Sunday, March 11, 2012

San Francisco and GDC

Just got back from GDC 2012, my 3rd (half-) GDC! Here's a general recap of games played, food eaten, experiences had...

Sketch-a-bit Birthday: Two years ago at GDC 2010, Google gave out Android phones, and immediately after the conference, Adam and I went to an Android hackathon at the Hacker Dojo and made Sketch-a-bit. Just under two years later, during this year's GDC, we hit 50,000 sketches! Happy birthday to Sketch-a-bit! For the record, I haven't gotten any free phones from GDC since.

Sketch-a-bit's launch in the Android market! Ah, this photo was taken with my new nexus one showing the screen of Adam's new nexus one.
Hotel: We (a bunch of people from my school) stayed in a suite at the Hotel Des Arts in a room that I shall refer to as "the Boob Room". It was weird art, but otherwise a good setup. Free wifi, muffins and coffee for breakfast, enough space for us all to work and sleep, about a half-mile from the convention center, and a reasonable price.

Hotel des Arts with rooms decorated by local artists.
Irish Pubs: This is not all that remarkable, but over a 4-5 day period, we twice had dinner at Irish pubs around the city. First at the Irish Bank next to the hotel, and then at the Elephant & Castle after seeing Indie Game: The Movie.

Indie Game: The Movie: The movie was fantastic. But I am going to talk more about the process and not the actual movie itself. I had supported it through Kickstarter a long, long time ago (and got a shirt that I then wore to the screening) and it was everything I hoped it would be! Whoever you are, you should definitely go see it. But here are some sort of extraneous points that I also think are interesting: The movie was going to be shown in Santa Cruz last fall (and I even had a ticket) but that screening got pulled because it was so good that it had to go to Sundance. The film crew filmed at a TIGjam in the past, so maybe I (and certainly people I know) are in the background of the special features extra footage stuff. At dinner at one of those Irish restaurants, Jeff told us how he became Executive Producer of the movie by supporting it at one of the super-high tiers on Kickstarter that they hadn't expected anyone to actually go for. Basically, the movie is great and there are more detailed and specific reviews of it out there, but in addition, it's further proof that cool stuff is happening in the world with games and movies and kickstarter and things that people (and entire communities) are crazy-passionate about. Also, making indie games reminds me of grad school.

Indie Game Festival: Speaking of indie games, the summits and tutorials GDC pass got us into the IGF award ceremony where a lot of stuff happened, but most importantly to me, my friends from UC Santa Cruz had their game Prom Week nominated. See how before I said making indie games reminds me of grad school? Turns out making indie games can be what you do in grad school!

Laaasserrrrsssss... at the IGF awards and Game Developers Choice awards

Games Played: (a.k.a. Awesome non-standard games with crazy interfaces or controllers) I played Johann Sebastian Joust and Fingle and Uprok and Mega-GIRP and games on people's phones that they handed me... And there was more epic Team Joust at a party, with 15+ players at a time. Madness!

Johann Sebastian Joust in the expo hall
Uprok start screen - press your colored pedal to join the game!
MEGA-GIRP - like Twister combined with the already horrendously hard GIRP
Conference Talks: There were a few things that were really cool. Like a scripting language for organizing and distributing tasks amongst humans in a crowdsourcing or alternate reality game setting! And a talk about random AI applications that I stumbled into and found 3 nice nuggets of nifty technology, ranging from a computer vision motion-blob-finding technique to neural networks to computing level of detail in a way not simply based on distance. And a beautiful talk from the guy who made Way and now works on Journey about people from anywhere connecting and collaborating and journeying together through games.

A scripting language for people!
Back to food again: I want to share with you my strategy for eating during a convention in SF: Walk  3+ blocks away from the convention center (like towards Market) and find a sandwich. Most people seem to get trapped within the 1-2 block range where everyone else and their coworker is eating. I guess I ate a lot of sandwiches. And a quesadilla in the Mission at 1:30am! And the best chocolate croissant I've ever had in the US at Le Boulange. And swanky mac and cheese! And crepes! And pork buns! I want to go back to SF and eat things.

The end: And that, my friends, is my recap of GDC.

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