.
      • (b) The trendsetter, the one who wants to unite and lead.
      • (c) The trend spotter, the players who want to be a part of something.
    • When a social whale leaves a games, ROI falls and other players leave. This is because that 2nd degree connection is gone. To keep players from leaving, it’s important to have game mechanics that addresses the following player needs:
      • (a) Players want to belong.
      • (b) Players want recognition as a valuable member.
      • (c) Players want their in-game group to be recognized as the best vs. other groups.
  • Menus Suck.
    • A very interesting talk on rethinking how players access key menu items in VR.
    • Have a following object like a cat! Touching different parts of the object will allow you to select different things. It’s much easier than walking back and forth between a menu and what you have to do.
      • Job Simulator uses retro cartridges for menu selection.
    •  Create menu shortcuts with the player’s body. Have the user pull things out of different parts of their head (below).
    •  Eating as an interaction. In job simulator you can eat a cake marked with an “Exit” to exit the game. The cake changes to another dessert item marked with an “Are you sure?” to ensure the exit.
  • Improving Playtesting through Workshops Focusing on Exploring.
    • For games, we are experience testing (playtesting) not performing a usability test.
    • For games, especially for VR, comfort comes first. Right after that it’s ease of use.
    • When exploring desired experiences for a game, create a composition box to ensure you get ideas from all views of your development team.
    • When observing play, look for actions (e.g. vocalizations, gestures) as well as for changes in posture and focus.
  • The Tower of Want.
    • Learn critical questions our designs must answer to engage players over the long term.
    • Follow the “I want to..” and “so I can…” framework to unearth player’s short term and long term goals. Instead of asking why 5 times like we do in user research, we ask then to complete the framework’s “so I can…” sentence (e.g. I want to get good grades so I can get into college…so I can get a good job…so I can make a lot of money…so I can buy a house).
    • The framework creates a ladder of motivations that incentivizes a player to complete each game level in that ladder daily.
  • Cognitive Psychology of Virtual Reality: Basics, Problems and Tips.
    • Psychology is the physics of VR.
    • Use redirected walking to keep players within the same space.
    • Design for optical flow. Put shadows over areas where users are not concentrating on. It’ll help with dizziness.
    • Players underestimate depth by up to 50%.
      • Add depth by adding transitional rooms (portals). This helps ease the players into their new environment.
    • Players can see a maximum of 6 meters ahead of them for 3D.
      • In their peripherals, they can only see 2D.
      • Design with the mind that 20–30% of the population has problems with stereoscopic vision.

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