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Interview with Alan Yu

Alan Yu is the Director of the Game Developers Conference. We recently chatted with him about the upcoming 2004 GDC.

What kind of new events and special features will be present at this year's GDC?
Alan: The Serious Games Summit is a two day event focusing on non-entertainment uses of interactive applications. We felt it was important to cover this topic at the GDC this year because the number of serious games projects is increasing so rapidly, and because they represent a whole new revenue stream for game developers.

Also for the first time, the GDC is hosting GAMEHOTEL. It has to be experienced to be understood, but it's a mix of visionaries from within and outside the game industry in a vibrant, interactive setting, and really showcases games as a driving force in today's popular culture.

For anyone who cares about innovation in games, the Experimental Gameplay Workshop and the Independent Games Festival are two can't-miss events.

The GDC is deeply honored to have Masahiro Sakurai, Ryoichi Hasegawa, and Toru Iwatani all speaking this year.

In your opinion, and despite the fact that there are so many, what's the number one event to attend this year?
Alan: I'd say the number one event to attend this year would the Experimental Gameplay Workshop. The EGW is a signpost for interesting paths and trends in the development of gameplay. Eyetoy was presented for the first time here in 2000 and it's gone on to do quite well. This year's workshop focuses on physics in gameplay. It's a real happening during the GDC.

What went into titling this year's conference as "Evolve"? Were there other names? Other themes considered as well?
Alan: Every year, right after the GDC, we meet with our advisory board to shape the content and themes for the next conference. Every discussion, no matter the subject, came down to evolution: how every aspect in our industry is evolving, how they are evolving, the pace at which they are evolving. Evolve was the only theme we considered.

How has the wireless internet support improved over last year's GDC?
Alan: In addition to WiFi in the conference center, there will be a WiFi lounge on the Expo floor, courtesy of Intel.

How have you guys made use of the extra space provided by the expansion that was underway last year at the convention center and hotel?
Alan: The new Marriott will be used for additional conference sessions and everyone is glad to have more sleeping rooms downtown.

What prompted the change from a Tuesday through Saturday conference to a Monday through Friday conference? Will it continue to be so in the future?
Alan: The GDC is a working conference. Moving the conference to the work week was done out of consideration for our attendees. Plans are to keep the Monday through Friday schedule.

Any old events that will be getting any sort of facelift this year?
Alan: The 2004 Visual Arts track is fantastic. Classes are refocused towards advanced artists and some are expanded to two hours to really allow artists to go step-by-step through tools and techniques. We recognize that as games and film converge, having skills in both fields becomes more necessary for artists, so keynotes include the visual effects supervisors from The Matrix and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon feature films.

There's been some confusion as to the fate of Suite Night. It's listed in the brochure schedule, but not on the website. Will there be a Suite Night this year? If not, why?
Alan: No there will not. With the addition of the Game Developers Choice Awards several years ago, GAMEHOTEL this year, and all the other parties this year, we felt like attendees had too MUCH to do and were stretched too thin.

What other old events were cancelled this year besides Suite Night? For instance, I noticed that the Programmer's Challenge was absent as well.
Alan: Every year, the GDC content changes. Attendees should be able to fully immerse themselves sessions and events to get the most out of them. Look for the Programmers' Challenge to return in the future.

With the IGF expanded to 20 finalists, were there any major changes made to the Game Developers Choice Awards? Or will it simply just run a bit longer?
Alan: You'll have to attend and see for yourself. NVIDIA is hosting a party at the Choice Awards this year, so expect a good time to be had by all.

Interview conducted by Drew "Gaiiden" Sikora.

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