From new games by AAA studios and indie developers to advancements in VR, these are highlights from the Game Developers Conference 2019.
The 2019 Game Developers Conference was a week long event that allowed game developers a professional insight into the industry. Guests also got the chance to check out the latest trends while studios would showcase their latest titles. The event took place during the week of March 19th until March 23rd at the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
8Bit/Digi was there to cover the event and to gain some insight from professionals in the industry. After a week of learning from industry experts and meeting new people, these are the highlights during our time at the GDC.
The Expo Floor
The expo floor had a good number of studios and publishers setup who wanted to share their work while also on the look out for new talent. Each booth allowed guests to learn about the company and the projects they are working or sample a demo of their upcoming game. Here are some of the booths and setups that got my attention during the week.
PlayStation once again had a commanding presence on the expo floor as they highlighted the upcoming titles for the PS4 and PlayStation VR. Visitors were invited to demo the latest titles coming out this year or watch a presentation about the work Sony has been doing. Those who wish to join the PlayStation team were also invited to speak with a recruiter.
Following the announcement of the Stadia, Google had a major presence on the Expo Floor and at the West Hall. Besides showcasing the power of their new streaming service, visitors would also learn about the advancements Google is making in the gaming industry.
IOGear was present to showcase their headphones, keyboards, and gaming mouse. Guest could get a hands on look at how their setup compares to others on the market in terms of performance and weight.
Intel was hosting a series of eSports tournaments during the GDC week along with showcasing the power of its hardware. Guest could either watch an Overwatch tournament or check out the many game booths on the floor. Those who wish to join the Intel team were also invited to speak with a recruiter.
Unlike previous years; Facebook / Oculus took over the 1st floor of the North Hall and the Yerba Buena Center for The Arts. In the North Hall, guests could demo the Oculus or learn more about Facebook Games. In the Yerba Buena Center, visitors could speak with Facebook or Oculus developers on their projects.
Flanders Investment & Trade was present to highlight the growing game industry in the Flemish Region of Belgium. From mobile games to VR titles, guests were invited to see the unique titles that are being made in the region.
Panels and Workshops
The Game Developers Conference has always been about learning of the new trends along with what to expect in the future. The event hosted numerous panels and workshops that looked into a diverse set of topics. Here are some of the interesting panels during the week:
‘Marvel’s Spider-Man’ AI Postmortem is an inside look at how the team at Insomniac Games brought to life one of the most iconic super heroes. The key point was how the team was able to overcome several major challenges to create an adventure that Marvel fans would enjoy.
As eSports becomes increasing popular, many athletes are at risk of mental breakdowns and career ending injury. Stop Living on 1HP: Health and Wellness in Esports makes the case for the importance of having a physical therapists with a team and how they could help eSport athletes.
Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Choice Awards
The Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Choice Awards was an opportunity for the industry to honor the best works of 2017. Here is a rundown of all the winners from both award ceremonies.
Independent Games Festival Award Winners
Best Student Game – after HOURS
Excellence in Visual Art – Mirror Deep
Excellence in Audio – Paratopic
Nuovo Award – Black Room
Excellence in Design – Opus Magnum
Excellence in Narrative – Return of the Obra Dinn
Seumas McNally Prize – Return of the Obra Dinn
Game Developers Choice Awards
Best Debut – Florence
Best Audio – Celeste
Innovative Award – Nintendo Labo
Best Technology – Red Dead Redemption 2
Best VR – Beat Saber
Best Visual Arts – Gris
Best Narrative – Return of the Obra Dinn
Best Design – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Best Mobile / Handheld Game – Florence
Audience Award – Beat Saber
Game of the Year – God of War
The Game Developers Conference is not just about understanding the latest trends in the industry but also a chance to play some upcoming titles. During the week, I got to try some amazing games that are set to launch or are coming soon.
Splitgate: Arena Warfare is a multiplayer shooter that combines fast paced action of Halo with the game mechanics of Portal. This arena shooter takes players back to the good ole days of multiplayer combat while also welcoming new gamers. Gamers could play with each other or with bots while adjusting the setting to their ideal setup.
Days Gone was present at the PlayStation booth and I got the chance to play it. Even though it was just a demo, it was a solid opportunity to explore the world that has been created. I was also impressed with the fast paced combat along with the many ways one could survive this zombie outbreak.
Dead Static Drive is an open world title that could be only described as Grand Theft Auto meets the Cthulhu lore. Players must survive a community that is being invaded by all kinds of outer world monsters. In the demo presented; players must do a series of tasks while avoiding the monsters. Overall; it felt like I was once again playing Body Harvest for the Nintendo 64.
Set in alternative timeline in which Nikola Tesla has become an industrial leader, Close to the Sun is a horror survival experience that was heavily inspired by BioShock. Players take on the role of a journalist looking for her sister on the Helios, a super ship populated by the greatest scientists from around the world.
Even though it has been out for sometime, one could not resist the chance to play Kingdom Hearts III. The full game was available for guests to play at the Epic Games booth. It was both a chance to play it again or to chat with other fans of the series on the expo floor.
Mercenaries 2 is a cyber-punk themed VR shooter that was on display at the HTC Vive booth. This shooter has players blast through waves of enemy forces while using the duck mechanics from titles like Time Crisis. In the demo, players had to escape their safe house while being purist by enemy bots.
Not so much a game but a tool, Ovation is a VR experience that has been developed to help people improve their public speaking. Users are put in a speaking environment and have to give a presentation. Then they are graded based on their body motion, eye contact and speech.
Hosted by the The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE) in Oakland, this was a showcase of gaming history. Attendees could play pioneering Atari titles or classic NES titles. Gamers could also browse through the many copies of Nintendo Power that were on display. The highlight of this exhibit was the opportunity to experience Steel Battalion using the iconic controller that was made specifically for the game.
Hosted by HTC and Valve, VR Play was a special exhibit that highlighted the many VR titles that are using the HTC Vive. From software built to help people improve their health to part games and new experiences that take advantage of the Vive’s hardware, there was plenty to see at this exhibit. Visitors were invited to demo the projects while also meeting the team behind it.
Ubisoft was back with their own personal booth on the second floor of the Moscone West Hall. This was also a great opportunity to learn more about the company and to get some insight into their philosophy on world building and community development plan.
Epic Games Booth
For the second year; Epic Games transformed the expo hall into one of the largest parties during the week. Visitors were welcomed to mingle with the Epic team and play titles built using the Unreal 4 engine. At the same time they could enjoy some beer and snacks or pick up some awesome swag.
Plus no Epic Games booth is complete without the Fortnite llama (a mechanical bull made to look like the llama). This is the moment that the bravery of guests are put to the test in front of an audience. Many tried but few lasted on the ride.
Off-Site Mixers and After Party
Given the significance of GDC, there were plenty of off-site after parties and mixers to checkout. For anyone who wants to break into the game industry, these are the places to go just to meet the right person. Here are a few that I got to check out:
The best way to start the GDC week is at the Polish Party. Opened to the media and special guests, this mixer allowed them to network with some of the most prominent developers from Poland. It was overall a chance to enjoy some good food, meet new friends and play some amazing games.
ID@Xbox Party was a special mixer that allowed indie developers to showcase their upcoming titles for the Xbox One. Members of the press got to check out some ambitious titles that offered a verity of experiences.
Viz Media was back once again to host the Anime Party during the second day of GDC. Guest were invited to BuzzWorks for a chance to demo The World Next Door while meeting the creative team behind it.
Too many mixers and meet ups are focused on developers while other important roles are ignored. Games Marketing & Community Morning Meet-Up was a rare chance for those on the PR side meet up for a cup of coffee and mingle.
Did you attend the Game Developers Conference 2019? If so then please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Disclaimer: GDC provided 8Bit/Digi with press passes for the week.
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