Design Occlusion is Killing Your Game Design

June 5th, 2013 by Adriel Calder

Last March, while at the annual Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, I attended numerous enlightening talks focusing on the different ways one can approach game design.  The one that stood out to me the most was titled “Design Occlusion is Killing Your Creativity” presented by Dylan Cuthbert of Q-Games.  Cuthbert’s talk focused mainly on his time working for Shigeru Miyamoto on Star Fox for the SNES and the lessons he learned as a young game developer working with an established person in the industry.  In addition to this, Cuthbert was also faced with understanding and appreciating the differences between British and Japanese approaches to design. “We were a very cocky sort of British programmers…sort of taught ourselves everything and we were suddenly thrown into this Japanese environment….and we were kind of in awe and also kind of in shock at the same time about the process.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Vicarious Visions at GDC

May 22nd, 2013 by Aaron Artessa

User: “Something doesn’t look right, it’s just not working”.
Artist: “What’s bugging you?”
User: “ I don’t know, I can’t put my finger on it”.
Artist: Look calm like the pro you are but secretly swear on the inside at the clueless situation.

This conversation is pretty familiar amongst artists with producers, testers and creative directors. Sometimes you simply can’t put your finger on the problem, but like the Matrix, you know it’s there. This tends to be where the bottleneck in the art pipeline happens and proverbial dollar signs start ticking through the producer’s eyes.

On my third visit to GDC, Vicarious Vision gave a talk about their process on developing environments for Skylanders offering an interesting solution to this problem utilizing custom tools working directly in their engine.

If you haven’t played Skylanders before, I’ll tell you that the environments are gorgeous, jaw-dropping, hand-painted scenes inviting you into a colorful story begging to be explored. Even the production environments feel polished and ready to ship.

Even the most accomplished of artists still find themselves scratching their heads. During testing, the team at Vicarious Visions discovered that the audience didn’t know what to do in some puzzle areas. The conversation above ensued. The answer: Visual Debugging.

Having your puzzles tied into your environment is a tricky balance- on one hand you want to cue the user so that they that can intuitively interact with the puzzle elements. On the other hand, you don’t want the visual cue to be so overt that the puzzle feels out of place. To achieve this balance, Vicarious Visions has a series of tools integrated into their engine to help debug what people are seeing behind the scenes in real time.

On the basic level, they could utilize filters to display one of three things: Chromadepth, Edge lines and Contrast. Using a Chromadepth they were able to identify color variation and hot spots in the scene, helping them see where the eye was being drawn and if the focal points were being lost in a mass of detail. Contrast works in a similar fashion except without chroma variance.

Another option Vicarious Visions employs is The Edge line tool. If you are familiar with Photoshop, this tool gives an effect similar to the Glowing Edges filter, except in black and white. This helps the artist identify areas of visual clutter due to various elements creating hard edges either due to specular detailing, contrasty diffuse textures, or harsh lighting.

These tools aren’t exactly impossible to mimic. As I said before, the edges can easily be simulated, as can chromadepth. That said, having it a part of your engine and working in real time- the benefits to this type of workflow are incalculable.

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START 2013 – A Conference Not to Miss

March 19th, 2013 by Rebecca Allen

Last Thursday, Chris Allen (one of my business partners and husband) and I headed on a train to New York City for the first inaugural conference called Start. We were one of 23 startups invited to show off our product, Brass Monkey, to the highly curated group of 500 attendees. Hands down, it has to be one of the best events I have ever attended. From the moment we arrived at  Centre 548 in Chelsea at 7:30am Friday morning until we left at 6:30pm that evening, it was one great conversation after another. Paddy Cosgrave and his amazing team of organizers at f.ounders did an outstanding job. We were honored to be selected as an exhibitor and excited to be amongst such innovative products and applications. Here are a few of my favorites: LittleBits , 3Doodler, BrandYourself and Magisto. LittleBits is an open source library of electronic modules that snap together with magnets for prototyping, learning and fun. Such a cool product that totally hits on so much that we love: open source technology, education, fun and creativity!

Since Chris and I were managing our booth, we were unable to attend the round tables and talks that happened throughout the day. We are excited that the talks were recorded, and Chris and I will be spending some quality time going through all of this great content. We had a fabulous day and would recommend to anyone that’s into Startups to attend Start 2014 when it comes around next year. I look forward to making it to WebSummit, f.ounders other event in the fall. Dublin, here we come!

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Top 10 Boston Area Game Conferences, Festivals and Symposia You Should Know About for 2013

January 10th, 2013 by Elliott Mitchell

PAX East Indie Megabooth Developers - Photo Courtesy Ichiro Lambe

1 ) Pax East
Spawned from Washington State based Penny Arcade Conference, Boston’s three day PAX East Conference is debatably the largest game conference in the United States. Boasting over 70K attendees in 2011 and even more in 2012, PAX East has much to offer game enthusiasts, developers, students and the press. Some highlights of PAX East are: The indie Megabooth, panel talks, the expo floor and the multitudes of game enthusiasts.  http://east.paxsite.com/

2 ) Boston Festival of Indie Games
A vibrant offspring of the Boston Indies Group, the Boston Festival of Indie Games (Boston FIG) held it’s first event in 2012 at MIT in Cambridge, MA. Several thousand attendees from across the the region comprised of game enthusiasts, all manner of game developers, tech startups, students and supportive parents enjoyed the day long festival. Highlights include:  prominent industry speakers, playing local indie games while having many opportunities to talk to the game developers, cutting edge tech demos, screening films like Indie Game the Movie, participating in a game jam, local industry art show and amazing networking opportunities. http://bostonfig.com/

3 ) Games for Health
Established 9 years ago in Boston, MA, Games for Health is an unique conference focused on non-traditional uses of game technology and motivational game mechanics utilized to facilitate healing, healthy practices and gathering data. The conference is attended by a wide range of professional game designers, tech startups, researchers, educators, healthcare providers and more. http://www.gamesforhealth.org/

4 ) MIT Business in Gaming
Originating in 2009, the MIT BIG conference was conceived as an event to bring together the best and brightest business leaders around Massachusetts to talk about succeeding in the business of making games. High profile panels and industry focused topics make this conference unique. Attendees range from entrepreneurs, publishers, investors, AAA studios, students and indie developers. http://www.mitbig.com/

5 ) Mass Digi Game Challenge
Initiated in 2012, the Mass DiDI Game Challenge is an annual games industry event and competition focused on mentoring aspiring game development teams. The goal of the conference is to boost the odds of new startups in Massachusetts to pitch, fund, create and publish successful games. Winners receive prizes, valuable mentorship, new industry connections and lots of publicity. http://www.massdigi.org/gamechallenge/

6 ) Boston GameLoop
Established back in 2008, Boston GameLoop is an amazing unConference where all walks of game industry people unite for an afternoon or self organizing talks, debates, presentations and networking opportunities. Indies, Students and AAA industry folks come together for a day of inspiration. http://www.bostongameloop.com/

7 ) MIT Game Lab Symposium
First held in 2012, The MIT Game Lab Symposium is a fascinating event focused on game research, education and non-traditional use cases of game mechanics and technologies. The all day event is highlighted with expert panel discussions and amazing networking opportunities. Attendees include industry leaders, top researchers, indies, students and other interested people from various external disciplines and industries.
http://gamelab.mit.edu/symposium/

8 ) 3D Stimulus Day
Conceived in 2009, 3D Stimulus Day is unique because it is the only all-day 3D game related event around Boston. Attendees network, watch professional’s speak, learn about new technologies, demo games, receive vital information on how to get jobs as well as show off their portfolios. 3D artists ranging from industry veterans to students unite for a day dedicated to 3D for games. http://greateasterntech.com/events-a-news/22-3d-stimulus-day

9 ) No Show Conference
Initiated in 2012, the self described goal of the two day No Show Conference is “to give game industry professionals a space to explore our skillsets, our motivations, and our limits as developers”. The conference is comprised in part by highly pertinent industry related presentations, networking opportunities, a demo hall showcasing local indie game developers and a game jam.
http://noshowconf.com/

10 ) MassTLC Innovation Unconference
This annual event held by the Mass Technology Leadership Council for C-level executives, young entrepreneurs, investors and students is not solely focused on the games industry. The Innovation Unconference is a great forum to network, exchange ideas, learn from the pros and gather fresh ideas from new innovators.  Although the conference is not solely focused on games, a high percentage of attendees with connections to the game industry do attend. http://www.masstlc.org/?page=unConference

Elliott Mitchell
Technical Director @ Infrared5.com
Indie Game Developer
Twitter: @mrt3d

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Unite 2012 – The Unity Developer Conference

September 7th, 2012 by Elliott Mitchell

Unite 2012

Last week, Unity Technologies held their 6th annual Unite developer’s conference in Amsterdam, Holland. Approximately 4.5 thousand miles from last year’s venue in San Francisco, Unite was attended by developers from 26 nations along with Unity’s 200+ amazing employees!

The conference featured several excellent keynote talks, a look at some exciting things to come for Unity, and an opportunity to engage in an exciting community. The following is an overview of my time at Unite 2012.

Unite 2012 Jack Lumber talk

The conference was spread over 4 days and 3 venues:

Day 1 – Training Day and Unity Mixer
Day 2 – Keynote & Main Conference
Day 3 – Main Conference, Unity Awards & Unity Party
Day 4 – Main Conference & Sad Goodbyes

Amsterdam was a great choice for Unite 2012. The international nature of the city, it’s rich cultural identity, excellent public transportation and welcoming nature of the people all synergize to elevate the conference to a new level.

The bulk of the conference was filled with interesting sessions on topics such as: art pipelines, rendering pipelines, virtual worlds, running an indie studio, advanced editor scripting, super cool simulators, creating universes, making tools for Unity, using Flash and Unity together, animation systems and so on. You can view video recordings of many of the talks on Unity’s website. Hopefully, all the talks will be added in the near future.

Between sessions, meetings, and meals, time was allocated for developers and artists to network, catch up, drink, play J.S. Joust and talk shop. This time was truly priceless.

J. S. Jousting at Unite 2012 (Photo and J. S. Joust courtesy of Julie Heyde)

I was honored to participate on a panel geared towards organizing and supporting user group communities with folks from Unity (Joe Robbins, Will Goldstone, Mark Martin, Russ Morris, Carl Carth ) and a few other fellow user group organizers (Grant Viklund, Brandon Wu and Robert Brackenridge). We had good turnout, great pointers, super questions from the audience and momentum moving forward in a more organized manner.

Unite featured keynotes by Unity founders David Helgason, Joachim Ante, Nicholas Francis and infamous Game Designer Peter Molyneux.  All the speakers delivered fascinating keynotes. You can watch the official video of the Unite 2012 Keynote here.


My Short List of Unity 4 Keynote Announcements:

  • Mecanim – next generation character animation system
  • Shuriken Particle Engine – Collision with Particles
  • Mobile Shadows
  • Bumpmap Terrain
  • New Project Browser
  • Improved Lightmaps
  • DirectX 11 Rendering
  • Ship Unity 4 Beta to Prepaid Customers
  • Adobe Partnership for Flash Export
  • New Unity GUI!!
  • Linux Support
  • Future Windows 8 Export
  • Future Windows Phone 8 Export

I thought the most impressive keynote highlight was the 3 minute short “Butterfly Effect” created by Passion Pictures and Unity technologies.  Not only is it visually stunning, the film is real-time rendered in DirectX 11. Butterfly Effect is completely filmic with SSS Shaders, stunning procedural explosions, high quality animation and rendering. Butterfly Effect is a work of art to behold!

David Helgason (Unity) & Elliott Mitchell (Infrared5) Unite 2012 Party

As always, the Unity Awards and Unity Party celebrated so many great Unity games and projects in the wild at the Muziekgebouw. See the award winners here.

I’m looking forward to Unite 2013 rumored to be held in San Francisco. If your a Unity developer or interested in making games with Unity, then Unite it’s a must attend event! Hopefully, I’ll be speaking at Unite again next year. See you there!

——–>

-Elliott Mitchell

Technical Director Infrared5

Co-founder of the Boston Unity Group

@MrT.3D on Twitter

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TXJS: A Look at Javascript as a Language and Community

August 30th, 2012 by Keith Peters

Recently, Todd Anderson and I attended TXJS, a JavaScript conference in Austin, TX. I wanted to give some general feedback on the conference itself, and then discuss a bit about JavaScript as a language and the JavaScript community.

The Conference

The conference was a one-day, two-track setup with nine slots and a day of training beforehand. Each slot was 40 minutes, which in my mind is short for a technical presentation. With a full hour, you can start to teach a few concrete techniques. But 40 minutes just leaves you time to get across a general idea, suggestion or viewpoint. In other words, in a shorter session, you might be able to say WHY you should do something, but in a longer session you could show HOW. Then again, even an hour is barely enough time to teach anything concrete and many people do not do well at it. All too often I’ve found myself getting bored and looking at my watch towards the end of a longer session. Perhaps conferences need to offer a mix of longer and shorter sessions.
It was very strange to be at a conference where I was not a speaker and knew nobody except the other person from my company I came with. I believe the last conference I attended without speaking at was Flash Forward NYC in 2004. In that sense, it was kind of a relief to just sit back and go to all the sessions and take it all in without having to worry about my own talk. Much stranger was just not knowing anybody there. Todd and I mostly hung out together and talked to a few others here and there. I’m far more used to meeting up with the usual crowd that has been present at every Flash event for the last 10 years. Also, being a speaker affords you a certain amount of mini-celebrity at an event, with people you don’t know coming up and talking to you, mentioning your talk, your site, your books, whatever. It was odd to just be another nameless face in the crowd. Odd, but probably good to get that perspective now and then.

The Training

The training on the first day was an overview of the JavaScript language from Ben Alman of Bocoup, a company located right here in Boston. Ben undoubtedly knows his subject matter and it was a solid day of training, but I would say his talk was targeted a bit more towards newcomers to the subject. I picked up on several small concepts I didn’t know and clarified several others, but it was largely a review of material for me. This is not to say that a review is bad. I went through a lot of the examples and tried out various iterations and came out with more confidence than I went in with, so that’s good.

Given the nature of the training and the time constraints of the sessions themselves, I can’t say that I walked away from the conference with a huge wealth of new knowledge of specific things about JavaScript. But I did walk away with several areas sparked with interest for future study, which I am actively pursuing. One of these subjects is Node.js.

New Interests

Node.js, for the uninformed, is a JavaScript engine outside of the browser, wrapped, optimized, and enhanced for use as a server, but also useful on a local machine. Node allows you to write server side applications in JavaScript, and also allows you to write command line JavaScript programs that run on your local machine. This can be useful for testing, build processes, automation tasks, etc. This is similar to how Ruby is largely used on the server, but commonly used for local build processes and other tasks as well. I picked up a book on Node.js and was amazed that within an hour of starting the book I was writing HTTP and socket servers. Not only did they work, but I understood every line of code that went into them. Amazing. Very simple yet powerful stuff that I’m glad to add to my knowledge base.

The next area of interest that was sparked at TXJS was WebGL. This is an implementation of OpenGL, the 3d graphics library used in many computer platforms including all iOS and Android devices, but implemented in the browser with a JavaScript API. Although I wound up missing the one WebGL session at TXJS (a tough choice between that and another session going on at the same time), I vowed to do some investigation of it on my own. Still working through Node right now, but WebGL is next on the list.

Communities and Focus

I’ve been thinking a lot about tech communities lately. I got a foot in the door of the Flash community back in the early 2000′s and while I’ve always delved into other various technologies, I never got really involved in any other tech communities. Now, I’m not saying anything as inflammatory as “Flash is Dead”, but I do think the Golden Age of Flash is in the past and it’s probably not going to see the level of excitement and support it saw in its heyday. Personally, I do not have a ton of interest in where Flash’s current road map is leading it, which is what led me to become more interested in HTML5/JavaScript. But I haven’t joined the anti-Flash crowd either. We’re still pulling in lots of Flash work here at Infrared5 so I imagine I’ll have a hand in AS3 for a good long while to come.
Anyway, when I started getting more interested in JavaScript development, I naturally started looking at the JS community. Unfortunately, I think it has quite a different dynamic than what I have become accustomed to with Flash. Firstly, the JS community is probably a lot larger than the Flash community ever was. But for a community of that size, it seems like there are disproportionately fewer well known names – JavaScript celebrities or “rock stars” if you will. I think a lot of this has to do with a lack of focus in the language and development practices. Love it or hate it, Adobe (and Macromedia before it) has always been a central point around which the Flash community revolved. They’ve held the reins on the product. You’ve always known you that you’d be getting a new version of Flash every 18 months or so, and that there would be a finite number of cool new features in that update. If you’re lucky enough, you might get onto the beta. Adobe/Macromedia have historically sponsored most if not all of the major Flash conferences and the same group of evangelists and developer relations people show up to talk and listen. Moreover, Adobe has given the ActionScript language a focus, with official components, tutorials and sample code that established a set of best practice and way to code.

Contrast that with JavaScript as it stands today. There is a standards committee that can’t seem to agree on anything. If they do agree on something today, it could be literally years before it is official. Meanwhile, browser vendors are moving forward implementing features years before they are official and sometimes before they are even agreed upon. Some are even implementing their own features that are not part of any standards process.

And that’s only the core language. Ask a group of JavaScript developers about the best architecture for an application and you will start a holy war. Classes or prototypal inheritance? The best MV* framework? AMD or CJS? Forget about it. World War III almost broke out a few months ago over the question of whether or not you should use semicolons! There’s even a growing question about whether or not it makes sense to code JavaScript IN JavaScript. With a steadily increasing list of languages that “compile to javaScript” but offer different – possibly better – constructs for managing large applications, it is a valid question. But with so many of these new languages around, and no standard, we are again back into the question of which is “the best”. And the arguments ensue…

Summary

It’s an exciting time to be into JavaScript, but not an easy one. There is massive innovation happening on so many fronts. There are dozens of new frameworks and libraries coming out daily – more than any person could possibly keep up with. Standards are evolving and there is something new to learn every day. The pace of this innovation makes it hard to keep up, and the lack of focus means that no matter what you do, how you code, or which framework or library you use, there will be countless people waiting in the wings to tell you you’re doing it all wrong. My advice is to learn what you can, don’t worry about the rest, and have fun.

Keith Peters

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The Brains Behind the Booth

August 29th, 2012 by Rosie

This month, IR5’s very own Kelly Wallick is featured in the ‘Sunday Sidebar’ on VideoGameWriters.com. Kelly talks with Christopher Floyd about her work as organizer for the Indie Megabooth, the life of an extreme multi-tasker, and her most prized geek possession. Check it out here!

Be sure to say ‘Hi!’ to Kelly this weekend at PAX!

Infrared5's Kelly Wallick

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TXJS: How I Found a Fresh Perspective in the Heart of Texas

August 28th, 2012 by Todd Anderson

TXJS: How I Found a Fresh Perspective in the Heart of Texas

Every year, developers from all over the world make their way to Austin, Texas, to spend a day learning the latest and greatest developments in JavaScript. This year, I had the pleasure of attending the third annual TXJS. Drawn in by the promise of mid-June heat and the wild grackles of Austin, it was the wonderful venue and line-up of exceptional speakers that make TXJS an event I would highly recommend attending.

TXJS was a dual-track event, so conference-goers had to choose their talks wisely. Fortunately, the recordings will be made available online at some point. The talks I was fortunate enough to see did not disappoint. Though I picked up some tidbits about the language here and there, the real take-away from the event was a fresh perspective on developing. I will outline three rules I plan on making habit of remembering:

Test Smarter

I am a huge advocate for testing and analysis in development. Loosely tied to that is my desire for refining the build and deployment process for projects. My ultimate goal as a developer is to deliver a product that provides the best experience to the user under the given environment. I have been pursuing that goal by writing unit tests, vetting and (sometimes) writing plugins for my IDE and creating proper build dependencies and deployment scripts. In focusing on this, my comfort level in testing the experience of a deployed application in its natural environment has plateaued.

Part of this may be due to the nature of every day use of a browser, but mostly it is because of laziness and a ”good-enough” mentality. I am quite familiar with ‘WebKit Inspector’, as I use it every time I test in development and the staging-ready build, yet I have stuck to using Safari as the browser for this.I have a problem with tabs and cache when it comes to my everyday browser. By “problem”, I mean I am a hoarder. By “everyday browser”, I mean the one I check email, rss feeds, click links and (leave) open tabs in: Chrome. I have literally dozens of tabs going at a time. It is a problem. I’ll admit it. What is a bigger problem is that it was keeping me from the wonderful WebKit Inspector that Chrome provides, all because I didn’t want to clear my cache and ruin my set up.

This is where my time at TXJS started to impact my thinking. In Madj Taby‘s talk, Tools and Techniques for Faster Development, he presented useful tips and tricks in using the WebKit Inspector provided from the Google Chrome team. Taking and expanding on topics he discussed in Modern Web Development: Part 1, he showed some key features I knew I could just not live without in my testing from that moment forward, mainly the settings (settings for your inspector, can you believe it?!), more profiling options, event handler listing and expanded memory graphing.

From this talk, I realized that I should be engaging with the Inspector more. I run things through WebPageTest (which I think uses PageSpeed) and various browser plugins like Dom Monster and YSlow, but I am not engaged with the result – only re-active. I should be testing and experimenting more in the same environment that the end product will be interacted with while I am interacting with it.

Chrome Canary is now my interactive development and pre-staging deployment test browser and I am happy about seeing the light to upgrade.

Madj Taby’s talk offered some clarity for me on how I can be testing smarter, taking advantage of tools available to me to be a better developer.

Experiment & and Challenge Current Implementations

Far too often, I find myself implementing the same solution for what appears to be the same problem again and again. While there is nothing technically wrong with that approach, as long as it is tested properly and known to be a valid solution, I might be missing out on discovering an alternate path which will provide the same desired result. Even if the new path is not as straightforward, it has the potential to get me thinking in new ways about a subject I thought I had mastered..

Alex Russel‘s talk, Overconstrained: the Secret Lives of Rectangles, reminded me of that fact. One of his projects, Cassowary JS, addresses constraint-based layout for DOM elements. The methodology used in addressing the issue is a bit more involved than that, but the end result is a toolkit used to assign constraints to elements whose layout will be updated at runtime.

[NOTE: The wording in the preface to this section, in as far as weighing the validity of a new experimental path, should not be directly applied to Alex's work demonstrated. Anything I mention in this section is not intended to belie his work- it was his talk that made me realize my own short-coming in experimenting more with solutions. It's probably the talk I spoke to others most about afterward.]

I like a clean separation of layout and logic and lean towards Progressive Enhancement, staying far away from adding DOM elements and styles through JavaScript. I oftentimes find myself battling rendering engines to achieve the desired layout. Is it so wrong that I dive into scripting a layout in hopes of coming to an understanding of how the layout routines are run? It certainly is not. I don’t want to throw out my principles of application design to ‘just get it done’, but I can be more open to exploring different choices that may provide a new angle to look at the problem.

Have Fun

The title of this section is not meant to sound frivolous. In fact, the talk that drove this point home to me involved highly technical material, but it was presented in a playful manner by Heather Arthur in her talk, Machine Learning for JS Hackers, on a subject that culminated in a project that had me and many others in the room laughing along – kittydar: face detection for cats.

The talk was actually more about machine learning and perception, yet the underlying tone (at least how I perceived it) was to follow your interests and experiment. “Have fun!” Arthur is not hired to write detection scripts for social networks to send Growl notifications on incoming cat picture uploads – at least as far as I am aware. The underlying message of the talk was in machine learning, from which experimentation and exciting projects arise. The talk made me realize that sometimes diving into a subject and experimenting is meant for your own enjoyment; it doesn’t always have to tie back to some body of work.

Conclusion

Its great that I have found a method of working that is comfortable for me, but I shouldn’t stop experimenting and evaluating other methods and procedures that can help me find a solution or just having a laugh. Sometimes it takes being immersed in the intellect of others to light that fire. Thanks to Alex Sexton, Rebecca Murphy, the crew and sponsors for putting on a great event.

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GDC12 – Game Developer Conference 2012: a Post-Mortem

March 30th, 2012 by Elliott Mitchell

GDC12- AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! (Force = Mass x Acceleration) by Dejoban Games and Owlchemy Labs, played by Oleg Pridiuk (Unity Technologies) as Ichiro Lambe (Dejobaan Games) and Deniz Opal (Cerebral Fix) watch - Photo Elliott Mitchell (Infrared5)

This year’s Game Developer Conference (GDC) 2012 was networking, networking and more networking.

Within a one mile proximity of the San Francisco Moscone Center, hordes of game developers and artists could be seen in the streets, cafes, bars, mall food courts, and hotel lobbies and heard talking shop, showing off their games, catching up with friends, debating the ethics of cloning social games from indies, shopping to find publishers, contractors and jobs. It was an intense meeting of the minds of people who make games in the streets of San Francisco.

Google Huddle chats, Google Groups email, shared Google Calendars and Twitter were all utilized very effectively to make the most of GDC. Multitudes of varied networking opportunities streamed in real-time through my iPhone 24/7. The level of my success at GDC was determined by how much networking I could possibly handle. With the help of my friends and the social/mobile networks,  success was at my fingertips.

In addition to the obsessive networking, there were many other valuable aspects of GDC. I’ll briefly highlight a few:

Jeff Ward’s Pre-GDC Board Game Night

GDC12- Elliott Mitchell (Infrared5), John Romero (Loot Drop), Brenda Garno Brathwaite (Loot Drop) & Elizabeth Sampat (Loot Drop) playing games at Jeff Ward's (Fire Hose Games) 3rd Annual Pre-GDC Board Game Night - Photo Drew Sikora

Jeff Ward (Fire Hose Games) knows how to get an amazing collection of game designers and developers together for a night playing board games. This was one of my favorite events of GDC. When else would I ever be able to play board games with John Romero (Loot Drop) and Brenda Garno Brathwaite (Loot Drop) while enjoying hors d’oeuvre and spirits? The crowd was a rich blend of artists, game developers, game designers, indies, students and superstars. There were so many new and classic games to play. I personally played Family Business and a really fun indie game prototype about operating a successful co-operative restaurant. Walking around after playing my games, I observed a host of other cool games being played and pitched. I’ll definitely be back for this event next year.

Independent Games Summit and Main Conference Sessions

GDC12 Ryan Creighton (Untold Entertainment) presenting Ponycorns: Catching Lightning in a Jar- Photo Elliott Mitchell (Infrared5)

Many session topics were super interesting but it wasn’t possible to attend all of them. Luckily, those with a GDC All-Access pass have access to the GDC Vault filled with recorded sessions. Here are a few sessions I saw which I found useful and interesting:

*Perhaps a Time of Miracles Was at Hand: The Business & Development of #Sworcery (Nathan Vella – Capy Games)

*The Pursuit of Indie Happiness: Making Great Games without Going Crazy (Aaron Isaksen – Indie Fund LLC)

*Ponycorns: Catching Lightning in a Jar (Ryan Creighton – Untold Entertainment)

*Light Probe Interpolation Using Tetrahedral Tessellations (Robert Cupisz – Unity Technologies)

Independent Game Festival Contestants on the Expo Floor

I played a bunch of the Independent Games Festival contestants’ games on the Expo floor

GDC12 - Alex Schwartz (Owlchemy Labs) playing Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik) - Photo Elliott Mitchell (Infrared5)

before the festival winners are announced. There was a whole lot of innovation on display from this group. I particularly loved Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik), a game without graphics, and Dear Esther (thechineseroom) which is stunning eye candy. Check out all the games here.

12th Annual Game Developer Choice Awards

I was super stoked to see two indies win big!

Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery EP (Capy Games/Superbrothers) took the Best Handheld/Mobile Game award.

Johann Sebastian Joust (Die Gute Fabrik) won the Innovation Award.  Johann Sebastian Joust is worthy of it’s own blog post in the future.

EXPO FLOOR

* Unity booth – Cool tech from Unity and development venders partners showing off their wares
* Google Booth – Go Home Dinosaurs (Fire Hose Games) on Google Chrome
* Autodesk Booth (Maya and Mudbox)
* Indie Game Festival area ( All of it)

GDC12 - Chris Allen (Brass Monkey) and Andrew Kostuik (Brass Monkey) at the Unity Booth - Photo by Elliott Mitchell (Infrared5)

GDC PLAY

Lots of cool tech at the 1st Annual GDC Play. Our sister company, Brass Monkey, impressed onlookers with their Brass Monkey Controller for mobile devices and Play Brass Monkey web portal for both 2d and 3d games.

UNITY FTW!

Last but not least, the most useful and pleasurable highlight of GDC was face time with the Unity Technology engineers and management. Sure, I’m on email, Skype, Twitter and Facebook with these guys but nothing is like face to face time with this crew. Time and access to Unity’s founders, engineers, evangelists and management is worth the price of GDC admission. Can’t wait until Unite 2012 in Amsterdam and GDC13 next March!

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Top 10 GDC Lists

March 1st, 2012 by Elliott Mitchell

GDC is approaching next week and I’ll be traveling to San Fransisco to participate in the epic game developer event. I’m psyched and here’s why:

TOP 10 GDC RELATED THINGS I’M EXCITED ABOUT

10  The Expo Floor
9    The History Of 3D Games exhibit
8    Experimental Gameplay Sessions
7    The Unity Party
6    Indie Game: The Movie screening & Panel
5    GDC Play
4    14th Annual Independent Games Festival Awards
3    Networking, Networking & Networking
2    Independent Game Summit
1    Unity Technology Engineers

TOP 10 GDC SESSIONS I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO

10  The Pursuit of Indie Happiness: Making Great Games without Going Crazy
9    Rapid, Iterative Prototyping Best Practices
8    Experimental Gameplay Sessions
7    Create New Genres (and Stop Wasting Your Life in the Clone Factories) [SOGS Design]
6    BURN THIS MOTHERFATHER! Game Dev Parents Rant
5    Bringing Large Scale Console Games to iOS Devices: A Technical Overview of The Bard’s Tale Adaptation
4    Light Probe Interpolation Using Tetrahedral Tessellations
3    Big Games in Small Packages: Lessons Learned In Bringing a Long-running PC MMO to Mobile
2    Art History for Game Devs: In Praise of Abstraction
1    Android Gaming on Tegra: The Future of Gaming is Now, and it’s on the Move! (Presented by NVIDIA)

If you’re going to be at GDC and want to talk shop with Infrared5 then please ping us! info (at) Infrared5 (dot) com

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