Last week, perhaps the most eventful thing in the gaming world was D.I.C.E.
No, there wasn’t a sudden resurgence of Risk and Dungeons & Dragons players (wouldn’t that be awesome?), but rather a 2008 game developers’ conference in Las Vegas, hosted by the Academy of Arts and Sciences. The D.I.C.E. (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Summit is a three day conference primarily for people who make video games to gather, bringing some of the most creative minds in the industry together in one place.
The show opened with a keynote address from Gore Verbinski, director of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. He seems an odd choice for a speaker at an event for interactive entertainment, when he’s had little to do with video games, and sure enough he opened by talking about the “Pirates” movies and the criticisms they received.
He did eventually relate this to storytelling in games, warning game developers of what he called “the homogenization of voice.” He cautioned the industry against letting their creativity be stifled by commerce and the mass consumer. He also worked in some good bashing of licensed games – particularly games based on films – which are notorious for have rushed development cycles, low production values, and overall bad quality.
Above all, he discussed storytelling, advising game makers on what “Hollywood” traps to avoid, and how he thought it was best to handle interactive media. Near the end of his address, he seemed to stress “madness”, mentioning “Guitar Hero” as a concept that was a long time coming, as it took awhile to convince publishers that a plastic guitar would sell well. “But that wasn’t what the Guitar Hero guys understood,” Verbinski said. “They understood that, at one point, everyone has stood in front of a mirror with a tennis racket and just rocked out.”
Verbinski of course wasn’t the only speaker at the event. Over the course of the conference attendants were able to sit in on seminars by developers at companies such as Blizzard Entertainment, Microsoft Game Studios, Electronic Arts, Epic Games, Insomniac Games, Q Entertainment, and more. Topics of this speeches were over a variety of topics, with titles including, “Characters in Games”, “Implementing Creativity”, “Designing for Money”, “Breaking the Broken Model”, and more.
On top of speeches and a few unreleased games themselves being playable, the summit also hosted the 11th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards. A show that definitely strives to be like the Oscars, the awards honored a variety of games for a long list of categories, such as “Best Multiplayer Game of the Year”, “Outstanding Achievement in Soundtrack”, “Outstanding Achievement in Story Development”, and so on.
The big award, as expected, was “Game of the Year” (equivalent to “Best Picture”). The nominees surprised few people, with the biggest titles of 2007 being represented. “Bioshock”, “Call of Duty 4”, “Rock Band”, “Super Mario Galaxy”, and “The Orange Box.”
The overall winner, walking away with four awards total including “Game of the Year” and “Console Game of the Year”, was “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare” for the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.