March 20, 2006 4:00 AM PST

Let the games begin at GDC

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The heart and soul of the video game world will descend on San Jose, Calif., beginning Monday as more than 12,000 industry professionals arrive for the Game Developers Conference.

GDC, as everyone calls it, doesn't come close in size to E3, May's industry marketing blowout in Los Angeles, which draws tens of thousands. But many feel this week's conference is just as important, or more so, than E3-- given its endless networking parties and steady stream of panels and keynote speeches involving video game giants like "The Sims" creator Will Wright and Nintendo President Satoru Iwata.

And with the industry hip-deep into the next-generation video game console wars--with Microsoft having already launched its Xbox 360 and Sony announcing it's delaying the PlayStation 3 until at least November--some are expecting Nintendo to make a significant announcement, perhaps pricing or timing for its Revolution at GDC. Last year, Nintendo announced the Revolution at the event.

Still, for many, the conference is an opportunity to get a first-hand look at the processes behind the games, and to learn from their peers.

"GDC is important as a conference because it allows game creators an opportunity to kick around ideas and analyze their own industry," said Souris Hong-Porretta, vice president of interactive media at Entertainment Media Ventures in Beverly Hills, Calif. "Unlike E3, the electronic entertainment marketing machine, GDC's a conference 'by game developers for developers.'"

Simon Carless, editorial director of Game Developer magazine and Gamasutra.com, agreed and said that GDC offers attendees unparalleled access to their industry's leaders, something many professionals in other fields may not get.

"GDC is important because you get to hear the leading game creators talk about the creative, technical and business process," Carless said. "That doesn't necessarily happen in other creative industries."

Game Developer magazine and Gamasutra.com are both owned by CMP Media, which runs the Game Developers Conference, though Carless said he has no role in organizing GDC.

This year, said Jamil Moledina, GDC director, the conference has a couple of main themes.

First, Moledina said, is the game industry's increasing focus on broadening its market beyond hard-core gamers.

"There are all kinds of really accessible ways to play games," he said, "so it's about getting people that don't normally consider themselves gamers to play games. Everyone sees movies, but they don't necessarily call themselves movie people."

Second, he said, attendees will see a wide variety of panels and talks about the convergence of the film and game industries.

In any case, one thing which many feel sets GDC apart from the endless number of other game conferences is its inclusion of two mini-conferences that take place Monday and Tuesday: GDC Mobile, where dozens of companies will be on hand to discuss the state of game development for mobile devices, and the Serious Games Summit, two days of discussions about games designed for education, health care and other non-entertainment purposes.

And ultimately, GDC's focus on the entire development chain is invaluable to many who come year in and year out.

"It's about getting people that don't normally consider themselves gamers to play games."
--Jamil Moledina, director, GDC

"As the game industry matures in its technology, business models and process, the professional conference begins to play an even more important role than ever," said Michael Steele, vice president and general manager for live game services at Emergent Game Technologies, a Los Angeles-based developer of platform tools for interactive games. "GDC is special because of both pedigree--it's a long running, well-established traditional meeting place--as well as the professional development: the sessions. New ideas, new ways of doing business, new techniques, etc., are talked about freely and shared openly."

Among the most anticipated sessions are the annual experimental-gameplay workshop, where designers submit new kinds of game ideas that are then showcased before audiences primed to critique and learn from them.

Some of the many hit games that have made their public debuts in the workshop are Namco's monster hit "Katamari Damacy" and 42 Entertainment's "I Love Bees."

"It's been the source of some very innovative ideas," said Ron Meiners, a contract community manager and veteran of game companies like Ubisoft Entertainment and There.com. "It gives designers a chance to stretch the limits in a context that's even potentially meaningful. Given the economics of the industry, it can be difficult to create meaningful, new ideas about games. The workshop serves to remind the industry of the foundation of games--creative new ways to play."

Another GDC mainstay is the Game Design Challenge. The panel, now in its third year, is organized by New York game studio GameLab's Eric Zimmerman, and is certain to attract a standing-room only audience.

The panel's conceit is to present top-flight game designers with a challenge: to design a game concept for something the industry would probably be too scared to actually make. The entrants' designs must be fleshed out but are unlikely to be made.

In 2004, Wright won the challenge to make a game about love with "Collateral Romance," in which star-crossed lovers have to find each other by crossing the field of battle in the famous war game, "Battlefield 1942."

CONTINUED: Reality test…
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20 comments

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Add your comment
Same song and dance again.
We've heard this before.

Since the video game business is driven by fanboyism and
rumor-speculation reporting and not actual sales of games, can
the annual conference of morons really be taken seriously?

Video games are toys, plain and simple. People who say
otherwise also refuse to grow up. Call what you will, but that's
the way I see it.

This industry is still trying to recapture the heyday of the NES,
Genesis and Super NES era, and keeps lying and mental
masturbating itself into thinking people care.

Hey, I'll care about a good game that fun to play. I don't want
unique, I don't want boring, I don't want drawn-out, I don't want
video in my game, I don't want simulator rules, I don't want
mods and cheaters, I don't want boy-meets-girl . . . I want a
game where I go around looking at crap, finding crap, and
rescuing crap.

But since I'm talking to a majority of gamers who'll post after
me, I'll expect nothing but dumb repsonses either defending the
story, or defending lousy games via brand loyality.

Of course, I just went straight for the neck in my attack of the
gaming world.

Just waiting for all of the silly responses to come out of the
woodwork, though I'll enjoy any well-written responses that any
posters write, as long as it's intelligent.

Name-calling, insults, and immature attacks indicates a lack of
self-control, self-esteem, self-worth, and intelligence.

So, I'm saying I've seen this song and dance every year since
1996, give or take what the industry is calling the show now.
They want to go to new directions? Then just go there! Instead
of wasting our time with upgrades and sequels that look/play
the same as the previous ten games in their series.
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nintendo?
Well, they certainly aren't repeating the same old 'song and dance'. Well, not completely.

The thing is, you want games that, quite frankly, small developers and studios have been making for years. They're just really hard to find, and sell really bad. And no big publisher is usually willing to take the monetary risk associated with it (see: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.ft.com/cms/s/2c08ef9a-b776-11da-b4c2-0000779e2340.html" target="_newWindow">http://news.ft.com/cms/s/2c08ef9a-b776-11da-b4c2-0000779e2340.html</a> )

The sad thing here is that, as much as people want newer things, the amount of people who would rather play rehash after rehash of Madden or Rainbow Six games with slight improvements make up the greater majority, which is why developers will continue to make games for them.
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
Link Flag
Same song and dance again.
We've heard this before.

Since the video game business is driven by fanboyism and
rumor-speculation reporting and not actual sales of games, can
the annual conference of morons really be taken seriously?

Video games are toys, plain and simple. People who say
otherwise also refuse to grow up. Call what you will, but that's
the way I see it.

This industry is still trying to recapture the heyday of the NES,
Genesis and Super NES era, and keeps lying and mental
masturbating itself into thinking people care.

Hey, I'll care about a good game that fun to play. I don't want
unique, I don't want boring, I don't want drawn-out, I don't want
video in my game, I don't want simulator rules, I don't want
mods and cheaters, I don't want boy-meets-girl . . . I want a
game where I go around looking at crap, finding crap, and
rescuing crap.

But since I'm talking to a majority of gamers who'll post after
me, I'll expect nothing but dumb repsonses either defending the
story, or defending lousy games via brand loyality.

Of course, I just went straight for the neck in my attack of the
gaming world.

Just waiting for all of the silly responses to come out of the
woodwork, though I'll enjoy any well-written responses that any
posters write, as long as it's intelligent.

Name-calling, insults, and immature attacks indicates a lack of
self-control, self-esteem, self-worth, and intelligence.

So, I'm saying I've seen this song and dance every year since
1996, give or take what the industry is calling the show now.
They want to go to new directions? Then just go there! Instead
of wasting our time with upgrades and sequels that look/play
the same as the previous ten games in their series.
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Nintendo?
Well, they certainly aren't repeating the same old 'song and dance'. Well, not completely.

The thing is, you want games that, quite frankly, small developers and studios have been making for years. They're just really hard to find, and sell really bad. And no big publisher is usually willing to take the monetary risk associated with it (see: <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://news.ft.com/cms/s/2c08ef9a-b776-11da-b4c2-0000779e2340.html" target="_newWindow">http://news.ft.com/cms/s/2c08ef9a-b776-11da-b4c2-0000779e2340.html</a> )

The sad thing here is that, as much as people want newer things, the amount of people who would rather play rehash after rehash of Madden or Rainbow Six games with slight improvements make up the greater majority, which is why developers will continue to make games for them.
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
Link Flag
The Metaverse Without Will Wright?
Being a session presenter in the unenviable timeslot directly opposite Will Wright's keynote, I'd like to invite everyone else to come explore the interconnectedness of game space and web 2.0 at the Metaverse Roadmap Summit. We will be generating, discussing and debating scenarios of what will be in 2016 and beyond.

Creative, fun, visionary - and we will no doubt have enough seats for everyone.
Posted by BridgetAG (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Metaverse Without Will Wright?
Being a session presenter in the unenviable timeslot directly opposite Will Wright's keynote, I'd like to invite everyone else to come explore the interconnectedness of game space and web 2.0 at the Metaverse Roadmap Summit. We will be generating, discussing and debating scenarios of what will be in 2016 and beyond.

Creative, fun, visionary - and we will no doubt have enough seats for everyone.
Posted by BridgetAG (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You are right, but...
Yes. It's the same song and dance, but you have to realize that the people who are repeating the same song and dance are not getting their voice heard by the publishers. When you say you want games that "where I go around looking at crap, finding crap,and rescuing crap", there are still games out there like that. But guess what, they don't sell. Take Psychonauts for example. Awesome game, but never sold, therefore the publishers drop it because it, shutting down positive game development in favour of recycling old franchises with yearly updates and no gameplay.

It's too bad that for every good game that becomes a critical hit, 20 million clones follow and flood the market, confusing consumers with crap after crap.
Posted by AlphaTwo (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Marketing
Ever heard that a good saleman can sell ice to Eskimos?

Same thing applies in gaming. When a game, like you
mentioned, Psychonauts, is made, marketing must be made in
the right places. Mario 3 on NES and Street Fighter II for SNES
sold beyond extremely well because kids in school were going
around boasting about these games.

We I listen to kids these days, they don't really care, there's no
jumping up and down for a game. They look lost, compared to
the consoles before this gen, when a kid would come in and
jump up and down for Tekken 3 or Mega Man Legends.

If the companies realized, no matter how they want to deny this,
as well as losers, i mean, hard-core gamers, want to deny the
point, as Steven Kent reported to Congress about the gaming
industry, it's toys for kids.

If the industry finally wants to admit they've been wrong in their
marketing, and their fiscal results are pointing this out, then
maybe we'll make progress.
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Link Flag
You are right, but...
Yes. It's the same song and dance, but you have to realize that the people who are repeating the same song and dance are not getting their voice heard by the publishers. When you say you want games that "where I go around looking at crap, finding crap,and rescuing crap", there are still games out there like that. But guess what, they don't sell. Take Psychonauts for example. Awesome game, but never sold, therefore the publishers drop it because it, shutting down positive game development in favour of recycling old franchises with yearly updates and no gameplay.

It's too bad that for every good game that becomes a critical hit, 20 million clones follow and flood the market, confusing consumers with crap after crap.
Posted by AlphaTwo (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Marketing
Ever heard that a good saleman can sell ice to Eskimos?

Same thing applies in gaming. When a game, like you
mentioned, Psychonauts, is made, marketing must be made in
the right places. Mario 3 on NES and Street Fighter II for SNES
sold beyond extremely well because kids in school were going
around boasting about these games.

We I listen to kids these days, they don't really care, there's no
jumping up and down for a game. They look lost, compared to
the consoles before this gen, when a kid would come in and
jump up and down for Tekken 3 or Mega Man Legends.

If the companies realized, no matter how they want to deny this,
as well as losers, i mean, hard-core gamers, want to deny the
point, as Steven Kent reported to Congress about the gaming
industry, it's toys for kids.

If the industry finally wants to admit they've been wrong in their
marketing, and their fiscal results are pointing this out, then
maybe we'll make progress.
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Link Flag
Cliffy B a FAKE
To imply that Cliffy B is the best game designer ever is insulting! The Cliffy B I know only used features already in Half-Life and just turned them on and then religiously stole ideas from other mods and added them to Counter-Strike just to keep thier mod on top. Cliffy B is a fake! So is Mihn Le.
Posted by KrezCnet (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cliffy B a FAKE
To imply that Cliffy B is the best game designer ever is insulting! The Cliffy B I know only used features already in Half-Life and just turned them on and then religiously stole ideas from other mods and added them to Counter-Strike just to keep thier mod on top. Cliffy B is a fake! So is Mihn Le.
Posted by KrezCnet (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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