Game Developers Conference 2009

Game Developers Conference 2009 is the title of an amusing trifle by Jim Munroe, who penned last year’s Everybody Dies. Obviously it’s inspired by his experiences at said con, and it got a certain amount of attention in the indie gaming blogs at the time, largely, I think, because the kind of people who write those blogs are also the kind of people who attend GDC, and it’s flattering to them to see themselves in miniature here.

It has a board-game-like sense of abstraction and proceduralism. The goal is to put together a small game-development team before the convention ends. You attract people to your project (or, if you’re unlucky, repel them from it) by talking to them about common interests: things like “2D physics” and “pixel art” and “micropayments” that you can learn about by attending talks or just talking to other characters about them. But these are just tokens stored in a per-character interest inventory, devoid of content beyond the buzzword. Which may well be the point.

To win the game, your team has to have people filling four roles: a designer, a coder, an artist, and a promoter. The role of every character, including the player, is randomly assigned per session. In the course of several playthroughs, I found that most of the time one or another of these roles was mysteriously rare, or completely absent. Intuitively, it seems like Munroe must be stacking the deck here, but I think the math involved is just a little unintuitive. There are eleven characters (again including the player), and four roles. If my calculations are correct — and they may well not be — there is an 83% chance that all roles are available, but only a 33% chance that all roles are filled by more than one character. So about two thirds of the time, the game will turn into a hunt for the indispensable unique guy, and more a quarter of the time that it does, he won’t even exist. One time, however, I managed to render one of the roles unnecessary by picking up some extra skills at a lecture. So I suppose the author was aware of the problem.

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