Notes about Carolina Games Summit, Goldsboro (Wayne Community College), 26 Jan 08
This is the third annual iteration of the event, though the name has been changed. According to the college newspaper, attendance was 700 the first year and 1,400 last year. A security guard told me that last year you could hardly move upstairs where the games are being played. This year, that condition occurred only at a couple spots. I certainly don't think there were as many as a thousand at the event.
I arrived not long after the 10 AM opening. Fortunately, I'd pre-registered, so I didn't have to wait in line with the "munchkins" who were there primarily for the tournaments. Because this is primarily a game playing event rather than an event ABOUT games. The entire second floor of classrooms was devoted to gaming, from a "modder demo" room (not well attended) to a Wii room (little kids there) to some hard-core gaming.
There was one seminar series, with the addition of a keynote from Bruce Shankle of Microsoft, who used to work for Red Storm in the Triangle. More about the seminar in a bit.
The only game developer of note "exhibiting" was Red Storm. I'm not sure why, recruiting testers maybe? And why else would they be there? It can't be worth the cost to the developer to exhibit at such a small event, especially one where the emphasis was on game playing, not on game development.
I saw only six first-year students from Wake SGD there, and in general I think there were many fewer game developers/ GD students than at an IGDA meeting.
The most interesting exhibitor (for me) was NC State, both programming and industrial/art design. Some students were showing a mod they'd made, and there was a notice about a game development expo in late April at NC State, one evening. Prof. Tim Buie was working extensively with one of the new Wacom Cintiq large LCD/tablets devices ($1,500)--got a few photos and movies.
Now for the speakers. These were generally scheduled for an hour or two, sometimes filled the entire period, sometimes not.
The first session was a panel about game education available locally, NC State, UNC-CH, Pitt CC, Piedmont CC (Roxboro), and Wake CC participated.
The next, about learning to play piano with a game, I did not attend.
Then Joel Gonzales talked about game education and serious games. This was rather unfocused, but it was interesting to hear that he had had one company die under him. It seems to be a pretty common experience.
Then Dana Cowley, PR manager for EPIC, talked about public relations for game companies large and small.
I attended the keynote next; Tim Buie from NC State had a session about art in the seminar room.
The "keynote" in the autditorium was delayed 40 minutes owing to a "Rock Band" competition and technical problems with projection and sound. Putting on an event like this is a LOT of work, and this was the only glitch I know of. Unfortunately, people were wandering into the auditorium for the keynote, seeing nothing but a "rock band" on the stage, and wandering away. It wasn't until eight minutes after the keynote was scheduled to start that Michael Everett (the organizer himself) manned the doors and tried to explain the delay, up to that point we were in the dark.
It was another 35 minutes before the keynote could start. Bruce Shankle from Microsoft's DirectX group talked about some of the video settings that many games let you adjust, and what you can do to make your video work better when playing games. He is involved in testing video cards to make sure they conform to DirectX requirements. He also conducted the door prize giveaway of Microsoft-published games and two 8800GT video cards (a Wake student got one of them!).
At 5 PM "Marx Myth" (Mark Smith), an art manager/director, talked about creating a self-promotional packet for the game industry "your art portfolio packet". I wish all the artist-SGD students had heard this. He talked for the entire hour and ran short of time. MM sent me his slides, so I can give some approximation of what he had to say to students in the future. MM had THREE companies that he's worked for, die.
The last session I attended, at 6, was by Alex Macris of Themis Group, about "gamer snacks". What he meant was the equivalent of casual games, but written for hard-core gamers rather than "for your mother". Runescape and Travian were two games he particularly discussed. This is really interesting information for students, who aren't likely to find an immediate place at a AAA list company, but who don't want to make games "for my mother". I had not ralized how many of these games exist, and Macris gave his formula for what makes them popular, the "3 Cs", cumulative (what you do affects you in later sessions, unlike casual games), competitive, contextual (metagame exists). He used the example of his own company's "advergame" for Heroes of Might and Magic V (http://www.heroesmini.com/), which turned out to be more popular, perhaps, than the actual video game. Fascinating.
I didn't stay for the 7 PM "how to break-in" panel with developers.
24 January IGDA meeting: something like 230 people were registered, and it was CROWDED. There were two talks, one about the networking/server aspects of running games online, that I went to, and one about "next-generation narrative". As the speaker for the latter spoke at Wake (I have the DVD, haven't watched) and has written a book, I went to the former. This was especially interesting because Emergent, the host and the company the speaker works for, is mainly known for the Gamebryo engine that is used by such games as Civ IV and Morrowind. The speaker is chief architect for it, and his interest is in making it useful to people who are developing massively multiplayer online games. MMO cost vast amounts to produce ($50 million plus), and having an engine that efficiently provides the online connection (and update capability) would be very valuable.
Unfortunately, the speaker's original talk was not approved by the Powers That Be in his company, he was giving away too much info, so in the preceding 16 hours he'd made up another talk. And while he described what the problems are with specific examples from online games, and what some solutions are that fall short, he couldn't say what his company's solutions would be! And somehow he'd been told to take 20 minutes instead of 45, so he didn't talk so long (25 minutes). A bit disappointing.