Sorry for being a day late – the Internet wasn’t working last night here.
First impression of GDC – wow, there’s a lot more people than I was expecting. Given the high price of entry, I was expecting a smaller, more intimate meeting, but no, there are easily thousands of people here, maybe even in the tens of thousands. Going with casual dress was a good choice as I have only seen one or two people who were dressed up at all. Oh and if you want to stand out, a white shirt with a logo is about the best thing possible. NO ONE is wearing white here.
Grue of the Verge RPG engine stopped by to say hi to me before the first panel and completely threw me off my game. So he said hi, I babbled like a fool for a minute, and he left. I did better with the next group of people I saw – the Xona team, Luke from Radiangames (man, is he tall!), and a couple other people. Oh and towards the end of the day, a fan came up to me and thanked me profusely for making such good games. It’ll be interesting to see if the Zeboyd shirt gets me any more attention on day 2.
First panel I went to was the Humble Indie Bundle discussion. It was decent and they had some nifty charts, but for the most part, there wasn’t anything horribly surprising there. I did find out that you need to be PC/Mac/Linux to be in their promotion which probably counts out anything we’re going to do.
Next up was a panel on Ethics for Developers. The speaker had a really thick accent, but he made some good points. The main problem with this panel was the short length – just when the discussion started to get good, he ran out of time.
Then it was lunch time and time for me to take advantage of the free lunch vouchers I get for being a speaker. The lunch was about as good as you’d expect a mass produced lunch to be – cold sandwitch, some sort of potatoey thing, and a cookie. The bread was hard to chew so I think I’m going to try the vegetarian alternative meal next time.
After lunch, I went to the Replica Island post-mortem. Chris does a great horror game website that I’ve followed for a long time so it was neat to actually see him in person. Learned a few things about Android phones that I didn’t know before and he made a few good recommendations about game development, but I could really tell that he’s the kind of person who feels more comfortable writing about game design than speaking about it. He spoke pretty fast, seemed a bit nervous, and made several funny remarks that nobody laughed at because his delivery was off.
Then, I went to an awesome mini-panel about fostering character expression in games. The examples were fantastic (saving the cuddly animals in Fallout!) and the discussion was insightful. Definitely going to try to use some of the ideas in our own games.
After that, I had about a half hour before the next panel that I wanted to attend so I just stuck around and sat in on the panel before that. It was about turning depression into inspiration and I see why they chose the speaker – most depressed speaker I had seen all day. There were a couple of good tips, a few bad tips (seriously, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and do boring work if you want an awesome game – it’s not all fun and games), but for the most part, it was quite the downer. The “You have to be tortured to make art” comments really rubbed me the wrong way. The really sad thing is that as far as I could tell from audience reaction, most people loved the panel. Is depression really that big of a problem for game developers? I mean, goodness knows I’ve got my own oddities (I’m probably ADD with a bit of OCD for good measure), but it seems odd that an entertainment industry would attract so many unhappy people.
Final panel of the day was probably my favorite. 3 different designers who had worked at big companies before and were now working on indie stuff talked about their experiences. Lots of fantastic advice here. The first guy was great (worked on Rez & Space Channel 5 before) and gave good advice about working well with teams and keeping the vision consistent. Wasn’t a big fan of the second guy – he seemed to subscribe to the whole social game mentality which I’m not a fan of. The third guy was awesome (made the AaaaaaAaaaaAaaaAa game) and gave good advice after good advice. I especially liked how he talked about including marketing as part of the game design and development – stuff like making unusual games, adding weird features, and being amusing with your public relations.
After the panels were done, I grabbed a bento from a little Japanese place near the conference center and then headed back to my motel room. Called my wife and talked a bit, then played some Xenogears on the PSP, and then went to bed.
Today’s looks like it’ll be one of the more exciting days of the con for me. I have a meeting with someone from a big publisher at 9 and a meeting with Scott Nichols (media) for lunch. Lots of interesting panels today, including the one where Luke (Radiangames) is going to speak.
Oh yeah, Microsoft finally updated the Dream-Build-Play competition. Looks like it’ll run about the same as the ones before. As far as I can tell, there’s no rule against games that are already released, so we’ll be submitting the most recent version of Cthulhu Saves the World.