For one week each year, thousands of game developers descend on San Francisco to meet and meditate on the future of gaming. This year, new technologies like the Oculus Rift and Ouya took center stage. Here's the best of the best from GDC 2013.
Apr 5, 2013
Despite big-budget distractions like EA's Battlefield 4 reveal, the story of the 2013 Game Developers Conference was really about indie games and experimental game design: a realm Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson is intimately familiar with. And at GDC, The Verge had the chance to sit down with Persson for an interview about his company Mojang, the new consoles on the block, and the future of game development.Read Article >
Apr 1, 2013
Transistor doesn't stray too far from the roots laid down by Supergiant Games' excellent debut title Bastion. It's an action role playing game full of vivid colors, a gravelly-voiced narrator, and very satisfying combat. All of these things were apparent during the all-too-brief demo I played at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last week. But there are differences, and in some ways they make the game slicker and more appealing. There's the cyberpunk-esque setting, for one, which replaces the fantasy-meets-Western world of Bastion. Perhaps more important are the changes to the combat, which let you attack enemies in both real time and turn-based battles — or a combination of the two. It's flexible and strategic, and even in its early pre-alpha state, it's a game that I wanted to keep playing long after the demo was over.Read Article >
Mar 30, 2013
Mission. Market. Leavenworth. Lombard. Fillmore. Folsom. Kearny. Kamille. Hyde. Harrison. Battery. Broadway. Divisadero. Dolores. Potrero. Pine.Read Article >
Mar 29, 2013
When Sony announced the PlayStation 4 on February 20th, it was amidst the sounds of explosions and dubstep. Games like Killzone: Shadow Fall, Destiny, and Watch Dogs were on display — titles made with big teams and even bigger budgets. But amongst all of the gunfire was an example of what seems to be a shift in Sony's priorities. Braid creator Jonathan Blow took the stage to show off The Witness, an upcoming indie adventure game. "I really don't know what I'm going to do to follow all those explosions," he said. While Blow was the lone indie developer on stage during the reveal, since that time Sony has made a concerted effort to emphasize its focus on indie games. New titles from notable developers are being announced on a seemingly regular basis; the question is, why? With the Vita struggling, the PS3 at the tail end of its life span, and the PS4 still a pretty big question mark, why are so many small developers choosing to launch on PlayStation platforms?Read Article >
Mar 29, 2013Read Article >
Epic Games, the maker of highly-regarded franchises like Gears of War and Infinity Blade, is probably equally well-known for its Unreal Engine. While Unreal Engine 3 still looks great, it's starting to show its age a bit — so Epic has finally given the gaming world a look at Unreal Engine 4. According to Polygon, the company is giving a closed-doors demo of Infiltrator, the first tech demo running Unreal Engine 4 at the 2013 Game Developers Conference. Judging from the screenshots Polygon posted, it's a pretty impressive step forward, and the hardware requirements aren't even that outrageous. Epic VP Mark Rein tweeted earlier that the demo was running in real time on a "single off-the-shelf Nvidia GTX 680." While Unreal Engine 4 has been in development for a long time, it's looking like it'll be ready for prime-time on the next-generation consoles. Unfortunately, there's no word yet on when we might see games with Epic's new engine — for now, this video will have to do.
GDC 2013 is full of big-name Kickstarter projects waiting to launch. Oculus VR has sprinkled presentations throughout the week, while Gamestick is showing off an early version of its portable Android-based console. And the tiny Ouya gaming machine has started shipping to its early Kickstarter backers. Set for a retail launch on June 4th, the Ouya promises to be a super-cheap, moddable game platform, combining the ease of mobile development with the fun of living room play. But now that players are getting their first real look at the console, can it carve out a niche in a hardware industry dominated by giants?Read Article >
Though a quick look at the Ouya’s controller suggests you’re dealing with a straightforward Xbox / PlayStation competitor, the console is trying to compete by combining several markets. Besides the movie, game, and TV hub we’ve come to expect from living room boxes, the Ouya shares both its roots and parts of its current catalog with mobile devices — it runs Android on a Tegra 3 processor, even if you’d never know it from the interface. And in contrast to the vast and impersonal app stores of Apple and Google, Ouya wants to be your personal guide to the world of gaming. It’s put Kellee Santiago — who co-founded Journey and Flower studio thatgamecompany — to work crafting themed collections, and its genres bear chatty names like "Short on Time" or "Fight!"
After moving on from the Halo franchise, studio Bungie announced a new project in February of this year. Called Destiny, it combines first-person shooter mechanics with more MMO-like qualities, asking players to help protect the last remaining city on Earth in the far future. While we've already seen a little of the world and gameplay in Bungie's previous announcements, the creative team behind Destiny has taken to GDC to reveal a little more about the world they hope players will want to inhabit over the coming decade.Read Article >
Mar 29, 2013
Now in its 10th and final year, the Game Design Challenge here at GDC is a competition that pits gaming's most innovative minds against each other to come up with a game based upon a particular theme or concept — and this year developer Jason Rohrer won for creating a game that he hopes people won't play for over 2,000 years. Put together by designer Eric Zimmerman, the theme of this year's contest was "Humanity's Final Game," a concept that could be interpreted in any way the participants saw fit — and the results were compelling and hilarious.Read Article >
Luminaries like Steve Meretzky and Will Wright were among the six contestants, but it was Rohrer who won for A Game For Someone. "I wanted to make a game that is not for right now," he said. "A game that is for the future." As for when, he chose 2,000 years in the future, which immediately took things like modern computer games off the table. Without knowing if the game's eventual player would be alien, human, or something else — nor what technology they would have access to — creating a physical game became essential.
Anita Sarkeesian recently released the first episode of "Tropes vs. Women in Video Games," a web series critiquing "damsels in distress" and other stereotypes. But its success on Kickstarter and now YouTube has come at a heavy price: not long after launching the Kickstarter, she became the target of an uncommonly focused and vitriolic backlash from people who took her website offline, flooded the internet with obscene or violent photoshops of her, and repeatedly threatened to kill or rape her. Almost a year later, she's had to scrub almost her entire personal online presence, and she continues to receive threats from angry trolls. In a talk at GDC, Sarkeesian outlined why her opponents succeeded as much as they did — and how to help diminish their impact.Read Article >
Sarkeesian's "cybermob," as she calls it, wasn't representative of normal online experience, but its starkness illuminated how internet harassment works. "People don't believe women when they say they're being harassed," she says. "Part of documenting and sharing was to say 'No, it really is that bad.'" And unlike plenty of other cases, which end up mired in questions of whether or not the victim acted appropriately, all Sarkeesian wanted was a few thousand dollars to make a video series.
"The word 'Newtown' is something we need to be thinking about and having conversations about."Read Article >
It's a jarring moment at GDC 2013's Narrative Summit, where writers gather to swap tips on everything from creating relatable characters to finding freelance work. Debates over gaming violence have been particularly active in the past year: a blood-soaked set of E3 2012 presentations left even fans of shooters uncomfortable, and the killings in Newtown, Connecticut led the NRA to blame Mortal Kombat and Bulletstorm while gamers discussed the implications of fictional violence. Last month, auteur David Cage told the industry to "grow up" and wean itself off shooting and platforming: "If the character doesn't hold a gun, designers don't even know what to do."
Mar 28, 2013
The portable Android gaming console GameStick proved to be a hit when it reached its $10,000 Kickstarter goal in just two days — and here at GDC 2013 PlayJam is showing off the the developer version that will be shortly shipping out to some early backers. In concept, the GameStick is similar to the Ouya: it's a gaming console powered by Android, complete with its own proprietary gaming store. But while the Ouya focused on creating a stylish box of its own, the hook with the GameStick is portability. The guts of the console are a stick roughly the size of a USB thumb drive that plugs into the HDMI port on your television — and slots back into the GameStick controller itself if you'd like to take it to your friend's house.Read Article >
PlayJam showed off two versions of the GameStick at an event this evening: a dummy mock-up of the final version, which was helpful in terms of gauging aesthetics but had no moving parts whatsoever, and the developer kit units. The controller for the latter is a mix of happy surprises and somewhat questionable choices. On one hand, the buttons are nice and clicky — though we would have liked more throw in the shoulder buttons — and the analog sticks felt snappy. Considering the choices the company is having to make to meet the final product's $79 price point, it's a solid combo. While an odd choice at first glance, the squared-off shape is charming — it actually brought back memories of the original Nintendo Entertainment System controller — but it's also quite large, making it a little awkward to hold. While some aspects of the final controller could shift, the size does appear to be final.
Mar 28, 2013
NASA remotely controls Athlete rover with Leap Motion: 'let's bring a billion human beings into a holodeck'
"Just for you guys today we're going to do something special, something that's never been done before" said Victor Luo, NASA human interface engineer. "We're going to drive this robot, on stage at GDC, with a Leap Motion device."Read Article >
In an unexpected demonstration at the 2013 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, scientists from NASA used the Leap Motion to control a six-legged, one-ton Athlete rover located at the space agency's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. Using his hands in front of a Vaio laptop on stage, Luo raised one of the Athlete's legs as the crowd at the Moscone Center watched along via a live Google+ Hangout. And while this demonstration was impressive in its own right, NASA's ambitions reach much further than the 383 miles to Pasadena.
Mar 27, 2013
Confirming previous speculation, the mysterious trailer for The Phantom Pain, which teased audiences last December, has been revealed as Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Videogame auteur Hideo Kojima took the stage today at the Game Developers Conference to officially announce that both the mystery game and the previously-announced Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes are actually part of Metal Gear Solid 5, accompanied by a trailer that shows off the photorealistic FOX Engine.Read Article >
As usual with any Kojima production, tons of tantalizing and cryptic imagery abounds. We see a glimpse of what looks to be a female version of Psycho Mantis, lots of horseback riding, and... a flaming pegasus? Hallucinations are said to play a role in the game, which begins as a disabled Snake awakens from a nine-year coma and must drag himself across the floor to escape. The trailer, set to music by resurgent '90s grunge-rock band Garbage, alludes to a conflict between Snake's FOX unit and the "XOF" splinter group, and ends with a teaser of Snake (who is disappointingly no longer voiced by David Hayter) wearing the uniform of a group called "Diamond Dogs," followed by a mysterious message: "V has come to." The credits screen shows logos for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but gives no hint at a possible release date.
Mar 27, 2013
One of the lone pieces of hardware that Sony decided to reveal at its PlayStation 4 event last February was the new DualShock 4 controller, and now the company is showing it off in person at this year's Game Developers Conference. The controller looks quite nice in person — there's a nice matte finish to the hardware — and the light bar on the back gives it a real Tron vibe.Read Article >
Seeing as it's presenting to an audience of developers, Sony also offered up more details on what's inside the DualShock 4. First off, the controller's buttons are now digital rather than analog, which means touch sensitivity is out. The touchpad on front recognizes two simultaneous touch points, with support for gestures including flick, pinch, and twist. Developers can tap into the touchpad in a variety of ways; it can control navigation UI, on-screen slider buttons, and even act as a cursor controller. The controller contains a 3-axis accelerometer and 3-axis gyroscope.
Mar 27, 2013
Kid-focused augmented reality game Disney Infinity seems like a me-too cash grab, and in a lot of ways it is. After the massive, on-going success of Activision’s Skylanders — a franchise that combined relatively simple video games and collectible toys into a highly lucrative package for kids — the announcement of Disney Infinity felt like the company was simply trying to get in on the action. You can't really blame Disney: with a wealth of incredibly popular characters and franchises to choose from, it’s a project that could be a money-making machine. And Disney Infinity is indeed expensive. You start out with three characters, but you can buy more toys and even physical discs that represent everything from new abilities to visual skins for the world. But that's not what makes Disney Infinity exciting. On the surface it looks like yet another video game trying to gouge your wallet with the addition of costly collectible toys, but underneath you'll find that Disney Infinity actually has more in common with a much less likely type of game. This is Minecraft meets Mickey Mouse — oh, and there’s a dash of Tron to seal the deal.Read Article >
Mar 27, 2013Read Article >
The next entry in Electronic Arts' visually stunning Battlefield series is set to be released this fall for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. EA DICE announced Battlefield 4 alongside a 17-minute trailer that opens on a couple of soldiers listening to Bonnie Tyler's power ballad "Total Eclipse of the Heart," and proceeds to showcase the cinematic setpiece moments that titles like Battlefield 3 and the Modern Warfare series have come to be known for. The first person shooter's gameplay doesn't appear to have changed much from the series' last entry, but it's hard to find many similarities to the 2002 title, Battlefield 1942, that started it off. The game will be available for $59.99.
Mar 26, 2013
Is three years long enough to make a Star Trek movie game that's actually good? That's what Paramount is hoping with the aptly titled Star Trek: The Video Game, a story nestled in-between JJ Abrams' 2009 reboot of the franchise and the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness. Working with developer Digital Extremes, Paramount boasts that it has put a lot of effort into making the game feel authentic — including everything from accurately recreating the bridge on the Enterprise to including the likenesses and voices of the major actors from the film. But can Chris Pine’s face really make a licensed game worth playing?Read Article >
Mar 26, 2013
On a breezy, sunny day in San Francisco, I joined the team behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset at a private room in a restaurant a few blocks from the 2013 Game Developers Conference. They’re showing off Hawken, a game that hasn’t been seen on the Rift until now. I’m expecting the fireworks and punchy mech-combat shown off in Hawken trailers, along with a unique 3D twist from the Rift, but I got something else entirely: the gift of flight.Read Article >
In less than a year since the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset made its debut on Kickstarter, the device has been wrapped in a cloak of hype, despite the fact that most of the big questions about the Rift are still unanswered. Will the developer kit actually ever ship? Will a refined prototype ever make it into the hands of consumers? Will game creators and publishers actually take the Rift seriously as a new platform? And — perhaps most importantly — what’s it like to actually play a real game? Most of those questions remain unanswered, but after playing Hawken, I believe that virtual reality gear like the Rift will be a mainstay in the future of gaming.