GDC 2011 Recap: Part 4

This is Part 4 of my GDC recap. If you missed any of the other parts, you can read them by clicking on the links below.

Click here to read Part 1.

Click here to read Part 2.

Click here to read Part 3.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday was sort of a big day for me. It started out first thing in the morning with a private booth tour of Epic with the IGDA Scholars. Holy crap. Here I stood a budding young game developer working with UDK and Nexus and now was my chance to get some behind the scenes face time with people from Epic.

They showed us the new March build of UDK and showcased the Samaritan Demo, which is freaking amazing. It really showcases some of the new DX11 stuff they have added including new depth of field, lens flares, and subsurface scattering. It also demonstrates the new Nvidia APEX cloth physics system.

Working in UDK, it was neat to see some of the Kismet events they created for this demo. The Kismet was pretty intense and they had amazing Matinee sequences. The March build was released yesterday, and we will be switching to it very soon as there are many features we would like to use on Nexus.

Afterwards I got a chance to talk to the Recruiting Manager at Epic for a bit, Tim Johnson. I showed him a video of Nexus, which subsequently actually killed my iPad during my demo. Thankfully Zach had it ready on his iPhone and we were able to showcase Nexus.

He told us it was great to be working on this stuff as it certainly helps showcase our talent and showcases that we have worked on game projects. He also recommended that we get it out there as much as possible so that we can get tons of feedback and make improvements.

Overall, the Epic booth was pretty cool and it was great to get a sneak peak at some of the crazy stuff they pull off with their engine.

After that the IGDA Scholars got to meet up with Microsoft. We talked with Microsoft reps for a bit and we got to ask questions about what they look for in new hires, and I asked what they look for in producers. For the most part what they said they look for is a lot of what we experience at FIEA. They look for producers who are working on games with a team, and producers who are used to working with scheduling, design, and overall team management.

The coolest part though was at the end when we received gift box number two. Microsoft gave us all FREE Xbox 360, 250 GB with Kinect bundles. After promptly giddying like children, we took a group picture. I can’t thank the IGDA folks and Microsoft enough for that one. It’s a pretty amazing gift. Now what to do with my current Elite model is the next question.

After the early morning excitement, it was mostly a nice, quiet day. Zach and I met Tom and Ron for lunch where we got the chance to talk with a lot of people from Bethesda who worked on Fallout 3 and who are currently working on Skyrim. This was of course very exciting and informative as we picked their brain about what it was like to work on such complex games.

From there, we all returned to the Moscone Center and went to the Experimental Gameplay Sessions. This was kind of an odd, zany, but pretty awesome session where we got to see some pretty crazy, but innovate gameplay mechanics. There was one game called Maquette that was particularly interesting. It dealt with the concept of recursion and it was really a cool demo that showcased taking a piece of the world from one place and having it affect another piece somewhere else.

Once we completed the GDC events for the day I went back to the hotel and crashed for a bit. GDC can be a pretty tiring experience going from place to place and event to event, so I wasn’t afraid to take a quick nap. After my break, Zach and I met up with Tom and Ron again, as well as a lot of former FIEAns.

This was really cool. We met up with former FIEAns for dinner and drinks and it was really great to get a chance to talk with them about their experiences at FIEA and where they are now in industry. It was the first time ever that there has been a FIEA reunion. So now I can say I was at the first!

Drinks with FIEAns was a great way to end Thursday.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The last day of GDC had arrived. The day started with the last IGDA event. We met up for an IGDA Student Roundtable meeting, where we talked about the awesome new programs and events that the IGDA is trying to kick start. The IGDA is doing an awesome job reaching out to students and I think they will be a huge asset in getting a lot of young talent into the industry.

After that it was time to hit the Expo floor to see FIEAs very own A.J. Jeromin conduct a talk for Autodesk. AJ is part of the art faculty and he got to demonstrate some of the stuff we do at FIEA and how we use the Autodesk line of products. It was some great publicity for FIEA as he got to show off the Cohort 6 capstone trailers and even a tour video. Nikki Smith, a Cohort 6 Artist, now at EA Tiburon, also got the chance to talk about how she used Motion Builder and other Autodesk software for the Capstone projects.

I hung around the Expo floor for a while after that and checked out any remaining booths that I missed. I went to the Trinigy booth to see if they had any cool information I could take back to the other two Capstone games Scarfell and Dead West, since they are both working with the Vision Engine.

After some lunch it was time for my last two sessions at GDC. I first went to a Sims 3 UI discussion where they talked about the various iterations, processes and thoughts regarding how they designed the Create-A-Sim feature in the Sims 3. Being a fan of UI and usability, I found this very interesting as they discussed the challenge of trying to keep the system simple for the Sims 3 user base, while trying to build what is actually a pretty complex system.

Finally, to wrap up my GDC experience, I sat in on Will Wright’s postmortem for his first game, Raid on Bungeling Bay. It was a great talk and Will Wright is pretty awesome. The talk went over how the game got started, how there was piracy even back in those days on the Commodore 64, and how Sim City was built off a World Editor he used on the Commodore 64 called WEDIT. Also, he stopped for ten minutes to randomly discuss the Russian Space Program in the 60s and 70s. It was just a whacky and fun talk and it was really an amazing experience getting to see Will Wright live. Will Wright Classic Postmortem

To end GDC and my trip to San Francisco, Zach and I once again met up with Tom for dinner. Andres also joined us. After dinner we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf and we did some sight-seeing. The last thing we did was meet up with Ron and we caught an improv comedy show. It was a nice quiet ending to a pretty busy, fun-filled week.

Wrap-Up

Well that is it for my experiences at GDC 2011. It was an amazing time and I learned an incredible amount of information. I got a chance to meet 24 other amazing IGDA Scholars and I met a lot of industry professionals. I met past FIEAns and I got a chance to tour a bit of San Francisco. It was definitely one of the best weeks of my life and I can’t thank enough the folks at IGDA, Jack, Gordon, and Sheri for giving me the opportunity to go to GDC.

Thanks for reading my long GDC Recap posts. Nexus should be returning to full swing this coming week and I should have a status update post next week!

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