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Playniac at GDC Europe 2011

Playniac were at GDC Europe 2011 and Gamescom in Cologne this week, where founder Rob Davis spoke about various methods Playniac uses to visualise, simulate and refine game designs from the very start of our production process.



The session “Where’s The Fun? How to Test Your Game Before You Build a Thing” was in the packed 1,200-capacity main room of GDC and Rob kicked off with a run through of his experimental crowd participation game Cat On Yer Head, which turns the audience into a “human games console”. He went on to talk about interactive wireframes, wireframe storytelling, paper testing, user testing and game balancing using International Racing Squirrels for Channel 4 as a case study.

Going into detail about paper testing, he looked at how Playniac designed a tabletop version of International Racing Squirrels to put the game through its paces, explore game dynamics, find what was fun, discard what wasn’t and see what the game actually feels like to play; all before writing a single line of code. He showed feature-by-feature how the game was turned into paper by stripping it down to first principles before Playniac ran an event in London where the public were able to play.

The talk went down well on Twitter, with Netherlands-based game blogger Ellis Bartholomeus (@ellisinwonderla) writing “Very inspiring talk on game development by Rob Davis at GDC”. Spanish game studio founder Jesús Bosch Aiguadé (@jboschaiguade) tweeted: “Really good talk!! Congrats!!” and Netherlands-based interaction designer Thijs de Vries (@thijsdevries) added: “Wauw! Great talk by Rob Davis from Playniac about paper prototypes, user testing, interactive wireframes and balancing” and: “Very interesting to see a bit of the design process of a great game! Can’t wait to play it.”

Cat On Yer Head itself provoked an ongoing discussion on Twitter, even amongst people who missed the talk, with San Francisco-based game designer Gabe Smedresman (@gabesmed) writing “Totally brilliant party game by Playniac”. Copenhagen Game Collective co-founder Douglas Wilson (@doougle ) tweeted: “*Brilliant* Playniac party/comedy game that turns audience into ‘drunken human computer’. Love it!”, Honeyslug co-founder Ricky Haggett (@KommanderKlob) added: “Really want to play Playniac’s ‘crowd as computer’ game that he ran at GDCE. Genius idea!” and BBC Worldwide assistant game producer Ben Milsom (@benmilsom) concluded: “Fantastic! I think you’ve invented a new conference phenomenon!”.

Slides can be downloaded here (3.5MB PDF).

“Where’s The Fun?” slides via SlideShare:

Photo credits: Navina Clever / Paulina Wanat for GDC Europe. Photos are (C)2011 GDC Europe.

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