Thursday, March 27, 2014

GDC Post Mortem - Part 1

Last week I attended my first ever GDC in San Francisco. I had an amazing time and came away with a ton of really great new experiences. I realized my blog has pretty much been filled with Quest For Funk stuff lately, so I figured it would be a nice change of pace to write a post about my general experience at GDC. I do have a lot of Quest For Funk related news regarding GDC as well, but that will come in a separate post tomorrow.

I spent 5 days in San Francisco, and man was it exhausting! I only bought an Expo Pass, but that gave me access to more than enough events to keep busy throughout the week. The first place I went when I got to the conference was the Career Center... and that was so big itself I didn't even realize there was a whole separate Expo Hall! I've been to quite a few conventions before, but the enormity of GDC completely blows the rest of them away! I don't know the exact number of exhibitors there but it's enough to make your head spin.

While most of the major companies that you would expect had booths there, I noticed that there seemed to be a serious lack of Japanese developers in the hall. It's entirely possible that I somehow just missed them, but Square-Enix, Namco-Bandai, Konami, and Capcom all seemed to be lacking a presence in the Expo Hall. On the other hand, Nintendo surprisingly had a really cool booth. They were promoting Unity on the Wii-U with promises that there will be 50 upcoming games for the console developed in Unity! Spent quite a bit of time playing Ittle Dew there, which was a ton of fun.

The Ouya booth was also very interesting. They had 4 couches set up in a square, and constantly swapped out the games being played in the middle. Got to check out a lot of neat indie games in there, but Toto Temple was definitely my favorite! Arena game with four players dashing around trying to capture the goat. Fast paced, competitive, chaotic - seems like the perfect recipe for a party game.

And speaking of indie games, the IGF Pavilion was pretty much the place to be! Tons of super creative games, including Crypt of the Necrodancer - a topdown roguelike played entirely with a DDR pad. At one point a Towerfall Ascension tournament broke out, and I spotted Ashley and Anthony Burch (of HAWP fame) in the midst of the crowd. The atmosphere was just so laid back and fun that it really contrasted with the stuffy businessmen on the outer walls, with their ad software and payment infrastructures. That said, the IGF was probably my most visited part of the convention center. Even managed to score these awesome souvenirs from the Papers Please booth.

In that this was a conference for developers, there was also a lot of cool news about game engines. Unity 5 was announced, and their presence there was huge! It's incredible how big the Unity engine is becoming, and I'm super excited how much easier they are making it for developers. I also got the chance to view a live demo of Unreal 4 in action. As a UDK enthusiast, I was overwhelmed! The new Blueprint system seems extremely powerful, and somehow it looked even easier to use than Kismet. The artist managed to create an entire Flappy Birds clone in-engine without writing a single line of code. Dynamic materials seem to be a big focus as well, which is enough to spark any budding artist's creativity. They set a ball on fire and then cooled it off with ice, going through a number of materials in the process. Words can't do it justice, but the transition was amazing! I can't wait to check it out (which you can do for just 20 bucks a month, btw).

Went to a bunch of parties in addition to the conference itself, and I'll be honest, this was the real reason to go to GDC! Not just because the parties are fun (they are!), but because you never know who'll you run into. Meeting someone sitting behind a booth is cool, but you don't really get to know someone until you share a drink with them inside a night club playing Tetris music. I met so many amazing people this week that I'm already anxious to go back and see them again next year. This is such an amazing industry and I'm so happy to be a part of it!

Also, since this is an art blog, I don't want to rip you guys off with a post just full of text and touristy photos. So here's a digital painting I've been working on this week. This is based on a scene I snapped in China Town on my last day in San Francisco. This was originally just going to be a quickie, but I decided to go all out with the detail so... Work in Progress! I'll show you the finished results next time! Until then... Adios!

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