• 04/27/07 02:40 PM
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    OGDC Event Interview

    Interviews

    Plug into the most advanced source of technical information for creating the next generation of leading online games. The Online Game Development Conference is the first conference with a razor-sharp focus on the technology, art, design, production, and business of games delivered over the internet. OGDC will be held at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle's premier luxury hotel located in the heart of downtown.

    OGDC offers over 50 unique sessions during two information-packed days given by some of the most influential speakers in the industry. The conference venue offers incredible opportunities for networking and business development in a comfortable professional setting.


    [size="3"]Who are you and how are you involved with the Online Game Development Conference?

    I'm Peter Freese, the Conference Director and visionary behind OGDC. I'm also Lead Programmer at Hidden Path Entertainment, and I've been working in the games industry for fifteen years as a developer. I've always been interested in furthering the interests of the development community - I founded Austin Game Developers (now the Austin IGDA chapter) and I also served as the chairman of the Austin Game Conference Advisory Board. It was in that capacity that I'd hoped to make the Austin Game Conference (now the Austin GDC) a magnet event for MMO developers, which has only partially succeeded. One of the difficulties in making this kind of event work in Austin is that it is too disconnected from the Pacific Rim, which is where most of the really interesting action is happening. I've also come to realize that MMOs are really just a small blip in the radar of the much larger online game space. The reason for founding OGDC is to create an event that addresses all these issues and then some. OGDC is by developers for developers - for the online game development community in all its facets across boundaries of genres, cultures, and continents.


    [size="3"]What makes this the time for such a conference to debut?

    In my mind, an event like the Online Game Development Conference is really overdue. The broadband industry now has over 50% market penetration in the US. The market value for subscription MMOs in the west alone has reached $1 billion. Microsoft has demonstrated that online gaming capabilities are the most important factor in the next-generation console wars. Events like the World Cyber Games demonstrate that online games are part of our global popular culture. In Asia, online is both the primary distribution and play style - with the exception of Japan, the retail box sales market for games is non-existent. In China, the user base is amazing; Tencent's QQ Games platform has achieved over 3 million peak concurrent users.

    And yet, with all the growth and success, there is a lot of turmoil and uncertainty. The phenomenon of free-to-play games in Korea displacing the subscription model is poorly understood in the West - the top revenue generating titles such as KartRider, Free Style, MapleStory, and Fly for Fun are almost completely outside the collective consciousness of Western developers. Most people were startled to hear that EA had invested $100M in Neowiz, unknown in the West but responsible for creating South Korea's most popular online game in 2006 - an FPS titled Sudden Attack.

    The Chinese online game market is expected to continue to grow astronomically, becoming the largest and most lucrative in the world by 2010. But, as a report by DFC Intelligence warns, there will be a great deal of money lost. With a growing interest in online game profits across the business landscape, there will be large investments made and lost. The challenges facing developers and business leaders are daunting.


    [size="3"]Have any earlier attempts been made at holding a conference like this?

    There have been sessions and panels dedicated to various aspects of online game development, but none have had this level of focus and technical depth. In my view, OGDC is a first-of-its-kind event in this business.


    [size="3"]What should the average attendee walk away from this conference with?

    First, I want to point out that even in our own industry, I've run into a surprising lack of knowledge about what constitutes an "online game". I think there may be some confusion as to what kind of game development the Online Game Development Conference is about. Are online games only MMO games like World of Warcraft and Lineage? Or are online games just casual browser games like AdventureQuest or Puzzle Pirates? Or are they games like CounterStrike, Gears of War, and Project Gotham Racing? In reality, these are all online games because essential or significant aspects of the games rely on connectivity. Take away the connection and the game fails or falls short.

    So, to get back to the question, one thing that I hope the average attendee will walk away with is a greater appreciation of the scope of the online game space, and what their games' potential can be in both general visionary terms and specific implementation details


    [size="3"]Are there any events besides sessions?

    Beyond the four concurrent tracks of sessions and panels over the two days, we also have an expo area featuring a range of companies and networking opportunities such as our hosted lunches and reception. I'm sure there will be a sponsored party or two in the works with some of our key sponsors, which should make for enjoyable networking after hours. But our primary focus is the plenary sessions - we aim first to offer an educational experience for developers.


    [size="3"]Were there any reasons tied to the industry for choosing Seattle as the venue for this event?

    Seattle has a thriving game development community, especially in the casual and online gaming space. The San Francisco Bay area and southern California have always been seen as nexus of the game development world in North America. However, Seattle hosts some of the most successful studios in the world, including Sierra Online, Valve, Gas Powered Games, and PopCap Games. Seattle is ranked as the #1 city in the US for gaming. We've got Nintendo USA and Microsoft here, and probably more software developers than any other place in the world.

    Seattle also offers rich business connections to the Pacific Rim. It's no coincidence that Chinese President Hu Jintao made Seattle the maiden stop on his first visit to the United States as president; Washington is probably the most China-friendly state in the US, and Seattle is closer to Asia than any other major US seaport. We have the shortest non-stop flights to and from most points in Asia for any city in the continental US.

    Last but not least, I call the Seattle area home, so being able to host a conference in an area local to me certainly makes it easier!


    [size="3"]What do you think the highlights of this conference will be?

    There are so many highlights to be made from the fifty sessions on the table, that picking just a few isn't easy. Among the sessions I personally am interesting in seeing (as I expect to learn quite a bit myself!) would be Ramon Axelrod's (AISeek) presentation about real-time generation of AI data in dynamic MMO environments. I saw his presentation in advance and it looks incredibly interesting. Also, Herb Sutter's (Microsoft) Thursday keynote promises to be both technical and entertaining, given Herb's deep background in programming languages. On the business side, Won-il Suh's (NeoWiz) discussion about monetizing and localizing content between cultures is very important, considering developers are still trying to find ways to make international successes of their major online game projects. Also, the Online Console Strategy panel is going to add a very interesting dynamic, since Microsoft is launching Games for Windows Live two days before the event, and we've got JJ Richards, the GM of Xbox Live on the panel along with Todd Northcutt from GameSpy. The list could go on and on.


    [size="3"]Do you hope to renew this conference again for next year?

    Absolutely. If the Online Game Development Conference makes the impact I feel it will, we definitely want to bring it back next year. Over the next few years, the online game industry will evolve and grow, and so too will OGDC. We're going to keep our fingers on the pulse of the online game industry.


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