Tuesday, April 2, 2013

GDC 2013 Days Zero & One


I was going to try and write about my GDC experience in one post similar to my PAX one, but there was just way too much to write about so here are the first two days!

Day 0:  Unknown Controversy

Unlike PAX, I arrived in San Francisco around 3 PM and by the time I checked into my hotel at 4, I was already off to a social event held by a company called PlayPhone. From what I could see, their product appeared to be similar to Steam but for mobile devices; at least this is what their ads playing on the large televisions in the location had me believe. Even before the conference's start, I was already networking with some great, talented individuals, something I wish I had been able to do at PAX. Another thing that helped is one of my best friends was there, so it was like an equation for success.
How could a company with such an adorable logo be controversial?

After a delicious meal at the House of Prime Rib, which I highly recommend if you like salad, oh, and prime rib, we went towards the IGDA-YetiZen party (play ominous music). We arrived at said location, but was told the party was rather lame, so we just bar hopped instead. Little did I know that a controversy was brewing inside. Essentially, the IGDA teamed up with a company called YetiZen to throw a party. Unfortunately, there were what the industry dubs as "booth babes" -- women, usually scantily clad, used to entice and attract people to their products -- and the IGDA is supposed to be an organization fighting for equality in regards to female and LGBT rights so to do something that only highlighted there are still issues. Some big name members resigned, and it was rather controversial. My two cents: at a professional networking event of any industry there shouldn't be dancers of any gender and even loud music and open bars seem questionable though I won't argue against the latter. Anyway, feeling rather good, I went to be in the hopes of starting my first day of GDC.

Day 1:  Flashing Through Panels

Day one started with the Flash Forward in which several speakers give a 45 second speech about their upcoming talk. I like the Flash Forward a lot, way more than any keynote. My only gripes are that I wish they had ALL the speakers and not just a few. It would exponentially extend the length but it would give me such a better idea of what to expect.

I'm interested in doing a KickStarter, but not any time soon.

Anyway, after the Flash Forward, I went to a panel entitled "Kickstarter Lessons for Indie Game Developers". In summary, the panelists -- from companies like Double Fine who had had very successful campaigns earning over 100,000 -- and discussed some of the things they had dealt with: rewards, stretch goals, fans. The biggest takeaways I deduced were to listen and communicated with your backers, shipping costs for physical rewards are expensive, and be careful of overly ambitious stretch goals. The panel wasn't bad, but I would have much preferred one person discuss very specific things than four individuals describing their personal stories very loosely. I know all KickStarter campaigns are probably different, but it might have been more clear.

I'll be honest, developing in a bedroom like this would be sweet.

After this, I went to a talk called "Bedroom Developments: Making Playstation Games in Your Underwear". This talk was sponsored by Sony, so that should have been an indication that this was risky, essentially, I was expecting discussion on how to publish a game on Sony's Mobile suite like the procedures, advantages, etc. Unfortunately, it was another panel from four indie developers, three of which I cannot remember. Brandon Sheffield was the only one I knew because I follow him on Twitter. The panel itself wasn't that bad; I wasn't feeling too hot. Well actually, I was feeling hot, too hot, so that might have been part of the reason I didn't enjoy it that much. It turned into a panel about indie development experiences which I have heard. Also, Playstation Vitas were given away at the end; I did not win one but don't care actually as I don't have plans to develop for that platform -- yet.
At this point, I hadn't been to the expo floor yet, so I spent some time there. I went to the Mixamo booth and got a $50 gift card for animations and other uses. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Mixamo? Well, it's awesome and they are starting a new service called Fuse in which you can quickly make a character from pre-made meshes and it intelligently welds vertices and configures uv coordinates. It's still in closed beta, but this seems like a great service for creating non-player characters quickly for a 3D game.

GAME DESIGN!   YA!!!  Also, yea, it's not all smiles and bright cubes...
They also had GDC Play where people can get booths for games and products for about $3,500 (with hidden fees I'm sure). I'm also making the assumption this is way cheaper than a booth on the main expo floor. If I am correct, this is a cool addition they had last year, and I hope they continue to do it.
After exploring the booths for a bit and with plans to do more in the future, I went to a great round table about game design aptly entitled, "Whose Design Is It Anyway? Game Designers and Development Teams Roundtable." Here, designers, animators, programmers, and producers discussed some of the issues they have as designers and dealing with designers. Some topics discussed were iterating on a design versus noodling with one, what do designers exactly do. Some grievances were discussed, even a few awkward ones, but overall, it was a great panel and I was glad I was able attend.

I'll admit one thing about KixEye:  Their marketing is pretty comedic

This was my last talk of the day so after a rather frustrating Thai dining experience, some coworkers and I went to KixEye's party. It was fun hanging with my coworkers seeing the female and male dancers (progressive, huh?) and the open bars, despite one being tended by a rather irritated man, was not bad, the next day though, my feeling changed a bit.

Overall, after these two days, I was feeling really good about GDC so far.  The panels may not have been perfect, but they were still interesting and demonstrations on the expo floor definitely were exciting.  I'll writing about Days 2 and 3 later in the week, so stay tuned!

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