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Alphabet City posted 3/11 at 11:34:34 AM PST by Sande

Created by the NYC-based game developer gameLab, Alphabet City, a massively multiplayer off-line game, ran Thursday morning until 7 pm Friday when two PS2's and other assorted prizes were auctioned using Alphabet City money. Each new player was given a letter and s/he had to join other players in forming words containing 4 or more letters. Longer words were worth more. In addition, there were 100 secret bonus words that were worth five times the normal cash amount.

In the beginning, I started playing Alphabet City because I found it to be fun. As a former producer of Scrabble for mobile phones, I already had this ability to rearrange letters and find words. Groups formed naturally near the IGDA booth as people cashed in letters and got new ones. One time, the whole group yelled out "L" to passer-bys when we needed letters. Or we recruited newbies to join and get a letter. It was very addictive. I didn't really expect to win anything in the auction because I had heard other people had already amassed a lot of fake money.

The next day, there were people playing two or three letters because there were "orphan letters" left behind by people who had ceased playing the game. There were a lot more people in the groups and they would yell out, "I have the second O" and so forth. Then I stopped playing because it had ceased to be fun. I found out later that other people had stopped playing for the same reason. I found that I didn't want to play with people who were bossy or being the dictator. Other people told me that in the beginning, people were just forming words without regard to whether or not their letters were being used and when it got to be competitive, the game wasn't fun anymore. By the last hour, just before the auction, people were writing their initials on the letters to avoid getting gypped.

I went to the auction but I wasn't quite sure how it worked since I had been busy cashing in "AGUE." Basically, people could pool their money together but then they would have to decide who got the prize. There were 10 prizes, starting with a paperback dictionary, and you had to decide which prize you would be able to get based on how much money you had. The CA's were asking for donations to get the PS2 and a lot of people ended up donating their money to the CA's. There was another pool of six people who thought they would get the second PS2, leaving the grand prize of PS2 plus Scrabble to the CA's.

Brian Hawkins of Soma Consulting and programmer Ivanna Kartarahardja, who hadn't been playing so regularly, gave me their money. While I was chatting, Brian bid on the seventh tier prize, Quiddler, and won. Brian got his picture taken as the prizewinner, Ivanna got the Alphabet City pin, and I got Quiddler for $100,100. The rest of my money went to the CA donation pool. The first PS2 went to a single person for $1,000,000. During the auction for the grand prize, people gave up and then had the choice of joining in with the pool of six or donating to the CA's. Most donated to the CA's and the CA's won the PS2.

Internet aplenty posted 3/10 at 9:00:42 AM PST by John Hattan

Another nice thing about the convention was that everybody and their brother had a wireless gizmo, so if you had a wireless internet connection in your laptop, you could usually find somewhere to connect. There was an "official" wireless router somewhere, but it was usually quite busy. We had better luck with others.

Here's Kevin downloading pornography in the IGDA pavilion.

Premier Press Booth posted 3/10 at 8:55:06 AM PST by John Hattan

With all the coverage of other booths, we neglected to mention our home, the Premier Press booth. Dave demanded that I take a photo, but then refused to turn around when I found a good spot to get the whole booth, as he was too busy shmoozing with Andre LeMothe. TANS took up the slack and struck a pose for us.

New Radeon posted 3/10 at 8:53:44 AM PST by John Hattan

We got to touch the new ATI Radeon 9800 before you did. That's because we rule.

Renderware Booth posted 3/8 at 10:49:24 PM PST by Gaiiden

I think RenderWare had the coolest booth. Actually I wish now I had booked a press interview with them or something because their press lounge looked really nice :P

They weren't as demo-packed as some of the other booths were
A look at the main desk and demo area
A shot into the press lounge. Can't see much but it ran the length of the booth and looked damn comfy

NXN Booth posted 3/8 at 10:39:32 PM PST by Gaiiden

The NXN booth was doing a lot of promotion for its alienbrain product line of content managers. One of the major things it was doing was giving out full-version discs of alienbrain Engineer with two seats for free. According to their page's pricing info, that's a $1380 value!! In addition they were handing out a limited number of alienbrain Engineer bags a day (see my day 2 swag pile). Sometime during the day a NXN person would walk the Expo floor a pick a person with the bag in plain sight. They were giving away Nikkon remote-controlled Acura's with the NXN logo as well as snowboards.

The NXN booth
The alienbrain snowboard. They gave out another one too
A look at the demo area

Playstation Booth posted 3/8 at 10:28:52 PM PST by Gaiiden

The Playstation booth was set up with all the newest PS2 games on the market. I'm not much of a PS2 fan so I didn't swing by much - I don't know if they were doing any cool prizes or not.

Da booth
Mmmm gaames...
This would be the Playstion Development Kit demo area - I just happened to catch Dave Weinstein (Red Storm) talking to the demo guy
Hiiii YA! No, although it looks like this guy is playing a kung-fu game, he's really setting up to pick the proper bad guy in this mo-cap game.

Havok Booth posted 3/8 at 10:12:47 PM PST by Gaiiden

The Havok booth this year was showcasing the release of its new Havok2 SDK. They were showing off demos of their ragdoll physics modeling, which I have to say was extremely cool. The demo had like 50 ragdolls falling down this sloped inclide with a bunch of obstacles in the way, causing them to thrash every which way as they bumped and rolled down. They were also showing of physics in a game - you could shoot boxes and stuff and have the bullets push things over (this is the kind of stuff you'll see in games like DeusEx 2). In the v2 SDK they seperated their vehicle physics engine into a seperate package, and they were showcasing that as well. They also had the various demos running on a GameCube, XBox, PS2, and PC.

Got Art? posted 3/8 at 10:01:41 PM PST by Gaiiden

Every year NVIDIA runs a contest where you have a certain amount of time to draw an image fitting a certain theme that somehow incorporates the NVIDIA logo. So if you're an artist, come to next year's GDC after brushing up on your free-drawing skills. NVIDIA usually gives out t-shirts and graphics cards to the winners, who are chosen based upon audience approval.

NVIDIA takes your art and posts it up in their offices. They probably have a huge gallery by now.
Here's the signup desk. Don't bother entering if you can't draw.
Artists hard at work
The TV showed stills of previous contestants, while the spin board picked the theme for the each drawing session

Darim Booth posted 3/8 at 9:53:42 PM PST by Gaiiden

These guys (Darim) had a cool motion base on display with a chair attached and a racing game loaded on the big screen. I don't know why I can't seem to find the chair on their site - maybe you'll have better luck than me.

This chair has movement on all three axis
racing game!

Discreet Booth posted 3/8 at 9:46:53 PM PST by Gaiiden

The Discreet booth was pretty cool - especially how they had set up an ad-hoc classroom in the booth where attendees could sit behind a computer and follow along with the instructor as he demos 3DS Max on the big screen.

Cool blue...
a 3DS Max class in session
this was the real demo area

FMOD Booth posted 3/8 at 9:32:33 PM PST by Gaiiden

I'm trying to remember if the FMOD guys were around last year and I can't remember, though something tells me that they were. Anyways since they make a kick-ass sound library I had to take some pics and give them some press. Check them out!

Nokia Booth posted 3/8 at 9:24:16 PM PST by Gaiiden

The Nokia booth was freakin huge! It easily matched the size of the NVIDIA and ATI booths, which goes to show just how serious these mobile companies are at bringing games into their industry (note that it's not the other way around). I think it would have been cool to see an NTT DoCoMo booth, but since that's a Japanese-only service it wouldn't have made sense for them to have a booth. But still, DoCoMo is pushing some extremely cool tech over in Japan.

NVIDIA Booth posted 3/8 at 9:23:07 PM PST by Gaiiden

The NVIDIA booth was just like the ATI booth with the amount of PCs crammed into the space alloted. All were running various real-time demos using the new GeForce FX graphics processor. The coolest of course was Dawn, the virtual pixie. Guys were oogling non-stop as the demo guy manipulated various facial features to create expressions and allowed the demo to run to show the fluid movement of the character. Such movement was also displayed in the dancing ogre demo. The fact that it was all real-time was quite amazing. Now that I think of it - I don't know what NVIDIA was giving away. I shall have to find out.

here's a pulled back view of the Dawn demo. You can see on the screen the various controls that let the demo person tweak her facial features in real-time
Can we count her as a booth babe?
Say hello to the latest additions to the GeForce family
Just another booth shot
Just another booth shot

Intel Booth posted 3/8 at 9:22:24 PM PST by Gaiiden

This year the Intel booth had to have been the biggest booth on the entire Expo floor. True, other booths like Nvidia and ATI managed to cram more stuff into a smaller space but it terms of sheer size Intel takes the cake this year. They were showcasing various Intel-backed technologies, and really pushing their own Hyper-threading technology. The only sad part was that they were skimpy on the prize this year. Instead of a game box they were giving out copies of Unreal Tournament 2003 to the winners of a UT2k3 tourny held at the Intel booth every 30 minutes or so.

I had to back way up to get the entire booth in the frame, it was that big
Another angle of the booth
Yet another angle - notice Intrinsic and Wild Tangent, both Intel-driven technologies
Here's a UT2k3 tourny in action. Sorrounding the Intel commentator in the booth (who's spouting the goodness of HT) is a semi-circle of 8 PCs with people deathmatching

Charles River Media Booth posted 3/8 at 9:21:44 PM PST by Gaiiden

The Charles River Media booth had all its titles on display, as well as working draft versions of books that are still in the process of being published. Dave Pallai, the President of CRM, manned the booth for the entire day. CRM is running an 3-day contest where you drop in your business card and each day they select one. The winner on Day1 gets a digital camera, the winner on Day2 gets an MP3 player, and the winner on Day3 gets a PDA. You can only win once. Wish me luck :-p

Oh yea, they had cool pens too.

ATI Booth posted 3/8 at 9:18:49 PM PST by Gaiiden

The ATI booth was giving out T-shirst like mad along with little propeller-like boomerangs. They also had the booth crammed full of demo PCs showcasing the new Radeon. Most of the PCs were supplied by Voodoo, Alienware and Falcon Northwest.

This is the front desk of the ATI booth - note the dozens of red boomerang thingies. Not seen are the equally dozens of t-shirts.
This is a shot into the demo area
The demo theater
Voodoo, Alienware, and a Falcon Northwest with a custom ATI Radeon 9700 paint job

GarageGames Booth posted 3/8 at 9:13:05 PM PST by Gaiiden

The GarageGames booth was usually pretty busy, and I ended up stopping by a lot since my company, Blade Edge Software, was planning on using GG and the Torque engine in the future. The GG booth was also home to the various games they were publishing. BraveTree was there, along with Idyronis Studios. GG was also showing of its game Marble Blast and its community project Realm Wars.

the GG booth with BraveTree's ThinkTanks on the screen to the left
Jesse McIntyre (Idryonis Studios) standing beside their Torque-powered game CYBERFUGE: Second Battalion

Expo Impressions - day one posted 3/7 at 11:07:24 PM PST by John Hattan

The expo floor is open. Wheeeeee! Not as much throbbing music this year, but there are more colorful lights. Some of the big players from previous years are nowhere to be seen. Apple, WildTangent, and Macromedia come immediately to mind as companies that had presence in previous years but aren't around now. (Note from Gaiiden: WildTangent was actually displaying technology at the Intel booth, but they still had no booth of their own). I talked to a couple of vendors about prices, and they are downright obscene (an 8x16 foot booth can cost upwards of $35k). Presumably the companies figured that the immense cost just wasn't worth it anymore.

A new player on the floor is Nokia. They had a bigass booth showing off a bunch of their new N-Gage phones. I finally got to play one and was left a bit unimpressed. While it is a very sexy looking little form-factor, the software on it was a but kludgy and the games were pretty ho-hum.

IGF Booth posted 3/7 at 10:51:29 PM PST by Gaiiden

Yea I know we have an IGF section and all but it seems no one thought to actually include the developers in the photos so here we go.

The IGF booth, with the Student Showcase in the background
Geoff Howland (Alitius) and BaseGolf
The Chronic Logic team and Pontifex II
Akiko and Seth Robinson (Robinson Technologies) and Teenage Lawnmower
Joshua and Dan Goldstein (Shizmoo) and Word Ninja
Mike Wilson and Courtney Tudor (Mr. Bigshot) and Mr. Bigshot
the Klear Games team and Reiner Knizia's Samurai
the Pin Interactive team and Terraformers
James Thrush and family (Super X Studios) and Wild Earth

The Expo Lounge posted 3/7 at 9:52:23 AM PST by Kevin Hawkins

The Expo Lounge is an area set aside for people to hang out, relax, and take care of their computer addictions. The only problem is that you have to wait up to half an hour to even find a place to sit. Here are two shots of the lounge.