GDC Day 1

I’ve been in the San Jose area since Friday at this point, and spent the weekend visiting my cousins and getting a general feel for the area. It’s really hammered home how out of shape I am; after two days of hoofing it all over downtown San Jose, I’m hobbling around a little from a sore tendon in one foot and a raw spot on the other from where my sandal was rubbing against it. (It’s time for new sandals.)

I’ve been handing out business cards to everyone I chat with, so it’s possible that I will shortly have some new visitors (hello to any that come by). I’ve handed out probably about a dozen so far — not bad for being in a tutorial session all day (and it’s only the first day). People have been responding well to my ideas on putting together a development company focusing on narrative based games, so that bodes very well for getting Critical Games to actually get off the ground. (One of the individuals I was chatting with also gave me some suggestions on where to look for grants that would go quite far in getting started… potentially up to $100,000 for 6 months to develop a proof of concept, with a phase 2 portion that could potentially be somewhere between $250,000 and $500,000. This would be fantastic.)

I had just one session today, a full day tutorial about creativity. It was well presented and I had fun with it, though I must say it was pretty tiring and by the end of it, I was grateful to get up and stretch my legs. A lot of the information was fairly basic (stuff like “watch what you eat”, “get plenty of rest”, “drink lots of water” etc), but there were also some really useful exercises and suggestions on ways to help train your creativity and creative output. For the second half of the session, we broke into small groups and did a variety of design exercises to demonstrate the role of creativity in design. These ranged from some smaller scale design problems from case study games, to prototyping and presenting a boardgame given random provided puzzle pieces in about 30 minutes. Our group was comprised mostly of professors from Full Sail (good people, they were goofy and friendly, but also clearly knowledgeable in their respective fields), and ended up making a game called “Space Pig” (opting not to go the “Pigs in Space” route lest Henson sue us), since one of the game pieces we were given was a small plastic pig and the game board was a star field of sorts. The basic premise was that there was the Space Pig in the center of the board, and he’s hungry, so you needed to trek out in your ship to the edge of the map and collect a “water” token and a “food” token, and bring them back to the pig in the center. Of course, if you ran across another player’s ship, your path would be obstructed, and you’d have to battle (each rolls a die, the player with the lower number loses a health token and is sent back to his home point… if they have a food or water token, that is sent back into the resource pools at the rim of the board). To win, either kill all your opponents (that’d be an awful lot of lucky rolls, though, since each of the four players starts with four health points), or be the first to get both the food and the water to the space pig, and then return to your home base. (I’m writing it down so I don’t forget, and for posterity.) Overall, it was a worthwhile tutorial despite it occupying the entirety of my day.

Also on Monday, during one of the breaks, I went down to the GDC store they have set up and checked out their array of books and such. They were a fair bit overpriced, but that’s partially because a number of them were books that had not yet been officially released. I picked up The Game Design Reader, which is a companion book to Rule of Play. With that lovely sort of zen synchronicity that I’m so fond of, as I was paying for it, someone behind me commented “Good book”… turned out to be Eric Zimmerman, the editor of the book (The Reader is a collection of essays from various authors). So, now I have an autographed copy of the book sitting in a bag on my hotel table. Pretty neat.

I’ve put together a tentative schedule for the week, in case anyone is interested:
10:00 AM to 6:00 PM — Creativity Boot Camp 2006
10:00 AM to 6:00 PM — Player-Centric Game Design Workshop
(I’m also going to try and head over to the Game Connection during my lunch break, to chat with publishers about backing.)
9:00 AM to 10:00 AM — The Online Business Model for PC Games: Show Me the Money (Woke up late)
10:30 AM to 11:30 AM — Playstation 3: Beyond the Box (Keynote)
12:00 PM to 1:00 PM — Free to Play! Pay for Stuff: The Digital Content Sales Frontier (Got distracted and missed it)
2:30 PM to 3:30 PM — The Life Cycle of a Successful Game Development Studio (Got distracted and missed it)
4:00 PM to 5:00 PM — Bloggers Group Gathering
5:00 PM to 6:30 PM — GDC Expo Booth Crawl
6:30 PM to 8:30 PM — Game Developer’s Choice Awards
10:30 AM to 11:30 AM — Disrupting Development (Keynote)
12:00 PM to 1:00 PM — What’s Next in Game Design (Keynote)
2:30 PM to 3:30 PM — The Game Design Challenge: The Nobel Peace Prize
5:30 PM to 6:30 PM — Ten Strategies to Reduce Costs on Large Scale MMP Development
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM — GDC Suite Night
9:00 AM to 10:00 AM — Bootstrapping a Game Company in the Age of Blockbuster Budgets
12:00 PM to 1:00 PM — From Design to Product: A Model for Independent Game Production
2:30 PM to 4:30 PM — How to Raise Venture Capital to Build a Game Company, Phase II

2 thoughts on “GDC Day 1

  1. Sounds like a lot of fun, dude. I’m pretty jealous, to be completely honest. Not only do the keynotes sound awesome, but the individual sessions sound great. Oh, and Critical Games has always sounded like a sweet idea to me. I can think of no better person to bring a needed breath of fresh air to the game industry. Good luck!

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