So the Game Developer's Conference for 2007 is over. Oh my God, that was a long week.
Sunday. I fly out at ten...which meant that I missed my neice's first birthday party. Wow, did I feel like a tool for not having gotten a later flight. I still feel bad about that. But the flight itself was pretty uneventful. The seats each had built-in TVs you could order movies and watch TV on, which was a welcome entertainment addition, though most of the flight I just watched Mike Judge's Idiocracy on my iPod. (Which I'd give a six out of ten. Kind of funny, but not entirely original and not really up to the Office Space legacy.) I struck up a brief conversation with a nice French lady who was flying straight from a vacation in Africa to meet her copatriots in San Fransisco. Apparantly she worked for eBay France.
I landed, took a really expensive taxi to the hotel, thought I saw the Golden Gate bridge but didn't, and settled in to my week in San Fransisco.
San Fransisco is a beautiful city. It's antique and modern all at the same time. I remember thinking how much I wished I could stay and extra week just on vacation. Just a very unique place, and I thought immediately that this was one of my favorite cities I had ever been to.
I bought some pizza, had a fantastic rasperry gelato and ate dinner at a place called Max's. Then back to the hotel for sleeping.
Monday. I followed a large group of dorky-looking people (believe me, I blended right in) to the Moscone Center, registered, grabbed a rice crispy treat and a pear from the cafe and went to my assigned room.
The first two days of the GDC are for "Tutorials." These can be classes, mini-conferences, whatever. Most people don't go and just fly in for the big Wednesday show. I wanted to catch the tutorials because I wanted to learn more about game design. So I took the Game Design Tutorial. It was a blast, really. I had no idea redesigning board games could be so entertaining. (I created the absolute best four-player version of "Three Musketeers" that has ever been made. It balanced perfectly, was perfectly symmetrical and I actually had a great time playing it. Maybe I'll post instructions later.)
I met a game designer from Longtail Studios named AJ, and we hung out a little afterwards. He's a nice guy, but has a total naive view on whether or not first-person shooters will be a good fit for the Wii. ;)
Walking back from the bar where I'd met AJ and one of his co-workers, I got lost in the Tenderloin.
I get lost everywhere I go. It's like a trip hasn't started until I get lost, and I started this one early. It was pretty seedy, with more massage parlors than homeless people (which there were also plenty of.) It took me twenty minutes before I realized I had turned the wrong way on Geary and turned around, trying to look as mean and intimidating as I possibly could, until the mild Tenderloin squalor abruptly dead-ended into the polished, tourist sheen of Union Square. Really a very odd thing, both those places being pretty much back-to back. But I made it back and fell asleep with no real trouble.
Tuesday. More Game design tutorial. Starting to get brain-dead and grumpy. The last exercise of the day, I almost chewed this woman's head off because she made us spend half an hour making lists about what we could do for the assignment rather than just picking something and iterating on it.
I also met with Nik from Tiny Mantis, the game company that did "Go Right!" for us. Hopefully they'll be making some games that don't suck with us. ;)
On an odd note, I ran into Michael Sinterniklaas standing in the lunch line. Mike is the voice of Dean Venture from the Venture Bros. and a million other voices. He owns his own recording studio in New York called "New York Post," which I had visited on my trip to New York last year. He was there on an Audio Pass, trying to network and gather business from the game industry. Later that night I met him at the East meets West party, which he helped me crash. I played pool with a college student, chatted with Mike for a bit, talked with Stephanie Sheh of Eureka Seven and Bleach fame, then called it a night. It should be clear by now, I'm not a big partier.
Wednesday. The first day of the conference proper. Chris Kelly flew in the night before and I hung with him most of the day. Highlights: Susan O'Connor's talk on writing for Gears of War, and the Sony Presentation.
Here's my opinion on Playstation Home. I don't see the point. It's a Second-Life knockoff that will be limited to the few people who actually have PS3s. It takes things literally to an awkward extreme: why should I have to walk into a room and sort, closet-like, to view my achievements when I could just pull up a list, which lends itself to comparisons with friends and other simple data display techniques. It just seems like a stupidly obvious thing to do, so I don't know why everyone's raving about it so much.
LittleBigPlanet, however, looks nothing short of amazing. Almost worth my six hundred bucks. Almost.
During the day we met with some new game vendors who wanted ask us questions about our games strategy. That night I went to the Minna Mingle party for Casual Game developers and met with the guys from Pop, who are doing the upcoming game Bible Fight for us. I was so exhausted by this point, though, I only stayed for about half an hour.
Thursday. Oh my god, was I tired. I was sore all over from all the walking. Went to a few roundtables, a few writer sessions, trolled the Expo. Met with some more game vendors. If you can tell, toward the end of the week it all started to blur together, so I'm having difficulty recalling what exactly happened when. Miyamoto's speach at the Nintendo keynote was interesting, but kind of lacked much more than a reiteration of Nintendo's party line of "Taking risks." Refused an invitation to hang out with AJ again and crashed to an instant sleep at 8pm.
Friday. I'm having a hard time remembering what happened Friday, to be honest. I went to a roundtable about web games and community, which reaffirmed my belief that no one was thinking about doing the sort of things I'm thinking about doing in that space. Which is either good news for me, or just shows that I'm thinking the wrong way. We'll have to see which. I went to a very memorable lecture/roundtable on emotion in gaming, which coincidentally enough came to a few emotionally-charged shouting matches on whether gameplay and story were equally important. Very informative and entertaining.
That night we went to the Zuni Cafe and had dinner. It was good, I just wished there had been more of it. Took the subway back to the hotel. Fell asleep.
Saturday. Over. Came home. Feels good. Rented Casino Royale on the plane and wished I hadn't. I like the movie alright, but I hated that I paid five bucks for something I'd already seen. Watched an episode of the fairly mediocre Robin Hood on BBC America.
Now it's back to work to apply everything I've learned. Which I hope will eventually all come back to me. All in all I had a great time, but what a draining week.