Another year of GDC! It's been awhile as the last time I was at GDC was in 2015. Again, I am returning as a CA (conference associate). Once again I think that being a CA is the best way to enjoy GDC. It truly is a rewarding experience as your fellow CAs are a wide range and variety of people in the industry from all different fields and either just starting out or are long time established veterans. The networking is amazing but even better is that being a CA is being part of a family and it really feels like one. (Please help run CTN, Ian)
One of my favorite things about GDC is that it encompasses so much of the video game industry. It has art, engineers, programmers, sound, music, marketing, QA, localization, and so much more. Meanwhile in animation/vfx it seems that you go to CTN for art (and even that is somewhat more centered only on concept art, design, and animation) and SIGGRAPH for technology.
In all honesty, I don't really know what I go to GDC for work-wise. Mainly I go for the people, the CAs and friends I meet and to meet and network with others. I do like to keep my options open for work and possible future opportunities but I am currently still enamored to film and seeing my name up on the big screen. I have no qualms about working in games, since a lot of what we do is similar, but even then I would want to be more on the cinematics side. Maybe see if I can chat up Riot or Blizzard but, really, my main goal for this year was to be able to hangout with friends that usually I never get to see. I did, yay!
I didn't go to a lot of talks this time. Most of the ones that I was working were way out of my field and there were other CAs who were interested so I let them monitor inside the room while I stood outside to watch the door and let late comers in. I did go to a panel talking about "The Future of Real-Time Lighting" with Ivan Pedersen (ARM/Enlighten), Remi Draincourt (Square Enix), Andrew Maximov (Naughty Dog), Neil Thompson (Bioware), Matthew Cooke (Ready at Dawn), and Yuriy ODonnel (Frostibite/EA). There were both lighting artists and engineers as part of the panel. They talked about how lighting in games has changed and evolved, and the difficulties in that process. I found it fascinating that lighting in games is evolving to be more like cinematic lighting where they want to be able to beautifully craft shape and form of the objects in the world which has been difficult as you never know where the player will be looking. It was also great to know that there are dedicated lighting artists, and that they are still needed, at companies. Most of the time it seems when I research lighting jobs in games, lighting is bundled in as part of an environment artist's job. This was also apparently the only lighting talk this year so glad that I caught it!
The Game Awards are always fun. Lots of great games for me to look in to and to catch up on. Funny thing happened at the awards ceremony; No Man's Sky actually won the Innovation Award but weren't there to accept it leaving an awkward pause on stage with Tim Schafer with the trophy. Apparently the team themselves weren't expecting to win anything so they were off elsewhere having dinner.
My favorite thing on the exhibit floor this year was Amazon's Lumberyard. Lumberyard is a whole game engine where you can create a game. It has programming, design, animation, art, and rendering. It was so cool seeing everything that it could do and how powerful the tool was! Also, they were doing a bingo type event where if you go to the different stations, listen/learn, and get 5 stamps in a row they gave you a free Echo Dot.
Also the T-Rexs from Faceware. I love those things.
Other highlights this year...I got to meet some awesome people, Dan Inoue (Square Enix localization lead) and Ray Chase (voice actor of Noctis for FFXV), go to an awesome party by Havok at The View on top of the Marriott hotel (thanks Ami!), finally getting to actually chat and hangout with Harada and Robyn, and meeting new people in general.