“Team Hermes” student developers win $100,000 grand prize at D.I.C.E.

I don’t know these guys, but I’m happy for their win:

Team Hermes student developers from SMU Guildhall win $100,000 grand prize at D.I.C.E. Indie Game Challenge for game Inertia

Eight students from The Guildhall at SMU’s Master’s degree program in video game design won the grand prize Friday in the non-professional category at the second annual D.I.C.E. Indie Game Challenge in Las Vegas for their game, Inertia.

The recognition comes with a $100,000 cash prize, and the Hermes crew also won a $15,000 EEDAR DesignMetrics prize, and a $2,500 prize for technical achievement, as well as another $2,500 prize for achievement in gameplay.

Inertia features an innovative mechanic that allows players to suspend gravity and use inertia to bounce off walls, float through space, and move through the game’s environment – a decaying space station on the brink of collapse.

Victor Godinez @ dallasnews.com

Team Hermes had an idea.

The team worked hard to make the idea real

The effort paid off like a pair of Winged Sandals. Go team!

Designing Games with Massive Social Data

Social networking is changing more than games: it’s changing game design.

For years, “classically trained” game designers in the industry have relied on their gut instincts to make decisions as to what players want. Much of this was based on intuition, imagining that yes, of course players would enjoy attacking other spaceships more than building and upgrading their own. Or a whiteboard discussion revolving around how long an average session is -– a few minutes, for an hour, or for hours at a time. Or maybe an argument about player’s play styles -– do they prefer to level up in order to improve stats, or do they like to spend money on items?

In the past, discussions and arguments like this are usually resolved by whichever designer can make the best points and steer the conversation towards their personal conclusion. While this approach is often effective if the development team is a talented one, it is often faulty and can produce decisions that don’t reflect player’s actual behavior.

By being able to pull live data from a game, arguments like this can be resolved almost instantly. In the middle of a shouting match on whether or not players like to upgrade their buildings every time they log in, someone can say, “Hey, guys, I looked it up, and yes, actually players level 1-30 upgrade 4 buildings on average every time they log in.” Everyone nods their head, makes the decision, and moves on. Or in a heated discussion of whether or not players need to be given more money in the game, someone can say, “Hey everyone, here is a graph showing the amounts of soft currency that people have right now. You can see that actually, most players have three times too much.” Income is slashed, expensive items are put on the market, and the job is done.

Brice Morrison @ Inside Social Games

Brice Morrison is a former CrowdStar designer and editor of The Game Prodigy