March 4, 2011 7:00 AM | Tim W.
The Experimental Gameplay Sessions made a return to the Game Developer's Conference after a break last year, once again showcasing leading examples of innovation in game design.
Chaired by Robin Hunicke (thatgamecompany), Richard Lemarchand (Naughty Dog), and Daniel Benmergui (independent), eight hand-picked games were shown to the audience, each one an experiment that is potentially "the beginning of new meaning in games", according to Hunicke.
Maquette by Hanford Lemoore was the first title shown to the packed room.
A game based on the theme of recursion, Maquette puts the player in a drab 3D dome world that features a scale model of the same environment within a smaller dome at its center.
Move an object in the smaller place and its equivalent in the "big" world moves in kind, a conceit that Lemoore has already blossomed into a series of "elegant puzzles".
"Maquette started as an experiment trying to create a clone of Angry Birds," explained Lemoore, a UI designer who has worked with Netflix, Google, and Disney.
"I was attracted to physics-driven objects, and my work there led to the idea of one smaller object controlling a identical larger object."
The demo, which drew numerous outbursts of applause from the audience, represents around 100 hours of work, according to the designer, who intends to grow it into a fully-featured game.
Other highlights of the session included Loop Raccord by Nicolai Troshinsky, a game in which players must align sequential looping video clips to create a sense of continuous movement across the screen.
"Loop Raccord snagged on our attentions because it’s so different to anything that we have seen already," explained Lemarchand. The term 'Raccord' is a European cinematographic technique roughly translated as feeling of continuity we feel when a cinematic cut works well.
“I do not come from game design and have no idea how to code," said creator Troshinsky, whose background is in illustration and filmmaking. "Instead I tried to directly apply what I learned in film-making to game mechanics. I wanted to explore cinema as system, but without dealing with a story of any kind."
Jason Rohrer also demoed his latest release, Inside a Star-Filled Sky.
A recursive, 8-way shoot 'em up with influences as diverse as Disgaea, Psychonauts, Everyday Shooter and the movie Inception, the game represents a departure for Rohrer as his "most traditional video game to date".
In the game you guide a character through procedurally-generated levels, entering enemies and power-ups in order to alter their behaviors and tools, before exiting them again to progress.
"What I was aiming for is an aesthetic experience of becoming lost within a sub-task, and a sub-task within a sub-task," explained Rohrer.
"I wanted players to go so deep that they forget why you were even there. That happens a lot to programmers who become so engrossed in systems and subsystems that they forget the big picture. You can go 10 layers deep and then you rise back up and you’re reminded what you were trying to do."