Evolve: The Game Developer’s Conference

by Alphaville Herald on 30/03/04 at 9:52 pm

Hey, thanks to our reporter Atlantis, for posting this report from the Gave Dev Conference in San Jose. There are also blog entries listed on Terra Nova, Including Mia Consalvo (memorycard.blogs.com), Ian Bogost (www.watercoolergames.org), Gonzalo Frasca (www.ludology.org), David Thomas (www.buzzcut.com); Jurie Horneman (www.intelligent-artifice.com/2004/03/live_from_gdc_2.html) and GameDevNet (www.gamedev.net/columns/events/gdc2004). –Uri

My field trip to Evolve: The Game Developer’s Conference

By Atlantis

Parking. It is amazing how something as urbane as finding that tiny spot to fit your car can make such a difference in one’s outlook and general experience. I found this to be VERY true as I attempted to navigate the streets of San Jose in search of a spot (legal or not) to put my car. However, the ten blocks of walking in my high heeled boots were worth it in order to attend one of the biggest “geek fests” in California. I’m not talking about a Star Trek convention (which I have been guilty of attending.) Nope, this was Evolve Game Developers Conference 2004.

I could feel the excitement as I saw the giant sign above the building. As I entered someone came up right away to assist me. Cool! This totally made up for the lack of parking; which I am sure I would remember on my trek back to the state of Georgia, where my car was parked. Did I mention the rain?

Eventually I made it to the conference floor. On one side there were artificial walls so tall that they reminded me of a castle garrison. As I walked through the impossibly tall walls, I saw that the doors were guarded by security. What they were talking about inside was anyone’s guess. I think that they must have really been playing their games or eating their pizza in peace, without us commoners! Maybe they were making offerings to Computa the Computer Goddess! In actuality this area was where the developers revealed their secret projects.

Next I went to the main part of the show. As you can imagine there were cubicles everywhere. (Just like in Dilbert!) I started to slowly wind my way through the rows. At the cubicles the game companies had the boxes of their games on display and sometimes had a screen with footage of the game. One even had a life-size replica of one of their characters that they would take your picture with! Surprisingly most of the people manning the booths were Human Resource representatives. Needless to say, 99.9% of the people that went to the booths dropped their resume. I was worried that I would get a paper cut just standing by and watching! And I thought that my ears were going to burn if I heard another, “I love your company!” This made it very difficult to discuss anything with the “cubicle people” because their primary concern was to recruit! Sometimes someone would pop out of the little side cubicle offices that were attached to the main cubicle. I think that’s where the real action took place. You know how I know that? I saw that they had Coca-Cola and Jolt. Yup, they must have needed the caffeine to stay up and play those fun games that they were hiding from the rest of us!

There were a lot of wonderful companies in attendance. I looked high and low for EA or Maxis but they could not be found! Sony Online was there, along with Blizzard, Atari, Lucas Arts, Microsoft X-Box, and many more. I had a fabulous conversation with the guys from Red Storm Entertainment. They were actually game developers (instead of the usual H.R.) manning the booth. We chatted about the importance of the players in their creation of the game. The conclusion is that they do listen to what the player wants!

Not only were there game companies, but many of the hardware companies that contribute to the ease of the game play added their two cents. As I wandered up and down the aisles I saw Dolby, Dolby Labs Licensing Corporation, ATI Technologies, Sun Microsystems, and more. At many of these stations you could play the games that they had assisted in making. Lots of fun!

It was interesting to see that schools got in on the action too. The Academy of Art College, Digital Gaming Academy, and the DigiPen Institute of Technology made an appearance. They were handing out CD’s and videos of what their students had accomplished along with pamphlets.

IGDA (The International Game Developers Association) contributed much to this fabulous shindig. Volunteers from their club assisted the guests in anyway that they could. They also had some interesting group gatherings. One was on the Education of a Game Developer where they explored the future of the game developer and their education.

There were some great lectures that took place over the conference week! I’m not talking about those lectures that you had to sit through at school. Nope! We’re talking about lectures that covered everything from the making of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King to panels that looked at the Mixing and Mastering Music and Sound for Games. These were held in private rooms that were around the corner from the expo floor. Some of them looked like they gave the attendee’s free food and stuff. Yum! However, in order to attend some of these “extras” you had to be invited or pay more. Darn! I sat in on a lecture and it was truly amazing to realize that almost as much planning and work goes into the production of a videogame as does a movie.

I do have a claim to fame! I was chatting Earl, a Sony representative, when a celebrity came into our midst! Earl was in charge of the Sony “Eye Toy” which consisted of a green ball that could be manipulated in certain ways to create cool visual effects. It is a camera attachment for the PS-2. The ball was like a keyboard that told the computer what to do. In order to make it work you would wave the ball in different shapes to make the effects occur. For example, the screen with you on it might shake, or the ball would have sparkles coming out of it. Anyway, Earl and I were chatting when someone famous walked up to try it. Take a guess….It was William Hung! You know- the American Idol contestant who is famous for his rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs.” Just like real celebrities, he had a posse with him. It included his mother and people that just seemed to follow him and take pictures. I posed for pictures too, but no one seemed interested in taking mine. I was disappointed because I thought I had learned a lot about posing from watching America’s Next Top Model. (Look pouty!)

I looked for information on the announced PSX hand held game unit from Sony and the XBox 2, but could find nothing that was not already generally known. I also was curious to see and hear about console versus PC gaming, but it seems all the new games are released on several platforms- except for the Mac. Don’t worry Maccies! Although the PC still reigns with an iron keyboard, it looks like you guys are getting some more attention in the future!

After a few more rounds around the floor it was time to go. I had to make it to Georgia before dark and it really started to rain. As I walked out of the convention center I shared my umbrella with a reporter who also mentioned that it was more of a job fair than a convention. Too bad we weren’t looking! Oh well, at least I had a brush with fame!

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