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[an error occurred while processing this directive] Features >> article

GDC 2004 : A Reflection
by Phillip Duff

Tuesday, March 30 2004

A Tale of Ponytails, She-men, and Leprechauns.

The game developer (of species nerdious notgettinglaidious) is a very peculiar individual. Consisting mostly of men, it would appear as some are changing sexes ala Jurassic Park. We witnessed various stages of this gender changing process from men with ponytails, to women with facial hair, all the way to a woman with the voice of a man. We braved this gender-bending sea of people and came out unscathed in order to attend the Game Developer's Conference.

This was the first year the VGLN crew visited the hallowed halls of the San Jose Convention Center and, suffice it to say, it will not be our last. In the weeks prior, I envisioned the GDC to be sort of like an E3 Jr.: not as big, loud, or crazy. I mostly thought of it as a place to network. While my predictions turned out to be generally correct, I found there to be much more to the event.

The weather in San Jose was for the most part prestine, with the exception of a few hours of light drizzle on the 2nd day of the conference.

First off, there were the lectures and roundtable discussions headed by those in the industry. These are also found in E3, but, with all that goes on down there, we never bothered to attend; there is always that new game to play. As aspiring game developers, the information to be found here was most invaluable. Imagine getting pointers on user interface design by a programmer from Red Storm Entertainment or learning about the development of such games as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, ICO, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic from the producers themselves. You do not get this kind of knowledge in a classroom.

Then there are the attendees, the game developer's. Due to its small size (compared with the massive E3), it was much easier to get to know one another. In fact, the knowledge gained through these discussions was probably greater than that of the lectures/roundtables. During lunch with a programmer from Acclaim and a creative director from Sony, we learned the reality of game development. For example, we discovered that to have 50% of your ideas in a game would be a huge personal success.

While GDC is a different beast than E3, there are still parties and private events held. Of note was the Microsoft event that had an almost complete and playable version of the legendary Fable with commentary by Peter Molyneux, himself. Imagine The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Kingdom Hearts, and a tamogachi and you have what should be a top seller come June. There were also parties thrown by such companies as Sony, Microsoft, and Sammy Studios. Due to our fatigue and the antics of a what was soon to be known as the leprechaun, we were not able to attend all the parties that we wanted. We are, however, building up our stamina in order to endure all that E3 2004 has to throw at us.

It took a lot of time but we finally discovered the mysterious "Game Room"...

Lastly, but certainly not least, a discussion of GDC could not be complete without mention of the game room. When I think of a game room in a video game industry event, I naturally picture many television sets with various consoles connected, perhaps at least one of each, all featuring the finest in multiplayer entertainment. It was our first day of the GDC and we were getting a little tired so we decided to head off for the game room for some rest and relaxation. We finally located the room a room notorious for being difficult to find and imagine our surprise to find an empty room. As the time the room was supposed to officially open rolled around, we noticed a couple of GDC staff members carrying boxes. These were not big enough to hold a television so I assumed that they were carrying Game Boy Advances and N-Gages. As the opening of the box passed through my vision, what do I see? Monopoly and Stratego. Oh, man... Ever since our discovery, we made it our duty to not only lead people to this almost hidden room but to hype it up (If not to simply fill the empty seats! -Jolex).

...but the question now remained was it worth the effort?

Finally a game of Stratego! Unfortunately none of the staff brought their Star Wars costumes so we weren't able to participate...

While E3 is fun and all, GDC has a wealth of knowledge to offer if you plan on getting into this multi-billion dollar a year business. Unlike E3, entry into GDC is not prohibitive to your bank account; college students can walk the floor for $50 and for $150, you get limited access to the classes. Prospective game developer's owe it to themselves to attend at least one conference.

--- Phillip Duff

An illustration of "pain" on the face of a hapless pawn who had to monitor the "Game Room"...
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