18 April 2011

Event Report: East Coast Game Conference - by Benjamin Quintero

      Posted 04/13/11 01:01:00 pm  


I wasn't planning on writing about the conference, but it turns out that I had something to say about it.  First, I'd like to say that it is a good thing to see any kind of effort put forth that promotes video game development outside of the bio-dome of gaming better known as the Bay Area.  It is a bit refreshing to have a place to go to on the east coast that covers topics of interest to the people creating the games and not just the people who play them. 

I would also like to point out that the East Coast Game Conference (ECGC) is not only a short trip for east-side people like myself, but an affordable one at that.  With prices for GDC climbing into multiple thousands of dollars for entry alone it is more than refreshing to see a qualified developers' conference with ticket prices that aren't only obtainable by Jay-Z himself. 

I spent most of the day jumping between a variety of session, spanning Advanced Learning, Visual Arts, and more.  Though I did enjoy my time, it wasn't all rainbows and gum drops.  The talks were all varied and fairly interesting, though I would have preferred some deeper discussions on a few of these sessions.  The one aspect of GDC that I wish would translate here was a categorization of beginner, intermediate, and advanced. 

This was something that I was left wishing for several times.  It often meant that I would have to sit through the first 30 minutes of a 1 hour lecture to realize that it wasn't going to get any deeper than the surface.  Most of the lectures felt like they covered a range of beginner and intermediate.  There was an unfortunate lack of advanced lectures that would leave me scratching my head, but excited to research as soon as I got home. 

A significant portion of the conference was lathered in Epic-ness, from Unreal University to numerous sessions taken to discuss the basics of using the Unreal Engine.  Even a few programming topics felt a bit more like an Epic sponsored session than a general topic on better game making.  The Epic barrage would not have bothered me as much if they would have dug a little deeper into the inner workings of their systems. 

The optimization lecture was a perfect opportunity to cover tips and tricks to better performance, but it felt more like a training seminar for QA testers.  I was waiting for QA applications to be passed out at the end of the session.

The keynote, given by NVIDIA's Tony Tamasi, was slightly winded but interesting all the same.  His lecture covered a time-line in graphics processing that started from the earlier days of hardware accelerated 3D to projections about graphics in 2015. 

Part of me hopes that he is right, but most of me shivers to think of the level of effort it will take to achieve that vision.  Tony projected astronomical numbers in computing power, and claimed that mobile devices would be closing the gap in computing power down to a mere factor of 10x.  Though I absolutely agreed with him on the PC and home console side, I found his argument a bit difficult to swallow on the mobile side. 

My biggest issue was that he never covered the white elephant in the room, batteries.  Currently, most people have trouble running any kind of 3D on their IOS/Android device for more than 5-10 minutes before it starts to burn a whole in their pants and their charge is visibly dropping like sand in an hour glass.  Still, a small part of me (well.. a huge part of me...) wants this all to be a lie. 

The higher that bar is raised, the lower the chance that anyone has to compete without massive funding.  Yes, yes, there will always be the Minecrafts out there but those are diamonds in the rough, not the likely story that we used to see before this generation of graphics.  I can only assume that life as an indie will only get worse with these kinds of leaps in visual fidelity.

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