Hey, this is Kee-Won Hong, writing from Seattle where the first day of PAX Dev has just wrapped up. So far – I’ve loved it. The event has been staffed and run flawlessly by the Penny-Arcade enforcer staff, the speakers have been insightful and entertaining and my fellow attendees have been friendly and curious.  I’m not allowed to pass on many specifics of the panels or presentations as the organizers of PAX Dev want to keep it an open and safe forum for the developers who present, but I can share my thoughts on the conference in general and share all the details of Jason Vanderberghe’s presentation, as he gave us specific instructions to ‘tweet the sh** out of it’.

All of the presentations I saw today were fantastic. It was great to hear firsthand from the team at Trendy Entertainment about Dungeon Defense, an Android/iPhone game that has over 1.3 million downloads, about their cross platform development experience. I’ve actually followed Dungeon Defense since it  was started as a UDK project years ago, so I enjoyed hearing about how the project grew and evolved to the success it has become today.

Scott Rigby’s presentation on designing for sustained engagement was enlightening as it was hilarious, including many references to his utter failure to win at League of Legends (Scott – I been there buddy, I feel ya). Overall, it was a great reminder that game design is also the study of the human mind, and there’s so much we can do as game designers to leverage this.

Of course I couldn’t miss seeing our fellow Barnes and Noble co-stars Rovio talking about bringing their hit Angry Birds to the web. I’d like to thank them and the Google Chrome Angry Birds team for all the helpful pointers on building HTML5 games.

Finally, Jason Vanderberghe’s ‘Four Types of…’ presentation was a fascinating look into game design theory, and his effort to unify those theories together.

Jason hypothesis was that all game design theory can fit into the following design domains, a ‘universal ruleset’. The domains are visualized by the suites in a deck of cards, are are:

  • Clubs - The Arena, for battle and challenge
  • Spades – The Playground, for exploration
  • Diamonds – The Labyrinth, for narration and puzzles
  • Hearts – The Lobby, for collaboration
After this, he mapped the great game theories of the past 20 years (Lazarro, Bartle, Radoff, LeBlanc) to the model. One of the highlights of the day was Jason realizing Marc LeBlanc was in the audience and begging his forgiveness in ‘re-interpreting’ Marc’s 8 dimensions of fun to match his design domains (basically mapping 2 dimensions to each domain).


Next, Jason discussed ‘The Lexical Hypothesis’, a study that began with the idea that human motivation is revealed in language. From there, he revealed the results of the ‘Five Factor Model’ – the 5 core ways humans describe themselves:
  • Openess – Spades
  • Contentiousness – Diamond
  • Extraversion – Clubs
  • Agreeableness – Hearts
  • Neuroticism – ??
As you can see, they map to the design domains, except Neurotic-ism.  Jason theorized that Neurotic-ism is actually not a way of describing oneself, but instead a way of describing the magnitude that one participates in the other 4 factors. Interestingly enough, a study of World of Warcraft players by Nik Yee & Co mapped all players to one of the 5 factors except for neurotic-ism, so it would seem that Jason’s theory does indeed hold water.


So as the final part of the presentation, Jason asked for help from the audience on how to put this theory to use. During this discussion he revealed that whenever his marketing team had analyzed a best selling game, they had found that it hit all 4 quadrants hard. For me, that was the biggest takeaway from the presentation – that if the idea is correct, you can cover your entire audience by making sure your game addresses each of the 4 design domains. I’m very interested to follow the new ideas  and  implementations that will come from this presentation.

Update - Jason has posted up the slides for the presentation, you can find them here: http://www.realitypanic.com/archives/476

That’s it for my Day 1 recap – it’s been an entertaining and enlightening experience so far, and I can’t wait to see what Day 2 holds in store. My next post will probably be around the same time tomorrow, but in the meantime feel free to send any questions or comments you might have via twitter to @keewonhong.