Every year GameCity is getting bigger and better and as it continues to grow, the games industry is taking notice; this is reflected in the increasingly high-profile guests involved in the festival. Arguably one of the most talented and esteemed guests this year is Richard Lemarchand who I had the pleasure of hearing give a lecture entitled ‘Beauty and Risk: Emotion, Indie Games and Uncharted’. Richard is a lead game designer at none other than Naughty Dog; responsible for huge franchises such as Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter and their newest gaming behemoth: Uncharted.
The lecture covered a wide spectrum of interesting subject matter related to games design and began with Richard explaining how he initially entered the game industry nearly 20 years ago. I was surprised to learn that he studied physics and philosophy at university but after he graduated, landed a job at a small game company. He improved his skills and moved to larger studios where he worked on franchises such as Gex and Soul Reaver where he met some of the people that he would later work with at Naughty Dog.
Richard went on to discuss how storytelling is evolving in video games and used a section from Uncharted 2 to explain how he and the rest of Naughty Dog tried to impart an emotional feeling and attachment to particular game characters on the player by limiting their interactivity with the world. He also spoke about how we each perceive art in the natural world. How we especially enjoy very large natural occurrences such as watching a waterfall, a time-lapse of clouds moving across the sky or a natural structure such as a termite hill. The hugely successful indie game Minecraft was also mentioned. Richard described his thoughts about the game, making the point that Minecraft is different for everyone that plays it because of how it renders a unique world for every new player. I’m paraphrasing, but he said that his opinion is that it isn’t so much a game but a playground for players to simply play, in any way they choose.
The highlight of the lecture was when we were treated to an incredibly short but breath-taking glimpse of Naughty Dog’s latest game; Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. We were shown a chapter that seemed to be quite late in the game (Chapter 19 I think) where Drake is staggering through the desert in search of refuge and more importantly, water. The game looked phenomenal, especially when it was being projected onto a huge wall; I felt as if I’d been transported into a cinema screen; you could feel the audience’s appreciation and undivided attention to what they were seeing and I was no different. It was such a short demonstration but I felt as if I could have sat there watching them play the entire game for me. It really says something about the quality of a game when I felt content to literally just sit watching somebody else interact with this incredible experience, as if I was watching a film. That basically wrapped up the talk but there was some time for a quick Q&A afterwards. Some prizes were given out to some lucky audience members who were sat in the right seats but unfortunately I wasn’t one of them. So that brought the event to an end and personally it has increased my anticipation for Uncharted 3 significantly; I look forward to playing it very soon and you should too!
Lastly, I’d just like to take this opportunity to congratulate GameCity on another great festival and another great year for gaming. I helped out with the festival last year as a steward and it’s great to see the improvements made since then.