Havok set out to GDC 2003 with fiddles, bodhrans and a physics SDK called Havok 2 and won over the hearts and minds of AAA title developers everywhere. Rag doll physics was declared to be the trend of the future and it was heard said that no successful sequel title could be made without help from the Havok boys and girls.
No motion capture houses were in attendance this year, they were replaced by a slew of MMORPG middleware suppliers, our favourite being the ‘Phorest’ Guys from Dublin, who have developeered (sic) a revolutionary peer to peer networking solution for online gaming and have Korea firmly in their sights for a start.
Along with the disappearance of the motion capture studios went the booth babes with nary a one in sight for the first time in living memory, a sure sign of a maturing industry even though part of me missed their flighty ways and in-depth product knowledge.
Nvidia blew the show away with their pixie reel and brought us closer to a cinematic experience than ever before. Vertex shaders have never looked so good.
Sony came off the fence and endorsed middleware as the only viable way to build the games of the future as costs were rising so fast and hardware was becoming so complex. David Lau-Kee, CEO of Renderware was ecstatic at the news and ran around the whole show telling anyone who would listen, with a grin on his face like a skipping rope between his ears, Havok CEO Hugh Reynolds received the news calmly and with a steely reserve, from great distances games developers came and gathered at his feet to hear the good news about how middleware could save them.
Rendering Giant NDL re-launched Netimmerse as Gamebryo and as soon as Herman Kaiser left, they hired some very cute and immensely tall Amazon women who said they were from North Carolina but we’re not so sure.
Remi Arnaud (ex of Intrinsic) is now working on the architecture team for the PS3 at Sony and didn’t seem to mind the gentle ribbing when Ireland kicked Frances’ arse on Saturday morning in the six nations. Steve Glietzman and the rest of the Intrinsic boys were pretty quiet but milling around, unfortunately someone got into their meeting room (off the show floor) and robbed $30K worth of stuff including a clear/see-through XBox dev Kit, a PS2 Dev Tool and a super dooper laptop. Someone forgot to lock the door!
The Lord Mayor, Dermot Lacey dropped by the stand as GDC coincided with Irish week this year (little known fact, San Jose is twinned with Dublin). He was joined by a group of councillors, the city manager John Fitzgerald and the new head of the Digital Hub, Philip Flynn. Later that night, Phil Flynn managed to sneak a few of us in to the Black tie Spirit of Ireland awards in the Fairmont hotel to meet the Tanaiste. Now there’s a guy that understands the idea of a good piss-up, the Digital Hub couldn’t be in safer hands.
With no major console releases, the main news was generated in the sessions and Warren Spector delighted us all with tales of Deus Ex 2, especially physics integrated with sound effects and rag doll death scenes (courtesy of Havok).
Microsoft had no booth, just a large meeting space and put their money into their party nights, Drew Angel (off) came thorough with more invites for Havok than anywhere else and we didn’t let him down by wrecking the joint again, it sadly ended in tragedy when Malachy Duffin was last seen being attended to by two nurses.
Sony spent money on the booth and had no party but Brett and Guy from Sony Developer Relations tell me this will be rectified next year and anyway, isn’t the E3 party impressive enough.
The mobile prequel/add-on this year was well attended and Nokia pulled out all the stops for the launch of N-Gage to a cynical game market, opinion among journalists was divided, from the Sim card games are too awkward to change, buttons too small to the more positive viewpoint that Nokia will teach us how to appeal to a mainstream market with 15 minute chunks of time to play, not 40 hours to get to level 16. Overall though, it wasn’t seen to compete head on with GBA, it’s more aimed at bored commuting adults.
Which leads to our party, the sessions in the Fairmont most nights was only a warm –up for the best Havok party ever. Thanks to the fine bevy of musicians who gave of their time and fingers but didn’t spill a drop, Katie Blooms is now synonymous with Havok debauchery and is pound for pound or dollar for dollar the best attended, premium event of the show, it’s so underground, you can’t get in the door without two top ten games under your belt or you have to own a console manufacturer. Dueling fiddles on the tables of the Fairmont rounded off a great evening/morning and the CTO will eventually learn to read a 24-hour clock and make his plane, still a tradition is a tradition and Dr. Collins spent the day afterwards bartering chickens to get on a later Aeroflot flight to Shannon.