It's Thursday, which is halfway through the main days of GDC, and over the hump day of the entire trip. My legs don't hurt yet, my laptop stays at home, because I got way too many papers on Wednesday, and I figure I can write faster than I can type. (which as it turns out isn't true)
Our day started off early, with a 10 AM meeting with GoLive2. They are developing a Wii-like controller for PCs called Stix. They're pretty cool, and should be coming out later on this year. They didn't have a working model, just a fake one, but I can see the appeal. I might have to pick up a pair.
After this meeting, we had some free time. Mikel went to go check out some other places, and I hotfooted it back to North Hall so I could go through the entire thing row by row and see -everything-. I managed to do so, except the Nintendo booth, so that's on my plate for Friday. And yes.. Lots of Pens. And lanyards. And Blinky things that I'm sure I can annoy my cats with. Even a rubber duck!
The nice part is that not only is there cool stuff, there are tons of cool people. I again met people from every continent today, and even got the chance to speak a little Spanish with someone. (I took about 7 years between high school/college) There were some really cool things - a LOT of companies displaying motion sensors, be it strap on suits with lights all over them, or 3DV's actual "stand in front of the camera, let it map you, then go box!" I took a ton of pictures here. I got to briefly play a game that I will be going back to do a proper demo and review of on Friday, so I don't want to spoil that surprise. Also, companies like THX (the movie sound) and even NASA (you could get a picture emailed of you taken on the moon!) were there. Very diverse, but very educational.
After I finished going through North, and adding about 15 pounds to my bag and 20 or so cards to my nametag, I ran back to get in line for food. A joy of GDC is that they have some free lunches - being a vegetarian is much easier in California than in Virginia - and yesterday was a Mediterranean Salad. Yum. The line was probably, if straightened out, about a full city block long, but I was within the first 20 people.. more by luck if anything else.
Right after I got my lunch, Mikel called and directed me our next meeting, which was with SGN, a company that has a gaming hub on Facebook. We met with Chris, Christian, and Simeon (who wrote the game Jetman, if you're a facebook freak). They were very very fun, very very passionate, and very informative. We discussed how Facebook Gaming is coming into it's own, how it's very easy to break into the field at this time, and it's redefining a group called 'Social Gaming'. SGN allows people to keep track of all the games on the hub and see how you're doing without having to go to each of the games individually. It's pretty cool, and I'll definitely be signing up when I get home.
After this meeting, I snuck off to the Press Room to catch up on things and enjoy my Salad, then I headed off to one of the speeches I have been looking forward to all week: "The Art of Final Fantasy" with Isamu Kamikokuryo. He was the Background Artist for FF10, the Background Art Director for FF12 and Revenant Wings, and the actual Art Director for the upcoming FF13.
Yes, I said it. FF13. And it is AWESOME. They told us early in the program no pictures were allowed, because they were showing a trailer that hadn't been seen before (and it IS different from the one on YouTube), and some concept art that hadn't been seen outside of Japan. More on this later.
The amazing thing that GDC has are headsets, where you hear the translated Japanese in real time. The three translators were amazing, and it was simply surreal to be in a packed room with the guy that has done so many of the pretty things all of us have played at one point or another.
They went over his life history - he started out as an starving artist, as it were, selling oil paintings in galleries and the like. He saw an ad in the paper for then Square, advertising for art jobs. He decided to apply, and he sent in his usual resume plus official design things. As well, on impulse, he sent in a picture of an oil painting he did, and that's how he got the job.
A lot of what was said I will be covering in another article, but suffice it to say I took about 18 pages of notes in a 1 hour period. I could barely move my hand when it was done. The speaker went through his career, how things worked from past to present at Square/Square-Enix, who his influences are (they come from all areas of the world!), his hobbies (he loves travelling places and taking all sorts of pictures, some of which we saw), and he spoke a lot about how art works in real life, and how it's applied at a job. You could tell, even through translation, how passionate he was about this job.
He covered a lot of how games are made from pre to post production, where the Art Director comes in, how different jobs influence what happens, and games from past to present to future. It was fascinating to get a glimpse of how much gaming has evolved in the years since he was hired there, and how much he's looking forward to the next step.
Then they showed the trailer, and Wow. I figured out two things: 1. I needed to buy a PS3. 2. I needed a new change of pants... it was THAT awesome. After the trailer (which got sustained and loud applause), he went on to show us some concept art, and it was simply stunning. I can tell you that you may have played every FF game ever, including imports, but you've NEVER seen the art like this. It is mindblowing, stunning, and did I mention I can't wait?
At one point, Mr. Kamikokuryo's humor shined through (it did often, but this one got the most laughs). There was a piece of concept art of a "cocoon", which ends up to be where a lot of your gameplay is, and it zoomed in to see a female character basically divebombing into a city within a cocoon. The speaker asked "She going to survive that fall?" Mr Kamikokuryo laughed and said "well.. I think she will! But I can't tell you!" The entire place burst into laughter.
After we went through the concept art, we went back to a few things about game design, and then the hour was up. Actually, it ran over, so we all filed out. However, Mr. Kamikokuryo came out to meet a few people and take a few pictures and I was lucky enough to meet him and get a picture with him. He was very nice, and looked somewhat overwhelmed (he didn't speak English at all!) but his translator with him was very nice, and it definitely was the highlight of my GDC experience so far.
After this session, which just left me amazed and somewhat overwhelmed as I looked through my notes, I ran to the Audio for MMO's panel. It's a personal thing that I adore music so much, to be sure, but this panel ended up to be very informational. Chance Thomas from EA was the Moderator, and Geoff Scott (Turbine Studios, which means music from LOTRO and Asheron's Call), Russell Brower (Blizzard, a main sound guy for WoW), and Michael Henry (Cryptic Studios, City Of Heroes/Villains) were the panelists.
It was a very technical, and at times kinda repetitive panel, but it was fascinating to hear exactly how much work goes into making music within a game. And despite their vast differences, we learned just how much games and from back end to front end, there are similarities that encompass every one.
I'll also be covering this in another separate review, as there were a ton of good quotes, and the Q&A session afterwards was amazing. For those of you who are WoW lovers, you'll be happy to know that there were 2-3 hours of original music in the original release; they added 3 hours in the first official expansion; Burning Crusade added 6 more original hours, and currently there are 16-17 hours of music in the version of WoW out now.
They talked about how Audio in MMO's just isn't background music, it's also "10 different sword clangs", and walking on marshy places, or trees drifting in the breeze. They touched on how difficult it is to try to mix everything on the server side, which is why as a player, you get much more ways to customize your music. It's not the same experience for everyone.
The end of the session was really informational, as they talked about their influences, their different likes of music, and technology behind it. It was a lot of information for an hour, but really was interesting to hear how these composers go about their work and how much it has evolved with the times.
After that, my GDC day was done. I hopped a BART train to go meet up with a friend that I have played FF11 with for almost two years (and his wife met up with us shortly after, she was on the train behind me), and we went to an amazing bar in Berkeley, where I proceeded to gorge myself on the most amazing vegetarian nachos I've ever eaten, snarf down some garlic fries, and have a very fun evening. We walked and got some crepes (Crepes To Go doesn't exist on the east coast, and it should!), then we rode BART back to our respective abodes. I dragged my feet up to my room and passed out shortly after I got back. 10 PM here is 1 AM Eastern, and after the day I had, the pillow never looked so good.
Pen Count today? 13, so my grand total is 18. I don't think I'll have to go to Staples any time soon. Tomorrow is the final day of GDC. I can't wait!