I was able to attend some of the Game Developers Conference up in San Francisco last week thanks to the fine people at FileCatalyst, who provided me with 2 Expo passes. This was my fifth year in a row up at Moscone for the even, having been up there in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 as well.
They did not bring Darren along this year, though he has been busy fighting the man who is trying to put a meter on his internet bandwidth up there in Canada, so that is understandable.
Since I had a second Expo pass, I was able to get Potshot to join me in sunny and warm San Francisco. The threat of snow having passed, the clouds parted and it was a fine day.
It had been a while since Potshot and I had actually been physically present at the same location. We’ve known each other for over 30 years at this point, but had not seen each other in the last 15 or so. We talk on Skype almost every Saturday night as part of the instance group, but we’re a little too far apart for lunch.
Anyway, I had a camera on me so we could mark the occasion.
As I said, the amazing thing after 30 years isn’t how much we’ve changed (more mass, less hair all around) but that we both seem to be pretty recognizable after all that time. We look about the same, with just a few sliders on the character creator moved.
(And that is the same shirt I was wearing at the 2009 GDC. I just like that shirt.)
The Expo floor itself was a little disappointing. On the MMO front, very few companies were showing anything.
The people at Frogster were showing Runes of Magic and talking about how you can now triple class in the game (it would be like having three souls, right?), raised the level cap, and tried to make the game basically suck less. I listened, but didn’t have the heart to tell them that their game simply wasn’t worth having to face their half-assed install and patch system again. We’ll get back to that topic.
They were also talking about their new Star Trek game, Star Trek – Infinite Space which will play in a web browser and will be free to play naturally. The game looked good and… well… a lot like Star Trek Online in their demo. And we said so. At that point we were assured that their game takes place in the Deep Space 9 time line, so it totally different. I suppose it is a sign that I have departed Trek fandom in that I could think of nothing but sarcastic replies to that statement and left it with “Well, as long as Paramount isn’t diluting the franchise, that’s okay then.”
We went through the Independent Games Festival booth where Minecraft and Amnesia had won the big prizes. It is a wonder that you could get people who like Minecraft away from the game long enough to vote for it, but since at least one of the other competitors required players to hit over sized buttons with their face, maybe it isn’t all that surprising.
We were allowed to go to sponsored conferences as part of the Expo badge package. We were railroaded into one about COLLADA by some Expo staffers apparently desperate to fill seats, which we left as soon as it was polite, since it was frankly focused on things very close to what I deal with at work, only at such a high level as to have almost no value. The joy of sponsored conferences.
We then went off to a presentation about Gaikai by Nanea Reeves. Gaikai looks to offer a similar solution as OnLive, by streaming game content to without making you download the executable. The presentation had some interesting data and analysis of the online buying process that mentioned all the places you lose customers. A prime one was the whole download and patching process, at which point I felt I should go drag some of the Frogster people into the room.
Gaikai’s main pitch seemed to be that games sell better when people can play the demo, but they will shy away from a demo that takes too much effort. So Gaikai’s business plan in the presentation was to deliver demos of games instantly. They spent a lot of time saying they were not offering a service like OnLive and that they were more about helping a company sell games through their chosen channel. However, outside of the presentation, they spoke like they were going to deliver games for people to play all the time, which sounded a lot like OnLive and not so much like a demo delivery service. So who knows where they are really headed.
After that Potshot and I hooked up with Brian “Psychochild” Green and ended up talking for quite a while. That lead us to about dinner time. Potshot had to depart, but I ended up having dinner with Brian and Damion Schubert. That was very interesting, though I had little to actually contribute to the conversation other than attentive listening and the occasional passing of a plate, but I learned quite a bit through their tales of game development and design and was able to infer a bit more, none of which I can repeat.
All and all it was a very good day out with pleasant company and interesting things to talk about. I’m sorry it wasn’t a VirginWorlds year and that I did not end up bumping into Shawn Schuster or GameBreaker.tv team this time around (no live from the Vivoxx booth?), but the whole show will be back again next year.