GDC Day 3

Day three of the GDC brings us to the first day of the Conference and Expo portion and out of the Tutorial section.

The audience has grown substantially and it is difficult to find any place to sit and drink a cup of joe or get wireless access (forget that part, the number of people is completely overwhelming the puny number of APs they have).

The sessions are also coming fast and furious. On average there are 16-30 simultaneous lectures, roundtables and vendor presentations going on at any point during the day...

I didn't allocate a lot of time to go see the show floor today, so I will report later on the actual Expo. However, I was intrigued to see BigWorld (the company is MicroForte, an Australian MMOG tool developer) back and with a much larger booth this year. Based on their press releases (only one since E3 last year), I was wondering if they had gone the way of the Dodo. However, their one release (in November) was a contract to do a product for XBox. We'll be stopping by and seeing them later.

Both nVidia and ATI were showing off their latest Microsoft DirectX 9-compatible cards with full support for programmable vertex and pixel shaders (a hot topic here).

NDL was showing off their latest product, Gamebryo, which is the next version of NDL's NetImmerse engine (which has not, since version 1, had any networking tools in it) and includes support for shaders in the pipeline.

The Conference

I saw a number of good talks today, including one by Gordon Walton (Maxis/EA, TSO, former UO, Kesmai, etc) on The 10 Reasons you DON'T want to make an MMOG, one by Rich Vogel and Raph Koster (SOE, SWG, EQ, UO) on Competitive and Cooperative structures in online worlds, and about social structures in and out of game, which was great. Probably the most reference-filled talk so far, but contained a lot of good tie-ins between the practical and theoretical, and one by Jerry Edsall (Microsoft, MechWarrior4) on Animation Blending.

Jerry's talk was practical and went over issues relating to creating, maintaining and optimizing heirarchies of animation blends in order to create artist-controlled animations that are able to adapt to various circumstances.

Gordon's heavilly-attended talk was not just a catchy title, but 10 substantial reasons not to do an MMOG. Basically, in the end it comes down to "It takes a long time, requires a lot of money, and is about the customer service, not anything else". Not quite what some people wanted to hear. However, a realistic assessment from a man with 25 years of game development exprience. There was much talk about building boutique online games and an indication that this would be cheaper, but still much more risky than a box title.

Raph's talk (available online at some time) was a nicely done mesh of sociology, psychology, game theory, graph theory, and a variety of other disciplines. The short summary is that he discussed ways to take advantage of available information on real-world communities and use it to build/strengthen online communities.

All things considered, Day 3 was a good time.

One last thing, I spent my lunch talking to a guy named "Dave". Turns out, Dave Taylor... go figure.