• Game Developers Conference '14: The Experimental Gameplay Workshop

    There are a few regular, unmissable sessions at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, sessions that have achieved Legendary status, a catalogue of extreme and memorable moments. Game Developers Rant! is one; Richard Lemarchand's curated Microtalks is another, and the third is this, the Experimental Gameplay Workshop, led by Journey producer Robin Hunicke.

    Every year, developers submit for selection their works in progress: either a game mechanic, or a style, or a theme, one that may or may not work yet – but that is guaranteed to be Of Interest to the (always-full) giant ballroom of GDC attendees. Here's what was on show this year.


  • Slack, a team-talk tool that Just Works

    A clever colleague of mine, Jen, joined us last year as Comms Director and suggested that we use a team talk tool, for light comms and general infosharing, preferably something that can handle the trivial (my train's late) but also the serious (get the latest build).

    We're a toys-and-games startup, working desperately hard, and fast, and the suggestion was welcome, so we set up Yammer. Despite a heroic effort on the part of most of the team, it didn't fly. It didn't feel useful, somehow, like a chore, and we drifted away from it. Later we tried a browser-based IRC too, but – same. Too many missing functions, or maybe it was just the interface. Hard to pinpoint.

    We've been working on our internal comms – hard – and even though we're a small team of 15, it still been tough at times. Jen was right, we somehow needed something on top of/instead of email, Basecamp, drive, Skype. Then Slack launched. We'd known it was coming – disclaimer! Stewart Butterfield, Slack's creator, is an old pal – and who didn't love original Flickr? But I wasn't necessarily expecting to use it, given our previous tries.


  • Leather Batman backpack

    It's a hefty $299, but it's moulded leather (rrrr), and it's the Batman backpack. A senior toy industry person said to me recently, "Do you know why Batman is such a killer toy, an evergreen seller, and yet Superman is not? No? Externalities. Batman is you – with externalities, like the car, the belt, the cape. (The backpack). Superman's power comes from within, you can never replicate it, but Batman's is all without. You can't be Superman, but you can be the Batman."

    Go be the Batman.