Another year, another Gamercamp! With the fourth iteration of the Toronto-based video game culture festival now in the can, the Shelf’s Eric Weiss, Jonathan Ore, and Timothy Krynicki round up last night’s social events and a selection of today’s speakers.
Be sure to read our round up of Gamercamp Day One, as well as our exclusive interview with DayZ creator and Gamercamp keynote speaker Dean “Rocket” Hall. And check back throughout the week for full length Gamercamp interviews and features.
New York’s No Quarter Arcade comes to Queen’s Quay in Toronto
Anyone who manages to survive university knows that social habits change with maturity, and that’s as true of events as it is of individuals. This year’s Gamercamp social was consequently the most subdued gathering in the conference’s four-year history, but – as with everything else throughout the weekend – it nonetheless remains a fantastic event for anyone interested in games, gamers, and game development.
Past attendees will recall noisy affairs like 2010’s blowout Anamanaguchi concert or 2011’s game-themed decathlon across Toronto, and while both of those happenings were certainly happening, 2012 aspired to be a more casual shindig. The gala took place at the Watermark Tavern at the Queen’s Quay Terminal and prioritized people and games over novelty and spectacle.
The NYU No Quarter delegation provided the entertainment – games like Hokra, BaraBariBall, and Nidhogg consistently drew massive crowds of players and spectators alike – while the fine musical stylings of MC Shaun Hatton, Retro City Rampage composer Leonard J. Paul and Peter Chapman (Mutant Blobs Attack, ModNation Racers) served as a wonderful backdrop throughout the evening.
With so many high-profile guests in town for Gamercamp, that makes for a plenty memorable Saturday night. The room was packed with interesting people having fascinating conversations about video games, and there’s something to be said for the more relaxed atmosphere of the arcade.
Which isn’t to say that the 2012 Gamercamp social was a quiet outing. The conversation always becomes a bit livelier once the beer starts flowing and Hokra remains a rather raucous title (Nidhogg and BaraBariBall might be even rowdier). It’s enough to make anyone grateful for that extra hour of sleep afforded by daylight saving time, and that’s one tradition worth considering regardless of the plans for Gamercamp 2013. – Eric Weiss
A morning of hangovers, storytelling, and sine waving
The two opening talks for Gamercamp Sunday couldn’t have been more different from each other. But thanks to such diametrically opposed approaches, Mary DeMarle and Shawn McGrath proved that the games can be a tentpole for incredible variation and creativity.
As narrative director for Eidos Montreal’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution, DeMarle had to figure out ways to tell the story of Adam Jensen and the world he lived in in ways that didn’t get interfere with player action – or worse, proscribe a certain action when the player might want to do the exact opposite.
“My job, as a storyteller, is to use every tool in the book to pull players into a state of immersion, so they’ll become invested in my story and understand the message that it’s trying to convey,” she said. While in-game cutscenes and audio logs can help that process, the world itself had to be convincing enough to make the player feel like he or she inhabited it.
Jensen’s apartment is cluttered with shelves and piles of papers, while office spaces were designed with the office workers in mind first, as opposed to a “this desk will be used for cover against these enemies” mindset.
One look at McGrath’s Dyad and you’ll quickly realize that he’s not interested in creating a world in the same way that DeMarle and the Deus Ex team were. In fact, he briefly said that even trying such a thing was nonsense, but we’ll get into that later.
Instead, he took the audience under the hood of Dyad. The graphics are aggressively manipulated with sine wave (what McGrath called “The most beautiful pattern, ever”) or Bézier curve functions – to the point where an amorphous blob becomes the “Halloween sun” – like the Charger enemy in one of his levels.
Short musical tracks are generally less than five seconds long each, and play or react according to the action on the screen. He also showed how the code affected the game in real time: changing the saturation levels equaled a brighter Charger. And as he lanced more nodes, a dozen tiny repeating tracks quickly tripled into a wonderous cacophony. – Jonathan Ore
Patrick Redding and the Triple-Lowercase-A (aaa) Future of Games
Splinter Cell: Blacklist game director Patrick Redding touched on many game design practices, and introduced a new concept to game enthusiasts that can be seen as an extension (rather than an evolution) of the triple-A blockbuster.
Triple-A titles are most commonly released during the peak end of the year period, which leaves plenty of room during the indie wave of the summer for what Redding has coined the “aaa” game (that’s triple-A spelled with a lowercase a’s) to show its strength as something that “works” and is both critically and financially successful.
Redding expressed his concern that the games market is being swamped with titles that offer more of an on-rails, cinematic experience rather than one that evolves through a player’s solo and co-operative interaction with a game and its workable elements.
The “aaa” acronym appears very foreign, but the more I contemplate its meaning and the gaming possibilities that could potentially exist as a result of Redding’s theory, then the future is looking very bright indeed.
For a detailed rundown of Redding’s presentation — and a helping of Splinter Cell series trivia — stay tuned for the full interview. – Timothy Krynicki
Photos by Wesley Fok