Summary: We begin our coverage of the annual gathering of game developers by chatting with the director of the event.
FiringSquad: First, can you give us a brief history of the Game Developers Conference?
Jamil Moledin: Sure thing. The GDC started as a gathering of programmers in pioneer developer Chris Crawford’s living room in 1987. The show started with the name “Computer Game Developers Conference,” and grew in size, changed ownership, moved to different cities, and also grew in scope to cover the entire industry. Today, the GDC is the largest event in the world dedicated to game creation, with over 12,000 attendees last year.
FiringSquad: How many attendees and exhibitors are planning to attend GDC this year?
Jamil Moledin: We’re tracking to exceed last year’s numbers, which for exhibitors was over 200.
FiringSquad: What do you think are the biggest trends in game development that will be addressed at the conference this year?
Jamil Moledin: Our theme this year is “What’s Next,” which means we’ll definitely have a great deal of focus on next generation consoles. But not everyone develops for those platforms, and with that in mind there’s a lot of changes going on in the industry overall. There’s a dramatic push to broaden the market of gamers, find new ways of distributing games and building communities with gamers, as well as creating games in a distributed fashion.
FiringSquad: One of the big keynote speeches will be from Ron Moore, the man behind the re-imagining of the Battlestar Galactica TV series. Why was he selected to speak at a game conference?
Jamil Moledin: The studio gave Ron a challenge to recreate a beloved franchise, respecting the original fan base yet delivering something fresh and new to the experience. Virtually every game producer is given this exact same challenge at some point in his or her career. Ron’s example is a highly visible one to the game development community in particular, since science fiction and this specific property are very much in the consciousness of our attendees. Plus, Battlestar Galactica is my favorite show.
SIDEBAR: Microsoft used the Game Developers Conference to officially announce the original Xbox in March 2000
Jamil Moledin: Yes. A GDC keynote is part of the editorial content of the conference, and is subject to the same guidelines. Therefore, the development of the keynote is a collaborative process that involves sharing information. This works because the platform providers know that we operate like a Swiss bank, with absolute secrecy, security, and respect.
FiringSquad: GDC will host the Independent Games Festival again this year. What can you tell us about this event and what do you think about the entries for this year's festival?
Jamil Moledin: The IGF in its 8th year is the longest-running institution devoted to independent games. This year, we’ve added a Modding Competition to the IGF, in order to properly credit a critical but seldom-recognized segment of the game development community. In the Main Competition, games have become very sophisticated in both the gameplay and the graphic polish, such as Weird Worlds. Along those lines, many of the student entries like Cloud seem to be commercial quality.
FiringSquad: GDC will also be the host of the Game Developers Choice Awards this year. What can you tell us about this event?
Jamil Moledin: The Game Developers Choice Awards carries the industry prestige that the Oscars have in film, since individual developers are freely nominated and voted upon by the members of the non-profit International Game Developers Association. The IGDA then tabulates the results, and our GDC team produces and hosts the event at GDC. This year, we’ll be honoring several important developers for their contribution to the industry, including awarding Richard Garriott, of Ultima fame, a lifetime achievement award. We’ve also planned a number of surprises that will be sure to keep the audience entertained.
SIDEBAR: Video Games Live will hold its first 2006 concert at GDC and will also hold concerts in Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles later this year.
FiringSquad: The last event for GDC this year will be the Video Games Live music concert. Why was this event brought over to serve as the capstone for GDC?
Jamil Moledin: It’s a great example of the “What’s Next” theme, in that you have two prominent developers, Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall, broadening the industry’s appeal beyond core gamers. While we as gamers envision this as a great treat, there are just as many fans of concert music who attend these events, who are looking for a whole new canon of musical literature to enjoy. And like games such as Brain Age, it brings families and people of all ages onto the same playing field when it comes to games.
Jamil Moledin: The biggest new addition is the Graphic Impact Competition, which is a completely open contest to create compelling original art for a potential new IP. We’ve partnered with CG Society to combine our game art and visual effects communities and capabilities to bring it to life. The contest is running on CG Society’s forums, and the finalists’ work will be on display in the GDC Concourse. Finally, the winners will be awarded at a special visual arts VIP reception on Thursday night of GDC, with a set of prizes donated by our sponsors. It’s a great way to bring a higher level of interactivity to the GDC experience, while giving special attention to the artist.
FiringSquad: What do you think is the biggest benefit for game developers to attend GDC?
Jamil Moledin: It’s interesting that you ask for a singular benefit, because attendees consistently tell me that it’s a combination of three factors: learning, inspiration, and networking. Because of these reasons, GDC is a key feature on their calendar and career trajectory.
FiringSquad: Last year GDC was held in San Francisco but it's back in its long time home in San Jose this year. Will GDC be staying in San Jose for the foreseeable future?
Jamil Moledin: No. GDC will be in San Francisco in 2007, in both Moscone West and North. We are busting at the seams trying to fit GDC in San Jose this year, which I suppose is a good problem to have, but we will have room to grow in SF.
FiringSquad: Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about GDC 2006?
Jamil Moledin: Yes, I would strongly recommend attending the two platform keynotes from Sony’s Phil Harrison and Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata. Trust me!
FiringSquad would like to thank Jamil Moledin for taking part in this interview. We wish him and the rest of the GDC organizers the best of luck with GDC 2006, and GDC 2007 in the future!
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|