Experience The Digital Hub

<br />EXPERIENCE THE DIGITAL HUB will be launched by Noel Dempsey TD<br />Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and the Winners of Dare to be Digital Ireland will be announced on Thursday, 5th May 2005 at 1pm in the Digital Exchange, Crane Street, The Digital Hub, Dublin 8.<br /><br />RSVP to Elaine Parsons on 01-4806200 or exhibit@thedigitalhub.com by Friday 29th April.

Experience The Digital Hub – 2

<br />EXPERIENCE THE DIGITAL HUB will be launched by Noel Dempsey TD<br />Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and the Winners of Dare to be Digital Ireland will be announced on Thursday, 5th May 2005 at 1pm in the Digital Exchange, Crane Street, The Digital Hub, Dublin 8.<br /><br />RSVP to Elaine Parsons on 01-4806200 or exhibit@thedigitalhub.com by Friday 29th April.

Digital Hub Game Events

These events include four talk digital events: on censorship on the 6th, on game design on the 9th, on mobile games on the 11th and on games and learning on the 18th. The talk digital events are being held at different times so please check our calendar or the digital hub’s website to make sure you know the correct start time and venue. See <LINK><ADDRESS>http://www.thedigitalhub.com/learning/events.asp</ADDRESS><LTEXT>here.</LTEXT></LINK><br /><br />On the 5th of May we will see the winners of the Republic’s Dare to be Digital Heat announced by Noel Dempsey TD, Minister for Communications, Marine & Natural Resources. This event will take place at 1pm in the Digital Hub.<br /><br />Also on the 5th Exhibit 8 will open and will run for the rest of May. This exhibition will focus on emerging interfaces and communication technologies. The exhibit can be visited during office hours in the Warehouse behind the Digital Hub’s Information Office on Thomas Street. <br /><br />According to the publicity blurb ‘The exhibition aims to showcase new developments in gaming from both a consumer and developer perspective. Exhibits will include the latest developments from, Nintendo, Xbox and Vivendi plus PONGMECHANIK by Niklas Roy, celebrated Machinima animation Red vs Blue. Many other games and gadgets will be on show, from an open sourse flight simulator to a selection from Sony Entertainment.’<br /><br />Finally on the 9 and 10th of May the Digital Hub is hosting a Game Careers Expo and anyone wishing to study games in college will find this event useful. Attandance is free. <br /><br />For those of you from outside Dublin it might be worth calling up old friends and booking some floor space for May!<br /><br />More info: <LINK><ADDRESS>http://www.thedigitalhub.com/learning/events.asp</ADDRESS><LTEXT>http://www.thedigitalhub.com/learning/events.asp</LTEXT></LINK>

Digital Hub Game Events – 2

These events include four talk digital events: on censorship on the 6th, on game design on the 9th, on mobile games on the 11th and on games and learning on the 18th. The talk digital events are being held at different times so please check our calendar or the digital hub’s website to make sure you know the correct start time and venue. See <LINK><ADDRESS>http://www.thedigitalhub.com/learning/events.asp</ADDRESS><LTEXT>here.</LTEXT></LINK><br /><br />On the 5th of May we will see the winners of the Republic’s Dare to be Digital Heat announced by Noel Dempsey TD, Minister for Communications, Marine & Natural Resources. This event will take place at 1pm in the Digital Hub.<br /><br />Also on the 5th Exhibit 8 will open and will run for the rest of May. This exhibition will focus on emerging interfaces and communication technologies. The exhibit can be visited during office hours in the Warehouse behind the Digital Hub’s Information Office on Thomas Street. <br /><br />According to the publicity blurb ‘The exhibition aims to showcase new developments in gaming from both a consumer and developer perspective. Exhibits will include the latest developments from, Nintendo, Xbox and Vivendi plus PONGMECHANIK by Niklas Roy, celebrated Machinima animation Red vs Blue. Many other games and gadgets will be on show, from an open sourse flight simulator to a selection from Sony Entertainment.’<br /><br />Finally on the 9 and 10th of May the Digital Hub is hosting a Game Careers Expo and anyone wishing to study games in college will find this event useful. Attandance is free. <br /><br />For those of you from outside Dublin it might be worth calling up old friends and booking some floor space for May!<br /><br />More info: <LINK><ADDRESS>http://www.thedigitalhub.com/learning/events.asp</ADDRESS><LTEXT>http://www.thedigitalhub.com/learning/events.asp</LTEXT></LINK>

Gd Birthday Review

As with any good event there were not enough chairs in the Digital Hub for the number of people who turned up last Friday night for the second birthday of gamedevelopers.ie <br /><br />The evening kicked off about 7pm with a welcome from myself followed by a few words from Eddie Dowse, content manager for games with 02 Ireland. Eddie talked about meeting Jab at the birthday event last year and the work that Jab was now doing for 02. He also talked about a new developer programme which 02 is developing to assist companies to develop games and sell them into the mobile market. <br /><br />When it comes to new companies Ireland has quite a few of them at the moment. Some have been going for a while and are now expanding. Some are about to make fairly large announcements and of course there are high profile companies opening branches of their companies in Ireland. <br /><br />On the night we had presentations from Michael El Baki (Bomberman) from Bit Rabbit in Dublin and Tony Kelly, (Idora) from Torc Interactive in Donegal. Bit Rabbit are very new (2004) while Torc have been working away for a few years but it seems there are a few announcements forthcoming over the next few months. <br /><br />Michael talked about the difficulties involved in getting a publishing deal in the mainstream channels and showed us some great screenshots from finished and current projects, particularly for symbian phones. Tony told us that the Dreadnought demo they developed for AMD is being launched at WinHEC in Seattle on April 22nd and will involve another first for the Irish games industry. Torc’s Instinct engine will also be launched shortly. Finally, Torc are also currently recruiting for a games studio which will be established shortly in the North West. Unfortunately Tony couldn’t elaborate any further than that on the games studio due to ongoing funding negotiations. <br /><br />Next up was Ciaran Vipond who presented the project ‘BlowAway: The Winds of Therslow’ which was originally a final year thesis project in DCU. The project was selected to represent Ireland at the European Multimedia Prix in Vienna last year and this year for the Wired ‘Nextfest’ in Chicago in June. Blowaway has a physical interface and was designed to be immersive for all age groups and to be gender neutral. The group are currently trying to put funding in place to travel to the US and to further develop the project. <br /><br />These talks were followed by the gd.ie awards. As most readers of gd.ie already know, the categories and nominations for the awards are made through the forums on gd.ie and include four awards to people involved in gd.ie and one more general award to recognize the contribution of an individual or group to developing the gamedevelopers community in Ireland. <br /><br />This winners this year were:<br />1. Newbie – Stéphane Ambrosini (steph) <br />2. Stamina – Damian Furlong (Omen) with a special runners up award to Ronny Southwood (ronny)<br />3. Salmon of Knowledge – Tony Kelly (Idora)<br />4. Humour – Peter McNally (Pete) or his Hoffness..<br />5. Gd.ie group of the year 05 – IGDA Ireland committee.<br /><br />The awards were followed by the unveiling, to applause, of the new design for gamedevelopers.ie by Dave Kearney (skyclad) and Ian Hannigan. Dave and Ian have worked tirelessly over the past month to implement a new design and to address feedback from users of gamedevelopers.ie. John Lynch (johnnyslim) has been assisting on porting over the forums. The new look will go live shortly and all users will get a chance to peruse it and test it then. <br /><br />The event ended around 8.30pm with people staying to have a glass of wine and food and then retiring to McGruders beer garden and on later to Handel’s of Fishamble Street where Dancing Dave was given a run for his money by Nooptical. <br /><br />I would just like to thank the Digital Hub for helping us to organize the event and for sponsoring the refreshments. Thanks also to 02 for sponsoring the awards themselves and to everyone who turned up.<br /> <br />

Eurographics Ireland Workshop

The Graphics and Gaming research group at Institute of Technology Blanchardstown are running the Eurographics Ireland Workshop on June 3rd 2005.

This covers all areas of computer graphics and would be of interest to game developers and students.

Deadline for receipt of papers: Fri April 29th

More details here: www.egireland.org

Eurographics Ireland Workshop – 2

The Graphics and Gaming research group at Institute of Technology Blanchardstown are running the Eurographics Ireland Workshop on June 3rd 2005.

This covers all areas of computer graphics and would be of interest to game developers and students.

Deadline for receipt of papers: Fri April 29th

More details here: www.egireland.org

Gd Birthday Review – 2

As with any good event there were not enough chairs in the Digital Hub for the number of people who turned up last Friday night for the second birthday of gamedevelopers.ie <br /><br />The evening kicked off about 7pm with a welcome from myself followed by a few words from Eddie Dowse, content manager for games with 02 Ireland. Eddie talked about meeting Jab at the birthday event last year and the work that Jab was now doing for 02. He also talked about a new developer programme which 02 is developing to assist companies to develop games and sell them into the mobile market. <br /><br />When it comes to new companies Ireland has quite a few of them at the moment. Some have been going for a while and are now expanding. Some are about to make fairly large announcements and of course there are high profile companies opening branches of their companies in Ireland. <br /><br />On the night we had presentations from Michael El Baki (Bomberman) from Bit Rabbit in Dublin and Tony Kelly, (Idora) from Torc Interactive in Donegal. Bit Rabbit are very new (2004) while Torc have been working away for a few years but it seems there are a few announcements forthcoming over the next few months. <br /><br />Michael talked about the difficulties involved in getting a publishing deal in the mainstream channels and showed us some great screenshots from finished and current projects, particularly for symbian phones. Tony told us that the Dreadnought demo they developed for AMD is being launched at WinHEC in Seattle on April 22nd and will involve another first for the Irish games industry. Torc’s Instinct engine will also be launched shortly. Finally, Torc are also currently recruiting for a games studio which will be established shortly in the North West. Unfortunately Tony couldn’t elaborate any further than that on the games studio due to ongoing funding negotiations. <br /><br />Next up was Ciaran Vipond who presented the project ‘BlowAway: The Winds of Therslow’ which was originally a final year thesis project in DCU. The project was selected to represent Ireland at the European Multimedia Prix in Vienna last year and this year for the Wired ‘Nextfest’ in Chicago in June. Blowaway has a physical interface and was designed to be immersive for all age groups and to be gender neutral. The group are currently trying to put funding in place to travel to the US and to further develop the project. <br /><br />These talks were followed by the gd.ie awards. As most readers of gd.ie already know, the categories and nominations for the awards are made through the forums on gd.ie and include four awards to people involved in gd.ie and one more general award to recognize the contribution of an individual or group to developing the gamedevelopers community in Ireland. <br /><br />This winners this year were:<br />1. Newbie – Stéphane Ambrosini (steph) <br />2. Stamina – Damian Furlong (Omen) with a special runners up award to Ronny Southwood (ronny)<br />3. Salmon of Knowledge – Tony Kelly (Idora)<br />4. Humour – Peter McNally (Pete) or his Hoffness..<br />5. Gd.ie group of the year 05 – IGDA Ireland committee.<br /><br />The awards were followed by the unveiling, to applause, of the new design for gamedevelopers.ie by Dave Kearney (skyclad) and Ian Hannigan. Dave and Ian have worked tirelessly over the past month to implement a new design and to address feedback from users of gamedevelopers.ie. John Lynch (johnnyslim) has been assisting on porting over the forums. The new look will go live shortly and all users will get a chance to peruse it and test it then. <br /><br />The event ended around 8.30pm with people staying to have a glass of wine and food and then retiring to McGruders beer garden and on later to Handel’s of Fishamble Street where Dancing Dave was given a run for his money by Nooptical. <br /><br />I would just like to thank the Digital Hub for helping us to organize the event and for sponsoring the refreshments. Thanks also to 02 for sponsoring the awards themselves and to everyone who turned up.<br /> <br />

Dc-Studios Come To Town

Below is the text of the official announcement made today and released by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. As regular readers of gd.ie know this is not the ‘first’ overseas investment in console software development in Ireland (i.e. Funcom), but we certainly hope it is will provide the impetus for even further growth.<br /><br />’DC Studios to create 50 high quality jobs at the Digital Hub, Dublin<br /><br /><br />Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin TD today (Tuesday 12th April 2005) announced that DC Studios, a Canada based developer of video games for consoles, PCs and mobile phones, is to establish a Development Studio in the Digital Hub in Dublin, with the support of IDA Ireland. This will be Ireland’s first overseas investment in console software development, creating 50 high quality jobs over the next three years, mostly for experienced graduates including software programmers, artists, designers and producers.<br /><br />Minister Martin said “this investment is an excellent fit with IDA’s strategy of attracting knowledge intensive investments to Ireland. The digital media sector has been identified as an area of opportunity for this country and DC Studios, a young ambitious company, will be a valued addition to the growing cluster of digital media activities in Ireland, in particular games development.” <br /><br />The decision by DC Studios to locate in Dublin is a direct response to a substantial growth in its business, with many of its customers based in Europe. Mark Greenshields, CEO of DC Studios, sees Ireland, with its experienced pool of software skills and supportive business environment, as the ideal base to service this growing demand for the company’s services. As well as providing additional capacity, the Dublin facility will soon become a full turnkey development centre employing designers, producers, artists and programmers for developing complete games from conception to production. <br /><br />DC Studios’ primary business is content development work for major console games publishers such as Konami, Ubisoft and Hip Interactive. It also develops its own content and is currently working on a new football game, scheduled for launch later this year. It has developed proprietary games technology, including a market leading toolkit for cellular phones – Fire™. DC Studios, established in 1999, employs nearly 80 people at its headquarters in Montreal, Canada, and in satellite studios in Glasgow, Scotland and Bristol, England. For more information please visit <LINK><ADDRESS>http://www.dc-studios.com </ADDRESS><LTEXT>www.dc-studios.com </LTEXT></LINK>’

Dc-Studios Come To Town – 2

Below is the text of the official announcement made today and released by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. As regular readers of gd.ie know this is not the ‘first’ overseas investment in console software development in Ireland (i.e. Funcom), but we certainly hope it is will provide the impetus for even further growth.<br /><br />’DC Studios to create 50 high quality jobs at the Digital Hub, Dublin<br /><br /><br />Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin TD today (Tuesday 12th April 2005) announced that DC Studios, a Canada based developer of video games for consoles, PCs and mobile phones, is to establish a Development Studio in the Digital Hub in Dublin, with the support of IDA Ireland. This will be Ireland’s first overseas investment in console software development, creating 50 high quality jobs over the next three years, mostly for experienced graduates including software programmers, artists, designers and producers.<br /><br />Minister Martin said “this investment is an excellent fit with IDA’s strategy of attracting knowledge intensive investments to Ireland. The digital media sector has been identified as an area of opportunity for this country and DC Studios, a young ambitious company, will be a valued addition to the growing cluster of digital media activities in Ireland, in particular games development.” <br /><br />The decision by DC Studios to locate in Dublin is a direct response to a substantial growth in its business, with many of its customers based in Europe. Mark Greenshields, CEO of DC Studios, sees Ireland, with its experienced pool of software skills and supportive business environment, as the ideal base to service this growing demand for the company’s services. As well as providing additional capacity, the Dublin facility will soon become a full turnkey development centre employing designers, producers, artists and programmers for developing complete games from conception to production. <br /><br />DC Studios’ primary business is content development work for major console games publishers such as Konami, Ubisoft and Hip Interactive. It also develops its own content and is currently working on a new football game, scheduled for launch later this year. It has developed proprietary games technology, including a market leading toolkit for cellular phones – Fire™. DC Studios, established in 1999, employs nearly 80 people at its headquarters in Montreal, Canada, and in satellite studios in Glasgow, Scotland and Bristol, England. For more information please visit <LINK><ADDRESS>http://www.dc-studios.com </ADDRESS><LTEXT>www.dc-studios.com </LTEXT></LINK>’

Future Visions – Gdc ‘05

It’s been 19 years since Chris Crawford gathered some game developer friends at his home to sit in a circle to discuss making games and inadvertently give rise to the GDC. These modest beginnings seem all the more surreal when one considers the scale and diversity of the event today. GDC has come a long way in those 19 years but this year’s conference was not about the past; it was very much about the future.

The theme this year was “Future Vision” and while we all know that often woolly marketing taglines such as these do not have any genuine meaning, Future Vision was a deceptively accurate and concise summation of the proceedings that would take place over the course of a truly fascinating week.

It was a week that saw 10,000 attendees pass through the conference doors to take part in a sundry of lectures, workshops and events ranging in topic from visual arts, programming and game design to production, business & legal and audio.

In addition to the core conference, there were many other events taking place including the GDC Mobile mini-conference, the IGDA Quality of Life summit, the GDC Expo, the 2005 Game Developers Choice Awards, the Independent Game Developers Festival and the Serious Games Summit.

The Future Vision theme was also echoed throughout the conference schedule in the form of the debuting Future Vision track. This series of lectures by well-known industry figureheads such as Will Wright, Masaya Matsuura and Peter Molyneux was designed to provoke innovation among developers, inspire the creation of breakthrough content and drive the industry beyond the transition to next generation platforms.

The week’s events culminated in a far-reaching announcement by industry legend and Sims creator Will Wright who completely stole the show with his proposal for a new way to make games, holding up the previously unannounced title “Spore” as proof of the viability of his concept of procedural content (content that is created during the game algorithmically rather than in advance by a team of artists).

The Irish Connection
This year also saw the strongest ever showing from the Irish contingent at GDC. With an air of growing confidence and maturity about them, the Irish companies attending made their presence felt. The middleware sector was the most broadly represented with Havok and DemonWare. However, it is also interesting to note that the other Irish companies in attendance neatly represented a cross-section of the growing game development talent in the country. Donegal-based Torc Interactive flew the PC and console flag, Nephin Games represented the mobile sector and Starcave Studios exemplified the growth of our independent developers.

Havok
With their usual sense of style Havok launched the third version of their physics middleware solution at a party in San Francisco’s hip Swig bar.

With this new version of the Havok engine, the famous Havok rag doll models don’t just fall down anymore – they can now get back up to finish the fight! In addition, the rag doll models now react to in-game impacts and other stimuli, while the integration of animations with the physics package also solves a number of traditional game design problems. For example, simple game world objects such as steps are now handled automatically by the engine resulting in an altogether more realistic set of animations.

Havok’s latest offering certainly offers a dynamic range of new gameplay opportunities for prospective developers and this was evident from the booming applause they received from the game developers in attendance.

image1

DemonWare
GDC provided an ideal platform for Network middleware specialists Demonware to reveal Matchmaking+. A new element of the DemonWare Netcode Suite, Matchmaking+ offers a set of tools for online titles on multiple console, PC and handheld platforms, including friends’ lists, statistics, user management, content downloads and of course matchmaking. DemonWare’s celebrations continued throughout the week and came to a head on the last day of the conference in the shape of a bar disguised as a bus disguised as a tram! Demonware are still riding high following the high-profile appointment of Art Santos and their increasing profile and success in the American market.

Torc Interactive
Donegal’s middleware and game development studio Torc Interactive took time out from a hectic development schedule to meet with potential publishers for their forthcoming PC and Xbox titles. The company is currently focused on their biggest project to date – Dreadnought – a groundbreaking first person mini-game for the new AMD 64 bit processor to be launched at the WinHEC show in Seattle on April 22nd next, and with the official launch of Torc’s Instinct Engine planned for E3 in May, expect to hear many more exciting things from Torc in the very near future.

Nephin Games
Alan Duggan, CEO of Nephin games, the Galway-based mobile phone game developer was at GDC this year, meeting publishers, attending lectures and attending GDC mobile – one of the many mini-conferences to emerge at GDC over the years. Alan is buoyant about the level of traction received both at home and in the US following the triumphant launch of Nephin’s latest title, WKN (World Kickboxing Network). WKN recently earned Nephin games the Digital Games Developer of the year award at the Digital Media Awards held in Dublin.

Starcave Studios
Keith Killilea from Starcave Studios was kept busy hurrying from publisher meeting to publisher meeting while showcasing the latest edition of their first PC title Camelot Galway – City Of The Tribes.

Enterprise Ireland
Jonathon & Maggie from Enterprise Ireland’s Californian office were helping Irish developers to make vital contacts, helping Irish companies to establish a presence in the U.S. and making plans for E3 in May.

Highlights

image2

Will Wright, Spore & Procedural Content
When someone like Will Wright gives a lecture on the future of content people sit up and take notice, the only problem this year was the sheer amount of people that did. People queued for nearly an hour to get into the auditorium, which quickly reached maximum capacity, then the floor of the hall outside filled with people jostling for position to glimpse the hastily erected plasma screens displaying a live feed from the swarming room inside. In any case, neither those inside or outside the auditorium were prepared for what Wright was about say and do as he presented his deceitfully entitled lecture “The Future of Content”.

He began by giving a brief overview of his thoughts on the exponential growth of team sizes relative to the quality of the content they produce and how he sees this as an unsustainable situation. Wright made a projection based on the size of the current development team for The Sims and extrapolated – that if team sizes continue to grow at their current exponential rate by 2050, 1.5 million artists would be required to make a single game.

But rather than generally verbalising about the problem Wright went on to demonstrate the future of content as he sees it in the form of a previously unannounced game with the working title ‘Spore’. Wright had to acquire special permission from the publisher (EA Games) to demo the game.

Spore is groundbreaking for a number of reasons – not least the fact that it allows the player to create their own content with an unprecedented level of control and flexibility, but also the ambition behind the game design is of epic proportions. Spore is one of few games that seeks to redefine interactive entertainment as an art form, taking the player on a journey from the dawn of amoebic life on a planet through to the interstellar level and everything that happens in between. All this is largely controlled by the player.

What is also unique about Spore is its use of so called ‘Procedural Content’ (which involves corresponding animations, models and sounds being generated automatically in real-time based on a set of algorithmic rules) where players can develop their own creatures, buildings and vehicles in an infinite number of ways, giving the players absolute freedom in how they play their own game and simultaneously removing the need for hundreds of artists working endlessly to create the content for the player.

Because of the use of procedural methods, the file-size footprint for each player-created model is relatively tiny, only a few k, opening up the way for a huge asynchronous online database of player-generated content. This means the player can download entire galaxies of content generated by other Spore players directly into their game.

Wright likened these procedural tools to toys, such as Etch A Sketch where the player’s drawings come to life! Beyond gameplay features however, the implications for how games will be developed in the future following Wright’s announcement are truly immense and in many ways Spore is just the side-story here.

The term “artist in a box” was used to describe these tools, in that they should stem the exponential growth of team sizes while simultaneously providing artists and developers with a more liberating and powerful toolset.

Wright concluded his keynote with words of support for aspiring developers everywhere, encouraging them to persevere with original ideas. Citing the central stumbling block to the realisation of Spore as his own self-doubt, Wright recalled that after he convinced himself that it was actually possible to create this game it was a relatively simple task to convince the rest of his team that it was possible. Now all he has to do is convince the industry.

Peter Molyneux at the Movies
To the delight of most attendees, the ubiquitous Peter Molyneux (Black & White) was not in short supply at this year’s GDC. He gave several lectures, showcasing Lionhead’s nearly completed titles “The Movies” and “Black & White 2”. Molyneux also held a public post-mortem of his last title in his lecture “Fable – Lessons Learned”. The session ranged from “making of” style comments to pure post-mortem material in the form of the rights and wrongs mostly centring on the conflicts between high-design concepts, schedules and budgets.

image3

The 5th IGDA Game Developers Choice Awards
The 5th annual IGDA Game Developers Choice Awards featured few surprises with Valve’s ‘Half-Life 2’ scooping up the awards for best writing, best technology and best character design as well as best overall game. The Game Design honour deservedly went to Katamari Damacy from Namco and CryTek creators of ‘FarCry’ took the honour for best new studio.

The 7th Annual Independent Games Festival & Awards
The 7th Annual Independent Games Festival awards ceremony brought laughter, tears, and even an unexpected marriage proposal live on the big screen! Gish by Chronic Logic won the open category, while Reflexive Entertainment picked up two awards. ‘Wik’ won in the web downloadable category and ‘Fable of Souls’ took the overall title. ‘Alien Hominid’ by The Behemoth won the coveted Audience Award. All teams each received the $15,000 Seamus McNally Grand Prize.

XNA Microsoft –
J Allard, Microsoft’s chief XNA architect took advantage of his keynote to give a distinctly polished presentation on Microsoft’s plans to tackle the growing demands of game development with more details on its XNA Studio and a imaginative outline of their strategy to transition into the “high-definition” era as Microsoft see it. Allard concluded the presentation by announcing that a third of the packed audience theatre (of over 3000 seats) had just won themselves a top of the range high-definition TV.

EXPO Floor
With so many other events going on this year only a cursory glance at the GDC Expo was possible. However, amongst the customary recruiters and trade exhibitors on the expo floor, one exhibit that really stood out was the demonstration of Stereo 3D games – not the 3D first person games we have become accustomed to in recent years, but simulated 3D environments reminiscent of what you might see on an IMAX screen! While they are not exactly plug and play yet, 3D games are very much here! Using a polarised screen, two TFT monitors and a pair of polarised glasses the effect was truly remarkable. Interestingly the 3D effect is applied at the hardware level, only requiring a driver update to play any game in full stereo 3D.

Back to the Present
On the final day DemonWare held a party on a tram as it toured San Francisco to celebrate the successful launch of Matchmaking+ and it provided the perfect way to say goodbye to GDC ’05. The lasting impression from the Game Developers Conference 2005 was of the focus on the future of content and the changing subject matter of games. Will Wright gave everyone plenty to consider with his proposal for procedural content. Also increasingly evident is the diversification in approaches to making and selling games – if this vision of the future is in any way accurate then the future of gaming is very exciting indeed!

Just as the jetlag was wearing off it was already time again to board the plane for the ten-hour flight to London and the relatively short hop to Dublin. The departure from San Francisco felt premature, the journey ahead seemed arduous but when you’ve seen the future, there’s much to consider!

Author’s Bio
Ian Hannigan is a Dublin based designer.
Related Links

Havok

Demonware – Matchmaking+
https://www.demonware.net/matchmaking

Torc Interactive

Nephin Games
wkn

Starcave Studios

Marc Ecko Challenges Industry
http://xbox.ign.com/articles/584/584640p1.html

Will Wright Presents Spore… and a New Way to Think About Games
articles/595/595975p1.html

2005 Game Developer Choice Award Winners
php-bin/news_index.php?story=5096

The 7th Annual Independent Games Festival
php-bin/news_index.php?story=5097

Gamasutra – Full GDC Coverage
gdc2005

GDC Conference

Future Visions – Gdc ‘05 – 2

It’s been 19 years since Chris Crawford gathered some game developer friends at his home to sit in a circle to discuss making games and inadvertently give rise to the GDC. These modest beginnings seem all the more surreal when one considers the scale and diversity of the event today. GDC has come a long way in those 19 years but this year’s conference was not about the past; it was very much about the future.

The theme this year was “Future Vision” and while we all know that often woolly marketing taglines such as these do not have any genuine meaning, Future Vision was a deceptively accurate and concise summation of the proceedings that would take place over the course of a truly fascinating week.

It was a week that saw 10,000 attendees pass through the conference doors to take part in a sundry of lectures, workshops and events ranging in topic from visual arts, programming and game design to production, business & legal and audio.

In addition to the core conference, there were many other events taking place including the GDC Mobile mini-conference, the IGDA Quality of Life summit, the GDC Expo, the 2005 Game Developers Choice Awards, the Independent Game Developers Festival and the Serious Games Summit.

The Future Vision theme was also echoed throughout the conference schedule in the form of the debuting Future Vision track. This series of lectures by well-known industry figureheads such as Will Wright, Masaya Matsuura and Peter Molyneux was designed to provoke innovation among developers, inspire the creation of breakthrough content and drive the industry beyond the transition to next generation platforms.

The week’s events culminated in a far-reaching announcement by industry legend and Sims creator Will Wright who completely stole the show with his proposal for a new way to make games, holding up the previously unannounced title “Spore” as proof of the viability of his concept of procedural content (content that is created during the game algorithmically rather than in advance by a team of artists).

The Irish Connection
This year also saw the strongest ever showing from the Irish contingent at GDC. With an air of growing confidence and maturity about them, the Irish companies attending made their presence felt. The middleware sector was the most broadly represented with Havok and DemonWare. However, it is also interesting to note that the other Irish companies in attendance neatly represented a cross-section of the growing game development talent in the country. Donegal-based Torc Interactive flew the PC and console flag, Nephin Games represented the mobile sector and Starcave Studios exemplified the growth of our independent developers.

Havok
With their usual sense of style Havok launched the third version of their physics middleware solution at a party in San Francisco’s hip Swig bar.

With this new version of the Havok engine, the famous Havok rag doll models don’t just fall down anymore – they can now get back up to finish the fight! In addition, the rag doll models now react to in-game impacts and other stimuli, while the integration of animations with the physics package also solves a number of traditional game design problems. For example, simple game world objects such as steps are now handled automatically by the engine resulting in an altogether more realistic set of animations.

Havok’s latest offering certainly offers a dynamic range of new gameplay opportunities for prospective developers and this was evident from the booming applause they received from the game developers in attendance.

image1

DemonWare
GDC provided an ideal platform for Network middleware specialists Demonware to reveal Matchmaking+. A new element of the DemonWare Netcode Suite, Matchmaking+ offers a set of tools for online titles on multiple console, PC and handheld platforms, including friends’ lists, statistics, user management, content downloads and of course matchmaking. DemonWare’s celebrations continued throughout the week and came to a head on the last day of the conference in the shape of a bar disguised as a bus disguised as a tram! Demonware are still riding high following the high-profile appointment of Art Santos and their increasing profile and success in the American market.

Torc Interactive
Donegal’s middleware and game development studio Torc Interactive took time out from a hectic development schedule to meet with potential publishers for their forthcoming PC and Xbox titles. The company is currently focused on their biggest project to date – Dreadnought – a groundbreaking first person mini-game for the new AMD 64 bit processor to be launched at the WinHEC show in Seattle on April 22nd next, and with the official launch of Torc’s Instinct Engine planned for E3 in May, expect to hear many more exciting things from Torc in the very near future.

Nephin Games
Alan Duggan, CEO of Nephin games, the Galway-based mobile phone game developer was at GDC this year, meeting publishers, attending lectures and attending GDC mobile – one of the many mini-conferences to emerge at GDC over the years. Alan is buoyant about the level of traction received both at home and in the US following the triumphant launch of Nephin’s latest title, WKN (World Kickboxing Network). WKN recently earned Nephin games the Digital Games Developer of the year award at the Digital Media Awards held in Dublin.

Starcave Studios
Keith Killilea from Starcave Studios was kept busy hurrying from publisher meeting to publisher meeting while showcasing the latest edition of their first PC title Camelot Galway – City Of The Tribes.

Enterprise Ireland
Jonathon & Maggie from Enterprise Ireland’s Californian office were helping Irish developers to make vital contacts, helping Irish companies to establish a presence in the U.S. and making plans for E3 in May.

Highlights

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Will Wright, Spore & Procedural Content
When someone like Will Wright gives a lecture on the future of content people sit up and take notice, the only problem this year was the sheer amount of people that did. People queued for nearly an hour to get into the auditorium, which quickly reached maximum capacity, then the floor of the hall outside filled with people jostling for position to glimpse the hastily erected plasma screens displaying a live feed from the swarming room inside. In any case, neither those inside or outside the auditorium were prepared for what Wright was about say and do as he presented his deceitfully entitled lecture “The Future of Content”.

He began by giving a brief overview of his thoughts on the exponential growth of team sizes relative to the quality of the content they produce and how he sees this as an unsustainable situation. Wright made a projection based on the size of the current development team for The Sims and extrapolated – that if team sizes continue to grow at their current exponential rate by 2050, 1.5 million artists would be required to make a single game.

But rather than generally verbalising about the problem Wright went on to demonstrate the future of content as he sees it in the form of a previously unannounced game with the working title ‘Spore’. Wright had to acquire special permission from the publisher (EA Games) to demo the game.

Spore is groundbreaking for a number of reasons – not least the fact that it allows the player to create their own content with an unprecedented level of control and flexibility, but also the ambition behind the game design is of epic proportions. Spore is one of few games that seeks to redefine interactive entertainment as an art form, taking the player on a journey from the dawn of amoebic life on a planet through to the interstellar level and everything that happens in between. All this is largely controlled by the player.

What is also unique about Spore is its use of so called ‘Procedural Content’ (which involves corresponding animations, models and sounds being generated automatically in real-time based on a set of algorithmic rules) where players can develop their own creatures, buildings and vehicles in an infinite number of ways, giving the players absolute freedom in how they play their own game and simultaneously removing the need for hundreds of artists working endlessly to create the content for the player.

Because of the use of procedural methods, the file-size footprint for each player-created model is relatively tiny, only a few k, opening up the way for a huge asynchronous online database of player-generated content. This means the player can download entire galaxies of content generated by other Spore players directly into their game.

Wright likened these procedural tools to toys, such as Etch A Sketch where the player’s drawings come to life! Beyond gameplay features however, the implications for how games will be developed in the future following Wright’s announcement are truly immense and in many ways Spore is just the side-story here.

The term “artist in a box” was used to describe these tools, in that they should stem the exponential growth of team sizes while simultaneously providing artists and developers with a more liberating and powerful toolset.

Wright concluded his keynote with words of support for aspiring developers everywhere, encouraging them to persevere with original ideas. Citing the central stumbling block to the realisation of Spore as his own self-doubt, Wright recalled that after he convinced himself that it was actually possible to create this game it was a relatively simple task to convince the rest of his team that it was possible. Now all he has to do is convince the industry.

Peter Molyneux at the Movies
To the delight of most attendees, the ubiquitous Peter Molyneux (Black & White) was not in short supply at this year’s GDC. He gave several lectures, showcasing Lionhead’s nearly completed titles “The Movies” and “Black & White 2”. Molyneux also held a public post-mortem of his last title in his lecture “Fable – Lessons Learned”. The session ranged from “making of” style comments to pure post-mortem material in the form of the rights and wrongs mostly centring on the conflicts between high-design concepts, schedules and budgets.

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The 5th IGDA Game Developers Choice Awards
The 5th annual IGDA Game Developers Choice Awards featured few surprises with Valve’s ‘Half-Life 2’ scooping up the awards for best writing, best technology and best character design as well as best overall game. The Game Design honour deservedly went to Katamari Damacy from Namco and CryTek creators of ‘FarCry’ took the honour for best new studio.

The 7th Annual Independent Games Festival & Awards
The 7th Annual Independent Games Festival awards ceremony brought laughter, tears, and even an unexpected marriage proposal live on the big screen! Gish by Chronic Logic won the open category, while Reflexive Entertainment picked up two awards. ‘Wik’ won in the web downloadable category and ‘Fable of Souls’ took the overall title. ‘Alien Hominid’ by The Behemoth won the coveted Audience Award. All teams each received the $15,000 Seamus McNally Grand Prize.

XNA Microsoft –
J Allard, Microsoft’s chief XNA architect took advantage of his keynote to give a distinctly polished presentation on Microsoft’s plans to tackle the growing demands of game development with more details on its XNA Studio and a imaginative outline of their strategy to transition into the “high-definition” era as Microsoft see it. Allard concluded the presentation by announcing that a third of the packed audience theatre (of over 3000 seats) had just won themselves a top of the range high-definition TV.

EXPO Floor
With so many other events going on this year only a cursory glance at the GDC Expo was possible. However, amongst the customary recruiters and trade exhibitors on the expo floor, one exhibit that really stood out was the demonstration of Stereo 3D games – not the 3D first person games we have become accustomed to in recent years, but simulated 3D environments reminiscent of what you might see on an IMAX screen! While they are not exactly plug and play yet, 3D games are very much here! Using a polarised screen, two TFT monitors and a pair of polarised glasses the effect was truly remarkable. Interestingly the 3D effect is applied at the hardware level, only requiring a driver update to play any game in full stereo 3D.

Back to the Present
On the final day DemonWare held a party on a tram as it toured San Francisco to celebrate the successful launch of Matchmaking+ and it provided the perfect way to say goodbye to GDC ’05. The lasting impression from the Game Developers Conference 2005 was of the focus on the future of content and the changing subject matter of games. Will Wright gave everyone plenty to consider with his proposal for procedural content. Also increasingly evident is the diversification in approaches to making and selling games – if this vision of the future is in any way accurate then the future of gaming is very exciting indeed!

Just as the jetlag was wearing off it was already time again to board the plane for the ten-hour flight to London and the relatively short hop to Dublin. The departure from San Francisco felt premature, the journey ahead seemed arduous but when you’ve seen the future, there’s much to consider!

Author’s Bio
Ian Hannigan is a Dublin based designer.
Related Links

Havok

Demonware – Matchmaking+
https://www.demonware.net/matchmaking

Torc Interactive

Nephin Games
wkn

Starcave Studios

Marc Ecko Challenges Industry
http://xbox.ign.com/articles/584/584640p1.html

Will Wright Presents Spore… and a New Way to Think About Games
articles/595/595975p1.html

2005 Game Developer Choice Award Winners
php-bin/news_index.php?story=5096

The 7th Annual Independent Games Festival
php-bin/news_index.php?story=5097

Gamasutra – Full GDC Coverage
gdc2005

GDC Conference

Final Nominees For Gd.Ie Awards 2005.

1. The Newbie award
A person who joined the boards in the past twelve months but who has already made a significant contribution to the life and info on the website not necessarily the most frequent number of posts.

The nominees are
Richard McGowan (r_mc_gowan)
Stéphane Ambrosini (steph)
Peter Blackburn (Peter_B)
Patrick Corrigan (Darksaviour69,
Michael el Baki (bomberman)
Bernard Ward (beans_w)
Ronan Hayes (ronan hayes)

2. The Stamina award
A person who signed up to the forums near the launch date in April 03 and has just kept posting…can only be won once.

The nominees are
Lewis Boadle (boadle)
Damian Furlong (omen)
Ronny Southwood (ronny)
Alan Duggan (aduggan)

3. The Salmon of knowledge award
For the selfless posting of gems of experience and informative posts

The nominees are
Tony Kelly (Idora)
Ian Hannigan (Ian_Hannigan)
Stéphane Ambrosini (Steph)
Ronny Southwood (Ronny)

4. The Humour award
for the funniest post/posts to gd.ie

The nominees are
Dave Kearney (skyclad)
Peter McNally (Pete)
Ian Hannigan (Ian_hannigan)
David McGovern (Nooptical)
Malachy Duffin (Mal)
Ivan McCloskey (Kyotokid)

5. Gd person/group of the year
For their contribution to the growth of the industry and the wider games community as well as gd.ie. Can be a person or group..

The nominees are
IGDA Ireland
Robbie Hegarty (NWIFE)
Tony Kelly (Torc Interactive and IGDA Ireland)
Ronny Southwood (student)
The Digital Hub
Michael Kenna (Enterprise Ireland)
Michael Maguire (MIDAS Dundalk)

The winners will be announced at the gamedevelopers.ie second birthday event at the Digital Hub on Friday the 8th of April. 05.

Prog And Directions For Gd.Ie Event

The programme for the evening is:

6.30- 6.45
Arrival, Registration and Networking.

6.45-6.50
Welcome from Aphra Kerr, gamedevelopers.ie

6.50-7.00
Eddie Dowse, 02 Ireland. ’02 and Irish game developers’

7.00-7.20
Introducing Two New Companies
Michael El Baki (Bomberman), Bit Rabbit, Dublin.
Tony Kelly, (Idora) Torc Interactive, Donegal.

7.20-7.30
Introducing an Irish Indie development
BlowAway: The Winds of Therslow
Ciaran Vipond (Brand New Page)

7.30 – 7.40
The new look gamedevelopers.ie incorporating IGDA Ireland
Dave Kearney and Ian Hannigan

7.40- 8.00
The gd.ie awards – Aphra Kerr
In recognition of the contribution made by individuals and groups to growing the online and offline Irish game development community.
Awards based on nominations from contributors to the forums on gd.ie

8.00-8.30
Networking etc…

Afterwards retire to McGruders pub about two doors down on the same side of the Street as the Digital Hub.

The event will take place in
The Diageo Liberties Learning Studio,
The Digital Hub,
10-13 Thomas Street
Dublin 8.
Tel: +353-1-480 6200

How to find it: locationMap/theDigitalHubMap.htmlocationMap/theDigitalHubMap.htm

Final Nominees For Gd.Ie Awards 2005. – 2

1. The Newbie award
A person who joined the boards in the past twelve months but who has already made a significant contribution to the life and info on the website not necessarily the most frequent number of posts.

The nominees are
Richard McGowan (r_mc_gowan)
Stéphane Ambrosini (steph)
Peter Blackburn (Peter_B)
Patrick Corrigan (Darksaviour69,
Michael el Baki (bomberman)
Bernard Ward (beans_w)
Ronan Hayes (ronan hayes)

2. The Stamina award
A person who signed up to the forums near the launch date in April 03 and has just kept posting…can only be won once.

The nominees are
Lewis Boadle (boadle)
Damian Furlong (omen)
Ronny Southwood (ronny)
Alan Duggan (aduggan)

3. The Salmon of knowledge award
For the selfless posting of gems of experience and informative posts

The nominees are
Tony Kelly (Idora)
Ian Hannigan (Ian_Hannigan)
Stéphane Ambrosini (Steph)
Ronny Southwood (Ronny)

4. The Humour award
for the funniest post/posts to gd.ie

The nominees are
Dave Kearney (skyclad)
Peter McNally (Pete)
Ian Hannigan (Ian_hannigan)
David McGovern (Nooptical)
Malachy Duffin (Mal)
Ivan McCloskey (Kyotokid)

5. Gd person/group of the year
For their contribution to the growth of the industry and the wider games community as well as gd.ie. Can be a person or group..

The nominees are
IGDA Ireland
Robbie Hegarty (NWIFE)
Tony Kelly (Torc Interactive and IGDA Ireland)
Ronny Southwood (student)
The Digital Hub
Michael Kenna (Enterprise Ireland)
Michael Maguire (MIDAS Dundalk)

The winners will be announced at the gamedevelopers.ie second birthday event at the Digital Hub on Friday the 8th of April. 05.

Prog And Directions For Gd.Ie Event – 2

The programme for the evening is:

6.30- 6.45
Arrival, Registration and Networking.

6.45-6.50
Welcome from Aphra Kerr, gamedevelopers.ie

6.50-7.00
Eddie Dowse, 02 Ireland. ’02 and Irish game developers’

7.00-7.20
Introducing Two New Companies
Michael El Baki (Bomberman), Bit Rabbit, Dublin.
Tony Kelly, (Idora) Torc Interactive, Donegal.

7.20-7.30
Introducing an Irish Indie development
BlowAway: The Winds of Therslow
Ciaran Vipond (Brand New Page)

7.30 – 7.40
The new look gamedevelopers.ie incorporating IGDA Ireland
Dave Kearney and Ian Hannigan

7.40- 8.00
The gd.ie awards – Aphra Kerr
In recognition of the contribution made by individuals and groups to growing the online and offline Irish game development community.
Awards based on nominations from contributors to the forums on gd.ie

8.00-8.30
Networking etc…

Afterwards retire to McGruders pub about two doors down on the same side of the Street as the Digital Hub.

The event will take place in
The Diageo Liberties Learning Studio,
The Digital Hub,
10-13 Thomas Street
Dublin 8.
Tel: +353-1-480 6200

How to find it: locationMap/theDigitalHubMap.htmlocationMap/theDigitalHubMap.htm