GDC 2016 – Part 1: Event and Impression

Tawny (@iheartthannie) and I attended the 30th Edition of GDC – Game Developers Conference. As shown in the Tawny’s daily posts, there were lots of fun events, engaging demos, and interesting sessions, that we simply could not cover them all. With 10 to 30 sessions going on at any time slots, I wished to have multiple “virtual mes” to attend some of them simultaneously. However, with only one “real me,” I still managed to attend a large number of sessions, mostly 30-minute sessions to cover more topics at a faster pace.

Game Developers Conference 2016

GDC 2016

Unlike Tawny’s posts that give you in-depth looks into many of the sessions, I will try to summarize the information and take-aways in two posts: Part 1 – Event and Impression; Part 2 – The State of VR. This post will cover event overview and general impression.

1. Flash Backward

Flash Backward - 30 Years of Making Games

Flash Backward – 30 Years of Making Games

After two days of VR sessions, this flashback kicked off the GDC Game portion with a sense of nostalgia, flashing games like Pac-Man and Minesweeper, evolving into console games, massive multi-player games, social games (FarmVille), mobile games (Angry Birds), and onto VR games.

GDC has been running for 30 years, and many of the attendants were not even born yet that time. The Flashback started with Chris Crawford, the founder of GDC, and concluded with Palmer Luckey, the Oculus dude, who is 23, with not much for flashback, but only looking forward to the new generation of games in VR. He will be back in 20 years for the retrospective 🙂

2. Awards Ceremony

Awards Ceremony

IGF and Game Developers Choice Awards Ceremony

On 3/16/2016, two awards ceremony were hosted in recognition of creativity, artistry and technological genius – Independent Games Festival Awards, and Game Developers Choice Awards. I believe it is the equivalent to Oscars for movie industry, and it ran the exact format as Oscars.

Nominations and Winners

Nominations and Winners

As you can see, the big winner of the night was “Her Story” (by Sam Barlow), which won 5 out of 6 nominations. It is an Indie title, but also took 3 winners competing with big producers, because it created a fresh way of story-telling using game. And “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” took the honor of “Game of the Year.” Gamers: check out the list and check out the games if you have not played.

The ceremony also honored Todd Howard for “Lifetime Achievement Award.” He is a designer, developer, director and producer for award-winning titles “Oblivion,” “Fallout 3,” and “Skyrim,” etc.  Markus “Notch” Persson, the programmer and developer of Minecraft, took the honor of “Pioneer Award.” Yeah!

3. alt.ctrl.GDC

alt.ctrl.GDC-2016 (image source:

(image source:

As a maker myself with AppsLab, I found the alt.ctrl.GDC interactive exhibits to be extremely satisfying – just some insane ideas of how controllers can be made for games.

I tried most of the controllers, such as licking popsicles to suck up planet resources in game; mutating a controller to change the object in game to fly, swim or crawl; cranking up handles to drive tanks in game.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

“Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes” must be one of the favorites at alt.ctrl.GDC 2015, and the mechanical box still stood out! It has turned into a real game – nominated for three categories and won “Excellence in Design” in the IGF Awards ceremony. It is a fun game, check it out!

Please Stand By

Please Stand By

“Please Stand By” is my favorite for alt.ctrl.GDC 2016. What do you do when you find a vintage TV box in junkyard? Well, it has all the controllers, even though they do not work anymore. After a wizardry spin, it came back to life – I over-heard the secrets, if you are ever intrigued in knowing how to do that.

Now it acts to show many channels of game TV, of course, you have to tune it with all the knobs and rabbit ears carefully. Oh, there are some buttons on the back too that will do some tricks. If it ever freezes on you, pound it or shake it, like you would with the old TV box.

4. Game Making and Animation

This is too big of a topic for a section in one blog post, so I am not going into any details.

I just want to appreciate how much works and thoughts people put into making a game. For an example, just look at this one slide from UFC 2 session:

Animation Grappling

Animation Grappling

That is just one grappling position change, and it would derive into so many permutation depends on how players control. Now work on the animation for each of those permuted position changes.  So in UFC 2, the technical genius tried to found procedural way of automating some areas of animation.

Of course, there are so many other aspects of game making – as indicated by the many categories of awards. In additional to the creative side, there are also technological side of running massive online games, or dealing with all forms of devices.

As much as technological advance drives game development, the game making drives technological advance! People are pushing the edge of envelope in making next generation of games in VR. Speaking of VR, stay tuned for my next post on “The State of VR.”

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