Darknet at GDC

The Game Developers Conference consumed my life for the past week, and it was wonderful. It's like a Disneyland vacation for game devs. This was my fourth GDC and by far my busiest; I'm still trying to recuperate from the exhaustion and the usual conference illness, but it was easily worth it.

VR enthusiasts have already heard the big news: Oculus announced their second development kit (DK2), and Sony announced their own VR headset (Project Morpheus). I had the chance to try both of them on the expo floor, and I wrote up my impressions here and here. The short version: both are great, but far from perfect. I give a slight edge to the DK2.

When I wasn't hanging out in virtual reality myself, I was busy sending other people there. I showed off demos of Darknet for 3-4 hours every night at events like the MIX (Media Indie Exchange), the Humble party, and the VR Mixer. During the days, I gave at least a dozen impromptu demos in the hallways and corners of the conference center.

I'm proud to report that these demos earned Darknet some new fans! A few attendees told me that Darknet was their favorite game at the MIX, and some came by to check out the game after hearing recommendations from others in the crowd. As expected, these demos were more useful for spreading awareness than getting press, but I was surprised to see Darknet mentioned afterward in the New York Times as one of the "most intriguing" VR games at GDC. Pretty cool!

The demos also elicited a lot of useful feedback. The hacking mechanic in Darknet was not easily understood by most players, and even after they grasped the rules of the system, they tended to have a hard time seeing a satisfying connection between their choices and the eventual result. Essentially, I'm still struggling with one of the core challenges of making new strategy mechanics: I can see the strategic decisions because I understand the entire system, whereas new players don't know where to start. Perhaps I can solve this problem through a good tutorial, but I think it might also be necessary to tweak the system to fit players' intuitions more readily.

So, although in some ways GDC felt like a vacation (albeit an exhausting one), it also gave me a clear problem to focus on as I launch back into development. Back to work!


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