Monday, February 4, 2008

Carolina Games Summit, IGDA Meeting

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 (, 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.


Anonymous said...

I would suggest readers visit our website and watch our videos to get the more info on the event.

The attendance this year was over 1,250 including 950 paid attendees plus hundreds of event staff, exhibitors, speakers, press, and special unpaid guests.

Red Storm, Themis Group, Fun Com, and Destineer were all in attendance With many other companies represented unofficially.

The Carolina Games Summit is the premier event in North and South Carolina for these companies to reach their future employees and get a look at exactly how gamers react to their games. The gamers of today will be our game designers of the future and most companies in the state are realizing this. Also we advertise across the entire state and bring talented potential employees face to face with game developers.

Glad you came to the event and hope you will bring even more students next year!

On a side note the event seemed to not be as packed as previous years due to increased planning and organization. We strive to eliminate bottlenecks and this year we truly succeeded in many of our goals to de-congest many of our hallways and general areas. Having 150 less people did help but the organization was key.

Lewis Pulsipher said...

I've decided to add this message, which Michael sent to attendees (LP):

Can you judge the success of an event simply by the number of energy drinks sold, we like
to think so! In 2007 Bawls, our official energy drink sponsor, unloaded one pallet of
drinks (1728 drinks). In 2008 Bawls returned with three times the drinks, infusing our
attendees with three times the caffeine! To everyone's surprise by 8pm all 5,184 drinks
had been sold and we had barely enough left to make sure our tournament winners received
their well deserved cases.

The tournaments themselves were again a major attraction at this year�s event. With
nineteen different tournaments, across sixteen different video games, attendees had
numerous opportunities to be recognized for their exceptional talents. A list of winners
is now available on our website with even more detailed bracket information and video
footage from select tournaments coming soon.

For those of you who would like to relive your summit experience, or possibly see
something you missed, a new Video on Demand system is being integrated into Featured videos include interviews from game development
icons such as Michael Capps, President of Epic Games, and attendee contributed footage
like "The Gamer Spotlight" by Daniel Stroup. Stay tuned as full length speaker
sessions, panel discussions, the awards ceremony, and Select Start concert footage will
soon be added.

Lastly, we would like to thank our sponsors for making the event possible. Sponsors
ensure that events like ours can continue to thrive and entertain for years to come. If
you want to continue to enjoy the Carolina Games Summit please take time to visit each of
our sponsors and show them the support that they have shown us.

Also help us ensure future sponsorships by completing the six anonymous survey questions
available in our new extended web profiles here:

Title Sponsor:
Underground Gaming Series
Event Partners:
Ameriprise Financial
Icarus Studios
Media Partners:
Time Warner Cable
CPU Magazine
the Escapist
Bag Sponsor:
Time Warner Cable
T-Shirt Sponsor:
BFG Technologies
Official Energy Drink: Bawls
Official Power Supply: FSP
Official Video Card: BFG Technologies
Official Processor: Intel Quad Core
Official Dance Pad: Cobalt Flux
Official Hotel: Hampton Inn

Michael Everett, III

"Always do right--this will gratify some and astonish the rest."Mark Twain
"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exup'ery

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." Albert Einstein

"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." Albert Einstein

"The worst form of inequality is to try to make unequal things equal." -- Aristotle