Day 3 is the first of the main GDC days. It is also the day of the GDC keynote. I did not stay as late as I did on other days as I was off to mountainview to visit with my prof.
Keynote-Video Games Turn 25 – Satoru Iwata, CEO of Nintendo
The talk had moments of being overly nintendo-centric (not surprisingly). Generally speaking when Mr. Iwata was speaking, it was a good talk, even with the focus on Nintendo titles. However, when he handed it off to one of his american execs, it turned too much into a nintendo3DS platform release plug. It felt like a product launch and not a keynote to GDC. However, the most interesting part of the keynote was the last 15 min. Mr. Iwata talked about the challenges of today’s game makers. Various game systems have hundreds to thousands of titles. How do you get found in that large space? With emerging new mobile devices being found was even harder. He worries about the deterioration of craftsmanship especially in the mobile world where games are either free or extremely cheap.
I found this sort of strange because in the early part of Mr. Iwata’s talked he talked about his pioneer days at Nintendo where everyone did everything from programming, to art, to janitorial services. I remember playing some of those old nintendo games… including the lcd game and watch systems. To me, todays mobile game platform is still very much in its pioneer days. Yes there are some bigger studios putting out beautiful polished games but it is also a time when it is possible for smaller indy teams to get published. The barrier to entry is lower than traditional game publishing houses. In some ways, this is no different really than what the web based publishing was in the early days. It created a vehicle for publication outside the traditional publishing companies. Not everything created on the web was stellar but it promoted participation. You could make a game and sell it… now whether you would make enough to live on or if anyone would even find your game is a different matter. But it would at least the barrier to entry is minimized.
Classic Game Postmortem: Prince of Persia – John Mechner
I went to this talk because it was recommended by my friend. Now, as background, I’ve never actually played any of the Prince of Persia games. I had thought it was a game for one of the consoles that came out a few years ago. To my surprise, this game actually dates back a lot further. It was initally made for the Apple II. For those of you not familiar with it, an Apple II had 64K of ram, no hard drive (at least earlier versions didn’t). I had one as a kid and my little brother blew it up (literally although accidentally). I also did not know that the dev who made prince of persia also made karateka a game I did play. Incidentally, Karateka is not prounounced as karate ka which is what I thought but rather closer to cara tek ka.
Anyhow, what was really interesting about this talk was working with the limitations of technology. 64K of ram isn’t a lot and in that space you had to store your code and your art… this is quite a bit to store. How do you do animations, under such limits and so on.
Prince of persia was inspired by the opening of raiders of the lost ark was. It used silent movie techniques by creating a rotoscope. Mr. Mechner had filmed his brother jumping, running, etc. and then used it to create the animations by colouring the pictures with a sharpie and whiteout. He created level editor and went through many iterations. The original did not sell well (mostly because it was published for the apple II just as apple II was being phased out). However, it was later republished on multiple platforms including the mac and pcs. This talk was really good. Fasinating look at the development of games in the old days.