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GDC 2008, Day 3

It was hard to find any talk of games today at the Game Developer's Conference.

There was a promising session where venture capital firms let five or so startup companies present what they're doing. One of them was Dennis "Thresh" Fong, the Quake master who once won a Ferrari in a tournament. Afterwards I introduced myself, gave him my book, and asked if I could interview him in the future for my next book, which will contain compare several champions in various different games. He said yes and at least sounded excited.

Anyway, the session itself was dreary and strangely not relevant to the conference. It was a session that showed no games, talked about no games, and none of the featured companies were game companies. They were all VC-fundable, yes, but all strangely out of place at the same time.

By far the most notable speaker was the guy behind "I'm in like with you." He cursed like a foul-mouthed sailor and opened by telling us that internet completely sucks in the United States. He moved to Korea for a few years and got a 100mbit connection for 30 bucks. He says everyone plays games there--everyone. Popular, beautiful girls play games, it's the norm. Games are social. Games are all ostensibly free. Korea is moving completely away from the subscription model. Item buying is commonplace and his friends there often gave him items in games as gifts. He noted that he received about $10 per week in virtual items from his friends. Compare that to the 0 here. He also said 75% of item sales are gifts for friends in Korea.

We're so far behind here it's almost laughable. He told us how the CEO and (someone else high ranking) at Yahoo came to Korea and tried to buy every game company there and failed. He met with them and told them how gaming there is incredibly awesome and that Yahoo needs to get in on this way of doing business. The guys from Yahoo said they agreed completely and they'd already been working on this and that it will be out in one year. Then the speaker said that either Yahoo measures "year" differently than him, or that "they are complete fucking retards" because there's still nothing in sight years later.

Raph Koster
It was equally hard to find mention of any actual game at Raph Koster's session. I think highly of Raph and I know there is some small chance he will read this, so Raph, your lectures have so far *all* been entertaining, engaging, and thought-provoking, except for this one.

It was labeled as a "game design" lecture, yet it contained no game design at all. You might argue that your choices about the architecture of Metaplace imply certain game design results, and yeah they probably do, but I still maintain there was no discussion of game design at all. It was entirely about architecture, involving programmery stuff like telnetting, markup tags, cgi scripts, and client-server models. You should have labeled this a programming lecture. I was also disappointed to see no actual game anywhere in this (though yes I understand your platform gives other people the ability to create games). I also bet you'll be very successful.

This Sherwood game is pretty amazing. It's a free, web-based MMO in 3D...that was made by one person (company: Maid Marion). Yeah it feels clunky, untuned, and has terrible combat. But it's an MMO made by one person! And it's 3D in your browser. Not impressed yet? How about this, he has 1.8 million active players (700,000 in Poland for some reason). It's ad supported (an ad at the bottom horizontal strip of the game) and it seems like this guy makes bank.

He did the entire thing in Shockwave using Director and Maya only. He modeled everything (characters, weapons, enemies, buildings, etc). He animated everything. He programmed everything. He designed everything. It uses lots of procedural content and has procedurally generated quests. When you check it out, I know you'll complain about it being too low quality, but let me remind you that one guy made it, that it's free, and that it has 1.8 million players, and that it makes him bank.

It totally blows my mind that you could have a graph of World of Warcraft subscribers and this Sherwood game even shows up on the graph as anything but a dot. WoW.

That was about it. Although the sessions weren't so great today, I made up for it with some of the connections I made.


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