Thursday is always the day where the Game Developers Conference is at its height. There is a lot of activity as the people attending the conference are still fresh and there is still a lot of stuff that people haven't seen yet. And of course there are always the parties and the suite crawls at the neighboring Fairmont Hotel in the evening. I saw quite a bit of stuff today and here is just a sample:
No Spore Gameplay For You
At the 2005 GDC, Will Wright surprised people attending his speech at the show by showing off Spore, his upcoming multi-genre game that takes the player from the smallest microbe to a vast interstellar civilization. It was the talk of GDC and later of E3 in May. So when people attended the GDC keynote by Wright on Thursday they expected to see even more of Spore. And what did they actually see? Unfortunately, nothing of actual gameplay from the title; publisher Electronic Arts is making it clear that Spore won't be shown publicly until E3 in early May. However, the actual keynote by Wright was highly informative and entertaining as the master gamemaker talked about how the initial concepts and research on Spore actually came about.
The keynote had Wright chatting a mile a minute while moving through an on-screen PowePoint presentation that covered not just how he created the concept for the game but also the extensive research he did into Astrobiology, the science of life on other worlds. Wright mixed and matched his chats on the creation of Spore with all of the facts he learned about the science behind it, which included everything from calculating how many inhabited planets there are in the galaxy, to how Earth's solar system is a near perfect place for life to evolve, to the secret armed Soviet space station that the country kept quiet about for 20 years (that last bit was, as Wright admitted, totally off-topic). The keynote was an excellent way to learn about how a game actually starts at the concept stage.
Both the NVIDIA and Logitech booths at GDC had demos of SiN Episodes: Emergence, the first chapter in the episodic first-person shooter game from Ritual. We got our hands on the game and it was a lot of fun to get a chance to play John Blade again. The portion of the game we played took place in a construction site as we took out both human troopers and mutant dog like thingies with machine guns, shotguns, and the unique-looking SiN pistol. As with the original SiN in 1998, SiN Episodes has a ton of interactive elements from clicking on buttons to open doors, to moving objects to locations that will open doors. Oh, and there is a lot of shooting involved of course.
For some reason the construction site and the office building we played later in the demo have a lot of barrels and gas canisters that can blow up. The gas canisters can set enemies on fire but the barrels emit a green gas that slows both enemies and yourself down. The game also looks great thanks to Valve's Source engine, and Ritual's art team has done an excellent job with character models and wall textures that sometimes have some funny signage. Overall SiN Episodes is shaping up to be the follow-up that people who played the original SiN have waited eight years to enjoy.