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GDC Thursday/Friday

On Thursday I woke up a little later due to having accomplished most of what I came for already. I spent the first hour or two of the day over at the Career Pavilion chatting it up with a few more companies, namely Activision (well known), Telltale Games (Sam & Max series, Strongbad’s Cool Game for Attractive People, and Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Adventures) and Vicious Cycle (Dead Head Fred and Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard, marketed with a whole bunch of fictional games with the word Hazard in the title.) Fortunately all three of those companies, more really since Activision is a publishing company, have entry level openings that I will attempt to fill.

I then headed over to the Expo to talk with some more Vicious Cycle guys about their engine, Vicious Engine, and what it’s like working there. This one is pretty promising all told. I also talked with some more motion capture companies just out of curiosity and all of them are setting their system up in different ways. For example, Xsens’ MVN system uses MEMS coupled with accelerometers and gyroscopes to track motion of a human body. This would work for any animal really, but they only have a human suit right now. Though it wouldn’t be hard to make a suit to position all the sensors. Anyway, this one works really well but it requires that you have a bone structure in place on your 3d model. Most do though. The other guys I talked to, PhaseSpace, were far more traditional opting to use the standard LED and camera system. The advantage to that system, of course, is that you don’t need to have bones at all, so it’d work great for something like say… a snake. As I talked about before, NaturalPoint uses an IR LED system. All of them are very good and which you use depends on the job as everything always does. I just talked to them to satisfy my own curiosity.

Then I went over to the IGF booths and took a look at some games. First up, The Graveyard, which isn’t really a game as much as interactive art, but if the creators want to call it a game who am I to say otherwise? I happened across them just as Hideo Kojima, of Metal Gear Solid fame, was talking to them about their project. Who knows, we might be seeing some kind of game or project from Kojima building off that project. Also, I did the right thing, which was shut up and listen. Thank you Brenda Braithwaite. Then I went over to the Machinarium booth and played around with that for a while. It’s an adventure game in Flash that looks incredibly good. They did a bit of a new take on it though, you can’t just sweep your mouse across the screen and find things to interact with, you have to actually walk around because the cursor will only change when you’re close enough. The puzzles are well done and the art style is amazing. All the usable items are done in the same style and fit seemlessly in the world, with possibly the exception of the yellow wedge on the third screen, which I thought stood out just a little bit too much.

I had some time to kill so at this point I just wandered around the small part of the city I was in and explored. There was a Virgin Megastore (who knew that Virgin owned electronics stores?) that was going out of business so I bought a Deadly Creatures for the Wii at a good price. You play as a tarantula and then later as a scorpion, flip flopping between them at various points in their adventure to try to kill each other. There’s also an overarching human plot going on and I’m pretty sure that in the end you kill at least one of the humans. It’s pretty well done and enjoyable, though the gesture system with the Wiimote and Nunchuck is a little bit slow to respond to actions. Sometimes it requires you to do that action a good 3 times to get it to work. Which is sad, because it would be so much better if I could launch a spin attack with my tarantula without having to fling my hand all over the place.

Right… so… back to GDC. At around 7pm there was a party at one of the local bars and so I attempted to go to that only to get lost on my way there. See, the address is 661 Howard St and so I naturally assumed that it was on 6th and Howard. How wrong I was. Seattle is set up like this but apparently that convention doesn’t extend to other parts of the country. Anyway, it would appear that the bar I was looking for was actually on 2nd and Howard, so I made this long U turn and finally made it, a little late and slightly fashionably. A great time was had by all and I got to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in about 4-5 years. All of them seem to be doing well for themselves and that’s about as much as we can hope for. I headed back to my hotel around midnight and an hour later there was a shooting right outside the hotel. I guess I’m lucky I came back when I did because there was a huge emergency response team covering the block just minutes later.

On Friday I didn’t really have anything to do at all, so I woke up a little later than normal, had breakfast, and headed to the airport. The ride on the BART was pretty nice. Going in the night I couldn’t really see anything to appreciate, but now that I rode it during the day, some of the views are nice and the environment is quite beautiful at times, mostly when it’s not a bunch of old rundown buildings. The world is truly small by the way, on the flight I sat just in front of none other than Pikmin Master Bruce Dawson, who is a former teacher of mine from DigiPen. Also, he rides the STP on a unicycle, which is just plain awesome. A couple hours later I was back home in Redmond. I got home about 20 minutes before the family dinner which meant I didn’t have any time at all to do anything but drop my things off, go downstairs, and eat food, help funnel trash from opening wedding gifts, and try not to dominate my little brother-in-law, he’s 9, in Super Smash Brothers Brawl. It was a good night.

Oh, naturally I told lots of people about the Microvision Show and more than I thought possible knew exactly what I was talking about. This was an awesome thing.

That concludes the best 2 days of my year. I look forward to many more GDCs in the future!

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