80.lv travelled to GDC 2015 and found the future of gaming very interesting. Expect a whole bunch of reports about the biggest games and vendors in the upcoming weeks.
Before our trip to the San-Francisco we had a lot of talks about possible appointments. One of the developers of a number of classy indie-hits (with lots of Kickstarter successes and a couple of powerful projects under his belt) told us in a private conversation that he will skip GDC 2015 and go to PAX. These two events happen at the same time and are aimed at different audiences. However our developer friend believed that PAX will help him to close more deals. Now as the GDC is over we almost agree with our colleague. GDC is not the place to think about the current troubles, it’s a place to talk about the future and learn about the technologies of tomorrow.
GDC 2015 had a huge number of various press-conferences and presentations. Among the biggest ones were the announcements made by Unity and NVIDIA. Unity had a small but very emotional event with people cheering and talking about various projects. Unity Technologies made a big bet on its existing audience that grows bigger every day. The company believes that Unity 5 – its latest gaming engine – will turn the whole industry around. Apart of being relatively easy to use Unity is also becoming considerably more powerful. 80.lv talked with the number of developers (including the creators of P.A.M.E.L.A. and Republique) who were eager to share some information about the advantages of this technology. Right now Unity 5 also became much more accessible to developers. You can download the engine for free, no strings attached. We will talk about the event in more detail later.
NVIDIA made another big splash at GDC with its ambitious plans to conquer the living room. A small sleek TV-box Shield will act as a media-hub, a gaming console and a powerful streaming service, that allows to play games, without the need to download them. Pretty neat. The whole presentation was planned very much like the first iPhone reveal. Of course, instead of Jobs we had cheerful Jen-Hsun Huang. He joked, threw around words like “magical” and “power”, showing off his cool jacket.
Living-room version of Shield is powerful, very stylish (one of those rare gadgets that you do want to have in your house) and gaming-oriented. It runs games like Crysis 3, Doom 3 and Borderlands: Pre Sequel and streams all the latest releases, including Witcher 3 and Batman: Arkham Knight. The interface is neat, sleek and fast. The console runs on a special version of Android, which may raise a few eyebrows but what we’ve seen at the NVIDIA’s booth was both stable and exciting. Shield costs less than $200, which makes it a much more affordable device than many of the modern consoles.
Apart from the aforementioned events there were literally hundreds of other cool presentations. A lot of time was devoted to VR. It was literally everywhere. Unity, Epic, Valve, Oculus – everyone showed their new products for the virtual age. It was nearly impossible to get hold of these glasses, especially a new Valve-HTC VR system. While VR-headsets were virtually everywhere (pun unintended) there’s still a long way to go before they become mainstream. So far most of the games with VR-support also work with normal PCs and consoles.
Xsolla held one of the biggest parties in San-Francisco before the start of GDC 2015. The company attracted hundreds of guests from the biggest companies in the world. There were representatives of Twitch, Naughty Dog, Crytek, Epic and dozens others. NVIDIA held one of the most interesting parties of the year probablt. It had girls dressed like sea dwellers and cabaret dancers, a lot of drinks and hundreds of visitors. Epic and Valve held the most visited parties with famous DJs and bands. Most developers preferred to visit a couple of events in one night which made the next morning routine much less glamorous.
While GDC is very different from any B2C gaming events, one could hardly distinguish its expo floor from the E3 or Gamescom. The only difference probably was that instead of publishers’ booths there were hundreds of middleware providers. Epic, Unity, Crytek, NVIDIA and Valve had huge presence but there were others. Companies like Umbra, Allegorithmic, Akamai, Marmalade and Cocos2D were everywhere. In fact one couldn’t possible walk around the expo floor without bumping into one of the big middleware providers. Software for game development is getting more important and its presence on GDC is growing. It was nice to see presentations, tutorials and cool talks given right at the expo floor. A great help for people who were not able to afford all access pass for $2k.
One of the biggest attractions of the GDC was the ability to meet all the people who made videogames happen. You could walk around Razer booth and bump into Richard Garriot – the creator of Shroud of the Avatar and the father of Ultima series (the father of the modern MMOG-genre for that matter). During the coffee break you could notice a huge figure of Gabe Newell walking slowly toward the escalator. At the local TV-station booth there was Warren Spector, talking about his new educational initiative. The creator of Oculus VR Palmer Luckey walked around the floor like a humble mortal shaking hands with the developers and admiring their products.
The expo-floor of GDC 2015 was really a place from the future. A place where VR meets the cutting edge engine-tech, where top notch games are created by groups of 4 college dropouts (P.A.M.E.L.A.) and Japanese company shows its impressive engine, available to indies for free. GDC in all its grandeur was a place to be if you wanted to learn about making games and meet the people who shape gaming industry.
The biggest attraction of GDC were closed talks, few of the developers had a chance to witness. You’ll probably see some of the video recording come up online in our Video section soon. Listening to presentations from 5th Cell, Volition, Ubisoft, Amazon, Google, Ninja Theory, Facebook and Naughty dog felt like a dream. Trying to fit all those talks into a couple of days felt more like a nightmare. It was sad to miss some huge sessions from the biggest majors in the business, but unfortunately you can only do so much in a day.
While GDC is less about games and more about game development we can’t recommend this event enough. As years go by and GDC get bigger and more mature, you can’t help but think about the incredible growth of modern game industry. Today’s game development is a business of dreams with rich history and living legends walking around the Moscone Center halls. Seeing young teams and hard-core developers creating innovative games in a matter of months gives you all the inspiration you really need. Who knows, maybe your game will be featured next to Twitch and ARM booth in 2016! Give it a try. Game industry is big enough for everyone.