I will be presenting Data Cracker at GDC 2011.
Over the summer I had the pleasure to work at EA Redwood Shores as an intern. Usually being an EA intern means joining a development team for a few months, working on one of EA’s games. However, for my internship I was placed in the CCO, the Chief Creative Office, a research oriented group at EA. The CCO basically houses some of the heavy hitters at EA, like Rich Hilleman (EA’s CCO) and Scott Cronce (EA’s CTO), along with a number of team members working on various projects. A much smaller operation compared to the size of a typical EA development team but none the less a very powerful one.
During the summer my fellow intern, Jeff, and I were charged with the task to research, design and build a game analytic system for an EA team. Game analytics basically refers to the practice of capturing data related to gameplay, for example recording a player’s behavior while they play, and analyzing the data for insightful information that can help improve the game’s design. Seeing as my dissertation work surrounds the topic of game analytics I could not have pitched a better project to EA than the one we were given. Plus, since we worked at the CCO, we had a lot of freedom to meet with many development teams and discuss their game analytic needs.
The team we ended up working with was the Dead Space 2 Multiplayer team. As of this writing, and throughout the entire summer, the Dead Space 2 multiplayer gameplay is still shrouded in mystery. This made the project even more relevant because (a) the multiplayer feature is new to the Dead Space 2 franchise and (b) it was early enough in the dev cycle that any game analytic tool that was built could have a huge impact on the design. The experience was flat out one of the best projects I have ever been a part of, to say the least.
The tool we ended up building is called Data Cracker, which is a play on the concept of ‘Planet Cracking’ that exists within the lore of Dead Space. Data Cracker taps into data depicting player events that occur multiplayer matches. Without giving anything away, an obvious example of a player event is which player(s) won the match. Those events are sent to EA’s servers and the tool grabs the data, aggregates it into different values for analysis and visualizes those values within a web interface.
I can’t say much more than that at this time but I am working on papers that dive into the design and development of the tool. Those will appear on my site soon as will a number of off-shoot game analytic projects that I am working on for the rest of the year.