It was almost exactly a week ago that I wandered home from some late-hour hacking at the office to pack my bags for GDC. Bright and early the next morning I was on a flight to San Francisco - which felt strangely short at only 2 hours, after having attended my previous 4 GDCs from the East Coast. Mercifully brief air travel aside, Sunday I pretty much hit the ground running; the AI Game Programmers Guild more or less takes over the second floor atrium of the Marriott hotel every year for rehearsing talks and general last-minute preparation for the AI Summit.
My own talk at the summit came mid-way through Monday's sessions - it's nice to have a couple sessions to get into the GDC vibe and kind of adjust to the atmosphere, feel out the audience, etc. before having to present. By the same token, it's kind of nice to not go late on the second day of the summit, because by then everyone's brains are full to the point of impending explosion and heavy-duty talks run the risk of leaving the audience with their eyes glazed over. Thankfully, the guys in charge of the summit schedule are fantastic at their job - so respect to Dave and Steve for their continuing part in making GDC such an awesome experience.
I feel like I should drop a shout out to Alex and his crew as well for the most impressive, heavily-customized presentation I've ever seen at a conference. You really had to be there.
Finishing the second day of the summit is always a mixed bag of feelings for me. On the one hand, it's when all the AI people I know start dispersing across the rest of the conference, and frankly the density of interesting talks drops off sharply once you leave the summits and tutorials. On the plus side, though, it's when all the parties and such start in earnest, so in some ways it's like the week is just getting going.
The next several days are always a blur; a paradoxical blend of rushing past too fast and dragging on for too long. It's a roller-coaster of adrenaline, excitement, and exhaustion from all the late nights... and I'm fairly conservative on the partying front compared to some of the people I know.
Friday night always comes too fast and flies by too quickly. This is of course the evening of the AI Programmers' Dinner, which is always a great experience and a wonderful opportunity to just hang out and talk shop. (Also, we solve the mysteries of the universe and revolutionize game AI every year. Just ask Alex.) So mad thanks to Neil for making that possible.
All in all, though, GDC remains one of my favorite highlights of every year. It's great to see everyone and catch up on all the business of the intervening months - some good, some bad, always interesting and inspiring.
This year seemed a bit light on the technical content front, but that's OK; everything has an ebb and flow and GDC is no exception. Despite this, it's still well worth the time and expense - and I do mean expense. Those bar tabs add up in a hurry.
Every year part of me wishes that it wasn't so long between GDCs, but somehow deep down I know it wouldn't be quite as special if it happened more frequently.
My plane boards soon, so I'll be heading off... off to spend a few last happy moments reliving GDC, off to deal with baggage claims and parking decks and coming home to an apartment that's been unoccupied for a week, off to think about all the incredible stuff I got to see and learn this week.
Off to look forward to another year, and off to make sure it's even better than the last.