GDC got busy real quick, with its rampant horde of 22,500 attendees. The first two days were summits and tutorials, covering topics like Social and Online games, or Smartphone and Tablet games.
While Peter geared up for business meetings, Trevor and I attended the lectures. Most were superbly good – I think I broke my note-taking hand. We were also spoilt for choice: there were 4-6 occurring simultaneously all day, all week. At the start I was in six lectures a day. Reoccurring themes were social games, free-to-play, new funding methods, and the growth of games on transportable devices. My personal highlights included: Sid Meier – Interesting Decisions; a couple of Volition lectures, one talking about design culture, the other, playtesting and metrics; Valve talking about Team Fortress 2; and Giordano Bruno Contestable talking about moving Bejewelled Blitz to free-to-play; and then almost everything else I went to. Now we’re back – and just to finish us off – our passes give full access to the recordings in the GDC vault, which will amount to a specialist home-study course for months to come. I’m gonna need a cheese-press for my brain, just to get all the info in there.
On Monday night I tried to catch ‘Indie Game: The Movie’, joining the queue somewhere near… LA. Needless to say, most people were turned away. So, instead, The Blazing Griffin Massif all ended up in the Bourbon and Branch with some lovely folks from Glasgow Caledonian University. This was a pretty awesome, speakeasy themed cocktail bar. We had to book in advance, locate a featureless wall and doorway, give a password and were met by a 1920s style hostess. Inside were a million ingredient bottles, candles and elaborate fittings. I had a couple of great cocktails, one (a Sazerac) involving absinthe, and then out through a secret passage in a book case. At least, I thought we left via a bookcase – may have been a small door in the back of my head, what with the absinthe and all.
A pretty standard night, then.
No to profits; yes to prophets — the monetizeocalypse kicks off in San Francisco.
The main conference (and expo) started on Wednesday. Everything became so much busier, and there was more dashing backward and forward between the different conference buildings. At one point, we looked over and Notch was waiting with us to cross, cunningly in disguise (sans hat). At another, two vocal folks were out with placards, one of which said ‘Thou shalt not monetize thy neighbour’ and the other, ‘God hates game designers.’ I’m pretty sure it was an enthusiastic marketing stunt. If not, they’d definitely done their game dev. research. In the background, was the thumping music from the energy drink encampment, where young ladies in stretch, blue lycra were trying to thrust energy drinks into keyboard-callused hands. Ah, the buxom, siren-like call of lycrinated caffeine.
The GDC Expo floor was packed with more than 300 exhibitors, along with busy career and business areas. GDC Play was also providing a place for new developers to showcase games. It was all rather large: the expo was in a space the size of multiple… big things, like rugby pitches, so there were plenty to investigate. That included the IGF (Independent Games Festival) stand, where we caught Dear Esther, Johann Sebastian Joust, and Fingle – great games one and all. With the Scottish Games Pavilion now open for business, Peter was attending meetings. Despite a few no-shows (it’s not as if there was a hugely distracting game conference going on, tisk), business was done. All was good.
Other notable events:
We snuck into the IGN event, where indie devs got a chance to show off their latest wares to devs, press, and other invites. Plenty of good stuff on show. We ate mightily of the chips and dips; long was the indie game perusal; epic was the talent on show.
Romer listens as the cake whispers, ‘Join Blazing Griffin, Join…’ while Brandon wonders what the hell he’s let himself in for.
We saw the 14th Annual IGF Awards and a bit of the 12th Annual Games Developers’ Choice Awards (GDCA’s). This was surprisingly glitzy – there were lights and seats and everything. Notch was back, out of disguise (plus hat), but we left at the start of the Game Developers’ Choice Awards to meet up with a couple of Trevor’s friends. Chatting to said friends, Romer and Brandon, over the course of the show, it looks like we’ve got a couple more recruits on Distant Star, thus tripling our crack team of ninja coders. Wooh, hoo!
We also hung out at the Scottish Whiskey Evening, which was a social event to which Scottish companies could invite a number of business folks, for whisky, food, and (thankfully (1)) beer. This was a good chance to catch up with other conference peeps, as well as the Scottish game developers we should be speaking to more often back in Scotland.
So it was, by the end of the conference, we found GDC to be incredibly, awesomely, amazingly (2) useful – for business, for learning, and free energy drinks.
(1) I’m such a traitor to my Scottish heritage.
(2) Please look at this page for more epic superlatives.