GDC 2007 Part 1

Posted: Sun, 11 Mar 2007 23:54:44 PDT

GDC 2007. Moscone Center. San Francisco, CA. Part 1

Some Background
The Game Developers Conference, simply put, is a week long event put on by developers for the developers themselves(this includes anyone involved in the development process: programmers, artists, animators to designers, sound engineers, the list goes on and on) The conference has been around for about 20 years and has grown from a one room and 50 or so people to more than 12,500 attendees and an entire convention center.

The early GDCs focused only on Computer games, but now its focus has moved to represent the many different platforms that exist today; including the gaming consoles and handheld devices.

An Overview
As an attendee you are invited to participate in round table discussions, tutorials, panels and lectures where industry professionals and experts come from all over to share their knowledge and exchange ideas with their peers. Different conference passes gives you access to different conference sessions and although these can be quite pricey, but what you take away from attending the conference it’s worth it.

It didn’t matter if you were a student interested in breaking into the industry, an independent game developer looking for a publisher or an game development professional interested in learning about the latest innovations in your field. At GDC there is something for anyone interested in the Video Game Industry, whether for education, business opportunites or networking.

Classes are in session.
Being my first time at GDC, it was planning my sessions beforehand that helped me the most. Going to and from sessions,it was so useful to be able to quickly glance at what session came next and where it was. Thanks to the GDC Schedule Builder of course. I didn’t know the Moscone center’s three halls were located across the street from each other until I got there. This made having all your sessions in one hall for the day priceless.
Staying a few blocks away from the convention center and a desire to attend early morning sessions made sleeping in impossible. But really, why sleep-in when there are only 3 days left in the conference and 3 halls comprised of expo booths to visit, panels to listen to, and sessions to attend. One has to feel a sense of urgency to make it to these events on time even if just to find a good seat(some sessions filled up fast!)

(Wednesday, Mar 7)

Sony Keynote: Game 3.0: Developing and Creating for the 3rd Age of Video Games Phil Harrison
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LittleBigPlanet(from the Ragdoll Kungfu creators) looked really good!

Other sessions I attended on Wednesday:

OpenGL ES 2.0: Start Developing Now Dan Ginsburg
From “Ouendan!” to “HELP!”: Inside the Elite Beat Agents Keiichi Yano
Women and Games in the Future Kimberley Ann Sparks, Don Daglow, Carrie Heeter and Sheri Graner Ray
Making Games for the other 90% David Amor

A look inside From “Ouendan!” to “HELP!”: Inside the Elite Beat Agents
Keiichi Yano, co-founder of iNis. Has worked as a game designer for over 7 years starting with Gitaroo-man. Majored in Jazz studies at USC.
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Ouendans were outside to greet people..when the session started they both ran into the room to stand behind Yano-san. That was funny.

One of my favorite sessions! It was so amazing to see how Ouendan came to be. All their hardwork and effort to get a demo out that Nintendo actually accepted was well worth it. In this session we got to see some initial character designs, and learned some history on the Ouendans. That was so intriguing.
Next, he talked about the transition of the Ouendans to Elite Beat Agents. Taking inspiration from, Men in Black, sent out on missions by a “Charlie”(like in Charlie’s Angels).I didn’t take many notes in this session because I was too entranced by slideshow.
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Sketch of the first stage in Ouendan. He described the entire scene: This is a student studying furiously to get into College for the 9th time. The rice cooker and rice bowl is on the floor near to him and on his wall hangs an “Accepted” banner for inspiration.

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A sneak peek at the new Ouendan Sequel. Looks like you can play as the new Ouendans..but he didn’t want to reveal anything more.
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Look! its NakedBob asking about the new characters in the Ouendan Sequel and the DK on their belt. This was really DR “Disco Rangers”. Great Question NakedBob!

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Can’t wait for Ouendan 2!

Making Games for the other 90%
David Amor

5 common themes for making games that appeal to everyone:

1) It’s something they know already. So you don’t have to teach them.
2) Simple! (Some people aren’t ready for complex games that they need an explanation for.)
3) They’re approachable
4) The entertainment is offscreen. (This refers to the fun in the interaction with others around you while playing)
5) The Interface is really important.

Using Buzz – a Music quiz game for the Playstation 2 released in Europe – as an example, David Amor went on to discuss the creation of the game and the Buzzer controller designed just for the game. They wanted to create a game everyone could easily pick up and play, but the initial sales didn’t go well. This was one of the sessions that got packed early which meant it was pretty warm in there. That, plus the fact that it was around 4pm..I almost fell asleep, but not before I learned about the challenges they faced to create and sell Buzz.

*Expo Booth crawl from 4:30-6pm took place in both the North and West Halls. Refreshments and Appetizers reeled people into the booths and the company representatives beamed when they had interested parties ask them questions. I came out of there a little bit more informed and educated and with a handful of business cards.
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*I also had a chance to attend the IGF Awards! The student showcase was pretty impressive. I went by their booths to try out their games the next day. More on their games in my Part2 Blog.

(Thursday, Mar 8)
Are Serious Games Worth Taking Seriously? Noah Falstein
Nintendo Keynote: A Creative Vision Shigeru Miyamoto
Final Fantasy XII Postmortem Taku Murata
A Loco Roco Postmortem: Making Happiness into Gameplay Tsutomu Kouno
Reflections of Zelda Eiji Aonuma

Nintendo Keynote: A Creative Vision Shigeru Miyamoto
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Wiimote in hand, the legendary Miyamoto began by talking about the negative image of video games turning people into zombies. No matter how clear his personal vision, it must resonate with Nintendo’s vision. The Wii and Nintendo DS were products of the crossroads that Nintendo faced during what Aonuma in the Reflections of Zelda session referred to as the period of Gamer drift (2002-2004), just before the DS Launch.

He also commented on Mario128 ->Pikimin has one element of this featuring a large number of characters that can interact independently or in a group. But of course Mario128 is Super Mario Galaxy which will be released for the Wii later this year.

So in short, new Wii channel, and some new game footage of Super Mario Galaxy. This was more about what Nintendo has done up until now, and had a totally different feel from the Sony Keynote. Not as exciting, and more heads nodding off.

Reflections of Zelda
Eiji Aonuma, director of the critical and commercial success Twighlight Princess for Wii. Joined Nintendo in 1988. Past work includes the previous Zelda titles: Windwaker, Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time.

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The session started with how the Toon shading technique gave the impression that maybe the game was for a younger audience. Aonuma-san acknowledged the fact that Windwaker was not well received in the US. In the more realistic Zelda – (Windwaker 2)Twighlight Princess, they decided to let the player do what they couldn’t in Ocarina of Time, which was to give Link the ability to attack while on a horse. The staff were enthusiastic about this feature and it gave them the much needed jump start to developing the game.

*Link to the Past was inspiration for changing into a wolf in Twighlight Princess.
Wild + Heroic = the Wolf.

Developing the Wii version of Twighlight Princess posed a challenge with the use of the wiimote. They needed to revisit the controls for sword swing because it was originally in Link’s Left hand. “Mirroring” was done so Link was now right handed and was able swing the Wiimote to use the sword. When Aonuma-san saw that female employeees were able to defeat the bosses using the Wiimote he felt confident that they had achieved the realistic Zelda.

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Wi-Fi Battlemode

I’m looking forward to the DS Zelda(Phantom Hourglass) which will be released this year and also include Wi-Fi enabled Battlemode. Toonshading is supported, and the player will use the stylus to move the character around the world and to attack enemies with their boomerang.

Next blog: Part 2 – More on the conference and Independent games

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