Tuesday, August 15, 2006

GameFest Report

First off, let me tell you, MSFT knows how to throw a conference. They provided breakfast, lunch, drinks, snacks, and even free ice cream! The lunch food was amazing, and who doesn't like free ice cream?

There are a lot of cool-looking games coming out from MSFT Game Studios. I am particularly happy about seeing Shadowrun come out. They also advertised Forza2, Call of Duty 3, and Gears of War, as well as several others that I'm not as excited about.

There is at least one really disturbing game coming out. Dead or Alive Extreme 2. I am convinced, after seeing their trailer, that they have more than one programmer working full time on physics simulation for boobs. Theoretically, this is a beach volleyball game. Most of the 4 minute trailer focused on boob shots, and slow-mo running and jumping. These guys were clearly inspired by Baywatch. It's shocking how many of the 'volleyball' players in this game have DD boobs. All of them move in very realistic ways when the girls jump and wrestle and giggle. This game is clearly targeted at the 14 year old boys who need spank material, and dirty old men.

Most of the sessions at the conference were good. I attended a couple of boring ones, and one that was worthless. I went to a hands-on lab(HOL) that used PhysX (a physics modeling package). The HOL didn't have any directed activities. They showed us three demos, and then said "ok, go ahead and play with it". Guess what, if we don't have this product, we don't have any idea how to use the product. Dumb ass.

We got some decent swag; a cool laptop bag, and a 1GB USB key that contains all of the slides from the conference pre-loaded.

MSFT announced XNA studio, which will be in beta in Sept. The full version will be available holiday 2006.

In addition, Garage Games has ported their Torque game engine to C#/XNA, and will be releasing TorqueX along with the XNA release. I am super excited about this; TorqueX will be the first commercial .NET game engine (that I'm aware of), and if it's as good as Torque is supposed to be, then I'll be a happy developer.

MSFT is also working on Live Anywhere, which brings the XBox Live experience to pc games, and allows for cross-platform multiplayer gaming. Shadowrun will be the first game that supports cross-platform gaming. They also talked about a version for smart phones. The use case they gave was modifying your Forza2 car from your phone, and playing on your XBox/PC later. That is certainly exciting.

There has been a ton of good information about developing for Vista. I learned all about how to get your game to show up in the game explorer, and capitalize on the rich user experience that Vista provides.

Garage Games gave a talk about how to be successful selling downloadable games for the PC and the XBox. They should know; they wrote Marble Blast Ultra, which is the highest revenue-producing game on XBox Live Arcade. I talked to them about getting a beta of the TorqueX engine. They were all super nice guys, and very easy to talk with. It seems like they brought their whole company to the conference. I know they have several devs, two co-founders, and the CEO here.

I got to meet Rico Mariani today! He's a MSFT architect that is responsible for CLR performance. He has an incredibly interesting and useful blog, Rico Mariani's Performance Tidbits. I highly recommend it, if you are writing managed code and want performance.

Apparently, GameFest is a good draw for getting a diverse crowd. I sat down for lunch today with 5 or 6 guys from Garage Games, and one Microsoftie. About 20 minutes later, they all left the table. I was prepared to sit and stare at the looping game ads for the next 45 minutes, when a young woman asked if she could sit next to me. Turns out that she is one of the like 5 female game developers in the world. As many of you already know, most developers are younger men, with limited social skills, and sometimes interesting odors.

In addition to being a female game developer, whose husband is a Bungie game developer (meaning he works on Halo), Heidi also worked on a game that I totally loved; MechCommander 2. I mentioned that I really liked the interface of MC2 a lot more than the original, and she casually mentioned that she wrote that. How cool is that? I met someone who actually worked on a shipping, commercial game, which I totally enjoyed playing. I think I'll have to reinstall MC2, and play some more, in honor of Heidi.

She also mentioned that they might be looking for a tools dev in the future. Remember that, Matt; if you're mean to me, I'll get a job at a game company, and manage to avoid the high pressure game development at the same time.

I'm waiting now for the hands on lab for Direct3D10 shaders to start. This particular lab is going to be useful for me, since my next game will have to use shaders for lighting and such. XNA is not, as far as I know, going to support the fixed function pipeline, so I have to figure out how to implement lighting and particles and a bunch of other stuff in shaders.

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