Arrrgh! I feel like I’ve sailed around the whirled, through stormy seas and cliffs of liquored doom, and returned. This year’s GDC was a busy old time. Everything went much according to plan, here are some random thoughts and memories;
Indie Games Summit: I was deeply negative, I think. Too negative. I rained on publishers which frankly for many indies contemplating an MMO is not helpful — you need some backing. It’s not like we’ve done that spectacularly without publishing muscle for marketing and distribution, either. A few people praised my talk later, saying that I was ‘realistic’ but I think I could have been more up-beat.
Casual Games Summit: The casual games business is still screwed. I tried to get Charles Merrin (Real) to do a deal with me before the session, but he wanted ‘everything for $50, and your hat’. The hat was of course a deal-breaker. So I had to put the ole hammer down on the difficulties of doing anything innovative, or indeed multiplayer at all, in the casual ‘ecosystem’ (more like a monosystem). These two sessions were actually a lot of fun with some good banter, but I remain down on downloadables. That said, I think if I were a hard-up indie with the chops, I would engage one of the casual portals (or rather, attempt to be engaged by them, ‘cos they’d have to pay) making bespoke ad-heavy multi-player games, hopefully with some back-end. There’s definitely the demand on the portal side, they are just slovenly with the execution on enabling technologies like user and billing APIs. Apparently ‘good stuff’ is coming soon. I am already blue in the face from waiting.
Future, past and present of MMOs: This session was good fun. The panelists were generally in agreement. Talk of big media getting involved, along with predictably predictions of people losing their shirts in droves. I was last up for future predictions and pulled out old chestnuts of ‘Eating television alive’ (second time quote for A.C. Clarke at GDC), web-based casual networks and the bank problem — will MMO operators end up becoming defacto banks? Should we look at off-shoring now? Will we get screwed by legislation? Watch this space.
Burning Man: We had a very strong panel, better than the last one at Austin, I felt. We each gave position statements on our thoughts about the event. Lorne Lanning gave an excellent talk about the importance of psychedelics in forming culture. I repeated my ‘War for the Future’ waffle (but made sure that nobody apart from a poor couple of folks had heard it before). Some of us got quite emotional. The crowd was smallish but seemed to really appreciate the session and had interesting questions.
Virtual Currency roundtables: These went very well indeed. We had big rooms full of people, but everyone behaved well and took turns talking. Some of the big players in this space (I will refrain from mentioning names incase they get into trouble) were very forthcoming with numbers and thoughts. Most people listened attentively. There’s certainly a lot going to be happening in virtual currency in the next few years. My biggest takeaway was the value in enabling speculation and a secondary market for digital goods.
MetaSoy: We started with some general corporate data, then Michael took us on a tour of a plethora of data on Bang! Howdy’s initial roll-out. Graph-arama, as is the usual style. Then we did a little talk about the background for Whirled — the new name for MetaSoy — and a quick demo. The demo went surprisingly well, although the engineers broke the Popular Places key navigation shortly beforehand… heh, something has to break! There were a few good questions and it was done.
Alice did a much better write-up of the Whirled part than I could have done.
Thursday night we had our big MetaScience party to celebrate. It was awesome. We invited too many people — or more likely, the folks we invited invited too many people, and had to stop letting people in for a while with a big line. The place was super-packed with the bartenders working like crazy to fulfill the elixir requirements of a multitude of thirsty scientists. Check out the Photoboof Pictures. Party Ben and The Evolution Control Committee played awesome sets and people rocked out on the dancefloor. We may not be able to have such a crazy party at the office again, but I’m glad we did. The place looked incredible thanks to tonnes of frantic work from Jillian and Toast. All-in-all, a great night.
Congratulations to the Bang! Howdy team on the IGF Technical Excellence award. Another for Michael’s desk! Congratulations to Aquaria; I loved their acceptance speeches. Without wishing to be a grouch, though, I would like to make a case for IGF entrants being released in playable form by the time of the awards. It’s frustrating to me that we lost the Grand Prize to a game that I can’t check out.
That’s about it, apart from various other parties, many of them fun (thanks Bessemer, Linden, IGDA Online SIG, etc.) and bunches of meetings. I wish I had had time to go to more sessions. Next year! Yep, next year.
p.s. Check out Nabeel’s summary and not just because of my goofy quotes.