Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Austin GDC Roundup

Last week was the annual Game Developers Conference in Austin, Texas. For those of you who don't know, GDC is a massive game industry conference where companies of all sizes get together and discuss the latest trends in the industry. Sessions can vary from "how to grab the attention of the casual markey," "how to make sure you aren't infringing on copyrights," "how to better market your games," and "how we used this piece of software to make our game really cool and now we're telling you how to do the same (in other words: really technical stuff)."

There are several difference locations that hold a GDC every year at the same time. Austin's is always in September, San Francisco is always in March, Europe's (held in Cologne, Germany) is every August, then there's Canada's and China's as well. Out of the two I've been to (Austin and San Francisco), Austin is much smaller and has a more relaxed atmosphere whereas San Francisco is more like the E3 of GDCs. By this I mean that is it extremely huge, showcases new games as well as industry insight, and the after parties are pretty much all exclusive. I guess while I'm at it, I should explain what E3 is in case people don't know that one, either. E3 stands for the Electronic Entertainment Expo and is held every June in Los Angeles. Unlike GDC which is more technical, E3 is the time for all the companies to display all the newest games and hardware for the next year.

Anyway, back to GDC. Like I had said, Austin is much smaller and has a more casual atmosphere than San Francisco. You are able to walk around the Expo floor and talk to people for pretty much as long as you like whereas in SF you might have a minute if you're lucky. This was certainly true again but something else I notice this year compared to last year was that the crowd size had been reduce dramatically. Sessions weren't nearly as full as they usually are and the Expo floor was literally half the size that it was last year, if not more. The majority of booths at the Expo were also software and technology companies rather than actual game companies. I heard that there were 4,000 people in attendance this year, which by itself is by no means small, but when you compare it to previous years, some heads might turn wondering why the difference. I have two theories. The first and most logical to the average person: the economy. With things as they are now, most companies probably can't afford to send people to these events and would rather save up for E3 or even possibly GDC San Francisco since it is bigger. This theory is backed by reports I've heard on state government conventions, mainly dealing with the DoT (Department of Transportation). They had a big conference a couple of weeks ago as well and most places couldn't afford to send their employees. So many, including the guest speakers, had video phone conversations set up in their offices that were broadcast at the convention site.

My second theory is the main theme of this year's convention: MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games, or even simpler just MMO). While this is a huge market and brings in a ton of revenue, there really aren't all that many companies that are focused on this genre of games as compared to the industry as a whole. This means that while some topics can be beneficial for non-MMO companies, the majority are leaving the rest of the industry without much to take in. Several companies were also saying this as well as the indie crowd.

Overall, though, Austin was just as much fun as it was last year. The sessions I attended were extremely beneficial. I'm going to post some links to some articles on these talks below if anyone is interested in reading on them. For two nights, the Alamo Drafthouse in downtown Austin held showings of two different documentaries. The first was filmed at last year's GDC SF and is called Into the Night. It followed Chris Crawford, an early game designer and founder of the GDC, and Jason Rohrer, a young indie game developer, around SF as they talked about how games have changed over the years. The second night featured a documentary on the rise and fall of pinball, most notably Williams Pinball, called Tilt. Both were very good but I found Tilt to be extremely interesting - especially because of the fact that there is only one pinball company now and Williams, who used to be the largest distributer in the world, had made a ground-breaking new machine in 1999 that I had never seen and now they are gone.

Before and after these documentaries, there were short films that people had made that were inspiried by the look and feel of video games and also probably animation on the whole. Some of these were pretty funny but on the whole they were really messed up. I'll post links to two of them so you can see what I mean.

In other news, my Zelda Overworld is about 80% done by now. I'll have more screens of it up later this week. My plan is to have the entire Overworld (e.g. - layout, secrets, shops, etc.) completed by next weekend. Should be a pretty easy deadline. Then it's on to the dungeons.

- VashTS


GDC Sessions:

Storytelling through Independent Games

Splosion Man Postmortem

Flashbang Studios: How to Make a Game in 8 Weeks

Fantasic Contraption Postmortem

Gaijin Games: Holistic Indie Game Design

The Universe Behind World of Warcraft


Tilt: The Battle to Save Pinball Trailer

Into the Night (It's in English but has German subtitles)

Kings of Power 4 Billion %

Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle Street Fight

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Zelda SoDak

I'm starting to piece together my Zelda Quest. I've been drawing the overworld out on graph paper. The border is complete and so are two of the prime sections. I have some other pieces done as well but they aren't really in a "section" yet so to speak (e.g. - Lost Woods, Death Mountain, Kakariko Village, etc.). Once I complete something on the map, I have been placing it into ZQuest. I'm not fretting over secrets, shops, and other things of that nature yet. I know where I will be placing them but I'm not doing it in ZQuest until I have the entire overworld complete. Then these sections will come in followed by the dungeons. The only section I have actually put in is the Badlands maze because otherwise Link will get stuck in a wall.

Here are some comparison screens of the graph map I made and the end product in ZQuest. I have the graph blocked out for each square of the overworld (the dark black lines) and the normal graph squares represent one tile square. This way I know exact dimensions of everything. If you can read the graphs, 'S' means "stone," 'A' means "Armos," and 'T' means "tree." Anyways, here's the photos:

I may have to raise things higher on the bottom of the screen. I'll have to see based on playthroughs later. It won't be that big of a deal, though. These two photos show two of the dungeons. One of hidden in the forest...

In other news, GDC Austin begins in a week. I've had a bug of some kind for the past week because I've been going to bed/waking up with a lot of phlegm and coughing. It has been getting considerably better but I went into the doctor's today and got some pills just so that I'd be completely over it by the time the convention starts. Can't wait!

- VashTS

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Zelda Classic is Rolling

I had started to use a tutorial I found for ZQuest (the Zelda Classic editor) but it stopped in the middle. Then I found the "official" ZQuest tutorial created by AlphaDawg, the winner of Zelda Classic's Third Quest competition. His quest was dubbed the "Third Quest" and was put in with an updated version of Zelda Classic. The tutorial he made still doesn't cover every nook and cranny of ZQuest but it does go through all of the basics you'd need to make a quest in the same fashion as the original two.

A link for AlphaDawg's site is found below:

There were a couple of things I could not figure out while doing his tutorial and the YouTube tutorials of BikdipOnABus helped cover them. The first of his tutorials is linked below:

The only issue I'm having still is the drying up of a pond when you blow the whistle - like in the original game for getting into Level 7 (shown at 40 seconds in below):

I think the animation was taken out of my version and so I'll have to just resort to using a secret combo with no animation.

Head over to my portfolio and check out the end product of the tutorial. There are a few items wrong in it that I found the fixes to the day after making the video (of course). These issues involved the grayscale stairs you see. There was an audio glitch I also encountered which took all of my background music away. I found the fix for that on PureZC.com but the background music you hear in the video I put in manually to sync up using Audition. I'm pleased with the results, glad I won't have to do it again, but also mad that I had to in the first place.

- VashTS