2007 Sandbox Symposium

Keynote Speakers

Saturday Keynote: Warren Spector
Emergent Gameplay: Potential, Pitfalls and Progress

Take a trip to your local software store or videogame outlet and what do you see? If you're feeling cynical, you probably see shelf after shelf of "me-too" product: Licensed this, sequeled that... But if you look past that, past the fictional and genre constraints we place upon ourselves, you might notice something else.

There's something happening in gaming these days. It's represented in games like The Sims, the Grand Theft Auto series, the Half Life series... in Knights of the Old Republic, Tony Hawk and Madden Football... in Thief and Deus Ex... And certainly in MMOs like World of Warcraft and City of Heroes.

What could this diverse set of games possibly have in common?

They all exploit the power of rules-based simulation and put players in charge of the game experience by harnassing the power of emergence.

In this talk, we'll discuss what emergence is, as it relates to gaming. We'll talk about the ways in which emergent gameplay happens. We'll investigate the potential of this still relatively rare approach to gameplay and touch on the development pitfalls associated with pursuing the player-driven experience.

This talk places emergent gameplay in an appropriate historical context, using examples from an ever-growing universe of games that put players in charge of the creative experience. It explains why now may be the best time yet for developers-particularly independent developers-to embrace the notion of emergence and covers the ins and outs of creating games that allow players to take center stage as they play.


Warren Spector, veteran electronic game designer/producer, heads up Junction Point Studios, Inc., an independent developer of high end videogames, based in Austin, Texas. Warren has worked in the game industry for more than 20 years. After six years at Steve Jackson Games and TSR, creating pen-and-paper games, he spent seven years at Origin Systems producing several addictive games including Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, Underworld 2: Labyrinth of Worlds, System Shock, Serpent Isle, Wings of Glory, Bad Blood, Martian Dreams, Cybermage and many more. A brief stint with LookingGlass Technologies was followed by a seven-year association with Ion Storm. After founding the Austin studio in 1997, he directed the development of its genre-bending, award-winning game, Deus Ex. He later oversaw development of Ion’s Deus Ex: Invisible War, released in December 2003, and Thief: Deadly Shadows, released in June 2004. He left Ion Storm in November 2004 to found Junction Point Studios, Inc., where he and his team are working on as yet unannounced projects. Though now a fixture in the electronic gaming world, Warren’s gaming roots are in the pen-and-paper game business, where he developed TOON: The Cartoon Role-Playing Game (among others) for Steve Jackson Games, and at TSR, where he worked on the Top Secret/SI Espionage role-playing game, The Bullwinkle & Rocky Party Roleplaying Game, and the Buck Rogers Battle for the 25th Century boardgame to name a few. In addition to making games, Warren has been a novelist (“The Hollow Earth Affair,” published in 1988), a film reviewer for the Austin Chronicle, an Assistant Instructor for film and television studies at the University of Texas-Austin, and the author of numerous magazine and newspaper articles. In 2000, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the International Game Developers Association and served as chairman of the IGDA’s education committee, forging ties between the game business and academic institutions around the world. Warren was born and raised in New York City. He is a bookaholic, a boardgame fanatic, a lover of basketball and rhythm guitarist for the band “Two-Headed Baby.” Warren graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL in 1977 with a B.S. in Speech. He received his Master of Arts in Radio-Television-Film in 1980 from the University of Texas at Austin and remained there to pursue a Ph.D in communications until the game business lured him away from academia just a dissertation short of a degree. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, Caroline, and far too many animals.

Sunday Keynote: John Klima
My Recent Efforts to be God and Create the (Online) World in Seven Days.

I intend to present an overview of my work of the past 8 years, and then concentrate on my recent efforts to be God and create the world in seven days.

Technologically, my focus currently consists of the synthesis of procedural and traditional key-frame skeletal animations, the integration of a A* path finding algorithms, and the integration of small neural networks to drive trainable behavior in avatars. Through the meshing these techniques, I am beginning to develop trainable characters that can learn from their environment and physically interact with each other in meaningful ways. I present the avatars in a-typical “game-like” circumstances, often involving a direct relationship with a real-world analogue, typically an installation in an art gallery or museum. I play with systems of meaning in games, and the real world, as a way to understand how we might reconcile a life increasingly lived in a realm of “virtuality.”

The most technologically stable of these approaches have been implemented within the existing on-line world, “The Lounge” - currently boasting 100,000 downloads and 300 concurrent players. My contributions are a tiny fraction of the total effort by Doppelganger, the company responsible for “The Lounge,” but indicate that these techniques can indeed find their way into independently produced games that have commercial viability, as well as soon-to-be-blockbusters such as “Spore.”


John Klima employs a variety of technologies to produce artwork with hand-built electronics, and computer hardware and software. Consistently connecting the virtual to the real, Klima builds large scale electro-mechanical installations driven by 3D game software he programs from scratch. The virtual computer imagery mirrors and extends the potential and agency of the physical components to produce cohesive worlds that are both humorous and sinister. In 2003 he focused on his long-time fascination with model railroading to create his first HO scale railroad piece, titled simply Train. Exhibited in December 2003 at Postmasters Gallery in New York, Train was shown in April 2005 at the DeCordova Museum in Boston, and in September became part of the permanent collection of the Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo in Badajoz, Spain. Klima has exhibited extensively in museums and galleries in the United States, Europe, and Asia. His exhibitions include BitStreams at the Whitney Museum of American Art as well as the 2002 Whitney Biennial. He has also exhibited at Eyebeam, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, PS.1 and The Brooklyn Museum of Art. His international exhibitions include The Museum for Communication in Bern, Switzerland, the NTT InterCommunication Center in Tokyo, Japan, The Daejeon Municipal Museum in Korea, and numerous international festivals. Selections from his bibliography include the New York Times, The New Yorker, Art Forum, Flash Art, and Business Week. Klima was recently a research scientist at the Courant Institute, New York University, and is currently adjunct Professor of Digital Media at the Rhode Island School of Design. Klima also teaches an extensive course in game design theory and production at the Polytechnic University of Brooklyn. John Klima is represented by Postmasters in New York, Bank Gallery in Los Angeles, and Gallery of International Media Art, Berlin, Germany.