Tag Archives: GDC

Tales from New Eden – The Ghost Training GDC Presentation

Back at GDC 2018 up in San Francisco, CCP gave a presentation about the “ghost training” exploit that was introduced into EVE Online with free to play.  At the time this got some coverage, including over at Massively OP.  But to actually see the talk you had to be there or pay for access to the GDC recorded archives.

However, the GDC organizers post older presentations to their YouTube channel on a regular basis, and this session was posted in December so we are all free to watch it.


The presentation is just under an hour and opens with a few minutes of describing EVE Online before getting to the exploit.  It then unfolds with what the problem was and how CCP went to address it.

Interesting, and relatable to anybody in enterprise software, is how critical accurate and detailed steps to reproduce are, how unexpected results can come from interactions in complex and often aging systems, how the simple “just do this!” fix may not actually fix the issue (in this case it made things worse), and how assumptions about players/customers need to be validated.  That latter was especially important as the mood was “ban them all” both inside and outside of CCP because it was assumed this was primarily and deliberately being exploited by skill farm operators.

Some people were still banned, but the lighter approach the company chose to take meant that a range quite a few people remained customers after having their ghost training gains pointed out to them and given options to correct the situation.  In a game… in a genre… in an industry… where customer retention is vital for ongoing success, this seems like a wise approach.

So Where Exactly is This GDC Online Hall of Fame?

As far as I can tell, it is online.  Which I suppose is appropriate.  And it certainly makes it easier to visit.

I was wondering about that since a number of headlines have popped up about EverQuest being inducted into the Game Developers Choice Online Awards Hall of Fame.

Which is cool.  Yay EverQuest and all that.

And, in each account I have read, it has been mentioned that EverQuest joins Ultima Online in the hall of fame.

And there they are.

The two of them.

Alone together in that virtual hall.

Because this is only the second year, and they only induct one game a year, so there are only the two games.

And for two games representing the world of online games, those two represent a somewhat narrow demographic in online gaming I would say;  online, subscription based, fantasy MMORPGs released between 1997 and 1999 and still running today.

Not that I would deny either game belongs on the list, but when you are admitting one game a year into the hall of fame, “Get all the MMORPGs out of the way first” doesn’t seem like the best plan of action.

Ah well.  They do also induct people into the hall of fame as well.  Last year it was Richard Bartle, so I guess the committee figured they had MUD1 covered as well with that.  Still kind of virtual world oriented there, but at least it is old school, text based stuff.  Real history or whatever.

And this year there was a two-fer, with the induction of Kelton Flinn and John Taylor, co-founders of Kesmai back in the day, and both responsible for a few games which ought to be inducted into the hall of fame at some point, like MegaWars III, Air Warrior, and Island of Kesmai.

Along with the hall of fame, there are various yearly awards voted on and given out.  Last year it was League of Legends that came out as the big winner, grabbing the top spot in most of the categories.  In categories for which they were nominated, they only lost out to EVE Online for the “Best Live Game” category. (Categories with definitions are here.)

This year it was more mixed, with only Minecraft and Rift capping two categories apiece.

All in all, another set of awards.  While I am sure they are all quite meaningful for the recipients (who does not like to be acknowledged for their work?) I do sometimes wonder what such awards really mean in the big picture.  What impact does such an award have?

And, more importantly, which game and person do you think will (or should) be inducted into the hall of fame next year?

Wandering Around GDC 2011

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.

In the FileCatalyst Booth - 3/3/011

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.

Iwata Speaks and Netflix Comes to the Very Small Screen…

Nintendo was tweeting up a storm yesterday because Satoru Iwata was giving the keynote speech up at GDC.

You can see here, which you’ll no doubt want to do if you are a big Nintendo fan.

And even if you aren’t, his address is interesting for the gaming history he brings up as he talks about things like social networks and gaming. I recommend it.

There was, of course, some mention of Nintendo’s newest hardware, the Nintendo 3Ds.

But of all the bits of information I saw, this one probably surprised me the most:

My initial reaction was to dismiss this, but as I thought about it I had to admit that the concept is interesting.

I want to see what a streamed film would look like on the new 3DS screen, which is much larger than the screens Nintendo uses for their current DS/DS Lite/DSi line of hand helds, and which support 3D, which is where so many of the movie studios are going these days.

We’ll see how it looks this summer.

Who is Going to GDC 2011 in San Francisco?

The Game Developers Conference up in San Francisco is NEXT WEEK!

(SF is up on the map relative to me, your relative direction may vary.)

I will be able to attend the Expo and recruiting part of the event thanks to the fine people at FileCatalyst who provided me with two Expo passes this year.

And it is a good thing too, since Expo passes are up to $200 this year.

I will be sure to visit them at booth #2030 on the Expo floor to say thank you and to see what they have to offer.  Their booth usually has comfy chairs!

Unlike last year, there is not (as yet) any planned group/blogger/podcaster meet-up.

But I will be on the Expo floor on Thursday, March 3rd and I am trying to get Potshot to take the day off and show up as well.

So if you are a reader and will be around GDC and want to say “Hi,” drop me a note.  My email address is on the “about” page for the site.

Oh, and to make people from out of town feel at home, we’ve turned down the thermostat here in the SF Bay Area.

Look at that weather forecast.  A chance of snow!  It hasn’t really snowed down at sea level around here since February 5, 1976.  We get confused when the rains start here in the Fall, imagine us in the snow!

A Quick Pass Through GDC 2010

Last week was my fourth pass through the Game Developers Conference, having also gone up to San Francisco in 2007, 2008, and 2009.

This year my expo pass was provided by the fine people at FileCatalyst.  They were at the show to talk to companies about their accelerated and managed file transfer solutions.  While they asked for nothing in return, I figured I would put their logo up as a thank you.

GDC was considerably more compressed than previous years.  Gaming may be recession proof, but trade shows are not.  So this time around they put all of the recruiting and demo booths onto the same show floor at Moscone North, where they filled out about 70-80% of the space that either area took up last year or the year before.

Coverage of the show is all over the place.  Both Karen and Darren have posts up about what they saw in their days devoted to the show.  My own time there was limited and spent mostly talking to people I already knew. (Like Karen and Darren.)

One thing that a lot of people were talking about was PlayStation Move, the motion controllers that Sony was showing for use with the PS3.  On the other hand, I couldn’t hear anybody talk about it without mentioning Nintendo or the Wii, so it is already being defined in terms of the competition.  And while the tech demo looked good, I didn’t see anything that hinted at a killer app to drive the hardware.  My main complaint about the Wii is that most games could just as easily be played with a game pad, and here is Sony bringing motion controllers to a console that already has a game pad.  They had better have something in the bag to drive this idea.

I did discover evidence first hand that Activision is indeed evil.  Strike one, they were handing out beer.  Strike two, it was Bud Light.  Strike three, the cup wasn’t worth keeping once the beer was gone.  So this was just designed to force engineers use the public restroom as far as I could tell.

I also got my Zombrex vaccination.  If you don’t know what that is, you’re not alone.  There was a booth where they had faux injection guns that they would put up to your arm to inoculate you against becoming a zombie.  You got a bandage that said ZOMBREX on it to cover up your non-existent injection wound, a follow up injection in a box (which turned out to be a pretty cool pen that looks like a hypodermic), and a poster detailing “practical advice to dealing with zombie infection” which I’ll have to scan at some point.

ZOMBREX Injector

All of which seemed to be in furtherance of nothing, since they didn’t seem to be pushing anything other than their bogus injections.  Questioning the booth staff got nothing but blank looks and talk about zombies.  The only thing I could find on Google that seemed to relate was a post about Dead Rising 2.

I’m sure we’ll find out what this was about soon enough.  The box the pen came in has an expiration date of August 31, 2010.  Anything shipping on or around that date related to zombies?

Anyway, their viral (heh) campaign seems to have worked somewhat.  I’ve already devoted a couple of paragraphs and a picture in this post towards it.

I did get to see Gary Gannon do one of his Game Breakr Daily GDC Wrap Up broadcasts with Brent and Darren right there on the show floor.

Live From Moscone Center

Gary, with lots of behind the scenes support from Todd, got some great stuff there at the show.  Be sure to head over to Game Breakr to see the clips.

Then, once the show wrapped up for the evening, it was time to walk over to Le Colonial for dinner.

Dinner at Le Colonial

From left to right, the group in the picture is:

And behind the camera was Seraphina, with whom I did not get much of a chance to speak.

I also got a request for a picture of Shawn and Lady Sinea.  Behind them is our waiter who studiously avoided catching my eye once it came time to take a picture.

Shawn and Lady Sinea

Dinner was excellent of course, as was the company, but all nights come to an end at some point, and we headed back to our rooms or homes.  Until next year!

My Day at GDC 2009

I took the day off of work last Thursday and headed up to San Francisco to wander around the Game Developer’s Conference.

The expo and career halls were both a bit less heavy on exhibitors when compared to the last couple of years.  The expo hall especially seemed to be missing a number of past attendees such as Turbine and Red5.  Booths seemed to be occupied less by companies making games and more by schools with certificate or degree programs related to gaming, companies selling tools to help game developers (my favorite being Speedtree; I love that there is a company out there to help you get your foliage correct), and representatives from various locales that would like you to open a studio or development site in their district.

Not that those are bad things to see at such a conference, but they are a bit less interesting to somebody from outside of the industry like myself.

Probably the most commented on technology at the show was OnLive‘s game delivery service.  OnLive promises to delivery top quality games directly to your PC, Mac, or HD TV so that all the heavy lifting, that done by the CPU and GPU, is done at their end.  That means that you can play the latest games without having to have the latest hardware on your PC.  You will be able to play games on your toaster, so to speak, if they can deliver.  And that was the question on everybody’s lips, “Can they deliver?”  They had a slick demo in a huge booth and showed off an impressive list of partners.  Brent covered the OnLive booth and technology as part of one of his video podcasts from GDC.

The career hall was also less sprawling than in previous years.  Notable for their lack of a boot this year was Sony Online Entertainment.  I do not know if that was because they have been folded in with Sony Computer Entertainment America, which did have a booth, or because Brenlo, their past recruiting anchorman at GDC, was off having a painful medical procedure.

I did get to hook up on the show floor with Darren and Brent, and even got to watch Brent in action as he interviewed one of the principles of FileCatalyst on the show floor.

Brent making the magic

Brent making the magic

FileCatalyst was there pitching their file transfer technology as both a solution for moving files between locations as part of the development process as well as a potential technology for companies to move files to end users.

It was a gorgeous day in San Francisco, about as bright and sunny and warm as you can expect to get that often gets cold and foggy during the summer.  I took a break from the show floor for a walk and a snack in the park while I waited for things to wind down.

As it got closer to dinner time I met up with Darren and we went off to find Brent so we could go to the VirginWorlds collective dinner, something that has become an annual event at GDC.

We gathered up Brent and walked briskly (because we were late) over to Le Colonial, a French Vietnamese restaurant over by Union Square.  There we were joined by Shawn Schuster of Massively and the collective podcast OMG Real Life!, and Lady Sinea of RingCast, among other podcasts.

Dinner at Le Colonial

Lady Sinea, myself, Darren, Brent, and Shawn

Le Colonial was excellent and we ate and drank to excess and talked non-stop.  The Bo Luc Lac was particularly good, the filet mignon cubes practically melting in ones mouth.  There was live music upstairs that was close enough to enjoy but far enough away to not impede conversation.  A good time was had by all.

Eventually the evening came to an close.  We had eaten all we could politely could in a public place, the conversation began to slow down, and was time to say good bye until next year.  GDC 2010, March 9-13!  Be there!