My Top Ten List For GDC 2013 — Part 1

Games Development Conference 2013

The Game Developers Conference (GDC) is great and exhausting at the same time. Over twenty thousand attendees from our industry converge on the Moscone Center in San Francisco to exchange ideas, make new contacts, attend seminars and meet old friends. The quality and quantity of talks is staggering. After five days, you’re exhausted. But it’s the good kind of exhausted — like, “I just finished a marathon!” exhausted (At least, I assume that is what it feels like after you run a marathon).

There’s too much awesome to get into one post, so here is Part 1 of my GDC 2013 Top Ten.

#10: Hideo Kojima IS Metal Gear Solid V!

I’m not a fanboy, but I am inspired by the amazing work Hideo Kojima‘s team is doing on the Fox Engine. Trust me; this is actually the man himself under the bandages. His first game that I played was a little adventure on the SEGA CD called Snatcher, a Bladerunner inspired title that even supported the lightgun. Always on the bleeding edge of technology, he astounded the crowd with a live demo of his forthcoming Metal Gear. He ran the demo on a PC, and we can only hope that the tech makes the leap to the next gen consoles.

Hideo Kojima
Great entrance. Please take note of my presentation skills, pupils! Also take note that ONLY Hideo Kojima can pull off this entrance.

A year ago, Konami ran a “Is it Real, or is it FOX challenge?” (The original page is down but you can see it here on Kotaku. — It’s great to read the comments that lay down the challenge of whether this could run in real time. It does. I saw it. In engine.)

Kojima lighting
A good example of the sort of slide you see all day long at GDC.

#9: Occulus Rift

On the show floor, one product had a one-hour waiting line and tremendous buzz. Occulus Rift is a Kickstarter crowd-pleaser, having earned $2.4 Million in pledges. It’s the first time I have seen this product in person, but judging by the line, there is huge interest in our industry for this device. They had several units set up for demonstration, (four I believe). Unfortunately, my schedule didn’t allow me to allocate an hour to wait in line; that would have meant giving up a talk!

With clear support from big guys like Valve, Occulus Rift just might shake things up.

#8: A.I. talk: “The Simplest A.I. Trick in the Book.”

Seven long-time AI programmers each took the stage for 5 minutes in a packed room to divulge their personal golden nugget of AI wisdom. I learned 7 ‘tricks’ that will improve my games and increase my productivity in 35 minutes! Jeff Orkin had several. The crowd favorite was his trick involving AI “barks.” A bark is an industry term for having a non-player character (NPC) spit out a canned line of dialog. In a very popular FPS shooter, F.E.A.R. (First Encounter Assault Recon), he had the last dying guard bark out “I need reinforcements!” This led the player to believe he had better get moving before more guards arrived. Cleverly, no resources were ever spent on setting up these reinforcements; the simple AI bark was enough to both move the player along and convince them that there actually was a reinforcement feature. One reporter even stated in his review that reinforcements were coming, so he had to hurry. The audience burst into a huge round of well-deserved applause because it was not really a trick, it was an elegant solution properly implemented. If you come up with one or two solutions like that per milestone, you’re doing OK!

fear image
Caption: Don’t worry; his “bark” is worse than his bite!

#7: Brazil is open for business

There are many sessions that are not directly scheduled by GDC. I attended a Government of Canada organized seminar that was hosted in a nearby hotel ballroom. Several representatives from Brazil did a great job of explaining the current potential of the Brazilian marketplace. Of particular interest amongst the audience was the invitation to partner with Brazilian companies for the millions of dollars being invested by the Brazilian government in educational funding for digital media products. There are 25 million smart phones being used in Brazil, and that number is expected to double by 2016. Several of our Brazilian graduates are now back in Brazil taking advantage of this hot market (For example Game Design grad João Flávio Ponciano is making games at Guanabara Games).

gd16 Alumni João Flávio is making games in Brazil.

#6: The number of Alumni present at GDC.

At almost every talk I attended I saw one or more of our alumni!  All the way back to the first graduating class! It’s great to see familiar faces, but even more so when you see that those who were once your students are now your industry co-workers! I can’t express how happy I was to see them all, they definitely earn a place on my top ten list.

VFS alumni at GDC 2013
From left: GD26 Quin Henshaw (Indie), GD24 Ben Fruhauf (EA), GD09 Charmie Kim (GREE) and GD01 Tara Mustapha (Nine Tail Studios, Inc.)

Shout-outs also go to Kay Chan (GD24), Michael Smallhorn (GD10), Elliot Hudson (GD22) and Ryan Pelcz (GD16). — Sorry Pulse team, you’ll just have to wait until later in the list!

Tune in next week for the exciting Part 2, where I will divulge with photographic evidence that I met one of MY big influences!

Andrew Laing teaches Game Mechanics, Presentation Skills, Game Design and Post Mortem