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GDC 2009: The Year We Went Hungry

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I’ve written before that at SIGGRAPH you starve while at GDC they stuff you like a foie gras goose.  No more.  This year there were no breakfast pastries before the lectures started.  There were no cookies at the coffee breaks.  Some lines ran out of lunches and sodas.  Perhaps CMP took a look at the girth of the attendees and decided that the average game developer would benefit from a diet.

The lean times extended to the recruiting floor.  It was obvious looking at the career expo that, despite rumors to the contrary, our industry is far from recession proof.  There looked to be about half as many booths as there were last year.

Recruiting aside, GDC looked as crowded as ever–which is pretty impressive considering that attendance last year was 18,000 developers.  Unfortunately, this whole paragraph from my write-up last year is still accurate:

GDC hasn’t managed to scale to handle its growth.  Internet connectivity was poor throughout the convention center…. proceedings didn’t become available at all until after the conference, and those in the form of a slim handful of PowerPoint decks.  The clever people have taken to bringing cameras to the talks and snapping pictures of each slide that goes up, which is distracting but understandable.  The state of the GDC proceedings is an embarrassment to the industry, but it’s one that I don’t expect to change unless CMP stops handing out Gigapasses to speakers who show up without their slides.

This year, even AT&T’s 3G network was overwhelmed.  I had to switch my phone back to the EDGE network to get any bandwidth.   18,000 geeks use a lot of bandwidth.

What’s hot:  SPU task profiles.  Screen-space postprocessing.  iPhones.  AI.  Larrabee.  Producers explicitly defending crunch.  Margaret Robertson.

What’s not:  Spherical harmonics (still).  Every mobile phone except the iPhone.  Scrum (it’s lost its New Process smell… crunch is the new scrum).  The 7 to 9 scale.  OnLive.

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Written by Kyle

March 29th, 2009 at 10:50 pm

Posted in GDC

GDC 2008

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This year was the tenth anniversary of my first GDC.  It’s milestones like this that make one pause and take stock of one’s life.  Over the last decade, one of my college classmates was appointed United States Attorney for South Carolina; another lost a limb fighting in Iraq; another married actor Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin).  And I… I have spent most of my waking hours contributing, in my own small way, to the perpetual adolescence of the American male.

Like a career in game development, GDC is a mix of small rewards and great frustrations–and yet the two somehow balance each other out.  Back in 1998, the attendees were a small brash crowd, excited that gaming had finally arrived and enthusiastic about the future.  I think that was the first time somebody announced the oft-repeated canard about how we’re bigger than the movie industry.  My friends and I all made the crawl from room to room on Suite Night, availing ourselves of the free drinks and the catered food from the warming trays.  There was a party on the Queen Mary.  I got a thick pile of t-shirts and an Intel graphics card, and thought, 3dfx better watch out now that Intel’s getting into the market.

Now GDC has become like SIGGRAPH.  The crowds are enormous–nearly 15,000 in attendance this year, I’m told.  But it’s not the size of the crowds that makes it less intimate.  It’s the fact that so many of the people there don’t really have much to say to each other:  there are indie game developers, console game developers, serious game developers, mobile phone game developers, people selling middleware and hardware and outsourcing to all of the above, recruiters, wannabes, publishers trying to sign developers, developers looking for a publisher, HR folks looking to hire artists and programmers and musicians, and press trying to cover the whole spectacle.  The death of E3 meant that this year there were more sessions than ever that could be summed up as, “look at my game and how awesome it is.”  I tried to avoid those.  I spent my three days at GDC looking for quiet places to talk to the people who do the same thing I do.  I didn’t go to any of the parties. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Kyle

March 12th, 2008 at 8:51 am

Posted in GDC