Live From GDC with Xfire


GDC is in full swing right now, and I am here all day bringing you the latest news from the gaming companies who have made it up here to San Francisco.

Since the Game Developers Conference is just that…a conference for game developers, the bulk of what is being showcased has to do with the technology involved in making games, as opposed to showing off the latest titles. For those who love to talk about the inner workings of the PC world, this is the place to be. So let us begin.

Rather than writing everything after the fact, I will bring you updates throughout the day when I see something cool.

Epic Party

Too early AM: I am awake. That party last night was a true rager. They spared no expense. Not only can they make a great game (World of Tanks), they can throw on helluva shindig! Was able to spend some time talking to industry insiders, including FPS legend, Fatal1ty. Hence, I am tired and my voice is shot (luckily I am a writer, so who cares).

But no matter what, I am way too excited about the Game Developers Conference to worry about a minor case of sleep deprivation. Time to brave the crazy streets of San Francisco and make a beeline to the Moscone Center for GDC!!

9:00 AM: Went through the wrong doors and found myself in the History of Video Games Museum. I do not regret having a terrible sense of direction. Enjoyed a few rounds of the Tron arcade game and looked over the some classic pieces of tech (and not so classic…Sega 32x anyone? anyone? Bueller?). Ahhh, the memories of a simpler time. Wait…I am supposed to be working right now….off to the show floor!

house of moves

9:30 AM: Okay, do you remember that episode of Entourage where Peter Jackson was walking around in one of those motion suits and his computer generated image moved with him in real time? That blew me away. Well, I have found something better.

The company is house of moves, and they have one of the coolest booths at the entire show. The real-time visuals are powered by the Unreal Engine and looks great. According to the rep, the tech should allow for movie studios and game developers to create much more realistic sets (i.e. no more awkward acting with inanimate objects). Basically, the production value of motion capture in gaming is evolving very quickly, and house of moves is at the forefront.

10 AM: Just went to the AMD Booth to check out their much publicized TressFX technology that they created for realistic hair physics. Showing Tomb Raider, the game itself looked beautiful, but the hair was actually quite underwhelming. It falls the right way, but the level of detail is muddled and it ends up looking like a single mat of brown as opposed to individual hairs. Not impressed. But damn, the rest of the game looks amazing on ultra settings.

Server Challenge!

10:30 AM: Stepped up to the plate and took Server Challenge II…..failed miserably after quickly relizing I had no idea what I was doing. I’ll just stick to writing for the moment.

11 AM: Swung by the booth…everyone looked surprisingly chipper after the bash last night. That is all.

11:15 AM: I used to love arcade shooters. Where have they all gone? It looks like Silicon Studio Corp wants to bring a renaissance to the genre with Gunslinger Stratos. The game allows players run around an open-world environment, as opposed to rolling through on rails the whole time. Lets hope it makes it over to the States….although I do not know where an actual arcade is.

Gunslinger Stratos

11:30 AM: took a hard look at both the Nvidia and AMD screens to compare against each other. Verdict? AMD wins!

11:45 AM: Although Nvdia lost the visual head-to-head, I do have to admit that Project Shield, the Android-based handheld, looks better than I expected. The device was running both Skyrim and Borderlands, and it was quite a smooth experience with little latency.

But a rep I spoke to also admitted that they were using an ethernet connection for the demo….which means that over a normal mobile network, there may be some issues with lag, latency and quality. I will not be “sold” on Project Shield until I see it perform well on a crappy connection. We will see.

High Noon: Yummmm, convention center sandwiches.

12:45 PM: Checked out the Crytek booth where they were showing off the free-to-play shooter, Warface. Powered by Cryengine 3, this game is very easy on the eyes. It seems like the game has a large budget behind it, and Crytek is looking to go “all in” by trying to release it on every platform possible (rep mentioned ipad as well, which does not sound like that much fun to be honest). The amount of effort and resources they are dedicating to this microtransaction-based title makes me think they are very confident in Warface’s prospects, and I am actually starting to agree. I will keep my eye on this one.

1:00 PM: Looking for booth babes…..still looking….

Fun at the Riot Games booth

1:30 PM: I found my favorite game of the conference. It is called Storm United, and although it is still very early in development, the concept and scope is pretty epic. It is a MMOFPS where you create factions to fight against other users, with the goal of collecting resources, loot and crafting items. These items will then be used to develop weapons, armor and other in-game advantages. The genius of the game is that you can choose to either focus on the “social” aspect of the game, which involves hiring mercenaries to fight for you, or you can just get into the thick of it and fight. So basically, you can either be the soldier or the general.

Mercenaries  are used to loot enemies for resources with which to craft weapons, while the “overlord” type leader sends the mercenaries on missions and manages crafting, resources and plan of action. The overlord can direct them on what to do, pay them with crafting items or equip them with powerful gear. So, if you are smart with delegating and managing, you can create an empire of mercenaries to do your bidding. Very cool. It is super-ambitious, but if they can nail the gameplay and make the social aspect fun, this could be a great game. The developer himself will be getting me plenty more info on the title shortly, so I will keep everyone posted on Storm United.

2:00 PM: Geeked out for the first time in my life when I ran into a bunch of CD Projekt Red guys. One of the greatest dev houses in the world in my opinion. Unfortunately they do not have a booth, so I guess we have to wait until E3 to see the team in action. Still awesome to talk to them….tried to get some insider info on Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077, but they were pretty tight lipped, as would be expected.

3:00 PM: More MOBA’s!!! I just got word that Creative Assembly (Total War series) announced a new  multiplayer and free-to-play MOBA with RTS elements called Total War Arena. All I know at this point is that the game focuses on “streamlined action-oriented design,” 10 vs. 10 team battles, with co-op play, and three different unit types. Ill get you more info as I receive it.

The latest MOBA to enter the fray

4:00 PM: Phew, just freed myself from the mass of humanity that is waiting in front of the Valve booth to give them their resume. I don’t even want to know what the acceptance rate is at a company like that…Im guessing its not that high.

4:30 PM: Checked out the contestants of the IGF Main competition, where the best indy games are duking it out for top honors. The title that immediately stuck out was 140, the brainchild of Jeppe Carlson, lead designer of Limbo. I discussed Project 140 about a month ago when it was first featured, and I still think it is a great concept.  Catchy music, vibrant visuals and refreshing gameplay are just some of the positives to this rhythm based platformer.

5:00 PM: Okay, time to head out and get ready for Xfire’s big party tonight where we will be introducing our new competitive gaming platform, Battleground, to the gaming industry. Join our Instant Action servers at 7 PM (PDT) and play for Battle Tokens, epic prizes (including an Alienware gaming laptop) and online glory. We hope to see you there!

Check back tomorrow for more GDC coverage!

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