Designing a video game is hard, and usually it takes a long time. Sometimes you need a little inspiration to help form new ideas or to motivate yourself. Maybe you’re working on a game right now, and are trying to make it more … immersive, fun, rewarding, joyful, etc. I’ve been searching the web to find game design talks, audio and video, that are freely available, and have found them to be pretty scattered and harder to find than I would have thought, so I decided to do a round-up to help spark the creative pathways.

If you have some quality additions to this list, drop a comment below and I’ll see about adding it. There are quite a few more names that could be added to this list.

GDC Vault Has a Free Section!!

The Game Developer’s conference has been going on for over 25 years. That’s a lot of audio, video, and powerpoint slides, some of which has just been sitting around. I imagine a dusty warehouse like a museum archive where things are just waiting to be discovered. While I wasn’t paying attention, GDC started putting their archives online and decided to release a lot of free material. While some is free, there is also a lot that is member’s only (boo!). Personally, I think the really old stuff from the archives should be free knowledge:

Ron Gilbert

I’ll list the grumpy gamer / adventure game legend first because there is a big place in my heart for the adventure games LucasArts was making before Star Wars became a product and everything turned into legos. Deathspank was pretty good. Ron also helped out with Hothead Games’s creations for Penny Arcade. His recent indeavor is “The Cave” for XBLA.

Jonathan Blow

Braid was an amazing game that deserved the attention that it received. Jonathan has stayed active on the web and has released some great information on his game development process and ideas. I wish more game designers were blogging and sharing knowledge with the community as regularly.

Chris Hecker

Some of that fancy procedural programming in Spore is thanks to this guy. Chris worked at Maxis from 2004 to 2009 and is now working on the indie game SpyParty which is going through beta testing.

  • Potential Unreached
    “You don’t need to solve the Hard AI Problem to have humans interact in your games.”
  • Please Finish Your Game
    Indie game jams are fun and generate ideas, but are you really exploring a game mechanic “to the depth the mechanic deserves”?

Jenova Chen

I don’t know who coined the term Zen game, but Jenova Chen’s portfolio of work with “ThatGameCompany” is a collection of beautiful experiences at the center of this genre. If there is anyone out there who still questions whether games are art, they should be locked in a room with a PS3 and Journey.

Robin Hunicke

Robin has worked at EA on MySims and Boom Blox, and at ThatGameCompany on Journey. That’s a quality track record. Oh, and she’s also working on a PhD, studying artificial intelligence. After ThatGameCompany she moved on to TinySpeck to work on Glitch, which unfortunately is no longer in development. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more exciting games/projects from her soon.

  • Finding the Emotion in Journey (YouTube)
  • Now is Beautiful (YouTube, 20 mins)
    “When you take the power of something that’s pretty complex as a simulation, and you simplify it, and you put it into a smaller form that’s quick and easy to get into, then you get something that is really magical. And I think that the market is saying that they want more of that.”

Raph Koster

Raph has a presentations section on his site (man, does that need a redesign) containing pages with slides, some audio, and a few embedded videos. Raph has written A Theory of Fun for Game Design, was working on the user-generated virtual worlds of MetaPlace, blogs a lot, and speaks at GDC.

Ken Levine

Ken is the co-founder of Irrational Games, and the game design force behind Thief: The Dark Project, and Bioshock. Not too shabby. He’s currently working on Bioshock Infinite.

  • PAX 2008 – Ken’s life story and how he got into game design (Flash Video)
  • LGS Interview Series: Audio Podcast 5 – Ken Levine (YouTube)
    “Ken was one of the main creative forces in the early days of Thief, helping to shape its eventual story, world, and core mechanics. Matthew Weise talks with him about his memories of working at the studio, his writing and creative process, and how his experience at Looking Glass relates to his later work at Irrational Games.”
  • Plot vs Play: The Duality of Modern Game Design Panel (YouTube)
    “Ken Levine, Chris Avellone (Creative Director, Obsidian Entertainment), and David Gaider (Senior Writer, BioWare) are joined by Joystiq’s Ben Gilbert and Kotaku’s Jason Schreier to discuss the constraints and unique problems facing narrative direction in a medium defined by interactive game play.”

Amy Hennig

  • Irrational Interviews 11: Amy Hennig – On Storytelling (Embedded Audio)
    “How does a writer create a complex narrative for a big budget video game? How does one drive the creative process of a large, intricate game development team? In this episode of Irrational Interviews, listen in while Ken Levine — Irrational Games’ own Creative Director and writer – has a reflective conversation with Amy about the unique challenges they both face in their individual, yet strikingly similar roles.”

Tim Schafer

DoubleFine has somehow managed to always still appear to be a scrappy indie company, no matter how big they get. They’ve always taken a more whimsical route thematically, which for some reason scares the publishers, while exciting their players and fans. Just look at how much they raised last year on KickStarter. Check out their recent XBLA game Stacking if you haven’t yet.

The value of rapid prototyping is expressed by many in the game industry. Your first idea often isn’t going to work, and a game’s design is always evolving during development. DoubleFine did something really interesting last year with Amnesia Fortnight: “The Internet voted on 23 game ideas. Double Fine spent two weeks building prototypes of the top five ideas and live streaming the process.”

  • Original pitch video and the team’s ideas
    Given that “Many of the games that DoubleFine has released in the last few years, have come from this Amnesia fortnight process”, it’s worth looking at how they go about this.

Peter Molyneux

Whenever I think of Peter Molyneux, I always think of that first video about the dog in Fable 2. I don’t know why. He also created Populous and Black & White. Lately he’s been into working with Unity on some projects that are not as massive as his previous endeavors.

  • Unite 2012 Keynote (Skip to 68 minutes in) (Embedded Video)
    Watch how the idea of a simple black cube in a room (“yeah right” you might say at first) is transformed into a game idea with real potential. This was inspiring to see how something so initially boring could be turned into something that engages players, and makes use of social multiplayer features. This got me thinking about other avenues that internet connected devices could give us. 

Kim Swift

Kim was one of the co-creaters of Narbacular Drop, a DigiPen project that eventually became Portal after she was hired on the spot by Valve. In 2009 she joined Airtight games and worked on a dimension-shifting puzzle game, Quantum Conundrum.

More Resources

What Has Inspired You?

Feel free to leave a comment with a link to some talks you have watched or listened to lately, that have inspired your own work.

Leave a Reply

You can use the <pre> tag to post a block of code, or <code> to highlight code within text.