09 Mar GDC Report
Last week I made the trip out to the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. GDC is the largest annual gathering of game developers in the world, with a record 24,000 people attending in 2014. Unlike most of the year’s big video game events, such as E3 and Gamescom, GDC is focused on developers and development as opposed to games and players. If you’re not a video game professional, the importance of GDC may well be something that has passed you by.
Attending GDC isn’t cheap and it does take you away from studio work for a week. However Ninja Theory attend every year because there is so much value to be had. Having just returned from the show, these are the takeaways that made the trip well worth it:
Inspiration: The GDC schedule is packed with inspiring talks. It is very difficult to get the chance to speak at the conference. Each talk submission is carefully considered and only the highest quality proposals are accepted. As such, you know that even if you just go for talks you’ll be able to fill your time well. This year Ninja Theory Art Director Alessandro Taini represented the studio in a talk called “How Being Different Makes All The Difference”. Part of the Art Direction boot camp, the session explored how Ninja Theory have challenged the expectation of players in our art style. The feedback that Alessandro received for the talk was fantastic and we hope that his audience were inspired just as much as the Ninja team were by the sessions that we attended. A Particular highlight for me was “Do Artists Dream of Electric Sheep?” talk from Hello Games’ Art Director Grant Duncan. Just like the Hellblade team, Hello Games are aiming big with a small team. Their approach and creativity is something that inspires me.
Collaboration: GDC is an opportunity meet with partners both old and new. This element of the show was different for Ninja Theory this year. The norm is that we would be meeting a lot of game publishers to talk about traditional publisher/developer arrangements. But with Hellblade being the first game that we will be publishing ourselves, the types of people that we were meeting with were different. We talked with platform-holders, online distributors, engine providers, hardware providers and independent developers to name but a few. One of things that I valued the most was having the opportunity to bump into and chat with other developers. With the growth of independent development, there is a strong feeling in the development community that sharing approaches will help us all take on the shared challenges that we face. San Francisco is heaving with Developers in GDC week. With everyone wearing their conference badges, you quite often find yourself waiting to cross the road with another developer and striking up an interesting conversation.
Innovation: GDC showcases the latest in innovative technology behind game development. The technology highlight of this year’s show undoubtedly being VR. Sony, Oculus, Steam and Samsung all showed their latest hardware. I got the chance to try out the latest PlayStation Morpheus hardware and also Oculus’ latest Rift iteration Crescent Bay. Both demos left me with a huge smile on my face. In particular Sony’s London Heist demo and Oculus’ The Hobbit scene showed the leaps and bounds that have been made in VR technology. VR is evidently getting very close to a reality for gamers.
Contemplation: Taking time away from day to day development work allows you to take a step back and assess your approach. With all of the information that there is available to absorb at GDC, I find myself feeling reaffirmed about some of the choices we’ve made with Hellblade and also thinking about areas where we should perhaps take a different path. Having this time to reflect, in a bustling environment of developers, is very important.
Overall GDC was a great experience and a privilege to be part of. I come away from it inspired, with new ideas for Hellblade and sense of genuine excitement about the technology that is coming to players in the very near future.