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Game Developers Conference Notebook :: Archived
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Joined: Jan 21, 2005
Posts: 6989
Location: Central Illinois, USA
PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2005 6:41 am
Post subject: Game Developers Conference Notebook

Some interesting reading and the author of this article seems to be quite 'down to earth'....:wink:

Game Developers Conference Notebook
By Loyd Case

My first exposure to Game Developers Conference (then known as the Computer Game Developers Conference) was in 1995. It was early in my technology writing career, and that particular CGDC sticks in my mind for a number of reasons. There was Danny Sanchez, formerly of Orchid, now at ATI, who dragged me into the 3Dfx (the "D" was capitalized back then) developers conference. The Voodoo 1 card hadn't actually shipped yet, but the hardware accelerated 3D was the big buzz of the show.

Later that show, Mike Weksler, then Technical Editor of Computer Gaming World, dragged me upstairs to crash the hotel suite that Rendition was hosting. Rendition was another early player in consumer 3D graphics, long since fallen by the wayside in the brutal competition for desktop graphics market share. Back then, they were one of the hot new companies, and their V1000 single chip accelerator did have a brief moment in the sun.

That was also the year that Microsoft released DirectX 1.0�without a 3D API. Unfortunately, that meant 3D graphics would be mired in proprietary APIs for several years. Later, Microsoft bought Reality Lab, whose graphics API become the core of Direct3D. Today's Direct3D has almost no resemblance to the original Reality Lab.

Since then, GDC has gone through a number of trials and tribulations, but has emerged as a major conference for game developers of all stripes. The early conferences focused on PC game development. (PC is used here in a generic sense, as the Apple II, Amiga, and Atari platforms were still in use back then). Now PC game development is only one part of GDC, which includes consoles, mobile phones, handheld devices, and web-based gaming.

Here are just a few of the notes I made while wandering around this year's GDC.

The Expo Floor

"My heart's in PC games, but I have to pay the bills." I heard variations on this theme from several developers. It wasn't just console developers, either. One is developing games on mobile phones, while another is developing handheld gaming devices. We can hope that Microsoft's XNA unified game development environment, the Windows for Gaming initiative, and the next version of DirectX being an integral part of Longhorn will bring some developers back to the PC.

I did manage to catch part of the talk on the Age of Empires III graphics engine. If you've seen the screenshots, you know that Age III will redefine graphics for real-time strategy games. It's certainly one bit of proof that PC gaming is far from dead. The other arena that shows that PC games are still relevant is IDGA's Independent Game Festival. Games from small developers such as Supremacy: Four Paths to Power and War! Age of Imperialism have all the polish of games developed at larger studios.

Woman Gamers, Women in Gaming

I spoke with Michelle Sorger, Director of Development and Sandra Chen, Project Director, for Girls In Games, Inc. Despite the title, Girls in Games is focused on trying to bring more women into game development. They work with women at all levels, including college students, recent grads, and even women looking to change professions. Their current project is Henched, a casual puzzle game being jointly developed by volunteers as a demonstration vehicle to show their capabilities. The team is distributed over multiple continents, something made possible by modern tools like broadband, IM, online chat, and email.

This effort may have more impact than their previous efforts that merely focused on lobbying game companies to hire more women. After all, having something in your portfolio is always better than simply appealing to a sense of fairness. And having women in game development can have big payoffs. Jason Cross told me the story of Will Wright being asked about how he creates games for women. Will was supposed to have said that he doesn't know anything about making games for women, so he hires women to do that. For example, Chris Trottier is given credit as the co-designer of The Sims, one of the best selling PC games ever created�and just happens to be a woman.

The Expo Floor: Too Quiet

The trade show floor didn't have much buzz going on this year. Sure, we had AMD showing off a handful of actual game titles ported to 64-bit Windows (Far Cry, Chronicles of Riddick, and Shadow Ops among the list). And Sony, for the first time, had an enormous booth, mostly showing off the Playstation Portable (PSP). Even the behind-the-scenes suite action seemed quiet.

What's probably happening is that the industry is taking a collective deep breath. Later this year, the next generation Xbox will arrive on the scene. Sony is starting to talk up Playstation 3, dual-core CPUs will be hitting the street, and even Nintendo is talking about their next gen console. Once that all starts to happen, then the motors will be revved up once more.

This relative vacuum of excitement was probably partly responsible for the buzz behind Ageia's PhysX physics acceleration chip. Despite meeting with them, Ageia was tight-lipped, showing the press only software demos, yet claiming they'll ship a product by year's end. I'll leave Jason Cross to comment on this later, but let's just say I was somewhat underwhelmed.

Will Loyd Bite the Bullet?

Every year, I pick up a couple of books and swear to myself I'll dive into them and learn more about actual game development. Every year, the books languish on the shelf, like abandoned New Year's resolutions, serving as guilty reminders of good intentions. I did it again this year, picking up a book on the Unreal Engine. Will I do anything with it? I dunno, but I still had a great time in GDC, basking in the reflected glory of artists, designers, programmers, and musicians. The industry has changed dramatically in a decade, bringing interactive entertainment to a wider audience than ever before. The next decade will surely be a wild ride.

I liked the comment about buying books with every intention of reading them and comparing that to a New Years Resolution...lol. (I think I can relate to that..:D) Anyhow, reading between the lines, it seems to boil down to a time management issue or a decision to eat and sleep over working...:wink:
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