GDC 2015 Experience

GDCIntro

We survived GDC! It was our first GDC as well as first time in USA.
Huge thanks to NZGDA and ID@Xbox, without them we wouldn’t have made it to the conference or had the experience we did.

The main goal for us at GDC was attending the Microsoft Loft event, where we announced Swordy on Xbox One. Over thirty developers were showcasing new indie games that are heading to Xbox One. Shovel Night, Cuphead, Flame in the Flood being some of our favorites (check out a more detailed list of exhibitors here).

NZGDA Scholarship granted us All Access passes to the expo that come with Vault access, so we weren’t concerned about missing talks or stressing about our schedule. We focused on meeting the people we wanted to meet, catching up with our friends and taking in the culture shock of the colossus that is GDC.

 

Some of the highlights were the night of IGF and Game Developers Choice awards, Mild Rupmus area and IGF Showcase where we got to try a lot of awesome indie games.
IGF Awards was a very special night. You always read about it and watch videos online, play the nominee and winner games, but to be there and actually see the venue, meet the people and congratulate the victors is an entirely different perspective. A video game awards is a real thing, it exists, and it’s most awesome.
Mild Rumpus was a small oasis of experimental games on the ground floor of Moscone West Hall. It was a mini showcase of experimental games such as Way To Go, and we got to try the beautiful Future Unfolding.

 

The GDC Showfloor is the one thing that makes it apparent that GDC is a business convention. Aside from the Xbox pavilion and IGF Showcase, everything else was a place for game engine makers, middleware and hardware developers to advertize their brands and services.

Danny and I flew to Boston on Thursday to set up for PAX, as the two events overlapped.

What we are really excited about:

Hamish: I got to stay for the final two days of GDC and got a thirty minute demo of the Valve/HTC Vive VR headset! It was amazing. For now the Vive is the reigning champion of VR headsets. They have completely nailed positional and rotational tracking within a whole room. Resolution is good enough for now – 1080×1200 per eye with no noticeable screen door effect.

HTC-Vive_White

The controllers (bundled) are excellent also. They are like Razer Hydras but with less buttons. On each they had one of Valve’s Steam Controller touch pads, a trigger and a grip control – perfectly positionally / rotationally tracked also. The controller it self didn’t really seem as important as just being able to use your hands in VR – being able to reach out and “touch” or grab things felt completely natural.

All of the demos were awesome. Thirty minutes didn’t feel like long enough.
Some of the highlights for me was being on the bottom of the ocean on the deck of a shipwreck and a giant whale swims up to me – staring eye to eye for a second before swimming away.

There was a 3D drawing demo which was really awesome. Being able to draw with the controllers in 3D then move around your drawing, or through it, above it. Draw a doorway, a flower, a diorama. Sounds simple but it was really cool. You could also draw with fire or crazy particle effects and change the settings and colors with a Augmented Reality style interface that was attached to the circular touchpad of the controllers.

There was also a Portal demo. This was the highest level of polish of any of the demos. It was incredible and hilarious to be actually inside the portal universe. Physically opening a draw to find a living papercraft universe of deskworkers. Trying to franctically fix a portal bot. Meeting GlaDOS.

The only real complaint was the cables. It really held me (“presence”-wise) still in the demo booth as I kept a mental map of where the cables were to step over. Apparently the controllers will be wireless upon release, however the headset will still have a cable to the PC. Going to have to get creative with some kind of ceiling mounted cable suspending.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun does a much better job of talking about the demos, verdict and future, but you really just need to experience it yourself.

GDC Thoughts:

Going to GDC felt like a once-in-a-lifetime event, albeit a once a year in a lifetime one.
It was ‘coming of age’ so to speak for us as a small indie group of three – going and experiencing the scale and quality of game development scene we don’t get to see in our homebase in NZ.
Meeting our heroes, catching up with our past colleagues and friends and making new ones in a span of six days has been a surreal experience. Having the community we strive to be a part of, present itself in its full glory, and be very welcoming and supportive is priceless for any developer looking for a place in game development.
Many of the talks, discussions and in some cases uneasy atmosphere are indicative of the healing process of the scars the industry endured over the course of last year. In the wake of its own recovery it’s making attempts at diversifying it’s own playground, making it a safer space and embracing and celebrating the fringier parts of gamedev.

wildrumpus
If GDC was a snapshot of the industry as it stands there is still work to do, but the progress is being made in a positive direction. Indies are being supported and embraced as the champions of future innovation while AAAs frustratingly acknowledge their complicity with formulaic releases and pressure of big money.

What went right:

check out more photos over at our facebook page.

The ID@Xbox event was a success. We had a lot of big press play our game. We met many great devs. Microsoft was very accommodating, and we got to meet a lot of execs in person. Their venue is the kind of dream warehouse-turned-bachelor-home space. Phil Spencer played Swordy!
We didn’t stress too much about “making the most of it” in a material sense. We didn’t rush building to building to try and catch the talks, and took it easy.
We learned our lesson from PAX Aus and got accommodation much closer to the Convention center.
Uber is amazing. Democratize all the things!

What went wrong:

We got sick. All 3 of us.
We should’ve applied for IGF. Having Swordy on the Showfloor would have been priceless if we got nominated.
We spent more money on flights and shuffling them around than we should have, as we didn’t quite settle our travel itinerary early enough.
Our schedule prior to GDC was so extremely tight getting the new trailer out and a build prepped for the ID@Xbox and PAX, that our sleep patterns and general health deteriorated prior to the trip.

If there was one thing:

If we were to pass on a piece of wisdom gained from this whole experience, it would be that GDC is whatever you want it to be, and going there with a purpose is the most important thing. If you’re a student scrambling for money then perhaps Vault access is the best use of that money. If you’re looking for a publisher (if you have a good game) there’s a great chance you’ll find at least three. You can certainly find a talk that will tell you exactly what you want to hear. All of the “celeberty gamedevs” are people just like you trying to do their best at what they love.

We got together with a few other game developers from Auckland who went to GDC to discuss more in depth about our experiences and takeaways. You can check out other episodes over on our podcasts page.