Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

GDC 2015: Day three. tiredness and happiness

So…I’ve given my two mini-talks, at the indie soapbox and the AAA to indie thing, plus a podcast thing. I only have one official meeting to go, and thats me done for GDC 2015. So here are some early thoughts and memories.

I was SO nervous before the soapbox. I was dreading it. I really wished I hadn’t agreed to it. It felt mega stressful, but it looks like it went really well. I did worry about it being badly misinterpreted and taken the wrong way, but it seems not to be the case, which is a relief. The fact that the talks ‘went well‘ means I feel justified in coming to GDC. I guess it is good for PR, and I can make a ‘business case’ to myself for being here.

One of the best things about GDC is meeting up with people you know online but hardly ever see. I won’t namecheck people, but there are a bunch of cool, nice, talented developers who I only ever see at GDC or similar events and its great to shake hands again, have a coffee or a meal or a drink and chat to people who do what I do.

My hearing in large groups of people is *so bad* combined with what I suspect is a very mild case of face-blindness, that I worry that I spend a lot of time apologizing to people I don’t recognize combined with a lot of intense tom-cruise style staring at people as they talk (mostly as I’m lip-reading). I suspect some people think I am much stranger/arrogant/forgetful/grumpy than I actually am, because they only know me from loud parties at industry events…

GDC is HUGE. There are literally *whole buildings* full of talks, events, people and booths that I didn’t even know existed until today, and they are packed to the rafters with *other game developers*, which just freaks me out. We are not a bunch of nerds typing and being ignored any more, there is clearly a LOT of money in games, And some companies are obviously growing like mad, had a big booth which more or less screamed “PLEASE WORK FOR US” in an attempt to match headcount to ambition and revenue. Crazy times.

On the flipside, no way can the industry support so many indie devs with prices so low and sales so all-consuming. I’m curious to know what percentage of attendees are burning through savings with no break-even point on the horizon. Terrifying.

And holy crap I’m tired. If you are the worlds biggest ‘glitch mob’ fan (whoever that is), hate me now, because I have tickets to the glitch mob thing, but I’m on a hotel bed typing instead. Sorry!

8 thoughts on GDC 2015: Day three. tiredness and happiness

  1. Hmm good point Cliffski as a financial drained indie you are right. There are probably a lot of people chasing the indie dream running very low budgets or even with larger budgets and longer runways they might not take off successfully or financially.

    Over 500 games and apps a day hit the IOS store.

    Free game engines Unity, Unreal, Source.

    Maybe we should start looking into how indies should set up for sustainable long term game development. What if game developers invested some of their seed money into:

    Solar power to reduce their energy bills.
    Improved insulation to reduce their heating bills.
    Aquaponics to reduce their food bills.
    Low cost housing (thinking Earthship design).

    A sustainable indie game developer initiative or tech startup initiative maybe???

  2. Once you’re established, rolling with your own engine can make sense, but for anyone looking to get started in the industry it would be a massive risk to the success of any project. It’s really really hard to make a game. It’s even harder to make a good game. Then even if you do have a good game it’s really really really hard to get people to notice it. So to justify the 6 months+ to roll your own engine before any of that is possible, you would need to be well capitalised, well established, or just a bit mental.

    I love coding, I can spend hours and hours just shuffling the code around to make it ever so slightly more elegant to read back. But I have to keep reminding myself that that isn’t making a game.

    It’s worked for you Cliff – and that’s why I’m here reading your blog, because I have huge respect for your work – and what I wouldn’t give to emulate your success – but I would suggest that you are a talented exception. Some of the best games of the 80’s are pure elegance in terms of game design – partly (mostly?) because of technical constraints forcing a minimal implementation. So if constraints can be good for game design, why not operate “happily” within the constraints of some middleware? i.e. why not just think of e.g. Unity as “the target platform”.

    Finally let me just add an off-topic note to say I really enjoy your comments here and elsewhere about feeling awkward socially etc at GDC. I’m sure many programmers/techies can relate – something about our brains electing to over-think things I reckon!

  3. It funny to hear that i’m not the only one to have those problems. Face-blindness: Check. Cannot hear words from noise in groups or with background sound: Check.

  4. Just read that linked “went well” and the comments. Should the commenters think that you made a bit of controversy @ GDC for PR, I’d agree with them :-)

    I don’t really see any point in everyone trying to reinvent everything all the time. What I do see however is that a lot of Unity games have a distinct quality about them that I can pretty much see youtube video and get a feel that the game is made in Unity. That is a problem – just like it’s a problem if in music “singers” use auto-tune to hide the fact they can’t sing.

    This isn’t unique to Unity however – there’s actually very few game engines that have some sort of “good defaults” – think of a synth that has preset sounds. Some synths come with nice sounds from factory, others don’t and in some you can’t get it to sound good without a lot of work and external tools & talent.

    Same applies to game/3D engines – there may not be any engine out there where an amateur can import some graphics and have it turn out nice looking without needing to have eye and experience in the materials, lighting, post-processing etc. Is such even possible? Well, theoretically you could try to define a range of outputs that look nice and then the engine would take your imported or in-game produced art and apply transforms that made it fit the “nice range”.

    As far as performance, you’re probably right – I see a lot of these indie platformers seem rather oddly simple in terms of how much things there’s moving on the screen simultaneously – the more abstraction there is, the more likely there’s not enough control of things that add overhead. I’ve seen this a lot while doing C# development – the BCL IO API’s are doing things that can take seconds for a single call vs milliseconds (opening file or url). Or the binaryreader and such can be doing things that assume underlying file may change size and thus take a hit while reading etc. And the serializers are very general and very slow. I’ve had to find or write my own version of almost everything in BCL to have similar perf as I’ve known to expect from native apps.

    1. I know what you mean about serialization. Even the D3DX code is laughably slow when it touches the disk. People forget how agonizingly slow disk access is.

  5. If you want to get awake quick, just open these 3 links:

    actofaggression-game com
    youtube com v=826RgTZojuk & v=XpDIUxp5I60

    epic epic.. brings me the memories of good old days. Of course that’s assuming they aren’t doing any pre-render trickery here (watch when the F22 flies, looks a bit too good for most games)

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