GDC Notebook: Day 4: How Many Times Will They Play The Same Game?

The Game Developers Conference is nearly done. And what have I learned?

  • On day 4 I learned that the Valve console, should it ever exist won't be out soon. So said Valve, proving that a little shoe-leather-burning can get you the answers you need. Thank goodness for the weeks when just about anyone who makes video games is in the same place and you can do this.
  • I learned that game designers seem to be getting younger—or that's relative as I get older. The youthful energy at this GDC is unmistakable, as young indies saunter or skip through the scene with the energy of confident creators who are comfortable in their spots in the game design scene. There's less a sense that young indies are climbing their way toward big-name developers and publishers. A creator like the ballyhooed Doug Wilson of award-winning J.S. Joust fame, appears to be happy to experiment and innovate and can draw a crowd here simply because of his ideas. I played the graphics-less PlayStation Move-based Joust with WIlson and then watched him play the wacky Dog the Wag. You'll see those games on Kotaku shortly.
  • I learned that even game industry veterans see potential in doing a Tim Schafer-style Kickstarter. Expect more of those from people with impressive resumes.
  • I learned that Spy Party's Chris Hecker loves to argue... and has played enough Counter-Strike... for now. Hundreds of hours! We were debating the extent to which people tolerate or even enjoy the same game experience again and again and what it says about consumers who buy games that are so similar to the ones they bought before. My take: most games iterate and improve upon their predecessors, and with advancing technology, there's merit in keeping a classic experience relevant by repeatedly upgrading its tech.
  • Winter is harsh in Canada. Can be (and definitely used to be) feared in Quebec. The makers of Assassin's Creed III know this. The game's creative director acknowledged this and uses it as one guide to portraying the often-snow-filled 18th-century American wilderness of AC III. (He said so in his talk about making games that appeal to broad audiences. Money quote from the talk: "Video games need to have either the goal of educating people, entertaining people or at least being artistic.")
  • I've now heard from two people that Epic's not-for-press demo of the Unreal Engine 4 is astounding. It's too bad we in the media can't see this tech yet, as it appears to be the very stuff of next-gen gaming consoles.
  • There is a man at GDC who wears a hat stacked with many more hats. I do not know why. This is therefore something only half-learned. I must find him and get an answer.
  • I've also learned what it's like to play some new content in Modern Warfare 3. Details on that are not publishable until next week. Sorry!

This is probably my last GDC Notebook, though I have one more day at the show. Thanks for keeping up with these, folks!

(Up top is the staircase at Moscone North, one of the main thoroughfares for GDC foot traffic. Imagine the Havok physics if anyone tripped...)