March 14, 2012

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Visiting GDC2012 – Part 2 of 2

Yesterday (in part 1), I covered a lot of territory on GDC2012, but left out the biggest piece of GDC… the expo hall (and the only Moscone not covered, north).

Moscone North — Expo Hall

The expo hall is a massive collection of awesome. It contains all the games, doodads, add-ons, tools and services you could ever need while you are building a game. The first thing you see when you walk in are giant displays from all the big companies and latest AAA games (e.g. Sony, Microsoft). From there it moves to tools of the trade: anything you could possibly want (along with some things you didn’t think you needed) to build a modern game.

One of the first things that caught my eye was a shooter called Warface. The trailer on their website doesn’t show any in-game footage, but it was being played at GDC. Being CryEngine 3 based, the game looks sexy. It looks like the next Call of Duty or Modern Warfare. The part that really caught my eye was that it titles itself a “Free Social FPS”. I understand “Free (to play)” and “FPS”, but I don’t get how “Social” comes into play. If you’ve played any FPSs online you know that most of the social aspects are 12 year old kids screaming obscenities — thanks, but no thanks. Regardless, I’m curious to see how this movement of free to play AAA games goes — so I’ve signed up.

As noted earlier, when it came to the game development tools, you could find anything you needed. There were QA groups, AI software, lip sync services, and all sorts of doodads that I don’t have the faintest idea of their purpose. There were two groups that stood out in my mind, the first of which was GitHub. GitHub is simply an awesome service and while they aren’t really targeted at game developers, I think it’s a great example of how anything and everything goes at GDC. The second group was Reallusion iClone. If you’re not familiar with mocap, it typically involves actors wearing suits with dozens/hundreds of tracking markers in a giant room filled with IR cameras. In short, it isn’t cheap. iClone allows you to do basic mocap work with a Kinect AND clean it up/enhance it afterwards. It is, for the mobile/social game developers, AMAZING.

The last booth I went to check out was NeuroSky. Since they were kind enough to sponsor my excursion to GDC, I had to make a point to check out their goodies. Even if they hadn’t sponsored my trip, it was worth stopping by. Why? THEY CAN READ YOUR BRAIN!!! How cool is that? In case the “Neuro” portion of their name didn’t give it away, they make brain wave sensors. The product they were showing off was the MindWave which is a “Portable EEG brainwave headset” that is Bluetooth powered, all for $100! They also put out a bunch of apps for Mac, PC, and iOS in their store.

I got a chance to watch their product in action, attached to Macs and iPads. You sit there and think, and the apps do their thing, couldn’t be simpler than that. One of the demo apps was a meditation trainer which is cool to me because it’s probably the only way you’d ever get me to “meditate”. The second app was even more awesome in concept — a Choose Your Own Adventures movie… based on brain waves. The “movie” they used wasn’t very long, but at critical points in the story line you could pick what the main characters would do based on how you thought. Sure, you could easily do to the same thing on any platform with a button, but this would be so much less intrusive as the technology matures. Sit on your couch and watch a movie, every time you watch it, it’s a little different. No remote, no “controllers”, just a small lightweight headset.

I’ll admit, I’m not well informed on the brain reading arena, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen consumer level brain wave hardware. Not only is it consumer level, but it’s only $100. There are a lot of applications for cheap brain wave hardware, most of which I’m sure haven’t even been thought of yet (pun intended). I’m sure as time progresses, the hardware will shrink down till it’s no more than a Bluetooth headset in size. Then it can ignore calls and text messages for me because it knows I’m ticked off at the world. Wouldn’t that be glorious? Oh, and they also had a girl wandering around the booth wearing a pair of cat ears that moved around (presumably brain controlled) that were ADORABLE.