Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Presentation Zen

After my last post, about speaking at GDC Europe, I realised that I never found out what my audience feedback scores were. So I emailed the supremely efficient Evelyn Donis over at GDCE headquarters (I presume there is no such physical location in this day and age) and she set her assistant, Linda Ho, on the case of getting them to me. 

I was pleased with the results, especially considering I didn't expect what I was saying to be popular. I ranked well over the average for my ability to communicate, which is always nice, although, perhaps if I'd communicated less effectively I'd have gotten higher ratings in some of the other areas... maybe it's not so good to communicate well if folk probably won't like what you're saying.

However, it was my slides that really got the gold star. The average for the whole conference was 2.61 (out of 5) and mine rated at 3.8. But I can't take all the credit, some of it must got to Garr Reynolds

Mr Reynolds is, amongst other things, a master of presentations. I was lucky enough to attend one of his half day workshops when he visited Wellington a couple of years ago. He inspired me to loosen up in my presentation style and put even more work into my slides. 

I wouldn't say his impact was immediately beneficial, I had to stumble through a few presentations that were, quite frankly, a bit cock. But after the initial teething troubles it all came together quite nicely and, apparently, my slides are way better than most. 

If you ever have to give presentations then you should be reading Presentation Zen, and you should make your boss send you to a PZ workshop, if ever Garr is in your neck of the woods.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


That's a great word isn't, so much better than "attention".

I also use it with total justification as I have just realised that the deadline is looming for session submissions for GDC Europe, which takes place in Cologne. I spoke there last year on the subject of keeping control schemes simple and intuitive, which is a topic close to my heart, because I'm terrible at remembering button mappings, and I don't think I'm alone.

Now, what will get the folks on the panel desperate to hear me speak again. Should I go controversial with something like "Why Nobody That Makes Games Has A Clue"; or futuristic with "3D Will Change Everything". Perhaps do both controversial and futuristic - "Unless You Like Social Games Then Your Favourite Genre Will Be Dead In 10 Years Time".

I'd just like to point out that I don't necessarily believe any of those statements, but I do need to come up with something sharp if I'm going to get selected. Thinking cap on...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Never before have I...

Right at the moment I am plotting out a set of level designs for the Shooter With No Name. As part of this process I am writing notes on the mood that I want each level to have - important even in an attack wave based shooter.

This is both good fun and highly practical, and for the first time ever I have used Medusa's snaking hair as the inspiration for an attack pattern. 

It'll be interesting to see how much of this comes across to the player.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Play Cardboard Box Assembler

Video game players, you've never had it so good. Honestly, you haven't, the amount of good games you can play extremely cheaply, or for free is more astonishing than finding out you're Harry Potter and you're a wizard. And I'm not talking about my own work here, I'm talking about the latest offering on Adult Swim - Cardboard Box Assembler.

It's so simple, so straightforward, so easy to control and has just the right level of trickiness in its puzzles, by which I mean it's not too hard.

Play it now, even if you're at work, for that is the beauty of browser based games. But don't blame me if you get caught.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Yesterday I was down at Victoria University Wellington (when I say down, I mean it literally, I could roll all the way there from my house, under the force of gravity) to give a talk which I am now calling The Heart Of The Game. It was an updated and refined version of the talk I gave at the uni last year, and is essentially advice on conceiving a game idea that can be made in a very compressed time frame.

Afterwards I had the privilege of sitting in on each of the students pitching a game idea to the rest of the class. Top marks to them all, not just for the quality of their ideas, but for the quality of their 2 minute pitches. Pitching a game idea is hard, and these students only had one slide each to support their idea.

If you don't believe how hard pitching is then think of your favourite game of all time, then figure out what you'd say to sell it to an investor.

One thing's for sure - the folk on Dragon's Den (dragons reside in Lairs you fools!) would never invest in it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

It's Great!

Today I finally got to play the Shooter With No Name on a handset, and it's great fun. At first the game owned me in no time at all. Then the game owned me again. But then, on the third go it ow... actually, I started to get on the game's case. Which was a relief - I'm always being told by colleagues, passers by and toddlers that I suck at games. 

Given the progress of the game while I was out of the country (if you're making a joke about games not needing designers then stop it) it's quite apparent that an open beta won't be necessary. Changes to the game have removed the value of the process. Now we just have to spend a month fine tuning the game play and, in my case, designing a whole new bunch of levels, and then we can let you play it til your fingers bleed. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Get On With It Man!

A quick update on the coming of the fantastic new game, The Shooter With No Name. It's not going to be called that, by the way, but I'm just not going to tell you the name yet.

Jon Brown - Hunting fun since 1975...

About a million years ago last month I told you the open beta would be out very soon. And this still hasn't happened. This is because we changed the game a bit, actually, we decided to change it quite a bit. And it's for the better - while cheating at playing the game it was discovered that more fun could be found in a slightly different direction, so we went that way. This has required some further work but it's for the better.

And I can say it's for the better with my hand on my heart, because the change of direction thoroughly torpedoes the interesting game mechanic that I was trying out. So if I think it's a better direction, with my ego lying bruised and battered on the floor like that time I asked [REDACTED] out at school and was shot down faster than you can say 'cripes', then I'm pretty confident you will think so too.