The second day at Nordic Game was pretty good too. It began with the guys from Harmonix showing of in Rock Band, before they told how they had approached the design of the game. Their simultaneous development of hardware and software was interesting, and I enjoyed hearing about their open company culture where nothing is kept secret from anyone.
Next I attended a session on designing games for children using either an existing or original IP. The difference did not seem to be that big. Both presenters agreed that children games should not be learning games. Learning is just a nice side effect – I completely agree, and finds that thought applicable to any game. Overtly trying to teach about a traditional school subject is pretty boring, but all games should teach the player something – even if that something is only usable in the game world.
The next session was the highlight of the conference. ICO designer Fumito Ueda and Forbidden Siren designer Keiichiro Toyama had joined a session on disruptive design. They did not talk much about that subject, but we all knew about their innovations anyway. The interesting bits was about their backgrounds. Fumito Ueda showed his early art exhibition design, and told that his first computer was an Amiga. He was thrilled to see the high amount of hands raised when he asked how many (former) Amiga users there were – in Japan no one knew the Amiga. His design philosophy was to affect people’s life, and he went about doing it by working on the visual side first. He also showed an early PS1 prototype of ICO, and an early multiplayer version of Shadow of The Colossus – three horse riders were battling a colossus together. Very nice and too bad it was left out of the final version! I was quite impressed with how much of the games Ueda himself had created – design and story are obvious, but he even did some of the character models and animation. Keiichiro Toyama talked about the new Forbidden Siren (New Translation) game, and how the sight jacking system had been improved using a split-screen setup. He also told the audience that he and Ueda was the only two designers within Sony who were allowed to do what ever they wanted. The last interesting bit from that session, was about Another World – apparently that game is an all time favorite and a great inspirational source to many Japanese game designers. Kind of strange that a western game has that position.
The conference ended with the usual panel discussion on the current state of Nordic game development. Apparently, the biggest problem is to get enough talent from outside our region. Peter Zetterberg from Microsoft also feared that Nordic developers would not reach their full potential unless they became more cocky and aggressive with their pitches. He could easily be talking about the phone conversation I had with him last year when he was with Codemasters…
All in all, it was a nice conference. Much better keynotes than last year, but the other sessions were not as good as last year I think – or maybe I just went to the wrong sessions.