Here's what you need to know: it was long (an hour), and quite full of guest speakers and demos. The demos were good, but sort of like watching bad films: perfectly rendered and realistic, but the content wasn't there. Another FPS. Another racing game. Another motorcross game. Also - there was a lot of tech talk that doesn't make for interesting reading really, but I left it in anyway!
In sum: PlayStation's plans are more or less identical to Microsoft's. The PS3 will be a media hub, featuring hi-def, online shops, community systems and bridging to the PSP rather than Windows Media Center. It looks very, very pretty (a bit prettier even than the 360, granted, but you have to have a sharp eye to see the difference perhaps). He's got some nice nods towards broadening the market and innovating. Phil's funny, too - a good speaker and clearly a Nice Guy.
All in all - quite fun, but not entirely gobsmacking. Were we expecting gobsmacking though? Probably not.
As ever - this is not a transcript, just my abridged version :o) Also - in great GDC tradition - not everyone got in.
Here's the tall guy:
Welcome to our keynote: Beyond The Box. What do I mean by "beyond the box"? I mean taking us beyond the technological and hardware announcements that we’ve made recently and showing you our future roadmap. Taking us beyond the software box – to new business, new opportunities, to us growing the market. To bigger audience opportunities for everyone in this industry.
When I was last on this stage 6 yrs ago, I gave a keynote a few days after the PlayStation2 was launched in Japan. What have we done since then? 100m PlayStation2s. Over a billion units of software. That’s 6732 titles. Many contributed to by you people in this room – I thank you for that.
On a global basis our market share is over 60%, and in some countries it's even over 80%. On a cumulative basis our market leadership … we’re clearly dwarfing the competition. But our job is to grow the market, to lead and innovate. We feel we’ve been successful. And faster than we’ve done it on PSone. That was the first system to get to a million units, as you well know. We’ve done it faster, but at comparatively higher price points – this is good for the economy of the industry!
Very quiet. Everything's vibrating slightly, ramping up for tomorrow's major kickoff at 9am. So, I'm hanging out, talking. We like talking. I found Brian Crecente from Kotaku, and put him next to Justin Hall.
This totally needs a caption.
Later on: lunch with BBC Worldwide, an afternoon of prep, then tonight a World of Warcraft instancing party with the TerraNova crew at Xerox Parc. Xerox Parc! I'm HOME!
It's a whole day of stuff, which would produce reams and reams of screen estate, not to mention wear my fingers to nubs. Can't type with nubs!
Doug: The killer app for most MMOGs is people. If you ask people why
they still stick around in a dying MMOG, naming no names, they’ll
always say “their friends”. They stick around to play with their
friends despite the quality of the game. During downtime of content
creation, say during an expansion development period when game
designers aren’t putting out much new content, players will create
their own content. You’ll see really serious guild drama. We saw guilds explode when there was no new content, because they had nothing better to do. Developers need to pay attention to this.
Our project [link] was born out of an anecdote that starts with a game
of SWG. We wanted to see if the Europeans played differently, and well,
it turns out they're all playing Imperial and we are all Rebel, but
that's a whole other story.. and we asked them whether they played
with Americans ever. And they said yes, and that “they weren’t as bad
as we thought they would be”. Gradually we’re starting to see that
there’s a change in attitude toward Americans through the process of play. The more Europeans played with Americans, the more well they thought of America.
10:00: Blast off. Justin Hall tried to tackle me at the bagel and coffee stand, but luckily I deflected his move with two fists to the forehead. He's had a haircut: all hair over the eyes and bald at the back, frontal lobe very protected.
First up: the all-day tutorial, The Social Dimensions of Digital Gaming, which has an all-star social gaming lineup: T.L Taylor, Julian Dibbell, Eric Zimmerman, Nick Yee, Raph Koster, Constance Steinkuehler and about 15 more otherwise I'd type out everyone's name. Justin and I found a wall plug, but there's no wifi except in the very central main area, so updates will be on an as-and-when basis.
Can't wait for the days of blanket wifi - how our grandchildren will laugh at us when we try to explain "footprint".
12:30: Two sessions done. Straight in at the deep end of academia for the first session, with lots of cognitive psychology references and talk on amoral relationships, reciprocity, distributed cognition. For a jetlagged, just-had-breakfast person, it did not particularly compute, but I'm hoping it'll come out in the wash over the full day. The second session was more practical - a how-to do research, tips on quantitative research, etc.
Some interesting snippets: introduce VoIP, and people like each other less but have deeper relationships. It's more "real". Plus, do real life social dynamics translate across into second life dynamics?
I always used to think Silicon Valley would be a proper valley, surrounded by sheer cliffs, very romantic. I was possibly getting it confused with Death Valley, and the reality is very different. Silicon Valley is a big, flat suburban California town - sprawling, flat, wide, empty (for a Londoner, anyway). My taxi just drove past "Woz Way" but apart from little hints like that, I really could be in Anywhere, Calif.
My hotel floor is vibrating. Earthquake? Lorries? The air conditioning unit? It's disconcerting. It's also on a slight slant, which is terribly British, but in Flat America feels very wrong, like the whole thing is going to slide into some sort of landfill or hell-fissure fault any minute now. All my makeup pencils and tubes keep rolling off the bathroom shelf. Still, there is free wi-fi, which is now fairly common in California and very much the Way Things Should Be.
I am, of course, making a nuisance of myself. "Hello, front desk, do you have any MILK? This Non-Dairy Creamer made of Corn Oil and Partially Hydrogenated Palm Oil plus preservatives and assorted E-numbers is, I'm sure, very tasty but I refuse to find out. Bring me milk, from cows!" And to think there are cancer-warning signs on innocuous things such as restaurants, yet not on the Non-Dairy Creamer...
Just the beginning of what will be a pleasingly Crazy Week, I'm sure.
Salivating yet? Good. Now, if gadget cakes're your thing, Engadget is the place to be at the moment. There are too many gaming cakes to list here, from Alienware PCs to Xbox 360s to Hello Kitty. But here's a taster (ha ha):
The problem with Game Developers Conference (I've been told, btw* and quite rightly, that we use too many acronyms on this blog, so March-April will be WAFM: Wonderland's Acronym-Free Month. FTW!**) is that it operates on the basis that every attendee has at least three clones.
Do you think the organisers do it on purpose so that each business sends at least three people instead of just one?
It's going to be a long week. I have to buy a voice recorder at the airport if I'm going to get this podcast thing happening. Also, BBC News have asked me to cover the event with a daily wrap-up, which is nice/brave of them. Then there's the parties. Please, co-attendees reading this, don't let me misbehave too much.
.... * by the way ** for the win! A rallying cry often heard in MMOGs. *** *** Massively Multiplayer Online Games. OK, stopping it now.
So Ubi's Shadowbane is now free to play.
Hurrah, indeed. Except I've a list as long as my arm of free-to-play
MMOs, and the most telling thing is that I won't leave WoW for any of
'em. Maybe take a brief holiday in a different world, but quit? Never.
Luckily, the lack of any subscription charges means people like me are more likely to
try out these weird and wonderful worlds than if we have to pay. Free is good..