Friday, March 11, 2011

A Look Back at GDC 2011 -- Day 3

So after a rather calm but eventful night of meeting other XBLIG developers and reviewers, my third and final day of GDC began. My first talk that day involved a lot of theory about writing for games, particularly with character development. This talk was entitled The Identity Bubble - A Design Approach to Character and Story Development given by Matthias Worch of LucasArts. It was an interesting talk; a little dull for something given at 9:30 in the morning, but overall, I enjoyed it. To summarize, or at least what I was able to gather, is that there are two types of game-character types -- the puppet and the vehicle -- and they both involve the player projecting themselves onto a character but in different ways. Another interesting point I took away from it was that writing for games is different than writing for novels, with which I agreed.

Anyway, I skipped the 11:00 talks because I really wanted to go to the game design challenge at 12:30, so I met up with some coworkers -- both current and former -- and had an enjoyable lunch. So after waiting in a massive line, I went to The Game Design Challenge 2011: Bigger than Jesus hosted by Eric Zimmerman. The Game Design Challenge essentially pits the ideas of three well-known designers together. This year's theme was to design a game that could be considered a religion. Firstly, I felt the theme was a little lame. Anyway, the three designers were Jason Rohrer, John Romero, and Jenova Chen, who was last year's winner. Jason's game essentially came down to a one-play Minecraft mod, explaining that religion becomes the stories and tales of those who came before us. John Romero's essentially made the allusion that he thinks he's Jesus through a twitter-based follower game involving starred Post-It notes. Finally Jenova Chen's was simple a proposal to turn TED into YouTube. Due to the popularity of MineCraft and the fact it was the most game-like, Jason was the clear winner. I'd only put John Romero is second because unlike Jenova Chen's, despite his rather well-thought out and well-explained ideaology of religion, it was a game. Overall though I asked myself upon leaving, "Why did I go to this?" It's also that thought that probably answers why I'm a professional scripter / gameplay programmer and not a designer.

So after the Game Design Challenge, I went to a panel entitled XBLIG Success Stories - How to Make the Best of Microsoft's Self-publishing Service held by Brandon Sheffield of Game Developer Magazine. This was exciting for me because it gave a little insight into the best of the best of the XBLIG community I am currently a part of. The following developers were on the panel: Ian Stocker of MagicalTimeBean, James Silva of Ska Studios, Nathan Fouts of Mommy's Best Games, Inc., and Robert Boyd of Zeboyd Games. It was rather chill; all of these developers were really down-to-earth, and I liked that. It was very interesting, and it could have been longer, but they were given the "Arm-X" signal to leave. I walked away learning that just marketing both your game and yourself and being part of the XBLIG community are both really important, but unfortunately for me, much easier said than done.

The final two talks of my GDC experience were only a half hour each. The first, given by LucasArts' Dmitry Andreev and entitled Anti-aliasing from a Different Perspective, discussed new approaches to anti-aliasing involving edge-detection and measuring of it. It seemed rather complex and over my head, but it got me excited to try some of these techniques, even if my results would never be nearly as good. My final talk than began entitled Approximating Translucency for a Fast, Cheap and Convincing Subsurface Scattering Look given by Colin Barre-Brisebois of Electronic Arts Montreal. This talk discussed their studio's shader that used a map to determine the thickness of an object, which would then determine it's translucency. Unlike the anti-aliasing one, it seemed to make more sense to me; however, I knew I'd forget almost everything about it once I left the convention, and low-and-behold, I have, but I can probably just search and find the talk again or at least the slides.

Finally, it was time to leave. Some coworkers and I settled down to eat and then we were off on our red-eye flights. I refuse to ever take one of these again. I just can't sleep on planes, but the flight wasn't important. What was important was the contacts I had made and the things I had learned at GDC, and unlike the prior year, I was excited and hoping that I'll be able to go in 2012.

Ah, the memories...

("I'm the one in the green plaid shirt, but that's probably not what you're focusing on.")

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