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DICE 2009

TheFeed's Raymond Padilla pitches joke-for-joke in this wily interview with Gas Powered Games' Founder/CEO Chris Taylor at DICE 2009. Known for his humor in the development community, as well as being a PC RTS god, Taylor touches on everything: Gas Powered Games' new Square-Enix publishing relationship, RTS gaming on consoles, surviving as a game developer in this economy, used game sales, eating second-hand edamame and then... well Ray... the ending...

You're on your own, buddy. Have a great weekend. Much Love.

DICE 2009 Gas Powered Games CEO/Founder Chris Taylor Interview

 

DICE 2009: Chris Taylor Interview - Funniest Dev Ever »


 

If you were ever seriously interested in the development-side of the gaming industry pull up a chair and take some notes on one of the best in the pantheon of developers.

TheFeed's Raymond Padilla snags a heart-felt, informative interview with game-designing icon Bruce Shelley (Age of Empires, Halo Wars), as he talks about life post Ensemble Studios and beyond. One of the more bittersweet moments of the DICE Summit was while Shelley's induction into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Science Hall of Fame was a triumph one has to feel for the guy with the closing of Ensemble.

We here at G4tv.com would like to wish him and all the developers well in all their future endeavors.

DICE 2009 Bruce Shelley Interview

 

DICE 2009: Bruce Shelley Interview »


 

My last to-do at DICE 2009 was get some hands-on time with The Pitt, the next DLC expansion for Fallout 3, set to release in March for the Xbox 360 and PC versions of the game.


Having spent four and a half years of my life in Pittsburgh (Go Steelers!) for college, I was selected as G4's emissary into the post-apocalyptic steel city. In the interest of time, I was given a save game at the beginning of The Pitt, which means that I don't yet know where the quest will be picked up.

It was explained, however, that you will meet a character that has escaped The Pitt. The man, a former slave, believes he has found the cure to radiation mutation. The cure has been taken by Ashur, the overlord and head slaver in The Pitt. Agreeing to help him, you travel with him to the city.

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Time to hear from Alex Evans, the co-founder of Media Molecule, about LittleBigPlanet. Alex snagged eight awards last night at the AIAS Awards. He'll be talking about what they did with LittleBigPlanet and the "experiment that continues."

He's upset that he has to follow Todd Howard's awesome talk.

12:17 PM - Alex was asked about how he pitched the game to Sony despite the fact that he couldn't explain the game. The member of the press suggested that they refer to it as an experiment.

Alex will cover the chaos of Media Molecule's origin, the lessons learned from shipping the game, and its experiences with user-generated content.

An early name for the studio was "Brain Fluff." Alex and his team didn't know if it could succeed, but they were arrogant enough to know that they had to try.

Alex will now show the original demo video that was presented to Phil Harrison. It's very rough with hand drawn graphics, but it's the essence of LittleBigPlanet.

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Todd Howard is up next at DICE. He'll be talking about the history and practices of Bethesda Softworks in a talk titled "Great Games are Played, Not Made."

Todd, the game director for Fallout 3, and his team took home two awards last night at the AIAS Awards: Best RPG and Best Original Story. Hopefully, he'll share some secrets on how they made such an amazing game. In one of his acceptance speeches last night, Todd was happy to be able to make such a great game with the Fallout IP.

Here we go.

11:50 AM - Todd is going to give us an inside look at the design and development philosophies at Bethesda. He puts up a picture of an actual fax that reads:

"Fallout 3 NO DLC for PS3? Bulls@#$!"

Hilarious.

So why Fallout? The first games didn't sell too well, but Bethesda really loves the franchise.

Todd doesn't believe that install base matters. He wants to make games for every console. If install base mattered, we'd all make board games because there are billions of tables. Hilarious.

"Excellent people make excellent games."

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The final day of DICE kicks off with a presentation from the COO of GameStop, J. Paul Raines. They probably slotted him as the first session after the awards and after-party because a conference full of game developers probably isn't going to show up in droves to hear Mr. Raines speak. Or maybe they will... if only to give him the evil eye.

GameStop, of course, has made an incredibly lucrative business for itself by accepting trade-ins and selling used games. Publishers and developers make no money off of used game sales. While most gaming executives won't blame GameStop for finding a way to make more money, they don't appreciate the method.

I can't wait to hear what Mr. Raines has to say for himself! We should be getting started in 10 minutes.

9:26 PM - Still waiting for this to get going. The crowd is pretty light, but they don't look terribly angry. Yet.

9:34 PM - Joseph Olin has announced that the AIAS partnership with GameStop has been expanded and that the winners will be promoted at GameStop stores starting this Spring. DICE 2010 will take place on February 17 - 20th, 2010.

9:36 PM - Here is Mr. Raines. People clapped for those that were wondering. He's been told to be light on his feet in case any shoes come flying! He wants to congratulate the developers in attendance for the innovation they have shown. Start it off smooth, Raines.

'Your ability to think outside of the box to create IPs that you might not want to play, but that consumers want to play, is very important.'

Stats time:

  • US Store Locations: 4,331
  • European Store Locations: 1,201
  • Canadian Store Locations: 325
  • Australian Store Locations: 350

In 2008, they opened 315 stores in the US and 673 stores internationally. In 2009, they expect to add 400 stores worldwide.

Over 10 years, they have grown year-over-year and expect a projected growth in 2009 of 10-12%

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The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences likes to recognize the "outstanding products, talented individuals and development teams that have contributed to the advancement of the multi-billion dollar worldwide entertainment software industry" by handing out Interactive Achievement Awards. I call them the "Innies." 

Last night, AIAS presented its awards for 2008 and LittleBigPlanet was the winner of the night. The PS3 platformer took home eight awards, including Overall Game of the Year and Console Game of the Year.

Also honored; Industry icon Bruce Shelley, founder of Ensemble Studios, won the Hall of Fame award for his contributions to video games.

The full winner list is below, under the cut.

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It's time for the legendary Bruce Shelley to talk about the shutting down of Ensemble Studios and hopefully the creation of Robot Entertainment. Bruce has been in the industry for 30 years and Ensemble ran from 1995 to 2009.

Here we go.

4:00 PM - Post-mortem on a half-billion dollar studio.

What was Ensemble? It was a Dallas-based studio founded in 1995. It were acquired by Microsoft in 2001 and closed in January 2009. It has sold over 20 million games including Age of Empires. It will posthumously release Halo Wars for the Xbox 360 in March.

At its peak, Ensemble employed 120 employees. Now he's just reminiscing about the good times at the studio. Parties and Halloween. Ensemble had fun.

It selected real-time strategy as its genre and chose to differentiate from its competitors by embracing a historial setting. All of the other games were science-fiction or fantasy.

4:05 PM - All of Ensemble's published games were successes. It had a very high internal bar for what worked. It also tried to keep creating innovative gameplay, not imitating successful games.

It also built games that appealed to gamers in Asia and Europe, as well as hardcore and casual gamers alike. The employees put in a lot of overtime and Microsoft would accept delays because the game would end up being better.

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Here at the 2009 DICE Summit, Raymond and I were treated to a live gameplay demonstration of Raven Software's Singularity, a new IP that they are aiming to release in 2009. Described as a thinking man's shooter, Singularity will use time, as well as the manipulation of time, in some unique and interesting ways (read: way better than TimeShift). Running us through the demo was Raven Software Co-Founder and Studio Head, Brian Raffel.

The game's setting revolves around past and present conflicts with Russia. It's time mechanics will actually take players between present day (2010) and the 1950's. Singularity's main character, Nate Renko is an Air Force pilot that has crash landed on a mysterious Russian island. As he searches for his co-pilot, he begins to uncover some of the mysteries. Wait? Time travel... island? Is this a new LOST video game?

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It's time for a POWER PANEL. A collection of gaming giants, converging on a single stage to discuss how review scores impact game development. Participating in the panel are:

  • Mona Hamilton, Vice President of Marketing, Capcom
  • Rich Hilleman, Chief Creative Office, Electronic Arts
  • Chris Taylor, Creative Director, Gas Powered Games
  • Danny Bilson, Senior Vice President and Creative Director, THQ

The panel is being moderated by Julianne Greere, editor-in-chief of The Escapist, which doesn't do game reviews. Well, except for Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation. This will be the last live blog of the day, but be sure to follow TheFeed on Twitter for live coverage of tonight's AIAS Awards. They won't let me bring my laptop, but they can't make me give up my iPhone. You'll be getting updates under 140 characters during the whole show.

4:31 PM - And away we go. Are we designing games for the consumer or the reviewers? Do developers let review scores change the way they make games? Data shows that strong review scores in many genres lead to high sales.

Have you seen any games designed specifically for reviewers?

Chris: No. I aboslutely don't think about reviewers. Ever. There are hundreds of reviewers and potentially millions of customers. If you are part of your audience, you can thankfully design for yourself. You have to hope that the reviewers are part of your market.

Danny: I agree with Chris. The first person you have to design for is yourself. If you're not a gamer, you probably wouldn't be designing games in the first place. I've actually spent some time thinking about where they can improve the Metacritic score without touching the code.

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Lars Gustavsson, creative director at D.I.C.E., is here to talk about Mirror's Edge. This is rolling right along so here we go. D.I.C.E. is also responsible for the Battlefield franchise.

3:32 PM - DICE first shipped Pinball Dreams in 1992. Today, they employ 260 people in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2000, DICE bought Refraction Games, where Lars had worked. Refraction had been working on a FPS called Codename Eagle. It was a 16-player game that included vehicles.

In 2000, before they were purchased by DICE, they had been working on Battlefield 1942. They were met with doubt at E3 and went back to Sweden. In January 2001, EA Partners signed up Battlefield 1942 and they had a publishing agreement. They had too many features in the game, but didn't have enough risk analysis. Depsite all of the features that didn't make it, they managed to ship the game to great success. It was the start of the studio.

3:38 PM - DICE's DNA is "innovation over execution" and fulfilling dreams. It's a blessing and a curse. When they shipped Battlefield 1942, everyone was just counting maps and the amount of players. The push was for "back of the box" stats.

Fast forward to 2008, DICE is now a member of the EA family. In 2008, they shipped Battlefield: Bad Company and Mirror's Edge. Now, instead of "back of the box" stats, it's about the experience that the game delivers.

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Lunch has been had and it's time to get back to bringing you live blogs. First up after my delicious meal is Dave Perry, creative officer at Acclaim Entertainment.

Dave, responsible for the creation of Earthworm Jim and MDK, always gives exciting presentations. For this one, i'll just show you how DICE is describing it because I can't see into the future:

Embracing the Future and Finding Success - Year after year, how can the band U2 thrive when their competitors wither? How will your company do the same? It's certainly more than just talnet. David Perry has been racking up the Air Miles on his search for answers, and will present his findings. This is Perry's first time speaking here at DICE.

Perry is currently directing a community-created MMO at Acclaim with a reported 52,000 people contributing to the project.

Excellent. Afterwards, I'm going to force him to make a new Earthworm Jim game some how. The presentation should kick off in a little bit so get ready to hit F5.

2:53 PM - David Perry is up. Here we go. Memory lane time. Dave is talking about his first computer and how he was using it to make games in Basic. He didn't even have the cassette backup for the Sinclair so he had to reprogram the game each time.

He's going extremely fast so I'll try to keep up.

In the future, Dave sees that we're going to get to fast storage that is unlimited. He points to Facebook as an example. They have streaming applications that run fast and are available anywhere.

As for processors, Dave thinks we're heading to cloud processing and distributed computing. However, the bottleneck will be internet speed.

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John Riccitiello, the CEO of Electronic Arts, is up on stage and I'm a bit late as the previous presentation ran long. I'm gonna jump right into it.

12:25 PM - EA will be announcing more details later today with American McGee and a new IP new game in the Alice universe? We'll bring you more later.

On sequels, "great new games can also come" from sequels. John believes that sequels can be just as innovative as new IP's. Wait, EA was the company that launched tons of new IP's last year. Did I stumble into an Activision presentation?

What goes into titles like FIFA and Madden every year aren't just roster updates. He believes sports games can be just as innovative as well.

Conclusion: sequels are good. Analysis: the economy could send EA back to the sequel shop. He feels that companies should decide what's important, invest in that, cut the rest.

The presentation itself was short, but now he's turning it over to Q&A.

Q: Is the American McGee game another Alice game?

A: Yes. It'll be for PC & Console. Official announcement later today.

Q: Could you talk about some of the missteps in 2008 for EA?

A: Some of the new IP's didn't take off. When you miss, it's easy to point to broader economic issues, but not take a look internally. They noticed a lot of issues internal to EA, especially with how they brought new IP's to market. Secondly, the company was too big in several places. They chose to make pretty hard calls to bring costs down and revamp how they bring titles to market.

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Today's DICE events are about to kick off with Mr. Jun Takeuchi, creative director & producer on Resident Evil 5. His presentation, which should last around 30 minutes, will cover Japanese game companies and its efforts to get into the Western market. I saw a sneak peak of his PowerPoint slides as they made sure they were functioning. There's humorous clip art in my future. Sadly, I cannot take pictures of the presentation.

Capcom has had a lot of success with the Western market in recent years and I can't think of another Japanese third-party publisher that has the same level of success. Square-Enix is trying to get into the Western market, but its strategy appears to be focused on acquisitions.

We're set to start in about five minutes so keep refreshing the story for all my updates. Come along with me!

9:22 AM - The presentation begins with opening remarks from Joseph Olin, president of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences. The annual golf tournament raised $500 for the Randy Pausch Scholarship Fund. The golf tournament was sponsored by EA and made use of micro-transaction donations to raise that amount. Joseph is laying out the day's events so I'm going to take this time to finish my tea.

9:41 AM - Time for Takeuchi-san! The presentation will be spoken in Japanese and translated. It's called "Un-Japanese Games: Creating Entertainment for a Global Gaming Audience." He intends to talk about Capcom's success in the West.

9:45 AM - "Japanese people view the West as a place that is defined by its non-Japaneseness." This comes from the "isolated island country complex." He talks about how Westerners view the Japanese: glasses, suits and ties, tourists with cameras, sushi, samurai. Despite the differences in culture, Capcom wants to sell its games outside Japan.

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This year at DICE, Gabe Newell, the founder and managing director of Valve Software, will be delivering the keynote address. The ballroom is rapidbly filling up, but I've got an amazing seat and can't wait to hear Gabe's remarks. I'm a huge fan of Valve.

Responsible for the Half-Life series, the revival of Team Fortress, Portal, and Left 4 Dead, Valve is one of the few studios that consistently releases incredible work. Their Steam digitial distribution service is already the leader in digital sales with more publishers flocking to the service every month.

Hopefully, he'll announce a release date (that they'll break anyway) for Half-Life 2: Episode 3. Better yet, how about Half-Life 2: Episode 33 1/3 with Leslie Nielson? Move over, Alyx!

We're getting started soon so keep checking back for glorious live blogitude.

6:01 PM - The keynote is officially one minute late. Jeez. Valve can't even ship a keynote on time!

6:04 PM - I just got word that Gabe's beta speech was stolen from the green room and it wasn't very polished. He's hard at work refining his speech and we expect to kick off "when it's done."

There are some Sony people behind me discussing the Killzone 2 release date. Even at industry events, I can't escape "February 27!!!!"

6:13 PM - Lights are officially dimmed and we're kicking off. Joseph Olin, President of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, is doing the general introduction to the Summit, which has officially now on course.

6:19 PM - Time for Gabe. Here he is! His topic: "Entertainment as a Service." I'm guessing a lot of this will be focused on Steam and Valve's direct relationship to its customers through the service.

Read More »

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