March 1, 2011 4:00 PM | jeriaska
Nathan Vella, Kris Piotrowski & Craig D. Adams
Makers of Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery EP
Throughout the week we will be hearing from game designers, journalists and documentary filmmakers on what makes the Game Developers Conference worth the trip for them. More images of the event as it unfolds will be uploaded to flickr in daily installments until the weekend following GDC.
I love getting to meet everyone, seeing everyone's projects and creativity. I wouldn't be able to go if the game weren't nominated [for the IGF Student Showcase]. We got a travel stipend, which is how I got to be here, and will have a booth Wednesday through Friday.
Toys is a game I made for the Experimental Gameplay Project, in seven days. The theme was "zero buttons," so I decided upon using only the mouse as input. The puzzles are basically lots of hanging 3D cubes in space that you move around based on your input as well as by rotating the camera around. You have to find the right position for all the boxes to fall into place to solve the puzzle.
It's a simple game, but very intuitive. It will be fun seeing people playing it, but also excruciating because they'll see all the flaws. Overall, viewing people's reactions is very valuable.
Personally, I live down the street, so even if this was the worst game convention ever—which it is not, by a long shot—I would probably head down.
GDC is a once-a-year opportunity to hear game developers get a little more real and drop a lot of the marketing speak. It's still there in some of the bigger presentations, but it is really an opportunity to hear people talk about what they did wrong and did right in the creation of games that I like.
As a journalist, the Games Developers Conference is a giant, big ball of news. What makes it fun to cover is that it's all so tangled. At E3, you go to the press conferences, you do your booth tours, and at the end of five days you've seen everything that happened and you know everything there is to know about what just took place.
With GDC, things happen so fast and are overlaid on top of each other because there are so many different sessions going on all at once. It's difficult to find all of the news that's breaking. You can go to all of what you think are the right sessions, and then all of a sudden you go onto someone else's website and there's all this stuff you totally missed. It's a fun, interesting challenge to find all the things that happen at this show.
GDC is also a fantastic bellwether for the trends that are going to be affecting the industry in the next year. E3 isn't anymore because E3 is about the traditional power players. It's a controlled message from one sliver of the industry. When you look at all the attention at GDC on Angry Birds and smartphone gaming, that gives you a clearer picture of what is actually going to be important next year.
Right now independent videogame makers are looking at ecosystems like Steam and the App Store. The potential for greatness is here, and a lot of GDC right now is people trying to figure out techniques to develop games, sell games and get awareness up. What is it that we have to do to make this thing a success? It can't be just luck, so they're trying to tease out as much of that as they can.
With Apple across the street preparing to announce the iPad 2 on Wednesday, it would be a great time right now for Iwata to get up and do the Nintendo keynote about the vision of the future of games and really come out swinging about attracting independent developers. It would be a great time to show us that Nintendo has created an ecosystem on the 3DS that is going to provide the same kind of benefits to indie developers that other platforms do.
If they don't, why would I want to make a 3DS downloadable game if I'm a small indie developer? Where's the WiiWare Angry Birds? Where's the DSiWare Angry Birds? Has anyone hit a million copies of anything on DSiWare? If it's WiiWare or DSiWare, there seem to be more barriers in place stopping my games from becoming hits.
First and foremost, it's a chance for us at Oxeye Games to actually show our game, since we were nominated for the IGF. Even if we weren't, I think I would have tried to come here to connect with all the composer friends I've only met through the internet and see the game developers I've always wanted to meet.
I think I was the fourth person to buy tickets for the Scandinavian party. It sounds like a really great idea showcasing the Scandinavian indie games, because we have quite a lot for some reason. There are also many great lectures lined up, though they all seem to happen at the same time. Laura Shigihara will be at "Scoring for Casual Games," for example. I want to go to the Mass Effect 2 interactive scoring lecture because I adore that game. There's also the one about reusing classical works in Stacking, which sounds really interesting, too.
Freelance game critic
For me, GDC offers an interesting amount of access that's different from any other artistic medium and kind of unprecedented. There's no festival where you can meet almost every film director or cinematographer. When it comes to GDC, you can meet people who are making the next big thing, or people that you consider legendary. Not to mention, you don't just get to talk to them, but sometimes you get to see them talk at length about their process. Because it's software and game design combined, there's sharing of techniques and motivation that you don't really see in other creative mediums.
For someone who's interested in writing about games, like as a member of the press, it's the most important event to come to. You're getting an inside look into why these people make games, how they make the games, and after the show you get access to them on a personal level. You have opportunities to talk to them and find out who they are. Through our normal press we don't explore who these people are as people. We talk about their game or the product they're making, not how who they are influences the games they make. That's why I come to GDC every year: to learn about how games are made.
I had seen the Pac-Man talk three or four years ago. I will go to it again this time, just because there was so much of interest that he had to say. I think pretty much every one of the classic postmortems is on my schedule this year because it's such a neat opportunity to hear them talk about these games in a way that's not steeped in promotion. GDC presentations are not really interested in promotion. There are some about games coming out that are tangentially related to the PR, but with these classic postmortems the only purpose is to elevate the designer and to share information about how these games were made.
For me, it all started with Erik Svedäng being nominated for the IGF Grand Prize. He had an extra pass, so I got to come here and was hooked.
It's too much fun meeting everyone. You've heard of someone that's made an awesome game and they're very likely going to be at GDC. You talk to someone, and only later find out they made an awesome game. That just happened now, running into the person that made Retro City Rampage. I actually met Danny B. here last year and showed him the game [glorg]. I was wowed that he wanted to make music for my game. That's totally a GDC thing that came out of meeting everyone.
For more information on the Game Developers Conference, see the official website. Photos by Jeriaska.