Saturday, March 12, 2011

GDC Notes - Day 1

All right. Day One...

One of the first things we did was attend a roundtable for producers, discussing things such as - of course - game production, and a few issues and topics that hound their minds. We broke up into smaller groups of 7-10 people. In our group we had people varying between Martin Murphy's brother-in-law to Patrick O'Kelley, senior producer at Bungie.

Points from this discussion:

- Producers focus and direct the creativity of the team
- - - Good producers allow the artists to create the amazing things they want to create, but also round up and organize them to keep the game on-target.

- Art vs. Advertising
- - - Like games, some mediums weren't considered art when they first appeared either. Books, movies, comics, etc. Advertising and art are similar in that they both require aesthetic appeal to function well, and are used to identify something for the viewer to recognize.

- Teaching games effectively accomplish what they're made for. It involves and immerses students in ways they can relate to and tinker with, rather than the alternate methods of being lectured at and told to sit down/shut up.

- Addiction: good or bad?
- - - If it's intentionally sought-after (like Zynga, Farmville, etc.) to primarily and selfishly generate profit, addiction is certainly malevolent. If a game happens upon it (WoW, Pokemon), that's the choice of the individual personality. Some people are more susceptible to addiction than others and that's not the fault of the game.

- Money vs. ethics
- - - Questions to ask: Are you comfortable selling it? Is it worth it? Do you really need it?

After this and a quick lunch at Buckhorn, I wove around the career pavilion for a good chunk of the time. On the first day I spoke with Insomniac, Activision, and WB Games. The first two gave better portfolio advice (the WB Games staff was from HR), so here is their input for my work in a nutshell:


- Focus
- - - If you want to do concept art, only show concept art. Larger companies are looking for specialists, whereas smaller companies are looking for generalists. It's most effective to show your best, most passionate work, and simply tell them that you're capable of doing other things, too. (these other things can be said on resumes)

- Paintovers
- - - Show smaller thumbnails of 3D environments/concepts and the paintovers of those. This method is quick, and shows that you can visualize a world/character/creature with accuracy and less effort.

- Good creature design, more environments they inhabit


- Focus (again)

- They wanted more environments than anything else, as their only open internship was for an environment artist

- More beauty shots - from concept art to screenshots, characters to vehicles, give the art a focal point. Give the viewer something intriguing to look at. A piece of art can be infinitely gorgeous but boring as all hell.

I got some sweet input from these guys and it will help improve my portfolio tenfold. Aside from the reviews, I signed up for the Metagame, which I admittedly didn't participate in much (t'was busy doing other things).

Amanda and I also sat in on the Art of Dead Space 2 talk from Ian Milham, where he analyzed the problems and strengths of Dead Space 1 that they carried over into the sequel. I loved seeing how he and his team constantly search for self-improvements, to make a better game and a better experience for the sake of the player. It was uplifting to hear they do a lot of the things we do in school: research, concept art, tests, repetition of form, art direction, and a ready for firm ear for the audience's input.

Afterwards, Amanda and I hounded Ian and kept asking him questions. Other audience members asked mine, but I had a doozy no one asked before:

Me: Who came up with the foam finger gun?
Ian: *jumps in excitement* I DID!!

Turns out, it was decided in a single meeting, rather fleetingly. They wanted to make a special gun for when the player beat the game on the most difficult level. Isaac's hand, however, was modeled into a single position: index in trigger, other fingers curling around the handle. At first they were going to leave it as is and make it a finger gun. Ian suggested a foam finger cannon. It would cover up the hand model and would be hilarious. So, they went with it. Kickass! I've got more notes from the DS2 talk itself, but I'll leave that to another update.

The last events of Day One included the hilarious and inspiring Awards Ceremony. My favorite game, Amnesia: The Dark Descent, won a lot of awards, from excellence in sound to best of show. Boo yah! After the ceremony, we had a pleasant and badass game of Ninja with total strangers. Imagine a huge ring people trying to slap each other's hands in ninja-like movements, one at a time, until the final showdown between two people. It got pretty fast near the end!

That's all for today. Expect a post about the DS2 talk and Day Two soon.

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