The Stochastic Game

Ramblings of General Geekery

Posts tagged with gamedev

GDC 2018 Recap

So that happened – I went to my second GDC and this time I presented something. Look at how shiny my forehead is!

shiny forehead

Big thanks to the Toolsmiths guys (Geoff and David) for organizing a full day summit dedicated to tools programming – a topic that I always thought was lacking a proper worldwide community the same way, say, graphics rendering or animation have. Not only did I have the chance to present my talk as part of that “_Tools Tutorial Day_”, but I had the honours of being the inaugural talk!

The room was packed the whole day, so you can bet there will be more tools programming shenanigans next year.

Oh, and my talk is now available on the GDC Vault if you have access.

Here are some notable things that happened this year:

  1. These conferences are always a good opportunity to catch up with friends and acquaintances, but this year I got to meet a bunch of really cool new people through all the tools programming talks and roundtables. I’m hoping to run into them again in the future, which means I’m looking forward to next year!

  2. Speaking of roundtables, I went to more of them this year, instead of going to talks. I was just lurking for most of them, however, being somewhat paralyzed by social anxiety and the difficulty of talking about stuff that I didn’t directly work on myself. I’ll have to speak up more next year.

  3. Stephanie Hurlburt inspired a bunch of older devs like me to allocate some time to meet with newbies who might have questions or just want to get to know people in the games industry. I met with 5 people through that Twitter thread and I hope I had some interesting or useful things to say to them. I still have some follow-up to do with a few of them next week.

  4. When you’re a presenter, you’re invited to a lot more parties. I went to more parties in a week than I did in my entire high-school years. I’ll probably go to less parties next time, since I didn’t care for half of them… just like back in high-school, I guess.

  5. There’s always one last edit you can do to your presentation before the big day. I think I got off lucky to have mine on the very first day, on the very first time slot!

  6. I went to a couple events and talks about “_black people in gaming_”, but I kinda felt out of place – first, I’m only half-black, and second a lot of those things are really about being black in the United States, which is a whole different level from being black in Canada or in France (where the racism and xenophobia is primarily aimed at other groups). Still, I got a hug from Tanya so that was cool.

  7. I got to see Lord British and Blackthorne for real. Their Ultima Online post-mortem was brilliant.

  8. I also got to see a talk about interactive music in games which ended with the presenter picking up a guitar and harmonica to perform one of the songs from his game. I guess I’ll have to find some really awesome gimmick for my next talk.

  9. I went to a talk about the “depiction of war in games” which was pretty interesting. Rolling Stone later picked up one of the presenter’s quotes to make a clickbaity title that got some backlash on Twitter. You should still watch the talk if you can, though, since it made a couple good points about the role of media and entertainment in society.

  10. Speaking of depressing subjects, the amount of human misery you see around San Francisco is staggering. I live in Vancouver, though, where we have the Downtown Eastside which also has a pretty shocking amount of homeless people.

  11. Some people are calling for GDC to be hosted outside of the US, which I would really welcome.

  12. When walking around the conference, the social etiquette is to not make eye contact with someone that might be trying to read your name tag – they will catch you catching them, and then quickly run away, probably scarred for life.

  13. The dress code, however, is pretty convoluted – one thing is certain, however: if you want to spend some time near the indie gaming booths, you need some cool outfit and blue hair.

And that’s it! I took a few days around the long Easter week-end to rest from the trip…


I hope you’re all doing fine too!

A Tale of Three Data Schemas

Next week I’ll be at the Game Developers' Conference, along with a lot of people from the video game industry, and I’ll be giving my first presentation there, “A Tale of Three Data Schemas”.

A Tale of Three Data Schemas

I’m starting small for my first GDC contribution by presenting during the “pre-conference” days that half of the attendees skip. This year should be super interesting however since it will be a full day dedicated to the fine art of making game creation tools, courtesy of the fine folks at The Toolsmiths.

The good thing for my nerves is that my presentation ended up being the very first presentation of the very first day – surely when half the audience is low on caffeine and completely jet-lagged, nobody will notice whether I know what I’m talking about or not… and then I’m done for the rest of the week! Yay!

From New York To Stockholm

I’m back from some travels – plural, which is extremely rare for me.

There she is

New York City (first time visit) followed by the usual annual trip to Stockholm for EA’s Frostbite DevDays conference, where various game devs from the company converge from all around the world to chat and drink.

View from the conference hotel

EA is a weird company in the sense that, for a video game company, people tend to stay there for very long stretches of time. It’s very common to talk to people who have been at EA for more than 10 years – at EA Vancouver, DICE, Bioware, whatever. This makes it difficult to find new points of views on technical problems… although, well, maybe it’s the same in many other big companies like Activision or UbiSoft, I don’t know.

Either way, I was happy to meet several people who not only have shipped AAA games at other companies, but also worked on those games' cameras – which is my current area of interest, being in charge of the Frostbite Camera System. Finding people who work on (and care about!) cameras is a challenge to begin with, seeing how little infrastructure and long term investments are generally done on that crucial aspect of any game (more on that in a future post), so I’m pretty happy with this year’s conference for that, at least.

Inside Star Citizen

Speaking of fallen video game superstars, I also recently finished reading through Kotaku UK’s various impressively thorough articles about Star Citizen.

There’s not much to say except that, even before the Kickstarter campaign ended, half of us backers knew it would be a shit show. It’s just fascinating to see how exactly the shit show is going – from the totally dysfunctional project and scope management to the size of Chris Roberts' balls for selling non-existing digital items for several hundreds of dollars… with the nice addition of fans that are so extreme they can make some Apple or Linux fanboy look balanced.

I personally backed Star Citizen for the same reasons I backed Richard Garriott’s Shroud of the Avatar: as a big “_Thank You_” for having made, in the past, some of my all-time favourite games. I mean, I was so in love with Wing Commander that I wrote my school notes in its iconic font for several weeks after finishing it. And I still have, to this day, t-shirt that came with the awesome collector’s edition of Wing Commander III… but those new games? Meh. Star Citizen was suspicious from the moment I learned they were using CryEngine. Shroud of the Avatar’s use of separate zones with loading screens (probably because of limitations with Unity’s streaming features) and antiquated UI made it vastly unappealing to me – although I give it a try once every few months to see the progress.

Hey, at least, in terms of pure entertainment, we can’t say we didn’t get some of our money’s worth with Star Citizen ;-)

The Rise and Fall of Peter Molyneux

I recently discovered Kim Justice’s YouTube channel about video game history, starting with this video on legendary publisher Psygnosis, and quickly ended up watching this epic, 4-part, Peter Molyneux series:

One thing stuck out for me: Molyneux’s obsession with creating “_living worlds_”, i.e. games where you’re free to do many things (plant trees, build a house, have kids) and choose many paths (be good, be evil, choose this or that in each situation), and all the while witnessing the consequences of such acts. He’s not the only one trying to do this in video games, but he’s probably the one who tried it the most – or at least talked about trying it the most.

Technically speaking, this is a potentially fascinating problem. Will video game RPGs have to implement advanced AI and machine learning techniques for the game to truly react to your actions? Maybe. Hey, who knows, maybe Fallout 9 will be where the first sentient computer program emerges, after some guy in North Carolina has played it for 7 hours straight or something. But I’m wondering – is that even the point? Should video game designers strive for this kind of “perfect” sandbox experience? Or are they just working in the wrong medium?

There’s already a type of game where you’re free to do whatever you want, and the game world reacts accordingly – not only in a logical or plausible way, but also a narratively interesting way: tabletop, pen & paper RPGs… or, you know, just “RPGs”, as we called them back in the day1. If you’re writing a comic book while covering all pages with descriptions and inner monologues, maybe you should be writing a novel instead… and if you’re struggling to make a video game where you can do whatever you want, maybe you should be writing RPG books?

  1. Damn you video games RPGs – especially JRPGs, who have close to zero “RP” in their “G”.