While the San Francisco Game Developers Conference offers a platform for companies of all sizes and shapes to meet and share their ideas, that doesn't prevent one of the industry's behemoths from swooping in to hog the spotlight. By unveiling its own VR headset and challenging the apparent dominance of the Oculus Rift, Sony did just that.
Elsewhere, the abiding message was typical: change, and plenty of it. Developers becoming teachers, AAA developers going indie, and the rise and rise of the Chinese gaming scene.
In a session called Driving the Future of Innovation at Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony finally put the rumours to bed by unveiling Project Morpheus, its work-in-progress entrance into the nascent market for virtual reality. Using PlayStation Move technology with the PlayStation Eye camera, Sony hopes to edge past its competitors on accuracy. (GamesIndustry International)
The Connection Between Boys' Social Status, Gaming and Conflict probed the tangled psychological relationship between young males and the games they play. Ashly Burch and Rosalind Wiseman identified links between positive social signifiers in boys and not only the type of games they play, but the way that the characters within those games are portrayed. "In games, in this medium that allows people to be whoever they want, we're still living in this exact same box," Burch said. (GamesIndustry International)
PopCap followed up its talk on breaking into China last year with a more focused examination of the problems it encountered when introducing Plants vs. Zombies 2 to the market. OMG! Zombies on the Great Wall of China illustrated the speed with which piracy can start in China: within two hours of its soft-launch, the first cloned version was released; after six days, PvZ 2's numerous clones had been downloaded more than 6 million times. (GamesIndustry International)
Speaking of China, Tencent's Steve Gray beseeched his audience to take the market seriously in a session called A Developer's Guide to Pitching Games for the Chinese Market. "In 2014 many Chinese phone manufacturers will release very cheap models," Gray said. "They will sell 300 or 400 million handsets. That's a lot of new users. A very high percentage of them will play games." (Polygon)
This year, GDC's many conference rooms were crowded with developers who had made the transition from AAA studios to more personal independent projects - among them 22 Cans' Peter Molyneux, Camouflaj's Ryan Payton and The Fullbright Company's Johnnemann Nordhagen. "Steal from your coworkers!" Nordhagen cried to all those still working within the system. "If you want to make an indie game, all you have to do is get a AAA job and learn things that experienced people have to teach you." (Ars Technica)
But there's more than one route away from the pressures and compromises of AAA development, and teaching is an increasingly popular choice among veteran designers. AAA Academics: Superstar Designers in Academia saw Brenda Romero, John Romero, Warren Spector and Richard Lemarchand holding forth on the appeal of life in the classroom. "Building an academic program to me feels like building a game, and I'm shipping students," Brenda Romero noted. (VentureBeat)