Future Play – Day Three

A successful game conference draws to a close.

The final day of Future Play 2005 was scheduled for only half of the day Saturday. This morning, several of the attendees (including myself) were a little worse for wear after a busy conference combined with late nights, so a shorter day was probably a welcome situation for some. It also meant that people could get out to explore East Lansing on a picture perfect autumn day in our college town.

For the first session of the day, I attended a talk entitled, “The Future of Games is Casual” given by Brian Robbins of Fuel Games. It was opposite a presentation by Greg Costikyan, “Imagining New Game Styles”, that would have been nice to see as well, and even Brian admitted that he wanted to go. Fortunately, though, his talk was excellent in defining casual games, as much as that can be done, and explaining the issues in this area of game development. The talk ended with some predictions for the future of this sector of the industry, most of which were positive, although he speculated that growth in downloadable games would end and, hence, become a smaller percentage of this growing market.

Next, I attended another paper session, this one called, “New Game Design Approaches and Issues“. There were three papers presented, the anchor being, “Real-Money Trade of Virtual Assets: New Strategies for Virtual World Operators” by Vili Lehdonvirta of the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology. Although the subject matter was something that is unlikely to affect any of my projects in the near future, it was still quite interesting and got me thinking about related issues I had not considered.

Lunch was tasty. (Why would today be any different?) For a change, the final keynote speech was given during lunch. It was “Artificial Intelligence in the Future of Games“, presented by Michael Mateas, Assistant Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology and Director (and founder) of the Experimental Game Lab. He discussed the role of artificial intelligence in storytelling, using his game Façade as a discussion point and proof of concept. The main point I took away was that game story has advanced beyond linear or simple tree structures, but that the solution will still be specific to a design, rather than any generic engine for all stories.

After this last keynote, the results of the game competition were announced, although the presentation was slightly disorganized. Hopefully, the full results will be published on the Future Play web site soon, because I did not take notes. I remember that the game, Move, developed by a student at USC, took top honors for future technology, as it was a physical game in which a player interacted with a game arena projected onto the floor, with movements tracked by a camera above (think EyeToy). The People’s Choice award went to Jugglin’, by Jim McGinley, an independent game developer working out of Toronto. (He does not yet have a proper web site for the game, but hopefully this will encourage him to remedy that.)

I hung around the lobby for half an hour or so, just to say farewell to some of my colleagues as they left after the conference. Then I made the pleasant walk home, where I unloaded my conference gear, watched the Michigan State football team fold in the second half against Ohio State, then took a much needed nap.

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