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What, no day six? posted 4/2 at 9:06:21 AM PST by John Hattan

Well, there's no coverage of the trip-home day six, so I'll just post this here. I wrote this up at the airport while waiting for my flight.
Since airports have become much more stressful places than they used to be, I’d like to share with you something that works very well for me that can help ensure that your flight will be as stress-free as possible. It’s quite simple and can be summarized in one simple phrase.

Arrive really really REALLY early!

Virtually all of the airport stress I’ve experienced and encountered in others is caused by being in a time-crunch to get checked in, get baggage checked, get through security, and get on the plane. Even if you follow the airport’s new recommendation of arriving 90 minutes to two hours early can cause problems if the security line bogs down or the computers are slow or any of the thousand other things happen that can slow a flight. My personal recommendation is to arrive THREE TO FOUR HOURS early.

Yep, you heard me, four hours. If you arrive that early, you’re guaranteed to have enough time to vault over any hurdle that could be in your way. A good example would be a flight that Shelly and I took to Las Vegas a month ago. Around midnight the night before we left, we were hit with the MOST unforeseen thing that could happen in Dallas in late February – four inches of snow. We already had an early flight, but when we saw the snow, we sped up our schedule and gave ourselves time to get to the car-park early. And it worked. We got on the road at around 4 AM when traffic was so sparse that we could get to the car-park in time. Watching TV in the airport, we saw that by 7 AM that morning, traffic was at a complete standstill all over town, and we would’ve undoubtedly missed our flight. Contrast this with the couple in our car-park shuttle who had an earlier flight than us and left later. They were certain they were going to miss their flight, and the woman repeatedly shouted “you are such a JERK!” at the driver who was apparently not driving the shuttle bus fast enough through four inches of snow to get to their gate on time.

If I was that shuttle driver, I would’ve invited them to walk to their freakin’ gate.

Your only worry right now about arriving at the airport so early is that you’ll end up twiddling your thumbs for hours. Plan for it. Bring a book. Bring a few extra bucks so you can have a leisurely lunch at the terminal. Bring some work with you and plan to do it while waiting. You’ll have plenty of time to stake out some quiet space at an empty gate, so do so.

Ever since doing this, my flights have been much less stressful. Try it.

Guess what I finally found! posted 3/28 at 6:15:25 PM PST by Ron Penton



I want to be this man posted 3/28 at 5:51:59 PM PST by Ron Penton

Today I only attended one lecture, and I'm glad that I did. Even though it was completely packed when I arrived 20 minutes early, I still decided to stay and stand up in the back (which is why the pictures suck).

Simply put, Will Wright is The Man. If there is one man on this planet that I want to be, it's Will Wright. If you don't know who I'm talking about, you would do well to go back and learn your Game Development History. He's the guy who co-founded Maxis and invented SimCity, and all of it's dozens of spinoffs.

His speech was on "Game Design". I know that there are people out there who rag on people who make a career out of "Game Design", but if there's one person in this world who can do it, it's Will Wright. Basically his speech was all about the different approaches you could take to design games; going over things like tree-based decision making processes and UI design techniques.

I especially liked how he made the lecture interesting. I have a problem with attention span; I get bored of things within a minute or two of any lecture I go to, especially if a person drones on for hour after hour of a boring topic; but Wright made it fascinating. Halfway through the lecture he interrupted us with The Russian Space Minute. He said that people are always comming up to him and asking him to talk about game design, but no one ever asks hims about the other stuff he wants to talk about, so he randomly talks about things he's interested in, in the middle of his speeches about game design. During this "interlude", he talked about the design of Russian space capsules, and how the user-interfaces that the Russian astronauts use have always been relatively simple compared to their American counterparts; the idea being that a complex interface doesn't mean it's better. So you can see that this interlude wasn't entirely random, but in fact ended up relating nicely to game design.

Other topics he talked about were his hobbies, which included building robots to perform bizarre sociology experiments; such as seeing how people will react to a robotic waiter, or a smashed-up robot begging people for help in an alley. Here are some of the better pictures:
The line to get in
Another shot of the line.
Standing Room only!
Opening Slide
The Man, The Myth, The Legend
Another Slide

The GDC Diet Plan posted 3/28 at 11:42:05 AM PST by DavidRM

The GDC Diet Plan

I lost 5 lbs this past week while attending the GDC. Here's how:

  1. I drank water almost exclusively. Free beer at parties, of course, but during the day and at meals, all I drank was water.

  2. I didn't eat full portions. I usually don't eat much when I travel, anyway, but I made a point of not finishing the full serving just "because it was there". The free lunches served by the GDC made this easier than you might expect...

  3. Walking walking walking. I used the light rail (VTA). Taking the light rail usually involves a bit more walking that using the GDC shuttle, but it's a *lot* more reliable. Also, the different sessions and events at the GDC are usually spaced such that you have to walk a lot. I estimate my daily walking at 3-4 miles. Some days (like Tuesday when I got lost, and Friday when I decided not to wait for the VTA) I walked even more.

And, there you have it: The GDC diet plan. We'll see how I do now that I'm back at home, cooking my own meals, and stocking lots of Pepsi in the fridge... ;-)


The IGDA Report posted 3/27 at 12:30:58 AM PST by Kevin Hawkins

Part of the GDC's package is the inclusion of the "IGDA Annual Report" in which the IGDA reports its financial status and statistics, as well as general information about the IGDA's various partners and services.

Well, we couldn't help but take some good looks at this year's report. To be honest, I'm not sure we've really looked at the previous years' reports in much detail before. GameDev.net did alot of promotions for the IGDA, and we saw IGDA membership explode as GameDev.net referred its members to the organization.

According to the report, IGDA paying members grew from about 2500 in 2002 to about 4000 in 2003, with a huge explosion in registered web site users from about 19,000 in 2002 to 56,000 in 2003. These statistics are saying that while the increase in new memberships remained fairly linear from previous years, the number of people aware of the IGDA tripled.

These statistics are wonderful, but the thing that bothers us about this report is the income/expense statement. Let's break it down, straight from the "2003 IGDA Annual Report":
Membership Dues223,200
Studio Affiliation Fees69,200
Partner/Sponsor Fees76,300
GDC "Royalty (1)55,500
Total Revenue424,200
Member Services & Programs (2)47,200
Management & Administration (3)304,500
Sales & Marketing27,400
Operational (4)39,800
Total Expenses418,900
Surplus Income: 5,300

(1) The IGDA is paid a $20 royalty per full conference attendee of the annual GDC. This is, in part, a legacy of the past relationship between the IGDA and GDC.
(2) Member Services & Programs covers expenses related to funding committee work, chapter development, web community tools, etc.
(3) The Management & Administration expense represents the contractual fee paid to the CMP Game Group to cover daily management and administration services, including employee salaries, benefits, office rent, computer equipment, etc.
(4) Operational Expenses are a diverse set of expenses incurred during normal operations of the IGDA (e.g. credit card fees, postage, travel, etc).
We didn't like this at all. $305,000 is being spent on Management & Administration??? That's 71.7% of all income! When you look at item number 3 in the notes, you see that all of this is going to the CMP Game Group for dealing with all management and administration operations. Granted we are not business experts, but we know plenty of them, and we have verified that spending 71.7% of your income on management is Not A Good Thing(tm) when you are an organization whose purpose is to serve the international game development community.

In fact, according to these statistics, only $47,200, or 11.1%, of IGDA income is spent on the members themselves! Does this sound right? We surely don't think so - not if the IGDA is a "non-profit membership organization that advocates globally on issues related to digital game creation" and is one whose "mission is to strengthen the international game development community and effect change to benefit that community." Any large non-profit organization spending only $47,200, or 11.1% of its income (approximately the average US national software engineer's salary) on its members, is not going to greatly improve or promote community building, particularly at an international level as the IGDA seems to want to do.

Granted, the local IGDA chapters are doing great. We've heard alot of great things about the local chapters, and the GameDev.net staff has even attended local chapter meetings and seen how well they are run and how useful they are. However, this income/expense report from the national level seems rather inexcusable. The IGDA is an organization for the international game development community, so why is the national IGDA expenses so low for the very bread and butter of its operations? Is it because of growth? Transition periods? Or is it because of the "CMP Game Group" contract listed in Note #3? In any case, something is certainly not "right".

So, maybe we should ask ourselves, what has our national IGDA organization done for us today?

The tired day. . . posted 3/26 at 5:28:16 PM PST by John Hattan

Friday is definitely the day when everybody's had it up to here with the GDC. The lectures are more sparsely attended, and the shine has worn off all of the chrome in the expo hall. Like a good party, it's lots of fun but eventually it's just time to go.

Attended one lecture and one roundtable today. The roundtable was all about building communities in browser-based games. Many of the biggies were in there (Disney, Zone.com, ESPN, PopCap) to discuss what works and what doesn't work for browser communities. Much of the discussion centered around (to sum it up) how to filter out jerks. Disney seemed to work hardest at it, of course, moderating pretty-much every message that didn't involve "canned chat" (chat where you're only allowed to choose phrases from a list). Everybody agreed that the biggest problem is the occasional creep who decides he's gonna, for no good reason, mess with your site as best he can.

The lecture was from TapWave about developing for the Zodiac. To be honest, it was a bit ho-hum. The summary seemed to be that programming for the Zodiac is like programming for Palm organizers. Very much like programming for Palm organizers. Exactly like programming for Palm organizers in every respect, actually, save for a few specialize API's made to handle things like the little analog joystick and such. Despite the presentation, though, the Zodiac does strike me as a pretty nifty little gizmo. It seems to address every problem that the other "handheld for grownups", the N-Gage, had. It's got a big screen and an analog joystick and such. It's a nice toy, but I do wonder how big the market is for handheld game toys for people other than kids.

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