Liveblog: Sid Meier's GDC 2010 Keynote Speech

Liveblog: Sid Meier's GDC 2010 Keynote Speech

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The keynote for this year's GDC is game design legend, Sid Meier and he tells us that everything we know about game design is wrong.

10:31 Game design is a pyschological experience.

10:32 The more railroady a game is or the more piratey the game is the better. [referring to Meier's games Railroad Tycoon and Pirates!]

10:34 If you play Civ you are an egomaniac.

10:35 I've never received a letter that said, 'Hey Sid, I love the game but I win too much'

10:37 If you give something to the player, they won't question it and they'll believe it was because of their clever strategy. If something bad happens to the player, the game is broken and something is wrong.

10:40 Unholy Alliance is a term that I want to trademark. I missed uncanny valley. The unholy alliance is an agreement between the player and the game designer. The player is the star of the game and keeping them feeling good about themselves is the designer's responsibility. In return, the player promises to suspend his disbelief.

10:46 It's more satisfying to win against a bad and cranky Ghengis Khan, rather than one that cries for mercy for the women and children. For some games, it's important to remove the moral dilemma and provide moral clarity.

10:47 How many of you remember the Cold War? Let's hear it for the cold war. (jokingly asks for applause)

10:49 Style is a part of the Unholy Alliance. A game that starts out happy and cartoony, and then all of these horrible things starts to happen, it pulls them out of the game.

10:52 Meier told a story about how one player said that the odds of the battles in Civ felt off to him. The odds said the player had a 3 to 1 chance to win and he lost, which felt wrong because 3 is such a bigger number than 1. "How could I lose? I've got a 3!" Player psychology can be counterintuitive to mathematics and probability.

10:58 Civilization started out as a real time strategy game, but the player was too much of an observer. Like SimCity. As soon as it was a turn-based game, the player was the star.

11:00 Random events need to be treated very carefully because the player can have the worst and most paranoid response. If something awful happens to him, it can make him feel like the game is broken and unfun.

11:04 Facebook game, Civilization Network: Meier thought it would be cool to be able to allow players to give gold to each other. But that never happened in playtesting.

11:05 Use the player's imagination. Save money by letting players imagine elements without creating assets. Example: Civ Rev popup tells us that the sultan of zanzibar wants to curry favor with us by giving a caracvan with dancing bears. In truth, there was no dancing bear animation, but the player didn't need to see it in order to get the image.

11:09 Players project onto the AI because of the competitive nature of the game.

11:10 AI should not act like another player. When you play another person, you expect tricky manuevers and clever play. But if the AI does that same behavior, the player believes that it's either dumb or cheating.

11:12 The more that the AI provides feedback and the other leaders react to what your doing [in Civ], the more the player feels that they are in a living breathing world.

11:14 Meier has seen people play Civ where they save before each battle and reload it if they don't win. "That's not the game that I designed." So it's important to limit the accessibility to loading and saving. In Pirates!, you can only load and save in ports and that is a great way to add it to the story of the game.

11:17 Cheats in civilization led directly to the concept of modding. "Cheating, not so sure, but modding is definitely a cool thing." (shows a Fall From Heaven screenshot)

11:19 Listen to the player. Don't take what they are saying literally. They will often offer solutions, but that feedback often doesn't take into account how it may break other parts of the game, etc. But it's still important to look at the motivation for what that feedback comes from.

11:21 Wrap it up for you guys with the idea of the Epic Journey. I think I want to trademark this as well. I come back again and again to interesting decisions. By giving the player as many choices as possible, ones that can have far-reaching impact, is a way to get them to feel that they are on an epic journey.

11:23 Shoutout to World of Warcraft as a game that effectively shows progress with leveling system. It's important for the player to feel that they've accomplished something in the last hour or half hour.

11:25 By doing all of these things, you can create an epic journey for your players.

11:26 And now, you know everything.

Time for questions, anybody have anything you want me to ask Sid Meier?

Permalink

Meh ... I haven't bought a Sid Meier game since 2002. I will buy one this year, though. Hexagons!

We'll see this fall if he's the egomaniac or those who play his games.

Heh, I'm glad they decided against the RTS approach on the original Civ; man oh-man would that have been crap on the hardware at that time. It still took a good loooooooong time to load on the Amiga. Fortunately the music was awesome. I find the statement a tad bit hard to swallow, or is he talking about Civ 3 (Firaxis first) or 5?

At the risk of sounding disrespectful to Mr Meier, I'll take anything he says about gaming AI with a grain of salt. Imo not one of the strong points of his previous games.

I love his comment at Civ lol.

And its true!

And appluse for the cold war? Does he want more games made around that? Sitting around? Waiting, for...stuff lol

10:35 I've never received a letter that said, 'Hey Sid, I love the game but I win too much'

10:37 If you give something to the player, they won't question it and believe it was their clever strategy. If something bad happens to the player, the game is broken and something is wrong.

So true, I cannot even begin to say how many times I encuonter the second one.

Greg Tito:
10:32 The more railroady a game is the more piratey the game is the better.

Uh... what?

Greg Tito:
10:35 I've never received a letter that said, 'Hey Sid, I love the game but I win too much'

What does this mean? He wants to make all games easy? Challenge isn't a vital part of games acording to him?

Greg Tito:
10:37 If you give something to the player, they won't question it and believe it was their clever strategy. If something bad happens to the player, the game is broken and something is wrong.

If you're making games for 12-year olds and XBOX Live players, maybe...

Greg Tito:
10:40 Unholy Alliance is a term that I want to trademark. I missed uncanny valley. The unholy alliance is an agreement between the player and the game designer. The player is the star of the game and keeping them feeling good about themselves is the designer's responsibility. In return, the player promises to suspend his disbelief.

Fuck you, Sid Meier.

Greg Tito:
10:49 Style is a part of the Unholy Alliance. A game that starts out happy and cartoony, and then all of these horrible things starts to happen, it pulls them out of the game.

...or it can make the game totally awesome? A clash of styles can be just as effective as one continuously enforced style, if done right.

Greg Tito:
10:52 Meier told a story about how one player said that the odds of the battles in Civ felt off to him. The odds said the player had a 3 to 1 chance to win and he lost, which felt wrong because 3 is such a bigger number than 1. "How could I lose? I've got a 3!" Player psychology can be counterintuitive to mathematics and probability.

My tabletop gamer mind rages at this.

Greg Tito:
11:00 Random events need to be treated very carefully because the player will believe the worst and most paranoid response.

Not really sure I get what this means...

Greg Tito:
11:05 Use the player's imagination. Save money by letting players imagine elements without creating assets. Example: Civ Rev popup tells us that the sultan of zanzibar wants to curry favor with us by giving a caracvan with dancing bears. In truth, there was no dancing bear animation, but the player didn't need to see it in order to get the image.

...and that's news, how?

Greg Tito:
11:10 AI should not act like another player. When you play another person, you expect tricky manuevers and clever play. But if the AI does that same behavior, the player believes that it's either dumb or cheating.

I think this heavily depends on the type of game you're playing. If he's talking about a campaign game, I agree. But in skirmish play or a botmatch I'd expect the AI to mimic human play as much as possible. (that reminds me, whatever happened to botmatches in FPS games?)

Greg Tito:
11:14 Meier has seen people play Civ where they save before each battle and reload it if they don't win. "That's not the game that I designed." So it's important to limit the accessibility to loading and saving. In Pirates!, you can only load and save in ports and that is a great way to add it to the story of the game.

I'm a big fan of save-anywhere games, since it makes it that much easier to just play for a short time, save, and pick it up where you left whenever you've got the time. Still, I agree that it's easy to exploit.

Greg Tito:
11:17 Cheats in civilization led directly to the concept of modding. "Cheating, not so sure, but modding is definitely a cool thing." (shows a Fall From Heaven screenshot)

I have no problems with cheating, as long as it doesn't happen in multiplayer games. I think everyone can agree that modding is a Good Thing.

Greg Tito:
11:19 Listen to the player. Don't take what they are saying literally. They will often offer solutions, but that feedback often doesn't take into account how it may break other parts of the game, etc. But it's still important to look at the motivation for what that feedback comes from.

100% agreed. Some developers should learn this lesson. Listen to your players, but don't give them what they want. Find out what causes that want, and address the cause of it rather than the symptom on which the players tend to focus.

Greg Tito:
11:21 Wrap it up for you guys with the idea of the Epic Journey. I think I want to trademark this as well. I come back again and again to interesting decisions. By giving the player as many choices as possible, ones that can have far-reaching impact, is a way to get them to feel that they are on an epic journey.

I don't think that games necessarily need a lot of far-reaching decisions to be immersive. I do agree that, if you're going to have the player make certain choices, make sure those choices mean something, and have an effect that lasts longer than the immediate situation.

Greg Tito:
11:26 And now, you know everything.

Huzzah.

He seems pretty spot on. Especially about

10:37 If you give something to the player, they won't question it and believe it was their clever strategy. If something bad happens to the player, the game is broken and something is wrong.

Hurr Durr Derp:

Greg Tito:
10:32 The more railroady a game is the more piratey the game is the better.

Uh... what?

He also makes games about railroads and pirates. His last railroads game wasn't that well received so I don't know what he would have put up on powerpoint.

What does this mean? He wants to make all games easy? Challenge isn't a vital part of games acording to him?

Civ games are not completely lacking challenge. I would complain about it being too easy to win in a game like Total War.

11:10 AI should not act like another player. When you play another person, you expect tricky manuevers and clever play. But if the AI does that same behavior, the player believes that it's either dumb or cheating.

Huh...at first, that seems utterly counterintuitive, but thinking about it, damn if he isn't spot on.

This is why I love Sid, he has such a spot on design philosophy. So very simple, true and old school.

Save systems and death mechanics are the two of the most controversial subjects. We have heard his opinion on saving and I wonder what he thinks of dying.

Greg Tito:
Time for questions, anybody have anything you want me to ask Sid Meier?

Unit stacks and how single tile occupancy will affect Civ 5?

I find his philosophies kinda negative. I quite like a challenge really, which is why I love S.T.A.L.K.E.R games. I mean I do tend to avoid complaining about good things happening to me but then again who would? And sometimes I do complain when something good happens to me, like those bloody vita-chambers in bioshock. that made me really quite furious. Why would I want to come back after I died? I bloody died! Where can there be tension in a world with no death?

Greg Tito:

10:34 If you play Civ you are an egomaniac.

NO, I AM THE EGOMANIAC!

God bless Sid :)

Man, I'm still addicted too pirates, that game is stupidly fun *returns too trying too whip out Spain*

Heh heh, so true. I'm guilty of this type of thing in games. I'll plot out a strategy in Civ or some other game that randomness plays a large part like Fire Emblem.

I'll roll over my enemies' defense but I lose one 5-1 odds battle or get my FE plan screwed over by missing a 90% hit chance I'm usually thinking to myself, "THAT'S BULLSHIT!!!"

Sid Meier is just awesome.
The guy really knows his stuff, and that really comes through in his games.
I love 'em.

Sid: Stay frosty, you thin-haired, lovable designer you.

More Fun To Compute:

Hurr Durr Derp:

Greg Tito:
10:32 The more railroady a game is the more piratey the game is the better.

Uh... what?

He also makes games about railroads and pirates. His last railroads game wasn't that well received so I don't know what he would have put up on powerpoint.

Ah, yes. I heard railroads and pirates and misassociated it with linearity and software piracy. I should've made the connection to the games.

More Fun To Compute:

What does this mean? He wants to make all games easy? Challenge isn't a vital part of games acording to him?

Civ games are not completely lacking challenge. I would complain about it being too easy to win in a game like Total War.

My problem is that the way I'm reading this, this statement and the next few boil down to "Gamers are immature creatures who whine about games that beat them, we should let them win so they can feel like big damn heroes." I very strongly disagree with any such sentiments.

Hurr Durr Derp:
My problem is that the way I'm reading this, this statement and the next few boil down to "Gamers are immature creatures who whine about games that beat them, we should let them win so they can feel like big damn heroes." I very strongly disagree with any such sentiments.

I think he is saying some old school wisdom. Games are there to make the player feel good. Not make the designer feel that they have made the best game that can beat any player. These days it probably needs saying that treating the player like a moron who can't do anything or expecting them to resort to save scumming to achieve anything does not make them feel good either.

Hurr Durr Derp:

More Fun To Compute:

What does this mean? He wants to make all games easy? Challenge isn't a vital part of games acording to him?

Civ games are not completely lacking challenge. I would complain about it being too easy to win in a game like Total War.

My problem is that the way I'm reading this, this statement and the next few boil down to "Gamers are immature creatures who whine about games that beat them, we should let them win so they can feel like big damn heroes." I very strongly disagree with any such sentiments.

I think its more to do with games using random number generators/percentages. Think Fire emblem or games based on board games.

When the other AI criticals , killing your soldier and ruining you plans, most players shout about cheating. When you miss with a 95% chance to hit people think the AI is cheating. Even though you have a 1 in 20 chance to miss. Likewise if you get two close together, which will happen over thousands of actions, its cheating.

I play Bloodbowl online (don't ask me why) and the amount of people on the forums who genuinely believe that the random number generator is out to get them is untrue.

I'd like to add that Sid is a genius. I just hope the next Civ will run on my lappy.

I love the Civ games :D

And its always interesting to hear people say "the game is cheating!". Its rediculous. God forbid you lose.

If every game just layed down and let you win it would be boring.

Anyway, for those who are interested, we have made a Civilization group here on the Escapist :D
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/groups/view/The-Builders-of-Civilzation

/shameless plug

Greg Tito:

Time for questions, anybody have anything you want me to ask Sid Meier?

How many of my limbs will I have to continue sacrificing in front of my Sid Meier altar until he announces Alpha Centauri 2? Hell I would be happy with a re-release of Alpha Centauri + Alien Crossfire for Windows 7 and Vista.

Irridium:

And its always interesting to hear people say "the game is cheating!". Its rediculous. God forbid you lose.

Seriously Irridium, the manual even admits the computer cheats. Civ is one of the all time games for TheComputerIsACheatingBastard, just behind Mario Kart.

Greg Tito:

Time for questions, anybody have anything you want me to ask Sid Meier?

Oooh questions, can you ask him when he's going to fix Colonization so that getting Liberty Bells doesn't mean you get mullered by the Royal Army? 24 Man of Wars is not a great trade off for Pocahontas.

Greg Tito:

Time for questions, anybody have anything you want me to ask Sid Meier?

I have one: Will there be more things to do in the future stage? In CivIV I used a mod to add a bunch of stuff into the future tech trees.

I know it eventually has to end, but I would love to see some more interesting technologies for the future stages.

The_root_of_all_evil:

Irridium:

And its always interesting to hear people say "the game is cheating!". Its rediculous. God forbid you lose.

Seriously Irridium, the manual even admits the computer cheats. Civ is one of the all time games for TheComputerIsACheatingBastard, just behind Mario Kart.
.

I know, I didn't mean Civ games specifically. I was talking more about anytime the player loses, he blames cheating, when half the time its his/her fault.

 

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