GDC08: Cloning and mental confusion in Experimental Games session

Ross Miller
R. Miller|02.25.08

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Ross Miller
February 25th, 2008
In this article: experimental-games, GDC, gdc08
GDC08: Cloning and mental confusion in Experimental Games session
One of our favorite annual sessions, in addition to the developers rant and the design challenge, is the Experimental Games session. Whereas last year we saw audio-infused titles and a then-lesser known Portal, this year's themes were replay, obfuscation, user-generated/controlled levels and "two levels at once," with a presentation by Rod Humble halfway through. (We unfortunately had to miss the two final themes to catch the Boom Blox presentation. Sorry, folks!)

The first theme was "replay" and dealt with idea of, erm, playing with yourself. It's not as dirty as it sounds:
  • Cursor*10: It's really important that we don't spoil the fun for you. It'll take a few minutes realize what you're doing, but remember that working together is important.
  • Time Bot: Play through the level multiple times, with each play-through cloned to help with the other. First time you press a switch, second time you walk through the newly opened door while your past-self hits the switch. We were shown the hardest level in the game, which reportedly took many hours to accomplish.
  • Braid: Record an action and use it as a shell of your former self to solve puzzle. One instance involves sacrifice your former self to hand your new self a key over a bed of spikes.
  • The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom: If Joystiq's Justin McElroy had seen this presentation, he'd probably have understood the game a little more. Similar to Brad in that you record an action, except this time that action keeps up until you either knock your clone off the stage or you create some sort of spacial paradox. Worth a look for the art style alone.

The second theme was "obfuscation," as in "something that screws with your head."
  • Lost Static: The game is entirely presented in white noise, with each different element presented with a different animation of white noise (some scroll, some disfigured, some static).
  • Wrath of Transparentor: Billed at the "world's worst game" in the vein of Ed Wood's "worst movie" Plan 9 from Outer Space, you play a (truly) invisible monster wading through platforming clichés. At least there's no death penalty, else we'd get way too frustrated with this game. If no other game in this category, check out this one.
  • Space Giraffe: Creator Jeff Ender Minter was not present for the presentation. The presenter (whose name we forgot, sorry!) actually laid out a well-crafted defense to naysayers of the game, showing the intrinsic differences and evolution of the game's visual style from level one, level 27 and level 64.
  • La La Land 4: ...what?
The last thing we saw before (sadly) running out was Electronic Arts' Rod Humble, who presented his title Stars over Half Moon Bay. "If you think this is utterly bizarre, you are not alone," prefaced Humble. You move the cursor around to create arcing rays of lights as black engulfs from the bottom of the screen up. Every point your cursor touches the black, a grey square appears and you start over.

Once the black engulfs entire, a second of nothing, then it disappears and you can connect all the grey points to form constellations. It's really beautiful in presentation. "It's meant to be art, not necessarily fun. Thank you for paying attention," he said.
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