GDC 2013

Obsidian CEO says AAA games are "not relevant" to most developers

T.J. Hafer at

Obsidian's Feargus Urquhart recently spoke at a GDC Russia panel entitled "The decline of the gaming industry as we know it—is there a way out?" While he cast doubt on the notion that huge, console-focused, "AAA" titles are going anywhere, he declared them "not relevant for the development community as a whole." The inflated budgets and team sizes required to make such titles, he cautioned, can also be detrimental to the creative process.

MOBA Madness: Five new games on the horizon, and how they measure up

T.J. Hafer at

The MOBA/ARPG genre is exploding. From indie devs to mid-sized studios in international markets, the subgenre that began as a WarCraft III custom map is gaining traction and diversity. Over the last few weeks, we've taken a look at a fair few upcoming challengers in the arena. From a modern military MOBA/top-down shooter hybrid to a licensed effort with steampunk Batman, we've broken down where each one fits in, and what makes it different from what's already out there.

Star Citizen interview with Chris Roberts - new concept art and in-engine screenshots

Tyler Wilde at

Star Citizen is one of the most ambitious games in development—a massive, high-fidelity, multiplayer space combat sim headed by Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts. Back at GDC I interviewed Roberts about how he plans to realize Star Citizen's prodigious goals, the latest development update—which details modular ship customization—and how the universe as a whole will be simulated. You probably also want to scroll down for the first in-engine screenshots since the prototype reveal.

Clockwork Empires video interview: "Things going spectacularly wrong makes a great story."

Evan Lahti at

Last August we revealed Clockwork Empires, a steampunk city-builder inspired by Dwarf Fortress (and Lovecraftian doom) from the creators of Dungeons of Dredmor, our favorite indie game of 2011. Since then we've followed Gaslamp's weekly blog updates with interest as the Vancouver-based indie assembles the systems that'll drive the game.

I caught up with Gaslamp's founders at GDC to get an update on the game's progress, its release date, and to ask Gaslamp to explain how features like combat, modding, and megaprojects will operate in Clockwork Empires.

NASA describe how Holodecks and spider robots will make us all Space Invaders

Dan Griliopoulos at

Only NASA would have the chutzpah to begin a GDC presentation with a 15-minute trailer about how great they are. But then, every game developer in the room grew up with the dreams of being an astronaut, watched the shuttles launch and felt sad when they were grounded forever, with replacements a distant hope. Among the developers in the room, there can't have been one who didn't dream of one day floating above our insignificant green-blue orb. And NASA were here to charm, flatter and promise them the moon. Because NASA needs the games industry.

NASA's promise is that, one day, we will all be taking part in “shared immersive tele-exploration” - or what the Trekkies out there will know as the Holodeck. That's how they're selling what they're doing. In reality, of course, budgets for space exploration have been gradually falling since 2009. As the slick Jeff Norris of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory told the conference, “We want to work with your industry and your vast resources.”

Tripwire on making games moddable: "It's a lot of work. But I think that it's worth it."

Evan Lahti at

Tripwire Interactive is one of the handful of studios that have made the jump from modest modding origins to professional, full-time, make-your-mom-proud game development. Until last year, the studio operated out of the bottom floor of a Georgia church. And through releasing Red Orchestra 2 and the 1.7-million-selling Killing Floor (originally a mod), Tripwire has encouraged and regularly rewarded modders and map-makers.

As Red Orchestra 2 was being developed, Tripwire committed to creating an SDK during development, allowing modders to get cracking before the game's release. With modding support for modern games less ubiquitous than we'd like it to be, I asked Tripwire President John Gibson how hard it was for Tripwire to build mod support while they were developing the game itself.

Valve on Virtual Reality: "it will take years, if not decades, to fully refine"

Dan Griliopoulos at

Those who’ve tried playing Team Fortress 2 with the Oculus Rift largely agree that it's a game changer - albeit with resolution and focus problems. Yet Valve's tech-brain in chief, Michael Abrash, talked at GDC extensively about the challenges of developing working VR and especially AR systems, and what exactly technical advances we'll need to get a more satisfactory VR system. And though the Oculus Rift has impressed nearly everyone who’s worn it, Abrash suggests that it’ll take some time before we escape the technology’s compromises.

MechWarrior Online video interview

Evan Lahti at

MechWarrior Online will stomp out of beta by the end of this summer, and the game's Vancouverian creators at Piranha Games are illuminating further what the free-to-play multiplayer game will look like when it hits its version 1.0 milestone. I spoke with Piranha President Russ Bullock and Creative Director Bryan Ekman last week in San Francisco to get more details about MWO's ambitious territory-control metagame, Community Warfare, ask about the status of this thing, and check up on other upcoming features.

Rising Storm gameplay demo and video interview

Evan Lahti at

Last week at GDC, I visited Tripwire Interactive's spot on the expo floor to get an updated gander at Rising Storm. Come watch Tripwire President John Gibson and External Producer Tony Gillham walk me through a gameplay demonstration against AI enemies and answer questions.

GDC 2013: Valve's Michael Abrash on the challenges of VR - "a new world is emerging"

Phil Savage at

Valve's wearable computing wizard, Michael Abrash, hosted a lecture at GDC about the challenges of virtual reality, and where the tech might be headed in the future. He's now posted a transcript of the talk on his Valve Time blog. Abrash's musings will be familiar to anyone who follows the incredibly detailed analyses he posts. The talk is a sort of amalgamated greatest hits - presumably the crowd were on their feet cheering when he blasted out the first few bars of Latency.

GDC 2013: Hawken "destruction demo level" brings down the house

Phil Savage at

GDC may be over, but there's still the clean up operation to be performed. Discarded bits of news lay strewn across the show's floor, waiting for us to scoop them up and put them on their digital shelf. What's that in the corner? A burnt-out mechanical husk - misshapen and trampled by excited IGF nominees - informing us that Nvidia's APEX demo featured a Hawken map that utilised the destruction tech in multiplayer. Let's scan it's sparking memory banks to see if... yes! A video!

Chris Avellone interview: Torment, Project Eternity, New Vegas, and beyond

T.J. Hafer at

On my last day to explore GDC, I received a real-life quest via e-mail. "Meet me at Metreon Park, by the bronze statue with 3 hands." My quest-giver was none other than Obsidian's Chris Avellone, of Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale fame, currently working on Project Eternity. He also holds the distinction of being a stretch goal in the Kickstarter for inXile's Torment: Tides of Numenera.

GDC 2013: Dishonored's Dunwall influenced by dev visits to London, Edinburgh

Omri Petitte at

At night, Dishonored's sprawling city of Dunwall looks particularly magnificent. Lit windows dot a canopy of Victorian-style architecture of angular roofs and spires, and jungles of smokestacks continuously belch out whale-oil vapor in an enduring sign of industry. It's easy to forget about Corvo Attano's errand of revenge and simply drink in Dunwall's details, but Arkane's journey of solidifying the city's theme was a far more elaborate process. At a GDC talk (via Polygon), Art Director Sebastien Mitton describes how experiencing "the life of a city" visited by the team eventually shaped Dunwall's culture and identity.

GDC 2013: A tour of Aaahcade's experimental games at the SF Museum of Modern Art

Cassandra Khaw at

Transcendent is a word that I don't usually like using in association with video games. It's not that it's a bad word, it's just that it always felt a little too pretentious, a little too forced to wave around. At least, that's what I thought. When I finally got to put on a pair of headphones so I could listen to Panoramical, the experience was revelatory. “Oh, so this is the kind of thing you call transcendent.”

GDC 2013: Epic show off Unreal Engine 4 with astounding "Infiltrator" tech demo

Phil Savage at

This is more like it! All this messing about with old men's faces has been great and all, but it's not really what games are about. Games are about grey corridors, faintly futuristic military hardware and hovering robots that go "WOOWOOWOOWOOooooooooooh" as they fly by. Epic have given us all of that and more with their Unreal Engine 4 tech demo, Infiltrator, unveiled at GDC.

GDC 2013: Jason Rohrer designs game not meant to be played for 2,000 years

Phil Savage at

As part of this year's GDC Game Design Challenge, Jason Rohrer, the creator of The Castle Doctrine and Sleep is Death, revealed that he'd made and hidden a game in the hope that it wouldn't be played for thousands of years. The game, called A Game for Someone, was buried by Rohrer somewhere in the Nevada desert. Of course, by the time it's unearthed we could all be enslaved by aliens, robots, mutants, even mice-spiders. Who knows if we'll get breaks for gaming?

GDC 2013: YouTube announce new live-streaming API for developers

Phil Savage at

YouTube are planning to make it easier for developers to insert live streaming tools into their games. The API, announced at GDC, will give game makers an easy way to provide their community with integrated tools to stream directly to YouTube, as well as insert breaks for ad placement. Thus they set the stage for the Great Blackout, when the internet will buckle under the weight of Farming Simulator 2014 streams.

GDC 2013: Original X-Com was nearly cancelled on two occasions

Phil Savage at

In 2000, six years after its release, X-Com: UFO Defense had sold 470,000 games and made the Gollop brothers just over £1 million in royalties. But, according to Julian Gollop at his GDC post-mortem of the game - it nearly didn't happen. Twice in the project's development it faced cancellation and, for a brief while, it was officially dead. Sure, had it not been revived we'd have been spared from Enforcer. But at what cost?

GDC 2013: Diablo 3 auction house "really hurt the game," says Jay Wilson

Omri Petitte at

Well, this is a surprise. During a panel talk at GDC (via Joystiq), former Diablo 3 Lead Designer Jay Wilson addressed head-on the ongoing controversy of the game's gold and real-money auction houses, saying the markets ultimately "really hurt the game."

GDC 2013: Clementine was almost cut from The Walking Dead, Telltale on the dangers of branching a story too much

Evan Lahti at

At Telltale's panel "Saving Doug: Empathy, Character, and Choice in The Walking Dead" today at GDC 2013, co-creative leads Jake Rodkin and Sean Vanaman outlined the ideas that guided their design of one of last year's most acclaimed games. A few of the presentation's topics overlapped a little with DayZ creator Dean Hall's comments yesterday at GDC about the value of context in storytelling and of player-generated meaning. But maybe most notably, the pair of designers admitted that they were concerned "every day" about how the game's story would suffer if players didn't care about Clementine, Lee's companion throughout the series.