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The results are in... posted 4/2 at 1:33:43 PM PST by Dave


Best Lecture Attended: DirectX Developer Day tutorial. The bag was so worth it :)
Worst Lecture Attended: Of the very very few sessions I attended, I think the one on Critical Stage Analysis was the biggest waste of my time, since most of the basic info from the session could have been easily condensed into a 60 minute lecture (note that I still value that basic info however)

Best Swag Item: The DirectX bag
Worst Swag Item: Charles River Media tape measurer

Coolest Expo Booth: Renderware's veil of secrecy just generated an aura of coolness.
Worst Expo Booth: Tie between Codemasters and Stormfront Studios. How dumb is it to buy space on the Expo floor to showcase... absolutely nothing??

Best GDC Moment: Meeting Peter Molyneux for all of 5 minutes and exchanging business cards
Worst GDC Moment: Getting on the plane out of San Jose and realizing that Brian Reynolds was on my flight and had been sitting in the terminal with me for about and hour (we met briefly a couple of times during GDC but never got to sit down and chat). D'oh!

Best Party: Microsoft's DirectX party. Read my report. It rocked the house.
Worst Party: GDCA after party. Waaaay too crowded. I suppose it's kind of hard to offset that and it was a decent attempt, but still.

Coolest Expo Moment: Seeing Dan and Josh Goldstein, along with Mike Legrand (all from Shizmoo Games) boxing by their IGF kiosk with big inflated boxing gloves

Most Missed Exhibitor: GarageGames. They were technically a part of the NVIDIA booth this year, but their booth last year was way cool

Most Missed Expo Prize: PCs. Now companies are giving away mother boards and chipsets. Whatever happened to the full pc??? (a la Intel and AMD 2002)

Coolest Expo Product: Ergodex's customizable keyboard thingy. I don't know if I'll be buying one anytime soon at $150 a pop, but the idea is pretty novel

Best Improvement to the GDCA's: Having StrongBad guest-star
Worst Improvement to the GDCA's: Cutting out the speeches of all the IGF winners except the grand prize and Power Play Games recipients to save time thanks to an additional 10 finalists

Best Booth Advertising for Someone Else: For some mysterious reason, a stack of GDNet information flyers appeared on the counter at the Gamasutra booth. We didn't have anything to do with this. We swear.

Best Company to Make a Future Appearance at GDC: Alienware. They still haven't started pimping their game developer program to any extent as far as I know, and if they want to target game developers to buy their PCs, where better place to go??


Best Lecture Attended: John Gaeta, guy in charge of the Matrix movie's special effects. Way cool guy, lots of insight into effects (and relevant to games, to my surprise), just wish he had had more time to really get into everything. Could easily have been an all-day session, and IMO, SHOULD have been. Why were all the really COOL sessions cut short?
Worst Lecture Attended: The one on character design. Felt like a 7th-grade art class, and too many hours of it, combined w/ college-level "creative thinking" class. Feh. The speaker was talented, but didn't really have anything useful to say.

Best Swag Item: Dunno if it was the best, but it was my favorite: Mobile developers Kayak Interactive were giving out clear, glass pool balls w/ their logo inside. Very spiffy.
Worst Swag Item: No offense to my (and almost everyone else's) publisher, but Premier Press's shakers were annoying as all hell. Dave, I can't believe you're giving one to your kids, you just condemned yourself to at least a week's worth of headaches from constant "shickah shickah shickah" sounds.

Coolest Expo Booth: ATI's: those blow-up chairs not only looked cool and attracted attention, but they were comfy. I want a few or 20.
Worst Expo Booth: S3's booth sucked pretty bad...how do you announce a big deal like coming back to a platform you abandoned (or is it failed miserably at? At least their new chipset looks good...), especially one as big as PCs, with a booth smaller the size of my bathroom?

Best GDC Moment: Getting to meet Ed Logg, creator of the original Gauntlet!!
Worst GDC Moment: Here, I have to agree w/ Drew, sort of: my plane ride was the WORST: cramped, 6am, screaming children (someone please invent muzzles for children, or may candy w/ a sedative that's over-the-counter?), being awake for over two days straight and missing the first day of the expo (though "missing" isn't the right word, as that implies there was something there I wanted to see; perhaps "not being awake to attend" is more accurate).

Best Party: Didn't get to many, but Kayak wins again. Met lots of very cool people.
Worst Party: None that I went to. I enjoyed all of them! But, I heard that Wednesday's Microsoft party (parties, actually) was (were) lame.

Most Missed Exhibitor: Caligari. I really think they should have been there to push gameSpace. They say it's not their market, but I say if GarageGames was showing - and they were, sort of - then that means that their target market was there, as gameSpace exports pretty well to GarageGames' Torque engine. Speaking of Indie game development tools, I would have like to have seen Conitec, BlitzBasic3D, DarkBASIC Pro showing as well, even if in smaller booths down by the recruiters.

Most Missed Expo Prize: Dunno. Was my first GDC expo. But hell, if they were giving away PCs previously, why not this year? Only costs those giving them away the price of shipping to the show, I'm sure.

Coolest Expo Product: The new BodyPaint3D program from Maxon looks badass. So does the new version of Virtools. And so does Qualcomm/ATI's new mobile 3D chipset. And so did Meqon's Havok-beating physics engine. And so did Sketch3D, a real-time 3D modeling/animation/rendering tool for architectural previz, that also exports to the Unreal engine level format. Expect to see reviews of BodyPaint3D, Virtools, and potentially Meqon's physics engine on GameDev.Net soon.

Best Expo Event: The Audio G.A.N.G. Awards. Audio G.A.N.G. is a wonderful idea, and a great way to stabilize pricing for audio/music in games. Plus, a great way, through the awards, to bring attention to those selfless individuals and/or teams that dedicate their entire lives to something that is all-too often overlooked in game design & development. Seeing the team of LoudLouderLoudest, game and mobile audio development company extraordinairre (http://www.loudlouderloudest.com), performing their Retro Game Medley v2.0, which received loud applause both during and after they performed it, along w/ a much-deserved standing ovation. Expect to see an interview w/ them on GameDev.Net soon. Also, seeing that mobile audio was given an award was nice, as was having the Lifetime Achievment Award in Game Audio given to a very deserving and all-around great guy, Rob Hubbard, Commodore 64 and newer platform uber-musician. Next year, I better see Bobby Prince win, though!
Worst Expo Event: The Audio G.A.N.G. Awards. Yes, G.A.N.G. was both the best and worst Expo Event. Why? Here's why: Lots of awards, going out to a handful of people. Too much self back-patting done by those running G.A.N.G. and the awards ceremony. Too few games winning too many awards, so blindingly obvious that they were influenced by the winner's standing in G.A.N.G., or at the very least by the advertising budgets associated with said winners. Non-original music winning original music awards ("John Williams-style original music" is any oxymoron; the music he is most famous for, and which some of this "original music" was styled to emulate, was stolen from other, less over-dramatic and more talented - but long dead and public domain - composers). Those running G.A.N.G. giving awards to themselves. Seeing people other than LoudLouderLoudest, who were the only group to do so last year (for which they also received a standing ovation - seeing a pattern here? Check them out!), performing their own, poorly-done Retro Game Medley, most notably that perpetrated on the crowd by the talentless - or at best barely-talented-and-living-on-his-father's-amazing-legacy-not-to-mention-money, yet still well-known "musician" Dweezil Zappa, who I suspect was paid, or at least compensated in some way, for the 2min he made obnoxious, guitar-based noise. The only redeeming part of his performance was the amusement caused by his mention of "bringing back the rock" to music in general and "getting more guitar in game music" which obviously pertains to game music specifically.

Best "Booth Babe": Can't really call them "Booth Babes," exactly, but those sweet, adorable little honeys helping to keep the Press Room running, in order, and stocked with goodies for us greedy press members; despite my deep-seeded dislike - nay, hatred - of California and all that it stands for (plastic people, selfish people and worst of all non-smoking people - and no offense to the non-plastic/selfish but still non-smoking members of the GDNet team living there!), I slightly - very slightly - regret moving away from a place where the hot girl:ugly girl ratio is weighted more heavily towards the hot (though too often plastic and thus no-longer-hot-but-not-exactly-ugly) side of the equation than, say, everywhere else in the country minus Orlando/Miami/Austin.


Best Lecture: The 8-hour casual games summit on day two. While the "summit" lectures are a mixed bag by definition, the goods in this one far outweighed the bads. 'Twas inspiring to see that small stuff can still be both high-quality and successful.

Worst Lecture: I didn't attend one. I made it a point only to attend good lectures this year. Life's too short to hang around during bad lectures.

Best Freebie: Prima/Premier/Course/Thompson/Cougar/Mellencamp's pens. Downright classy they are.

Best Expo Booth: TryMedia. They didn't have anything flashy, but they did have lots of good information and were happy to sit with you in their comfy couch and answer all your questions. On top of that, they had four sponsored sessions on computer security and piracy on Wednesday that were genuinely informative and weren't just infomercials for their products.

Worst Expo Booth: Nokia. Basically the same booth as last year, starring N-Gage everywhere. After such a weak product launch, you'd think they'd wanna push the N-Gage's sequel that fixes the original's problems. I finally got a chance to play one for a length of time, and I must say the complaints are justified. The screen is small, the graphics choppy, and the hardware can't seem to handle pressing more than one button at a time so doing something like shooting your car-mounted gun requires you to release the accelerator key.

Most Mysterious Expo Booth: RenderWare. They tied Intel for biggest booth, but you couldn't see anything. It was just a giant silver box with a desk on one end with a couple of people ushering invite-ees inside. I didn't see an exit, so I presume that invite-ees were knocked unconscious with giant clown-hammers, cryogenically frozen, and beamed to alien overlords on Blaxfarg IV for use as slaves and food.

Worst Freebie: Sony Ericsson/Metrowerks hat. Despite attending their last lecture where they gave out 20 free Java game-phones to an audience of approximately 23 people, and despite having Metrowerks' head Java cellphone technology manager (who was my coworker for two years) in attendance, and despite showing said manager a completed game that he agreed would be PERFECT for play on the aforementioned game-phones, and despite being probably the only person in the audience who would not only remove the aforementioned game-phone from the box but would actually develop a game on the aforementioned game-phone, and despite being promised to be put on the development tools reviewer program and be sent a development game-phone the previous year, I got a hat. And I never wear hats. To quote Ferris Beuller, "how's that for being born under a bad sign".

Worst Party: Microsoft XBox hospitality suite. It was about the only thing resembling a party that I attended. Hot very crowded hospitality suite crammed with people playing a couple of apparently new XBox games. I left after five minutes, but I did get a free beer, so it wasn't a total washout.

Best Party and Food: Prima/Premier/Course/Whatever's event at Gordon Biersch. Plenty of tasty snacks and beer for everyone. I only regret that I got an attack of the sleepies and went home early.

Worst Food: The GDC box lunches. It may be selective memory, but I don't remember the sandwiches being this soggy in previous years. Also baklava isn't supposed to have green stuff in it. Ewwww.

Most Pretentious: Person in ticket booth for XBox party. MS apparently had three or four XBox parties and didn't make it clear which was which. When I asked the ticket booth person if I needed a ticket, she just stared at the floor. When I asked if I was on her little list, she mumbled "did you get a letter?" without taking her eyes off the floor. When I said that I recalled no letter because Dave supposedly set up the invite a couple of days earlier, she said "then you're not on the list", again without taking her eyes off the floor. Luckily Dave walked by right then, so I had a good chance to have a loud "not for Dave's benefit" conversation with him about how Microsoft apparently shuffles troublesome employees to trade-show booths where they can get out their frustrations at the world by acting like snobs. Dunno if it helped, but it was cathartic.

Best Event: The IGF and student showcase. The nominees, not the awards. Virtually all of 'em were terrific products and showed off what kind of good stuff could be done on a limited budget.

Worst Event: The Game Developers Choice Awards. Virtually every award went to a World War II shooter (a genre that apparently stays fresh with every release) or a remake/sequel of an older game. If these are the kind of games that are voted on by game developers as the best of the year, I can see why the industry is troubled. I'd rather play the IGF games over any of 'em.

Funniest Event: The NAVIGATR awards. It was the only awards show that threatened to have more presenters than audience members. When I was in attendance, the audience outnumbered presenters three to two. . .literally three audience members. But it did give an award for "best voiceover" to Adam West, and any awards show that gives an award to Adam West is okay in my book. If only Adam was there to accept, I could have gone to my grave knowing that I'd done it all.

David Michael

Best thing about GDC 2004: The percentage of women attending had jumped significantly since 2002. And the number of women *programmers* seems to have gone up, as well.

Worst thing about GDC 2004: On one hand, Microsoft sponsored the Women Celebrating Women in Gaming event...and on the other, featured a 9-foot tall piece of gravity-defying, film noir cheesecake and a party called "Risque Cafe". The hell?


3: The Carmack Keynote
Carmack's keynote was done very well, and I was simply astonished how that man was able to talk for 45 minutes without a single break, without any visual aids or prompting needed. Bravo. Oh yeah, and the speech content was good too.

2: Will Wright
Will Wright's lecture on Game Design was simply wonderful; see my writeup on Day 5 for more information

I found this wonderful bumper sticker on the second day of the expo (Day 4):

The conference definitely could have used more cowbell.

As for the worst? The Microsoft Party on Wednesday night. That was pretty lame and boring.


Best Swag Item: The Everquest Trilogy with a month free!
Worst Swag Item: Activision Pen.

Coolest Expo Booth: Renderware.
Worst Expo Booth: Stormfront Studios.

Best GDC Moment: Meeting and getting chance to hang out with some of the Interplay entertainment lot, what a great bunch of guys!
Worst GDC Moment: Leaving :(

Best Party: Microsoft's XBOX party, I didn't get chance to do a report on it but it was brilliant, they had an excellent 40's theme (I think), women dancing in cages, tons of food, a free massage area. I even heard there were monitors in the guys bathrooms with a woman talking to you, saying funny things and complimenting you on your assets (if you know what I mean). Flashing Xbox cocktail glasses, glowing ice cubes girls walking around with Polaroid cameras and models posing for pictures added a great touch. Fantastic party!
Worst Party: They were all great!

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