Mod DB is at the GDC! The Game Developers Conference unites indie and professional developers of games, mods, dev tools and hardware over 5 days and Mod DB is there to cover the show. We will be attending key note presentations which affect you (or are just downright cool) as we aim to give you a behind the scenes peek into the game development industry.
Four of the presentations given by Valve at the Game Developers Conference are now available from their publications page. They are:
Before I start, I just want to say I sorely misjudged the frenetic pace of events at this year's (and my personal first) GDC. While the first two days were slightly less hectic, the final few had Scott and I running around all day and attending 'networking events' during the night. While we took part in many of the panels and lectures, I'm going to leave much of the coverage up to the sites more suited to doing that kind of stuff. My prerogative is to touch on the ideas and issues that are specifically of interest to the modding and amateur development community.
During the 'Game Designer's Rant', Clint Hocking stated that the games industry is the most creative in the world:
"I should rant about creative stagnation... but that's such a tired and generic topic, I don't even think I can get pissed off about it. We have a considerably broader range than many other industries. Pound to pound, we are the most creative fucking industry in the entire world. Being creative is fairly easy. Having the courage to create something that challenges people is fucking hard. Why don't we create a game that fucking means something, that fucking matters?"
Developers make the systems that can engage and control a player's experience. Independents are starting to challenge the experiences that most people associate with playing a game. Mods, in their own way, have pushed a few boundaries too. Genres have been blending and creative minds out there are exploring new waters. The big boys have been hedging their bets with iterations on the classic FPS model that's been around since Doom. While the commercial indie world has had their champions to cheer over, where's the wildly inventive kings of the modding world? Moreover, why are most, if not all, of the successes in the modding world just similar to what the studio giants have had to offer? I think that modders are capable of releasing content that is creatively on par with the games seen at the IGF. We just have to be willing to make the games that we want to play and not focus what we think everyone else wants to play. As Tracy Fullerton from USC put it in her lecture on the 'Indies of Tomorrow', we need to divorce ourselves from the preconceptions of gaming. Get inspired, not just from other games but from everything else around you. Challenge yourself to challenge others - provide a new experience that's unlike anything they've had before.
People who develop games/mods do it because it's what they want to do. However, it's never all just happy times and sunshine. Finding a way to keep yourself motivated is half the battle. Sometimes its finding a Russian company that "borrows" your ideas (Kyle Gabler of 2D Boy), or just a small tight knit group of fellow developers. When you're starting a game or mod project, you can be guaranteed there's going to be rough patches ahead and you'll probably get pushed into assuming roles you never intended on serving. It may feel more like work than a hobby at times which is why many mods don't come to fruition. Having the fortitude to push on through the developmental barriers and making some sacrifices can net you the big payoff in the end.
Finally, I hope a lot of this year's coverage of GDC around the web has spurred some new thoughts on how you approach your development process and given you some renewed direction. The Independent Games Festival cancelled the modding part of their competition for 2008 (although Flipside and Foamzilla both made it into the student showcase). There's a lot of great work going on out there in the modding community and it's my hope that mods are brought back to the IGF in a big way. A lot of that will come down to you developers - make yourselves known and who knows, 2009 could be your year.
So I'm here at GDC '08 with Ryan (ModDB's editor) and I thought I'd share my thoughts, my take on the event, game development, and all the stuff I'm seeing for the first time. If it is game development goodness you're after you'll have to check back later, as that's Ryan's gig (he is the note taker b*tch). I'm happy to sit in on presentations, thankful that I'm not the one dealing with the complexities of game development - which makes about as much sense to me as a rubix cube does to a color blind person.
So why the title shorts, skirts and shirts? That's a damn good question and one I had an answer to during my Tuesday night "drink the beer campaign" but lost thanks to common sense kicking back in. Besides if I'm going to be told the 40 spelling and grammatical errors I make I figure I don't need a "piss-poor sense of humor" complaint tacked onto that list.
Anyhow, onwards to the interesting stuff which is my thoughts on GDC: what you learn, why people are here, how stuff works and all that. First, a dislaimer about me - I'm not a game dev, my background is purely creating and running Mod DB so hopefully I can approach this article from a different angle than every other damn game site pretending they know and care about the game development process because I'll admit I care but don't know a great deal about what modders, indies and studios go through to get a title out on shelves. Bear with me because this is basically a brain dump in text which makes about as much sense as Christmas decorations coming out in September.
GDC is a recruiting ground for game companies. You could throw a ball 5 feet in any direction and find 5 people looking for talent to join their company. If you can talk the talk, GDC will get your foot in the door with some company provided you can back that up with a strong resume and examples of stuff you have made (i.e. mods). This event is all about the creators vs. just the players, it is impossible not to run into guys here from game companies you admire and all will share their story about how they broke into the industry with you. If its a job you want add GDC to your calendar.
GDC is about lucky breaks and consequent success stories. How did bioshock end up with such a compelling storyline. How did everyday shooter, N+ and other indie titles make it onto the XBOX Live Arcade and Sony Playstation Network digital distrubition systems. How did university mod and indie game projects become IGF finalists and a "virtual resume" for their creators who landed their dream job after the right person played their creation? The common theme is damn hard work, creativity and getting lucky. Persevere and you will prevail.
GDC is about parties, shmoozing and meeting people. The best people to party with are hot grrrrls and well hot girls. BUT - Beyond this the people you want to know are those who do something similar to what you do and are interested in what you do. Finding people who share your passion is rare, I'm betting 99% of you have parents who wonder what the hell it is you are doing when you mention your mod. At GDC you are surrounded by like minded individuals who want to know what it is your doing (either that or they'll sit there and tell you what they are doing). Either way conversations flow freely here whether you want to talk (or are talked to) or not.
GDC is about the world beyond modding. Holy crap there is a world beyond modding... yeah really. Why do you mod? For experience, fun and to get a job is the dream of most members on this site, and GDC shows you this end game. Heaps of people here got their start in the world of modding, and it is refreshing to know and see that vs. just being told (unless your getting told by me). The path you have set yourself upon may seem long and hard, so its good to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel and see so many people who passed the path they set themselves.
Well that's all I've got for you, it would have been done earlier had I not fallen asleep on my laptop. The theme of this years GDC seems to be f**k yeah; after all, 2007 rocked with gamers getting flooded with kick ass titles. Let hope this trend continues. That's all for now, see you whenever folks.
After registering alongside the other press notables for our media badges, Scott (INtense!) and I made our way down the voluminous halls of the Moscone center to engage in a day's worth of sessions in the Independent Games Summit. Being my first game related conference of any kind, let alone one of this size and scope, my mind was reeling at the sight of so many developers in one place. The air was buzzing with discussion, all relating to the many facets of the games industry and we managed to get in a few words with some developers ourselves. The events we are covering during the first couple of days at GDC all concern the different aspects of producing an independent game and bringing it into the market. Since indie projects and mods share the same creative spirit in many ways, there were a few take-aways that were gleaned from the lectures that I thought I might share with you. I plan to delve deeper into each of these areas and will post more about them on the site, but in the meantime, here's just a few of the tidbits from day one of the GDC:
Experimentation was a common theme throughout the talks, as many developers recounted their struggles to just even obtain some sort of gameplay that really resonated with the right 'feel'. There was some agreement that designs will always be flawed no matter how much planning you put into them. It's better to get out there and do stuff now so you have a better idea of what works, what doesn't work and why it does or doesn't. Scaling down your scope and size of the project is a part of experimentation. Working within your means to complete something on a reasonable timescale is half the battle. Don't be afraid to carve out content or pare down your ideas because if your creation can survive without it, it's probably not needed anyways.
Quite a few mod teams have the mindset that they need to compete with the commercial AAA titles that pump out leading edge visuals using the latest advancements in technology. My question is, if commercial independent endeavours don't try to match the graphical prowess of the high-end studios, why should you? There's no point in constructing painstakingly detailed environments and models for your mod that has cloned gameplay at the core of it. It's only going to be superseded with another offering doing the same thing a few months later. Mods/games that get into the spotlight and keep it are ones that increase their visibility and value by focusing on creating new game mechanics and situations. These sometimes employ novel twists on current or old technology. The big boys don't have the benefit of being able to tackle high risk solutions, but you do - so take that advantage!
This last point I want to cover is branding. Even though a mod project is non-profit, branding is still an important part of making sure people correctly identify what you and your mod are all about. Providing all the necessary information to communicate your vision with fellow team members, media outlets and your potential audience is all part of this. It's hard to remain singular in focus if everyone on your team has a different idea of what the mod should be. Contact sites, like Mod DB, to do interviews or features to gain exposure and educate the masses about what makes your project so unique. Be honest and personable, share your creative successes and failures (read: not just media releases) throughout development. Other gamers and developers, both pro and amateur, will take notice, appreciate and share your enthusiasm as a result.
That's all for today, see you tomorrow folks.
Evolving Aquaria - Alec Holowka (Bit Blot), Derek Yu (Bit Blot)
Unique Knobs for Indie Games - Raigan Burns (Metanet Software)
Spreading Your Message as an Indie Developer - Vicky Arundel (Introversion)
Contracting vs. Indie: the Showdown - Brent Fox (Ninjabee/Wahoo), Steve Taylor (Ninjabee/Wahoo)
Postmortem: Pixeljunk Series - Dylan Cuthbert (Q Games)
The Game Developers Conference for 2008 is just around the corner. If any of you aspiring developers out there are attending, Mod DB would like to get together and meet some of the people behind the projects featured on the site. Whether you want to discuss future plans, opportunities or just chat over a few drinks is up to you, but give us a holler at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll see when we can fit you in. See you there!