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GDC Roundup

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.

8 Comments

  1. BridgetAG wrote:

    Links not working?

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007 at 10:37 am | Permalink
  2. CapnCleaver wrote:

    Seem to be working now! I have no idea why, I don’t think that I changed anything… WordPress breaks in mysterious ways!

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007 at 7:13 pm | Permalink
  3. WorldMaker wrote:

    I rained on publishers which frankly for many indies contemplating an MMO is not helpful — you need some backing.

    Hmm… As Three Rings grows is “backing other indies” in the plans? Nothing like taking negative experience and building positive results. I realize GameGardens obviously is a step in that direction, but is anything deeper planned?

    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.

    My current plans involve building my own “portal” just because right now it looks cheaper to “do it right myself” than to deal with people that don’t get it. That’s probably just as pessimistic of me right now and I do see some improvements: Microsoft’s Casual Gaming Resources website is starting to make the whole thing much more transparent for dealing with their myriad of portal offerings, and I’m certainly curious as to what GameTap’s Indies “label” will look like and operate. In the meantime I’m writing my own thing. I’m trying to keep it open enough that if I do switch backends to one of the big aggregators it will be relatively transparent to both the actual game and the end user…

    I’m worried about reinventing wheels here but I’m also hoping that by doing something different maybe I’ll have a more interesting business model… I really have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m hoping things will really start to precipitate for me very soon.

    Tuesday, March 13, 2007 at 10:20 pm | Permalink
  4. cadisella wrote:

    Any chance you could post the slides from the Whirled talk?

    Thursday, March 15, 2007 at 9:49 am | Permalink
  5. Hello Daniel,

    Please find your interview filmed at GDC 2007 by GameZombie.tv available for viewing on our website. Fascinating stuff–

    http://gamezombie.tv/?page_id=96

    Thanks again,

    Spencer

    Sunday, March 25, 2007 at 11:35 pm | Permalink
  6. CapnCleaver wrote:

    > Hmm… As Three Rings grows is “backing other indies” in the plans?

    Actually, yes. We’ve not worked out how, yet, and we don’t have the money, yet, but we think that that is something that we’d like to do.

    Re: Slides, umm, not yet available. We should put them up, we might have to edit a bit, though. It’s one thing giving the competition a little glimpse into your darkest secrets, letting ’em pore over them in detail might be… well, I don’t suppose it would make much odds, really!

    Friday, March 30, 2007 at 6:28 pm | Permalink
  7. flamingbeard wrote:

    Ah, good to hear your looking to “back other indies”, I’ll keep that in mind once I have an MMO’ish project in the works(I have one or two in a book of ideas, but they’re nothing I could implement at the moment anyway.) Looking forward to whirled going into a more open testing phase… looks… interesting ^^.

    (By the way, if you squint really hard you can guess the test site based on Alice’s screen shots… well, atleast I did… doesn’t do much good as registration is closed even if you find it.)

    Saturday, March 31, 2007 at 6:30 pm | Permalink
  8. holtt wrote:

    OK some months later, I still can’t get the “eephing” mix song the ECC did at the party. Some searching found me this streaming audio of the song…

    http://www.npr.org/templates/dmg/popup.php?id=5259594&type=7&date=&au=1&pid=06127636&random=3036264447&guid=0007B8D3E8A5067268C8B5FF61626364&uaType=WM,RM&aaType=WM,RM&upf=Win32&topicName=Music&subtopicName=Pop_Music&prgCode=DAY&hubId=-1&thingId=5259589&mtype=WM

    Also found this funny little video they also did with the same sound track…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_16oQp2i6Y

    Friday, June 15, 2007 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. gameslol » Blog Archive » My vertical slice of GDC 2007 on Wednesday, March 14, 2007 at 4:57 am

    […] Those are just some of my impressions of GDC. This post could be three times as long, but I’ve got to stop somewhere. I followed some great sessions, had some great parties (mad props to Daniel James and Three Rings in particular), got some business done (pitched a project to some investors) and on top of that, I really enjoyed being able to explore San Francisco properly for the first time (nothing beats getting a picture taken in front of the actual Full House house). […]

  2. […] User generated content in video games is the bandwagon to be climbing aboard these days. Take for example Raph Koster’s Areae, Three Rings’ Whirled and of course Spore. All of these things are banking on user generated content. But will any of them not end up feeling as amateurish and fugly as Myspace? Raph actually alluded to that in his GDC presentation, so my guess is he’s thinking about ways to solve that (or, at least hide it from the masses). Spore has put a lot of effort into making their tools generate great looking, original content. Are these others putting the same amount of work in? […]

  3. […] Two weeks ago was GDC, which is normally a highlight of my year. This year, though, things were a bit tougher. To keep expenses down, I had scheduled a shorter-than-usual trip this year, and I stayed with a friend outside the city. And then I started in on a sinus infection on the way out on the plane. The result was a conference experience where I was there for shorter hours (because of the commute), fewer days, and with greatly decreased mental activity. For some sessions, I literally took notes without comprehending them. Nonetheless, I learned a few things and went to some inspiring sessions. Daniel James, Ernest Adams, and Clint Hocking gave great talks, among others. I got to present our Slidewalk game from the Boston Indie Game Jam at the Experimental Gameplay Workshop. […]

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