GDC 2010, Day 3: Diversity Or Fragmentation?

Sid Meier’s Keynote

While Side Meier’s Keynote talk, “Psychology of Game Design (Everything You Know Is Wrong)” didn’t close the conference, it’s probably a good wrap for our GDC coverage. Sid Meier has been involved in almost every evolutionary step in game design, from arcades to PCs to consoles. And now it looks like Firaxis will even be trying its hand at social network games with the upcoming Civilization Network.

Meier began his talk by casually mentioning that 2010 was “the year of Civilization.” This year will mark the release of both Civilization V and Civilization Network (aka “Civ for Facebook). Noting that gameplay is a psychological experience, Meier pointed out that a game really is all in your head. In fact, any gamer needs to be an egomaniac (think: “god game” and you get the idea), paranoid (the AI and the game designer are out to get me,” and delusional (“I can rule the world).

Games also create what Meier called the Winner Paradox--you’ll win in PC games much more often than you win in real life. He went on to discuss the “Unholy Alliance,” which he described as an unstated agreement between players and game designers. The designer’s job is to make the player feel like he’s good at something, create a suspension of disbelief and create moral clarity, so that beating an opponent doesn’t make you feel like a baby killer.

Perhaps the funniest anecdote he shared about how much psychology affects gameplay was his discussion of combat odds in Civilization Revolution. When a player faces an opponent, and has 3:1 odds, Meier noted. That means the player should lose one out of four times. But if players lost at 3:1, they were mystified: “I have 3:1 odds! I shouldn’t lose!”

So the game had to cheat a bit behind the scenes, to make 3:1 stronger than it seemed. On top of this, while players might begrudgingly allow that losing a battle where they have 2:1 odds is okay sometimes, they should never lose when they have 20:10 odds. After all, at 20:10, they have ten more unit strength than the opponent.

After some advice for budding game designers, he closed with the observation that a game is an epic journey for the player, and should be full of interesting decisions, allow learning and progression and ultimately have both that “just one more turn” feel as well as replayability.

So will Civilization Network attract millions of new users to strategy games, or will it be drowned out by the “software Skinner boxes” built by Zynga and similar, new companies? It’s uncertain, of course. The game could attract millions of users, and still be considered a failure by the standards set by Farmville.

What’s sure is that interactive entertainment is still continually evolving. It will be fascinating to see what controversies pop up at the 2020 GDC. For now, though, go out and play a game of your own.

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  • aethm
    Please no more Farmville... I get 20 requests a day as it is!
  • Other Comments
  • aethm
    Please no more Farmville... I get 20 requests a day as it is!
  • requiemsallure
    Im interested to find out more about CIV V
  • stridervm
    Civilization Network could work with me, if it works like Tetris Online, the one with real multiplayer. =)
  • dco
    Quote:
    DirectX 11 will be a big benefit for users, even if they don’t have DX11 capable hardware.


    But if you don't have dx11 hardware how can you make use of it??
  • requiemsallure
    Anonymous said:
    Quote:
    DirectX 11 will be a big benefit for users, even if they don’t have DX11 capable hardware.


    But if you don't have dx11 hardware how can you make use of it??


    because it will add useless data to their HDD :P

    in all honesty that's a good question.
  • Kelavarus
    Basically Sid Meier says people are idiots, and don't understand ratios.

    Haha. Nice.
  • Anonymous
    I think it is possible to use the DX 11 API but still make your code backward compatible with older cards; just means older cards won't use some of the features you programed in.


    I am a bit surprised though that one could code using DX 11 API and still be backward compatible, considering the tessellation requirement. Either Microsoft did a very good job with the API, the game developers need to do a lot of work to make it backward compatible, or I am wrong and it cannot be backwards compatible.
  • Shin-san
    dcoBut if you don't have dx11 hardware how can you make use of it??

    DirectX 11 has enhanced multithreading support, meaning it depends more on your CPU.
  • kokin
    Some DX11 features were already on GPUs prior to the 5000series/GTX400 (notably ATI cards), like tessalation. They were not utilized, but the features were developed and implemented years ago.

    Anyone playing the new Borderlands DLC? Those assassin chicks are kicking my ass.
  • neiroatopelcc
    aethmPlease no more Farmville... I get 20 requests a day as it is!

    just block the app! click the farmville name (instead of rejecting or accepting) - click the name again - in the left upper corner click 'block this application'
  • TheGreatGrapeApe
    Anonymous said:
    Quote:
    DirectX 11 will be a big benefit for users, even if they don’t have DX11 capable hardware.


    But if you don't have dx11 hardware how can you make use of it??


    Because they are talking about the API as a whole, not just the D3D 11 chunk of DX11, and it's not limited to just the latest hardware. It adds and drops support for features on older hardware to improve the overall interface command & control.

    They added legacy support for DX9 and DX10 hardware by updating some methods, and most importantly also better threading support as mentioned by Shin-san.
  • greeve
    If farmville is the future of gaming well then i quit
  • MxM
    "Basically Sid Meier says people are idiots, and don't understand ratios."

    No, he said that our intuition about what numbers represent is different from simple ratio. Who said in the first place that combat is more likely to be represented as ratio in our mind? It is probably some other mathematical relationship than dimple ratio, as Sid has found.

    And yes, it does feel that 200 to 100 should win with higher probability than 2 to 1, because mentally you think about 200 people versus 100 people, and while there could be a single guy who takes two just by chance, at larger numbers it should average out.
  • Bolbi
    So, will Civ5 be able to take full advantage of DX11? (I hope so!) I currently play Civ4 and really like it. I'll have to read the reviews once Civ5 comes out, but so far the changes sound great.
  • requiemsallure
    they need to do something about the 20 archers being able to take out a tank thing... that is a little strange.