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DirectX eXposure posted 4/11 at 9:36:49 PM PST by Dave Astle

Being the super-connected quasi-press types that we are, we managed to land invitations to the exclusive Microsoft party. We'd heard that in the past, it had been THE party to attend, featuring bands you've actually heard of (like Soul Coughing last year). Things started off well, with the rush of being able to walk past the massive line of waiting people and go directly into the party, where Hattan and I were 2 of only about 30 people. The setup was great, with four bars, tons of food, and DirectX high-ups to talk to. Unfortunately, no band: they just had a DJ. Although the party eventually got too crowded, overall, it was much better than the ones I attended last year, where pounding music and smoke machines made any kind of communication impossible.

Update: I've been informed that there was actually a band at the party, called Los Bastardos de Amor. Not exactly at the Soul Coughing level, but I might have stuck around had I known.

Interactive Storytelling: The Rant posted 3/29 at 7:21:46 PM PST by DavidRM

Review: Interactive Storytelling: The Real Thing
Presented by Chris Crawford at GDC 2001

Based on the recommendation of a person I trusted (names of the not-so-innocent have been withheld), I attended Chris Crawford's "Interactive Storytelling: The Real Thing" tutorial at GDC 2001. Since she gave me the recommendation the day before, I still trust her opinion.

To be completely upfront, I will admit that I did not attend the first half of the tutorial. Reports are that the first half of the tutorial contained actual content and was of some value to the attendees. That the tutorial was still well-attended when I arrived after lunch would seem a good sign that the first half really was worthwhile, and that this is not just a malicious rumor. So my comments concern only the second half of the tutorial.

The first 30-45 minutes I heard contained several good points about stories in general. For instance, the "story as entity" concept appealed to my art appreciation instincts. Similarly, the assertion that "story is about the relationships between two or more ideas" rang true with me. There was a minor amount of ax-grinding, particularly about "commercializing" of the industry, but I let that pass. Also, I appreciated the ISBN's of several books he indicated as good resources for studying folk tales. I was willing to let The Man Who Started the GDC have a few peccodillos.

Subtly, however, the useful portion of the tutorial ended and the opinions, editorializing, and self-promotion began. I say "subtly" not to indicate that any of Mr. Crawford's opinions, commentary, or patting-himself-on-the-back are at all subtle, but merely to indicate that all content that wasn't one of these slowly disappeared from what he was saying until all we were left with was his patronizing, condescension, and reminders that he holds some patent or the other.

Being subjected to printouts of his code and data structures was bad enough. Even worse, though, were his constant "recommendations" for user interface design and programming tips & tricks--most of which boiled down to the use of "rollover" interface techniques and exception handling.

It's not like it would have taken more than 10-20 minutes--if that--to reformat the data structures he wanted to show in a more crowd-friendly way. I would hazard a guess that a majority of the attendees considered themselves more writing- and design-oriented than programming-oriented, so using raw code in the presentation seemed more self-agrandizing than useful.

This tutorial was supposed to be about interactive storytelling. Nowhere did it mention giving lessons to beginner programmers and displaying screen shots from Mac software. I suppose his tangeantal asides and anecdotes of the long hours he struggled coming up with a programming solution for some obscure "corner condition" might have been more permissible and easier to take if he hadn't spent so much time telling them.

The real kicker, though, occurred when, after hours of presenting his landmark, world-changing, I'm-further-along-than-anybody-else, ain't-nothing-better-than-this software system and techniques...he admitted that none of it worked.

Not only does it not work, but questions concerning possibly using his "engine" with something so crass (and commercial) as a 3D game were derisively, and abrasively, struck down. And his assertion that "Hollywood...is in the best position to do...interactive storytelling"--in the face of the "Siliwood" meltdown in the last decade when it tried to do just that--made me wonder if Mr. Crawford has paid any attention at all to the industry since he decried the woeful "State of the Industry" so long ago.

On a more humorous note, his statement that "the audience is the primary obstacle" struck me as incredibly funny, even if it was intended as a serious comment. After all, who couldn't use a better audience? We all need an audience that pays us more respect, laughs at more of our jokes, and buys more of our products. Viva la better audience!

Since this was Mr. Crawford's first appearance at the GDC in a number of years, I could almost see fit to cut him a bit of slack. But since I have talked to other game development professionals that have heard Mr. Crawford speak recently, and presented the same material in the same way, I feel no slack-extending obligation.

Perhaps if Mr. Crawford could come down from the ivory tower of isolation, bitterness, and superiority he has built for himself he would see that other people besides himself have made (and will make) contributions to the industry, the conference, and the state of the universe in general. Or, at the very least, he could improve his presentation style.

If you would like more information about Chris Crawford and his opinions check out his web page at: http://www.erasmatazz.com

Day Two at-a-glance posted 3/22 at 9:19:02 AM PST by TANSTAAFL

Day two was sort of lame. I wasn't really interested in any of the tutorials, so I wound up just schmoozing with whomever was schmoozable. Paul Schuytema bought me a beer, so that was pretty cool. We went to dinner with Jim Hill from WordWare at a nice italian restaurant, but nothing else really eventful took place.
John and Dave went to the DirectX party, and they said is wasnt all that, but dont take my word for it, I wasn't there.