Thoughts from a (girl) Gamer

Tara Voelker's thoughts. A lot about video games, a little about life

Category Archives: Gaming

Me, Accessibility and GDC 2015

Game Accessibility will have 3 presentations this year at GDC, and I’m proud that to say that I am going to be talking at 2 of them, and involved in the 3rd, which is the IGDA SIG Roundtable. Info on the talks I’m in below. Both of my talks are listed under advocacy, so all passes can attend. Hope to see you there!

No More Excuses, Your Guide to Accessible Design

  • Tara Voelker  |  QA Lead, Ready at Dawn
  • Location:  Room 304, South Hall
  • Date:  Friday, March 6
  • Time:  3:00pm – 4:00pm
  • Format: Session
  • Track: Advocacy, Design

Game accessibility isn’t just something for a small portion of your target audience, but a tool that can be used to improve your title and directly impact more than 20% of the people playing your game while improving your title over all. In this session, we’ll start with a crash course on how to think about disabilities, learn more about this 20%, provide a list features to improve your title from leading game accessibility groups, get in depth design tutorials to get the most bang for your buck, and point you to the resources you’ll need to keep going once you leave this talk.

Takeaway

Attendees will learn how to think about gamers with disabilities, how accessibility affects the overall title, the most requested game accessibility features, and how to build a system that works to address gamer’s with disabilities needs without alienating their core audience or risking their certification.

Intended Audience

Gameplay, UI, and system designers, design instructors, as well as anyone with interest in the field of game accessibility whether wanting to learn more about the topic or become an advocate on the subject.

Building a Manifesto for Game Accessibility

  • Thomas Westin  |  Ph.D. Student, Stockholm University
    Ian Hamilton  |  Accessibility Specialist, Ian Hamilton DC
    Tara Voelker  |  QA Lead, Ready at Dawn
    Michelle Hinn  |  Accessibility and Usability Games Consultant, Michelle Hinn, LLC
    Richard Van Tol  |  Ph.D. Student, HKU University of the Arts Utrecht
  • Location:  Room 130, North Hall
  • Date:  Thursday, March 5
  • Time:  10:00am – 11:00am
  • Format: Session
  • Track: Advocacy

In the ten years that the IGDA’s accessibility group has been running we have seen many advances in the field, with awareness growing, and more and more developers considering accessibility for gamers with disabilities. But there’s a long way to go, with work still needed to remove barriers in areas such as hardware, software, third party tools, online communities, education and policy. We will be taking a retrospective of some of the key achievements and developments over the past ten years, and with your input, also look at the next important areas to focus on, providing a roadmap of how all of us can help the industry move towards greater inclusion, allowing the entertainment and quality of life benefits of gaming to reach even wider audiences.

Takeaway

An understanding of some of the history of accessibility and the key events that have taken us to where we currently are, and also a clear picture of some of the actions and advocacy activities that anyone can take to support the industry towards greater levels of inclusion.

Intended Audience

Anyone with an interest in the field of accessibility for gamers with disabilities, who wants to either learn more, help to advance the field, or take part in shaping the discussion. Attendees either with or without previous experience will find something valuable in the content.

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Irrational Behavior

So a few months back, I actually got highlighted on Irrational Behavior podcast, which is put out by Irrational Games every so often. In my little piece, I talk about fighting Diago at Season’s Beatings a few years back. I was really excited to be part of the podcast. What was really exciting for me was I manages to do the entire thing in one take with out saying “Um” once. Yay! Go public speaking skills!

If you click the link below, you’ll be linked to a little media player with the podcast. If you skip to about 29 minutes in (like 29:05 or something) you will see the clip of mine.

Irrational Behavior Ep 9 – Click Me !

And to be honest, I said I hit him a few times, when I almost took a round off him. I didn’t, but I got close! You can see the whole video here:

And this was actually when I worked back at AbleGamers, so I interviewed him and everything. If you hop over to the AbleGamers tab, you can check all of that out.

A short update and announcement.

So, this is rather short.

I’ve been busy with my new job at Irrational Games (which is awesome), adjusting to my new home, celebrating my birthday, and then doing some game accessibility work. There will be a more proper update later, as well as Hello Kitty car updates coming.

But for now, I just wanted to make this announcement.

As the IGDA GA SIG Chair, I got to do some awesome work with Film Victoria, and helped them incorportate game accessibility into their guidelines for funding.

 

Here’s the announcement, spread the word!

 

[Edited]

 

This is just a nice email I got from Brad over at Film Victoria I wanted to share!

Hey All,

I just wanted to thank Tara and everybody else who contributed to the IGDA GA SIG content (top 10, etc) that we’re making reference to.

We’ve had a brilliant response so far, developers completely understand and are more than happy to include accessibility measures in games of all sizes.

Very pleased to be able to say we have IGDA backing the initiative! Can’t wait to let you know how the first round of investments go…

Cheers,

Brad
Brad Giblin
Digital Media Manager
Film Victoria

Cars 2 for the DS <3

So my first title as an employee of Firebrand Games has been released.

Cars 2 for the DS! And, the best ad for it ever was released in Japan, and I wanted to share that with you.

And no, I do not review titles I work on. I just show awesome Japanese videos from them.

Will You Wii U? Depends on the Price.

So yesterday was the Nintendo press release at E3 where they finally unveiled their new HD console, the Wii U. Now, I’m not going to go into how stupid I think the name is. I’m not going to go into the hard core gamer title line up it’s going to have. I’m not going to go all fan boy about an HD Zelda title on that platform.

I am however, going to talk about something else… the price. This is what interests me the most.

How much is Nintendo going to be selling this for? This thing is going to have to be crazy expensive unless they have some secret magic happening…. Let’s break down why.

1. The console.

Okay, so this is an HD Console. And I guess the first place to start would be by looking at the other HD consoles. When the 360 launched, you got the premium 360 for $399. When the PS3 launched the 20G memory version was $499.  As Sony and Microsoft both improved their systems and the demand lowered, the price has dropped over time. Now you can get  a 360 for $299 and a PS3 for the same. In addition to taking into consideration that the Wii shipped for $250… the Wii U is going to have to ship for more than $300. The current HD systems are selling for that much, this one supposedly has better specs… and it’s newer. It will have to be more expensive that the 360 and PS3 currently are. It just has to be.

2. That God Damn Controller.

Now, this is the part that really makes me feel like this thing is going to have a high price tag. Have you seen this controller?!

Wii U Controller

 

The controller is like some cross between a handheld system and a tablet computer! The controller includes a 6.2 inch touch screen, four triggers , microphone, gyroscope, inward facing camera, a Home button, and an accelerometer. In addition, it transfers content between the console and the controller, can be used for video chat, web browsing, can be used as a game device with out the TV… It’s insane.

So if you consider that… The 3DS prices at $250. And this has more functionality that that… Low end tablets (non-iPad) run at $150-@200… So the controller alone has to be like $200 worth of technology…

And what about multiplayer games? Do you need two of these things?

If you had the price of the controller to the price of the console… You’re looking at a minimum of  $500. $300 console + one $200 controller. That can’t be right?!?!? That’s before games or multiple controllers or anything? Are they really try to sell something that expensive? I’m just dumb founded.

 

HOW  MUCH IS THIS THING GOING TO BE SOLD FOR!?!?!

Guess we will just have to wait and see.

Games for Health – Game Accessibility

Hey all, sorry there haven’t been many posts lately. I’ve been swamped with life, which I will get into later.

ANYWAY!

A couple weeks a go I was a speaker at the Games for Health Conference in Boston. I know it’s going to seem pretty boring to most people, but it’s something I’m passionate about. Anyway, here are my slides from my presentation. The first half are mine anyway. 😀

*Edit* I was originally trying to embed the slides… but it doesn’t want to seem to work today, so here’s a link to Slide Share instead!

My Silent Hill Collection

As everyone knows, I’m a Silent Hill fan. I just wanted to share my collection. So here it is- minus the picture of my tattoo that is.

*Edit: One of my friends realized I didn’t add in my copy of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories as well. So here it is minus my tattoo and that.

See text below for image contents

My Collection includes:

  • Silent Hill 1 (original print, not greatest hits collection) with case and booklet
  • Silent Hill 1 disc (from my childhood, original print)
  • Silent Hill 1 (Japanese copy)
  • Silent Hill 1 Brady Guide
  • Silent Hill 2
  • Silent Hill 2 Greatest Hits Version
  • Silent Hill 3 w/ Sound track
  • Silent Hill 4: The Room
  • Silent Hill: Origins
  • Silent Hill: Homecoming
  • Silent Hill (movie)
  • Silent Hill nurse cosplay costume, with shoes and mask

Nintendo Announcing a New Console?

So, yesterday afternoon my Twitter feed blew up with tons of posts about the rumors that Nintendo is going to be announcing a new HD console. Like really, it was insane.

Firstly, I’m not here to speculate on that. If I were to say anything I would just be copying Game Informer or Kotaku or some other gaming news site. I just wanted to make the following known:

 Dear Nintendo,

You will completely break my heart if you push by Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword so that it ends up being a release title on this new system (if there is a new system) just like you did with Twilight Princess and the Wii. Please, please don’t.

But, you know that I could never stay mad at you even if you did, because I’m a Zelda fanboy.

And one more thing… please give up the Wii-motes. I mean let’s all be honest… Twilight Princess was much better on the Gamecube.

Love,

Tara

A Waste of Time – Using Kinect with Netflix

So yesterday (April 14, 2011), there was an update to Netflix that allowed you to use the Kinect to control the interface. Now, I was unnecessarily excited about this. And I don’t have a good reason. It just seemed like the best thing ever, probably because choosing a movie with the wave of my hand still sounds so futuristic and bad ass.

But really, it wasn’t. It was pretty lame actually. Let me explain.

So, here is what you are presented with when you log access Netflix via the Kinect:

Netflix Interface when using the Kinect

Now- you’ll notice a few things.

Firstly,  I’d like to draw your attention to the text at the lower left hand corner. “For more choices and search, use your controller.”  Now why does it say this? When you are navigating though Netflix by using the Kinect, you can only choose from what is essentially the “Suggest for you” category.  For me it was a mix of the TV shows I had currently been watching, as well as movies in my queue, and some movies similar to ones in my queue or that I had rated well.

This means that other categories – including “Your Queue” and “Recently watched” aren’t there.  And that sucks.

Now, even if the Kinect interface did have everything the normal Netflix interface provided, I would still probably never use it. I was very much snuggled into my couch when I went to turn something on,  and had to sit up and get myself very much out of my super comfy spot to get in position where the Kinect would recognize me on the couch. For me, sort of defeats the point of watching something.

Even worse, navigation is slow. Really slow. Using the controller is much, much faster.

So, although I was originally very excited that I would be able to just wave my arms to pick a movie, the whole system and interface is very impractical.

So final call? Cool party trick, gets old after 2 seconds.

How to Make an Adam Syringe (Bioshock Needle Gun)

Tara as a little Sister holding needle gunSo, this past Halloween I decided to make a little sister costume. And although I posted how to make this super quick costume, I never talked about how to make the most awesome piece of it – the Adam Syringe. After a couple emails and comments though, I thought it would be useful to have a how to on this… so here we go!

Now, you have quite a few things to gather together, so let’s start with a list of what you need, and were you’re going to get these items. The list is below, and then I have a picture showing what I’m talking about below so you get an idea what these parts end up being.

First you’re going to need to gather up everything you’re going to need for this project:

  • Antique gas pump – eBay
  • 1 large pipe cap  (same size as the gas pump bottom) – hardware store, mine came from Lowe’s
  • 1 small pipe cape (same size as pump nozzle) – hardware store
  • 1 tall, thin glass jar – grocery store
  • 2 baby bottle nipples that same size as the bottom of your class jar – grocery store, Walmart, etc
  • 1 wooden dowel rod – hardware store
  • 1 can silver spray paint – hardware store
  • 1 can pink spray paint (if needed, depends on your baby bottle nipple cover) -hardware store
  • epoxy – hardware store
  • drill – hardware store
  • 1 bottle Gatorade – grocery store
  • plastic sandwich bag – grocery store

So, let’s break down all of those items become this:

Adam syringe bioshcok needle

Well, like this:

Adam syringe with labeled parts

So let’s get started.

 

Now, a large portion of the needle gun is already done for you because of the gas pump. So let’s go on from there.

Gas pump body:

  1. Take the large pipe cap you bought and epoxy it onto the bottom of the gas pump, as seen in the picture above. Now that’s done. 🙂

The Needle Tip

  1. Take your dowel rod and sharpen one end. I think my husband used a drimmel tool and shaved it to sharpen it. Don’t go to crazy on the sharpening… Mine was actually a little to sharp and I blunted the end a little bit so it wasn’t a hazard since I was taking it out and about.
  2. Once you’ve sharpened it, spray paint it grey to match your gas pump.
  3. Take your small pipe cap, and drill a hole the size of your dowel rod in it.
  4. Stick the dowel rod through your newly drilled hole, and epoxy the dowel rod into place. I think we had to cut my dowel rod to make it a little shorter before doing this step.
  5. Take your pipe cap-dowel rod combo and epoxy that to the tip of your fuel pump.

It should now look like this:

needle, dowel rod in pipe cap

The Baby Bottle

  1. Take 1 of your bottle nipples, and cut off everything but literally the very bottom.
  2. Take that nipple and paint it grey.
  3. Take your second nipple and paint it pink (if it’s already, mine wasn’t)
  4. Once they are dry, push the pink nipple through the opening of the grey nipple.
  5. Epoxy the nipples to the BOTTOM of your glass jar.

It should now look like this, the larger image has the 2nd grey nipple circled so it’s easy to understand why you pushed the first one through the second one….

nipples on adam syringe

Attaching the bottle to the gas pump

This is where it can get a little tricky. Take the lid off of your bottle. Look at your gas pump top. For us, the gas pump top had a pattern in it.

Your lid has to be very securely fashioned to your pump because it has to 1) support the weight of your bottle 2) allow the bottle to be screwed and unscrewed.  So we did the following.

  1. Observed the pattern on the gas pump.gas pump top
  2. Cut that pattern into the top of the lid. No idea how my husband did this part… cut up bottle top
    Spray paint the lid.
  3. Epoxy the lid onto the gas pump. Be sure that the threads face out so that you can attach your bottle, just like you were putting the lid on the jar.

Now- a word of warning.

If you have a better idea than epoxy, or know how to weld… do that. Because we learned something very important.

Gatorade eats through water proof epoxy if it’s given enough time to do so.  It took like 12 hours.

If you don’t have an alternative solution, you can do what we did after we realized what was happening. We took a plastic sandwich bad and epoxied that to the lid to create a water tight seal to keep the Gatorade and epoxy apart. We also don’t leave it sitting around with Gatorade in it.

Final Steps

  1. Fill your jar with Gatorade.
  2. Screw your jar onto the top, which is now attached to the gas pump.
  3. Be Awesome.

Hope this was helpful!

Tara featured in the IGDA Perspectives Newsletter

So, as any one who has taken the time to read my about me page knows, I’m an active member of the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) and the chairperson for the IGDA Game Accessibility Special Interest Group Chairperson.

And when I talk about I’m too busy to post or do reviews, I really mean I’m too busy to post or do reviews. And I’m probably doing something IGDA related… or drinking… or getting ready for my wedding next month… or working…. but either way, I’m busy.

But this was a chance for me to share with you guys some of the work I do when I’m not on here.

This past month I was both a featured member of the IGDA and I had an article about some of my game accessibility work in the IGDA’s March newsletter. The link below goes to the PDF. The member highlight is on page 9 and the article is on page 20.

IGDA-Newsletter-March-2011_5

 

Here are some illegible screen shots in case you don’t want to view the pdf for some reason.

Tara's member spot light in the IDGA newsletter

Tara's member spot light in the IDGA newsletter

Tara's IGDA article.

Tara's IGDA article.

Destroy All Humans: Path of Furon – You still haunt me.

So, I (Tara) walked into Gamestop over the weekend just to see if there was anything that caught my eye. Not necessarily buy anything, just window shop if you will. That’s when I saw this:

Destroy All Humans: Path of Furon with a $40 price tag

The worst game ever with a $40 price tag

 

Now you may be asking yourself, “Why did she take a picture of this game?” Firstly, this game and I go way back. As you may or may not know, Destroy All Humans: Path of Furon was my first title I ever worked on. Ever.  That’s right, you can go right now and pick up this $40 copy and see my name in the credits if you want. Although I suggest you don’t.

Secondly, this is the worst game ever. It’s horrible. The jokes are bad. The story sucks. The gameplay is lack luster. The art is atrocious. There is no online. There is no multiplayer. There was never DLC. The game crashes… I could go on.

Thirdly, this game – THE WORST GAME EVER – which is like 3 years old by this point… IS MARKED AT $40.

Let’s do a comparison:

  • Halo: Reach is marked at $45.  So it’s only $5 more and way newer and more popular.
  • Resident Evil 5 is marked for $23.  So, it’s a way better game, and almost half as much.
  • Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is marked for $40… the same price and clearly the better game.

Once again… I could go on.

I was floored. I decided to ask the guy working why this game, which is clearly horrible, was matched price-wise with games people would actually want to buy. The response?

“No one bought it when it came out. So, no one is trading it back in. And that makes it a rare game to find. Since it’s rare, we charge more for it.”

So there you have it. DAH: Path of Furon is now a rare game. Kind of makes me wish I wouldn’t have given my copy away to my little brother. 🙂 If only I had known.

Oh well. It’s still all really funny. I hope you aren’t someone unfortunate enough to have a copy of this game. But hey, if you do, send it to me and I can autograph it for you, haha.

 

 

 

 

Day 1 of GDC 2011

image

After a day of horrible flights (including and awesome 5 hour layover in LA – never fly united), making new friends in the terminal and a very awkward laid out hotel, I’m finally here.

Also, thank god for speaker’s registration. While the normal line is literally out the door, I’m already inside. 🙂

So, most posts will likely be from my phone. Sorry they’re short.

Here we go! 

Haters Gonna Hate, Revisiting Raychul Moore

So, it’s funny how things come full circle.

Raychul Moore

In one of my original blog posts –  Sex Sells, I ripped on Raychul Moore. I went so far as to say some of her work “sickened” me.  I was pretty harsh. Now, the point of the post wasn’t really about Raychul herself, but about people who have no opinions on topics but use their bodies as a means to get attention.  I was talking about girls flashing their chests while the girls who have interesting things to say get completely over looked.  And that kind of thing still gets me.

So why am I talking about going full circle? Well, I’m  coming to the defense of Raychul Moore. When I made my blog post, my feelings at the time was Raychul knew little about video games and was some horrible person who realized her writing talent was sub par and couldn’t get a job with out some cleavage and took the fact she had ample to her advantage.  Since then, I’ve met Raychul in person. We became Facebook friends,  went out to dinner together and we’re even meeting up at GDC next week. Since taking the time to know the real Raychul, and not the Raychul I thought she was via image search, I’ve learned something. Raychul totally loves video games. And sometimes I think she’s a much bigger nerd than I am.

Tara, former Hater

I no longer think she’s out there just slutting it up for fame or money.  She likes gaming, she likes cosplay, and likes having her picture taken. It gets a lot of attention from gamer guys. And girls are caddy. So, people like me, who assumed she was just some bimbo looking for attention, attacked her.  Not cool. And Raychul knows that I think it wasn’t cool of me to be so judgemental.

Do I always agree with her reviews? No. Do I always like her writing? No. Does she rock a Cami costume well? Of course. If  Raychul and I lived in the same place would we be like BFF? Probably not. Does this make her some bitch who is trying to use her boobs for fame and power? No.

So, why bring this up now? This was all sort of resolved a while ago for me and Raychul. Well, because Raychul was going to be going on a podcast, and was excited about it. I saw her post it on her Facebook and everything. Then, I saw her post made today:

“Haters gotta hate. Just wish they would stop hating on me. http://bit.ly/f1eCIw”

The link goes to the show she was going to be on. They did a preview of her. Or really, went her her website and made all the same assumptions I did, but did it worse.

How did they do it worse you say?

  • I was only one person, they had four.
  • She was going to be a guest on their show.
  • When they asked her to be on, they did not mention ripping apart her resume as part of the program.
  • I spent one page complaining about Raychul. They spent over 10 minutes.
  • RAYCHUL WAS TO BE A GUEST ON THEIR SHOW.

It’s really just bad form. There isn’t another way to put it. When someone is asked to go on the o’Reilly Factor, they know what they’re in for. When you ask someone who makes their living by talking about video games to talk with you about video games on their show, they don’t expect to have the person who invited them make an entire segment where the host pretty much call them stupid. That just breeds bad vibes. So boo on them.

I guess I’m just saying this was really unnecessary. I feel if they had brought all of this up while Raychul was there, it would have been one thing. But they didn’t. They pretty much just made their audience biased against her by calling her stupid before coming on. Maybe these guys are just taking queues from Fox News.

Anyway, I think I wanted to post this because the girl on the show, Candice, very much made it seem like any *real* girl gamer would totally be appalled by Raychul. And I’m here to say I’m not. I’m having dinner with her next week.

My GDC Schedule

Warning: GDC is notorious for making room changes. So double check your GDC schedule given to you at the event to ensure you’re in the right place.

Here are all the sessions I’m going to be attending. The ones I’m speaking at are highlighted. You’ll notice that Tuesday morning is empty, but that’s because I am going to be at IGDA SIG things all morning. Hope to see you there!

Session Speaker(s) Day Start End Room
Using Your Friends: Identifying the Top Interaction Mechanics in Current Social Games & Media [SOGS Design] Speaker/s: Mia Consalvo Mon 10:00 AM 11:00 AM Room 132, North Hall
New social games are released daily, yet many of the most popular games offer very limited forms of interaction between players. This presentation answers the question: how social are social games? 

It does so through analysis of 80 games, identifying the major types of interactions employed, and highlighting games offering unusual social mechanics.

The second part of the lecture explores how social media applications are using interaction in novel ways, such as Nike’s new running app, which invites users to broadcast the start of their run, turning friends’ responses into real-time cheering.

In closing, the lecture identifies the range of social functions offered by social games, and points to other types of interactions enabled via social media, to encourage game designers to think beyond the boundaries of game design.

 

Care and Feeding of Your Independent Game Studio Speaker/s: Arthur Humphrey Mon 11:15 AM 11:40 AM Room 135, North Hall
This talk will focus on nurturing a successful IP-based independent game studio in the current market environment. Using Last Day of Work (creator of numerous hits on multiple platforms, primarily casual PC/Mac and iTunes) as an example we will discuss strategies in developing effective new game designs, ways to make IP difficult to copy/clone, protecting your IP, leveraging your designs, growing your company without growing it (contract, licensing), pitfalls and secrets. We will also discuss recent forays into social and virtual goods. 

Last Day of Work has been growing since 2003 without taking one red cent of outside funding ever. With numerous hit games on a multitude of platforms and in more than 7 languages, LDW is happy to be the Cinderella-story among indies, and an inspiration for those who want to create a studio, keep it, and lovingly grow it.

 

REPLICA ISLAND: Building a Successful Android Game Speaker/s: Chris Pruett Mon 1:45 PM 2:45 PM Room 305, South Hall
What does it take to make a successful Android game? In this session, Google software engineer and developer advocate, Chris Pruett will discuss the development of REPLICA ISLAND, an Android-exclusive platformer which achieved a million players within 100 days of its release on a marketing budget of $0.00. Concrete lessons about Android software design, compatibility across a wide range of devices, phone-oriented game design, and negotiating Android Market will be presented. Pruett will also discuss key elements of the development process itself, including an automated player metrics system for post-release game tuning, the Android development environment, interaction with the community, and common developer mistakes. 

 

Turning Data Into Better Social Games [SOGS Essentials] Speaker/s: David Stern Mon 2:20 PM 2:45 PM Room 130, North Hall
As a leader in social gaming, Playfish relies heavily on data to understand game play behavior and ultimately create meaningful and lasting social experiences for players. In this talk, David Stern, Playfish’s director of analytics and strategy, will discuss how Playfish turns data into insights that help optimize the player experience. 

 

Social Mechanics for Social Games [SOGS Design] Speaker/s: Raph Koster Mon 3:00 PM 4:00 PM Room 134, North Hall
Many have accused social games of not really being social. But they are underpinned by many classic social mechanics that drive interaction and community-building. Some of these have been proven to work in other genres such as MMOs and are beginning to filter into the social games market; others are easily visible and quite familiar in real life, but have yet to be seen in the design of social games. In this talk we will draw from both proven game design and from anthropology and sociology and explore the social potential of social games. 

 

MILLIONAIRE CITY – The Story Behind the Numbers [SOGS Design] Speaker/s: Jason Loia Mon 4:15 PM 5:15 PM Room 132, North Hall
MILLIONAIRE CITY was one of the fastest growing games on Facebook in 2010, drawing in millions of daily active players, defying DAU gravity month and after month and ultimately going on to become the longest-running city-building hit on Facebook and iPhone. But despite the seemingly effortless growth, behind the scenes, Digital Chocolate wrestled with many complex design decisions, technical choices, and business variables. This session describes several of the most important ‘critical junctions’ in the making and the life of MILLIONAIRE CITY, and reveals key insights and lessons learned into areas from design directions to platform and business decisions. 

 

iPad Games: Touching the World on the Other Side of the Glass Speaker/s: Graeme Devine Tue 1:45 PM 2:45 PM Room 305, South Hall
The iPad is a revolutionary tablet device, but how do we make the revolutionary games for this device? There are all sorts of considerations when bringing existing and new ideas to the platform that go well beyond simple interface changes. In this talk, former Apple Developer Advocate, Graeme Devine, will examine what makes a great interface for the iPad, why that is important, and what you should be thinking about when you first approach making a game on this device. Using real world examples from current projects, learn how your application can have better multitouch controls allowing your players to touch the world on the other side of the glass. 

 

Retain Your Customers by Letting Go: Fixing the Short Term Tactics that Threaten Player Loyalty [SOGS Business] Speaker/s: Scott Rigby Tue 1:45 PM 2:45 PM Room 130, North Hall
The churn rate in social & online games is staggering. We often visualize churn as a bucket with holes in it, but in reality, the numbers dont even justify the existence of the bucket as players pour into one end and out the other. Research indicates that by focusing too much on driving short-term behavior, we actively harm long-term motivation to stay engaged. While we increasingly rely on behavioral metrics to make decisions, we often overlook motivational and psychological data that is critical to success over time. This talk reviews specific techniques for deepening meaningful motivation in the design of social and online games, as well as discussing strategies to collect quantitative motivational metrics alongside behavioral metrics to better gauge success. Multiple game examples/best practices are discussed, along with strategies for game design and testing. 

 

Social Genetics: The Demographics and Affinities of Facebook Gamers [SOGS Business] Speaker/s: Nick Berry Tue 3:00 PM 4:00 PM Room 130, North Hall
What do you really know about your social games customers? How old are they? What do they watch on TV? What brands do they follow? Who should you be chasing for sponsorship opportunities? Where should you be advertising? The more you understand about your customers, the more efficiently you can attract, retain and monetize them. 

This presentation will describe the results obtained from the mining and analysis of millions of Facebook data points. Eye-opening findings around Facebook’s top consumer brands and top social games will be discussed. Discover intriguing user preferences, from the brand of trainers FARMVILLE players wear and the TV shows watched by BEJEWELED BLITZ players, to the brand of fast food enjoyed by COLLAPSE! players and the unique combination of games different users choose to play.

 

Design and Execute the Optimal Monetization Strategy by Game Profile (Presented by Digital River) Speaker/s: John Hayase Wed 10:30 AM 11:30 AM Room 121, North Hall
Maximizing your game profit requires the expert application of market intelligence during the design and execution of monetization plans. Led by John Hayase, senior vice president of product development with Atari, this session will feature a panel of industry leading producers and revenue owners who will share their process for designing and executing the right monetization mix based on genre, target audience and lifecycle stage. This discussion will dissect live game monetization models. Intended for executives and designers responsible for monetization design, attendees will learn about the current options for monetizing games and strategies for applying them. 

 

Beginner Usability: How to Get Fast & Reliable Data with Few Resources Speaker/s: Jordan Lynn Wed 12:00 PM 2:00 PM Room 111, North Hall
This poster session is designed to help you start getting valuable information from Usability testing without having to break your budget. You might be thinking, But Im not a professional researcher! You dont have to be. This presentation wont replace the need for hiring a Usability professional, but it will provide you with information on how to get valuable, actionable feedback on your game without wasting time or money. You may have a publisher who handles your testing, but sometimes you need feedback faster than your publisher can provide so that you can make necessary changes and validate those changes. This session can help you get started. 

 

IGDA Games User Research SIG Speaker/s: Bill Fulton Wed 1:30 PM 2:30 PM Room 230, East Mezzanine
There are two parts to this roundtable: part one will be a compilation of epiphanies about what gamers do, feel & think while playing games, as learned during games user-research sessions. These short anecdotes (less than 5 min each) presented by a variety of members of the Games User-research SIG (GUR-SIG) may be insightful, humorous, or even outright scary examples of how people are actually playing the games we make, and have a ‘moral of the story.’ Part 2 will be a discussion of the GUR-SIG, what we’ve been doing, and what we’re trying to do. 

 

Designing Games for the “43-Year-Old Woman” Speaker/s: Chris Trottier Wed 3:00 PM 4:00 PM Room 303, South Hall
Chris will pull from her experience working on games like The Sims and FarmVille to explore what factors make a game take the leap from approachable to mass market phenomenon. This session is not about all women or female game developers. It is about your cousin’s wife who’s obsessed with collecting FarmVille animals or Sims custom content: what her day is like, when and why she turns to entertainment, and how you can best engage her when she does. 

 

More Pirates on a Burning Ship and Other Leadership Challenges Speaker/s: Laura Fryer Wed 4:30 PM 5:30 PM Room 305, South Hall
Leaders lead from where they stand, wherever that may be in an organization. True leadership means helping people, appealing to their better natures, and building the foundation of trust necessary for great work. Drawing upon lessons learned from shipping the Xbox and GEARS OF WAR, and building WB Games, we’ll explore the challenges of leading passionate and creative people to greatness. 

 

Industry Game Accessibility Ratings System: Promoting Mainstream Games to the Gamer with Disabilities Speaker/s: Michelle Hinn Thu 9:00 AM 10:00 AM Room 113, North Hall
One key issue that comes up whenever game studios include accessibility features in their games is how to announce these features so that gamers with disabilities and their friends, family, etc can easily find out this information while shopping for games. While there are a few review sites dedicated to providing the disabled gamer with this information, there has yet to be an industry-wide standard for including symbols on game boxes and in mainstream gaming websites and magazines. The purpose of this session is to discuss how such a system can be created, who would be the responsible group to approve accessibility ratings, and what design features this sort of rating system would include. Come help contribute to the discussion of an exciting new ratings system that can help even more gamers play your game! 


Applying Automated Metrics to Game Production, Measuring the Player Experience, QA and Operations Speaker/s: Larry Mellon Thu 10:30 AM 11:30 AM Room 113, North Hall
Metrics are valuable decision aids in all aspects of game development. The simple part is to collect data. The tricky part is to avoid drowning users with masses of raw, uncorrelated, non-repeatable measurements. A strong metrics infrastructure is as essential as the data itself. Further, a dataset must remain current. As games and processes morph over time, a projects dataset, and its metrics feature set, must be malleable to succeed. 

This panel discusses industry best practices in defining and applying Player, Production and Engine Performance metrics. Discussions include effective data views, such as level maps showing common death locations, and what metrics tools, such as player session aggregation, were required. Finally, lessons learned from integrating metrics into a team are discussed. Most design, production and testing work can benefit from actionable metrics, but teams focus on features, not tools. Success with metrics requires a fundamental shift in how people work.

 

Four Epic Legal Battles Coming to a Court Near You – Be Prepared: Gambling, Platforms, Privacy, and Destroying Worlds Speaker/s: Vincent ScheurerJim CharneDr. Andreas Lober and Olivier Oosterbaan Thu 10:30 AM 10:30 AM Room 132, North Hall
This session looks at four important legal issues that will affect your company:
With more money flowing in, gambling will be enforced and major games will have to be stopped.
The termination of an online game will become a liability because of consumer law and banking law, and you will need to provide for it.
Platform owners such as Facebook, or Apple will be challenged on dominance, both by regulators and private parties.
With privacy, you will have to comply with many more different national laws. 

A legal panel of four international lawyers will take a practical look at these issues: describing why its a real threat to ignore them any longer, and how to deal with them.

 

Faulty Thinking: Becoming a Better Producer by Understanding Faults in Human Thought Speaker/s: Chuck Hoover Thu 1:30 PM 2:30 PM Room 132, North Hall
A common misconception is that a Producers role is based on the ability to schedule, budget, and manage tasks. However, the true measure of anyone in a leadership role is the ability to do one thing, interact with people. Join Chuck Hoover as we dive into common perception errors that we all make. These faults in human perception are the basis for a multitude of issues between team members, and can wreak havoc with a projects chances for success. 

Understanding these fallacies can give you insight into issues on your project you can leverage to be a better producer, a better member of your team, and ultimately to make better games.

 

Five Cheats for Understanding Game Metrics Speaker/s: Lauren Bigelow Thu 3:00 PM 4:00 PM Room 300, South Hall
Reams of data are collected in a freemium social game pair that with free tools like Google Analytics and you have a tsunami of data to interpret. What’s scarce is people with the ability to understand and extract value from it all. Get ahead of this data revolution and nurture your inner metrics geek. This session will help you with 5 key metrics concepts ranging from simple to advanced to help you better understand social game measurement. Through visuals, real life examples and hands on demonstrations you’ll be primed and ready to take on your game data. 

 

Strategies for Firefighting Troubled Projects Speaker/s: Adrian Hawkins Fri 9:30 AM 10:30 AM Room 133, North Hall
Developing game projects creates lots of challenges – each game has its own risks and issues, but generally we get through them. However, some projects go more severely wrong. 

What if the publisher drastically changes the scope? How do you cope if the team don’t know how to submit for PlayStation 3? What happens when your producer quits with no replacement? Or your lead programmer goes? What steps do you take if the publisher is very unhappy with progress and won’t engage with the project’s own management?

This talk addresses all of these challenges and more, and offers real-life solutions.

 

The Dynamics Behind Online Marketing for the Gaming Industry (Presented by Adotomi) Speaker/s: Joe McCormack Fri 11:00 AM 12:00 PM Room 121, North Hall
Joe McCormanck will explain the main principles behind planning an effective online marketing strategy for your game. This will encompass the following ideas:
– Defining your player profiles
– Selecting the right marketing channels for your game
– Setting a budget for testing
– Monitoring and optimizing the players 

The presentation will be followed by a q + a in which Joe will answer questions from the audience.

 

IGDA Game Accessibility Roundtable Speaker/s: Tara Tefertiller Fri 2:00 PM 3:00 PM Room 230, East Mezzanine
The IGDA Game Accessibility SIG is dedicated to spreading game accessibility awareness and education, being a hub for new ideas and solutions that promote accessible game play, and providing a resource for all who are interested in the topic- gamers and developers alike. At this round table, discuss where the GA SIG should focus the energy provided by the newly elected steering committee, meet the new chair, or become a new member. We are always looking for more people and more input from all areas of the development community! 


Cloning Social Games – Nothing New Here – or is There? Speaker/s: Sean Kane Fri 3:30 PM 3:55 PM Room 300, South Hall
Is cloning a problem? It depends on your point of view. Regardless, there are a number of best practices that can help developers protect their social games and allow them to capitalize on anothers valuable social game. An overall intellectual property strategy, including copyrights, patents and trademarks, is necessary for preventing infringement of your social games. Moreover, it is most important to understand the IP rights associated with game innovation and design when considering developing a clone. Whether you are building or cloning, it is critically important to understand these rights to protect your creativity and to avoid potential pitfalls.