Saturday, March 25, 2006

GDC Wrap Show

A grab bag of thoughts from the Game Developers Conference, which just ended:

An interesting dichotomy of trends this year. The convergence between Hollywood IP and games emerged as one big theme (several sessions on writers and storytelling alone, in fact), with the burgeoning casual game industry the other. The big vs. the small.

A little odd/concerning to me that most of the casual game sessions were about the business side of things, rather than design thoughts and what makes a good casual game. A lot of starry-eyed developers seeing only shorter production cycles and lower start-up costs may be in for a nasty surprise when they try to unload the 300th knockoff of Bejeweled into the market.

I missed most of the keynotes this year except for Ronald Moore, who gave an excellent talk on reinventing BATTLESTAR GALACTICA which I'll write up in its own post.

It's no great hardship to miss the marquee sessions, really. Will Wright is always brilliant, and I heard interesting things about the PS3 and Nintendo speeches, but the keynotes are the most likely to get rebroadcast online and blogged six ways 'til Sunday.

Had to leave halfway through the Independent Games Festival/Game Developers Choice awards ceremony because I've been ill with some sort of pulmonary death phage (fine, a cold), but I knew I was at a hip videogame awards show and not some dusty old-media awards show because the model chick they had handing trophies to the presenters was in a blood-red cheongsam and had an armful of tattoos. Edgy!

The awards at this shindig are lucite blocks on a little arc of metal. Again, edgy! No twee hood ornaments here. Videogame awards look like something you could encode the human genome on and bury to later repopulate the planet should Armageddon come between clip montages.

Speaking of the genome, there must be something in our DNA that makes us incapable of correctly exiting a stage after accepting an award. Lots of that at this show too. Luckily there was Tattoo Girl to do that "this way, nimrod" arm-gesture thing.

The Darwinia guys wore tuxedos. A class act.

I saw Ronald Moore on the Expo floor a couple of times, talking to few enough people that I probably could've gotten in there and chatted for a bit. However, thanks to my pulmonary death phage I sound like a congested moose with a cough and I didn't want to be remembered to Mr. Moore as That Moose-Sounding Fangirl Who Gave Me Her Cold.

I'm getting worried about the size of GDC. The huge number of attendees makes it hard to move through the crowds of black-t-shirted devboys, sessions are slanting more toward general-interest topics, and hit overflow numbers quickly. A couple of sessions got started late because organizers had to herd us into a larger room. Nothing like last year's Will Wright Spore talk debacle, but things are getting bad.

The Expo floor is nowhere near E3 excess, but the elaborate booths and swag are headed in that direction. There were even some actual booth babes (gah), along with one waggish nod to same: a mannequin in t-shirt and baggy khakis with a laserprinted sign reading "BOOTH BABE" around her neck.

Latecomers to the boxed-lunch line were stuck with the vegetarian option and got very grumpy about not getting their chicken or roast beef sandwiches, which made me laugh. It's a sandwich. Grilled vegetables will not kill you.

Anyone wondering why the game industry has a hard time being taken seriously had only to stroll past the entries in the "Graphic Impact" concept art contest, fully 80% of which were improbably busty chicks. Some of them even had clothes on. Freud would've been bored out of his kopf, with all the large guns and menacing snakes in evidence.

I'm driving a really weird rental, a dumpling-shaped Ford that looks like a cut-rate clone of the PT Cruiser. The Boyfriend calls it the PT Loser. I call it the Ford Grub.

Saw bunches of Grubs in the San Jose Convention Center parking garage, which leads me to believe that Ford just dumped a whole fleet on Avis with a "we can't move these fuckers!" throwing up of hands.

I really hope Ernest Adams never stops giving his traditional final-day lecture. It's always thought-provoking and inspiring, and the perfect note to end the week on. This year he posited an interesting take on interactive stories, which I will also probably go into more detail on later.

Overall, a good year if a little thin on meaty sessions. The Austin Game Conference is definitely on the rise as a better, more leading-edge industry event, and it focuses on online.

The best part of GDC is reconnecting with industry friends and colleagues, some of whom I only see once a year. Fabulous to catch up with those of you I saw, and sorry I missed those of you I didn't. There's always next year. And E3. And Austin...


Mary-Jane said...

Shame... seems like you mildly enjoyed the conference. I read your entire blog (long and pretty descriptive) I like the way u write. What's ur star sign? My favourite GAMES (pc) are WARCRAFT, Zuma (a silly frog who shoots sequences of coloured balls, in ancient temples...) Very systmatic, no 3d animation, but extremely fulfilling if u'r simaltaneously listening to good music & want to pass time. The other FAVOURITE is The Sims... also, Splinter Cell (I always dream about being a covert operations soldier or something similar to a comic book heroine, like ELEKTRA or ROGUE from X MEN... (I have am actively heroic imagination. Wishing i could save the world by telepathically telling inhabitants of this universe that there IS MORE TO LIFE... AND IT'S CALLED LIVING.)
Cheers xxx

Tiffany said...

Was great to see you at the GDC, Kira. I look forward to your write-ups about Ronald Moore and Ernest Adams. Unfortunately, I missed Ernest this year (always a highlight) as I contracted a death phage of my own and missed Friday's sessions.

Kira said...

Mary-Jane, I deleted your previous post -- nothing personal -- because it was kinda off topic. But welcome and nice to meet you!

Good games in your list! I like all those too. Zuma is an exceptionally well-designed casual game, I think. The audio in particular is terrific -- I love the thock noise when you fire the frog.

Tiffany, great to you see you too. Hope you're feeling better. :-/

Grubber said...

Be nice to Grubs, they're people too :)

Sounds like an interesting time, looking forward to the post about BG, that should be interesting as well.

Many thanks for that wrap-up.

Rob said...

The vegetarian option was pretty gross - just because I'm vegetarian doesn't mean I like that green guacomole goop. Do people really eat that stuff?

Other than the sandwich part of it, the white box meals were livable imo.

Kira said...

Dave, I definitely grew fond of the ol' Grub by the end of the time that I had it. I felt bad I didn't have a surfboard to throw in the back. The car seemed disappointed in me.

Rob, ew. I must've missed the green goop sandwich day. I recall a fresh mozzarella and basil sandwich, and a grilled veggie sandwich, both of which were good and a weird cheese thing that wasn't.

But not too shabby, all told, and better than the $9 ones for sale on the concourse. Sheesh!