The 30th Game Developer Conference wrapped up this week. As expected, we saw a strong emphasis on VR. But there’s a lot of other things happening in game development as well.

Meaning

Games have become a big business, but gaming has also become a cultural touchstone. The business of creating, designing, writing, and producing games dwarfs Hollywood’s output. Moreover, designers now create games which resonate emotionally. What’s the meaning and role of game development in this increasingly influential new medium?

VR seemed to be the touchstone of the show.  The tech industry has been captivated by the potential of VR. Surprisingly, though, VR doesn’t seem to be following the same adoption curve as previous tech. Oculus made a big push, but Valve seemed absent, though present in off-floor conversations.  

The PC component makers see VR as a huge growth opportunity. AMD helped fund Sulon, a completely untethered VR headset based on AMD APUs and running Windows 10. Sony gets into the game, launching Playstation VR at $399 ($499 for a complete bundle with camera and controllers). Microsoft, as usual, lacked any VR presence; even Hololens was MIA.

An amazing number of game devs appear not to have even seen demos, as lines to see demos were long, even for the older CES demos. The paradigm shift may require new thinking and new designers, but some major publishers are experimenting, such as Ubisoft with their Eagle’s Flight game. Eric believes we’re seeing the beginning of the VR revolution; Will Smith likens the state of VR to the state of 3D gaming in 1994. The shipping VR hardware at the show offered significant improvements over earlier developer’s versions. David’s intrigued by custom content such as the Washington Post Mars VR experience.

Away from the VR front, Microsoft pushed the Universal Windows Platform hard as a way to finally unite Xbox and Windows gaming platforms, but questions abound. Amazon showed up in force, staffing a gigantic booth pushing its Lumberyard gaming engine, but we all wonder whether it will gain any traction. Indie games included unique, one-of-a-kind experiences, which David and Eric discuss at length.

Tools

I order an Xbox One controller in a likely futile attempt to once again learn how to use a standard game controller. I also discover that LED light bulbs can fail, but prices have dropped dramatically in the past several years. And it looks like LG is prepping a massive, 37-inch, 2560 x 1600 pixel IPS panel for use as a PC monitor.

David discovers Teensyduino, a 32-bit implementation of Arduino which looks like it’s fully backward compatible. He also buys into the Raspberry Pi 3 hype, and talks about his experience. David also calls out this tiny little web site called “TwitchTV” or something.

Eric tries to get Eero’s mesh-based WiFi solution up and running. Listen to what he really thinks about it. And Eric continues his quest to own every VR gizmo there is, pre-ordering an HTC Vive.

Fun

I continue with XCOM 2, diving into Ironman mode. But he’s intrigued by Firewatch, and has been having some guilty fun with The Division. David and Eric  list all the indie games they want to try out. Meanwhile, Eric’s experiment with trying to read Seveneves in 21 days meets an untimely (hah!) end. He also finally watches Ant Man, and thought it wasn’t bad at all.

Leave a Reply