GDC Day 1

So, I’m going to the Game Developers Conference this year for two days. Today was the first. I went to a talk by Ken Levine, creative director of Bioshock, called “Empowering Players to Care About Your Stupid Story.” It was a great talk – insightful, engaging, and often funny. More, he vindicated a lot of my positions on story in the game I’m currently working on. I wish the project lead had been there, but it’s nice to know that I can now back up a lot of my arguments with the opinions of one of gaming’s most respected writers.

I also went to the Microsoft Keynote, which was interesting for only two reasons:

  1. The XNA Creators Club can now publish to Live Arcade. This is astonishing news, honestly, and makes a sort of hobby game development project much more likely to actually get into the hands of players. I’m really quite excited about this.
  2. Gears of War 2 was officially announced.

Point 2 is really a foregone conclusion, but the first game was fun, so hooray for more of (roughly) the same. After that, I went to a talk by Rob Pardo, who is one of the most influential and important people in the industry – basically the guy who’s running the show from a design side for World of Warcraft and Starcraft 2. The talk was about Blizzard’s approach to designing multiplayer games, and while interesting, it was a little on the dry side.

After that, I went to lunch, where I met a couple MIT alum developers, including Steve Meretzky, who wrote the classic text adventure Planetfall, one of the first games that people regularly say moved them to tears. After lunch, I went to what I thought would be an interesting talk – Marc Laidlaw, the lead writer on Half Life 2, Steve Meretzky, and Ken Rolston, the lead writer on Oblivion, as well as some guy from Midway. The talk was “Stories Best Played,” and given that panel’s credentials, should have been a mindblowing roundtable about creating stories that are ideally suited to the medium. Instead, it was a roundtable talking about games with great stories – Loom, Planescape Torment, Thief, The Fool’s Errand, Ico, Bioshock, Phoenix Wright, and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay.

This talk ended up basically being the people talking about why they picked a particular game, and then the other people saying that they liked it or didn’t. It was surprising, crushingly uninteresting. Given that I’d just been talking to Steve Meretzky, and found him quite engaging and funny, the talk was a complete letdown – particularly with Laidlaw and Rolston present as well (though Ken Rolston is pretty damned funny).

After that, I had a splitting headache, turned in my pass at my company’s booth so someone could use it tomorrow to attend talks, and then boogied on out of there.

When I came home, the kitchen had been drywalled, which totally blows my mind. Pics will be posted soonish – aside from the teardown, this is the first time it’s actually looked… different.

One Response to “GDC Day 1”

  1. hapacheese Says:

    Given my position, it’s always hard to justify going to those specific talks. I mean, it helps me have a deeper understanding into the creators’ minds, but I can’t actually actively do anything with that knowledge, except when giving feedback to producers. Still, sounds like it was at least a little interesting.

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