This week in San Francisco in the 30th Edition of the Game Developers Conference (GDC). Running from 16-18 March in the Moscone Center, GDC is a rite of passage and pilgrimage destination for game designers and publishers the world over. No less than 567 companies are listed on the exhibitors page for this year’s show.
My first day’s mission was to spend as much time as possible at GDC Play, the showcase of emerging publishers. Ninety five exhibitors, about a sixth the show’s total, were highlighted in this wing.Because e2f recently opened an office in Montréal, I made sure to stop by many booths of Canadian publishers represented at the show, and got the card of a trade representative from Quebec. The Canadian government hosted six booths, a large break/lounge area, plus private VIP meeting rooms. (No, I wasn’t invited into any private meetings!)
Norway (with 14 booths for the Norwegian Producers’ Association) and Switzerland (11 booths for SwissGames) also had large and impressive collective national presences. This isn’t the extent of national pride and presence at GDC (I saw the UK/Wales booth in Hall A, and it was ginormous); but for now, I’ll stick with the Play space. I met a lot of amazing people working on a lot of amazing games. For now, just the briefest of shout-outs:p.a.m.e.l.a., from Canadian-based Nvyve Studios, is a beautiful game. A Unity-based “utopian survival game.” Everything in the graphics, from the weapons to the architecture is clean, futuristic and yet utterly realistic. My analogy, which got a laugh from System Programmer Ian McCabe, is that it is the “Apple Store of First Person Shooters.” Aesthetically perfect, down to the last detail. You should definitely watch the Alpha trailer.
Overfall, from Istanbul-based Pera Games, is a pretty neat mashup of hex-based tactical maneuvering with JRPG elements, all within a procedurally-generated seafaring world (so no two play-throughs will ever be the same). Now available on Steam in Early Access, the eventual goal of Co-founder & CEO Ibrahim Yildirim is to allow players to make and share their own adventures. In my brief foray, I was able to gain the favor of a jester being mocked by a crowd, and fought my way across an island to rendezvous with a rather mysterious falconer. The game has a very “ironman” feel to it. Death is permanent.
Niche, from Swiss game designers Philomena Schwab and Severin Walker, was a fresh look at the genre of survival and exploration games. You play as a small clutch of cute-but-fanged omnivores, seeking an ample diet of berries and the random rodent or two to survive. Gameplay focuses on breeding and feeding your creatures. Genes can lead to favorable or unfavorable survival traits, with no guarantee of which may be dominant or recessive — meaning that you might quickly end up with a bunch of oddly misbegotten critters if you aren’t careful!
Their gameplay philosophy is to focus on the aspects of environmental interaction and survival. Food will be a shared resource, so that some of the critters can focus on gathering food while others take on exploration. Building a nest will be vital for rearing young. Initially Niche will support a sandbox world. In the long run they are considering adding more quest-like or objective-driven scenarios, night-and-day effects, predators, and other environmental conditions and threats. It quite reminded me of Watership Down.
Morning Men, by Pixel Federation, will be a mix of text adventure and JRPG-style fighting. The graphic novel-style art design is what struck me. It had all the flair of an animated movie. Producer Lukas Nizky agreed that was the goal. It has been a monumental challenge to create all of the art assets for the game, but their attention to color, clutter and everyday details pays off visually. An homage to the kinds of science fiction popularized by Stanislaw Lem. Look for it on Steam this summer and follow them on Twitter at @.
Nelly Cootalot: The Fowl Fleet, by Application Systems Heidelberg, is a wry and witty game following a plucky heroine that puzzles her way through a point-and-click pirate adventure. If you are a long-time Doctor Who fan, you’ll recognize the voice of Tom Baker as one of the supporting cast. The game is already localized into German and English for voiceover, and has written translations in French, Spanish and Italian. This game will release later this month on Steam for Mac, Windows and Linux. In my own explorations, I was able to successfully secret myself away in a large shipping container to clandestinely reach my next destination. Though when I arrived, I sadly disappointed the elderly female harbor Commodore. She had been expecting a much-needed shipment pen nibs rather than an adventurer in a box. “Adventurer,” she scoffed, “I don’t much like the sound of that!” An utterly charming game.
There were many, many more people I met today. People, products and stories I hope to bring you tomorrow or Friday. My thanks to everyone for sharing their time and attention. Two reminders: first, this was only a brief glimpse into just a small fraction of a the overall show! Second, any mentions made herein should not be construed as constituting any relationship between e2f and these products, companies or individuals. This was simply what impressed me as I walked through the show, and is shared for the benefit of those who might not have been able to get to San Francisco for GDC. For now, it’s nearly midnight. Time to sign off and get ready for Day Two!
Are you attending GDC? What did you see that just blew you away or piqued your interest? Send us your own pictures and messages on Twitter at @e2ftranslations and hashtag them #GDC.
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