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GDC Day 3 - Finding Something New

Today was a truly exciting day, with newly unveiled games, the opening of the conference floor, and the two flashy awards shows.  But, the fun isn’t over yet!

Diner Dash's Flo is on the go to consoles.written by Evan Goncalo

The first thing on today’s agenda was to head over to the W Hotel to meet with Hudson Entertainment.  I got hands on with “Military Madness”, “Diner Dash”, “Water Warfare”, “Help Wanted”, and some other new titles in their portable library.  All titles besides "Military Madness" are meant for anyone to play, both hardcore gamers, and families alike.

"Military Madness" is a full 3D remake of its TurboGrafx-16 predecessor but also adds new features like multiplayer (up to 4 players local and online) as well as a new upgradeable unit called the “commander.”  They are also bringing PC favorite, "Diner Dash," to the console trio, also now fully in 3D.  The new "Diner Dash" played as easily as the original, and with the addition of multiplayer, now allows for endless fun with friends.

"Water Warfare" manages to bring the fun of a traditional FPS into the family living room arena without violence.  You play as a fully customizable playground kid, armed to the teeth with water gun weapons in the mold of machine guns and sniper rifles.  I learned along the way to be wary of committing “soakicide” while using the water launcher.  Water Warfare is also playable online with up to 8 players, and can make for some competitive game-play.

Last but not least of the console-based titles is "Help Wanted" – a light-hearted, comical, and simple game built around mini-games in the form of wacky jobs.  The game’s art style looks is very “anime” but also have a hint of “Mii” styling. More... Later in the day, Hugh Malan of Realtime Worlds ran session, “Next-Gen Tech, but Last-Gen Looks?  Tips to Make your Game Look Better – That Don’t Include Bloom and Motion Blur.”  Advice was given on using Ambient Occlusion effectively, and how to correctly use Contact Shadows.  Malan discussed things like Contact Shadow’s four options of implementation – Forward Rendering, Alpha Blended Quads, Deferred, and Post Process.

I also got to catch “Accelerating Creativity: Building Environmentally Aware Characters with Havok Behavior & More,” a talk given by Jeff Yales, Havok’s VP of Product Management.  Yales went over some Havok Behavior 6.5’s features, the one that interested me most was it’s ability to build out a custom UI by exploring all the SDK tools underneath (animation, physics, etc.) whether in-house or licensed.  Topics not directly related to the Havok toolset, like “creative challenges for characters,” were also covered.

League of Legends is the debut title from Riot Games.

A hop, skip, and jump down the road took me to the St. Regis Hotel where I spoke with Riot Games about their debut title, “League of Legends”.  “LoL” has been in development since September of 2006 by an all-star staff of 40 employees.  Previous titles the staff has worked on include, “The Godfather”, “Dungeon Seige”, “Warcraft 3”, “World of Warcraft”, and “Sly Cooper.  The game is being built in the spirit of it’s popular predecessor (10 million players), “DoTA: All Stars,” but with a focus on adding functionality that was never before possible as a "Warcraft 3" modification.

Although the game may look similar on the surface, with stylized art that may remind one of "Warcraft 3," or "World of Warcraft," there is a lot more underneath the shell.  For one, the Riot Games team did a lot to make the game more accessible for player’s that may have struggled with DoTA like myself, and after a brief chat with community director Steve Mescon, I got to hop into a 3v3 game with some developers and fellow members of the press.

Before the game begins, you are able to select from a diverse cast of “champions.”  These champions are not your typical trolls and dwarves either – they include everything from a boy riding atop the back of a yeti, to a frolicking “dark child!”  Needless to say the developers have crafted some creative characters.  As “summoner”, you control one champion and are able to upgrade him/her with new abilities and items as you progress through the match.  Although your champion won’t keep their upgrades once you leave a match, your summoner will accrue skills and abilities, as well as achievements that allow you to customize the look of your digital persona.

The team at Riot Games made it clear to me they valued the feedback of their community, and plan to utilize it in creating "League of Legends."  They’ve gone as far as creating a trademarked piece of technology called the “Suggestion Engine” that will allow players to suggest and vote on new content.  With a team this focused on catering to its player base, and a game as fun and creative, I look forward to seeing more in the coming months.

Blueberry Garden wins big prize at Indie Games Fest.

The last events of the day, which I’ll only scratch the surface of here, was the Independent Games Festival Awards and Game Developer Choice Awards.  The IGF awards came first, with plenty of indie commentary on the industry.  “Blueberry Garden” took the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, presented by last year’s winner Petri Purho of “Crayon Physics Deluxe.”  As for the Game Developer’s Choice Awards, Bethesda Softworks picked up Game of the Year for their title, “Fallout 3.”  To find out more about the awards check out: Game Choice Awards site or Independent Games Festival site.

Today was a truly exciting day, with newly unveiled games, the opening of the conference floor, and the two flashy awards shows.  But, the fun isn’t over yet!  Check back Thursday and Friday for more on the happenings of game development Mecca, GDC.

Evan Goncalo is currently a game development teacher at Bristol Community College.  Evan started in the game industry when he was 18 has worked in QA, Marketing, and Design in AAA studios that include Turbine Inc, Blue Fang Games, and Hasbro Inc.  In his spare time he creates 3D art and textures for game modification and as a hobby.

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Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.