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Home to Texas

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johnhattan

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Awright. I arrived back to my cozy Texas home at 3 o'clock this morning. The CGDC has come and gone. There's a lot of stuff to talk about, and I don't wanna give a blow-by-blow description, as it'd take forever. For that reason, I'm gonna put down my random impressions into a buncha bullet-points. Here I go. . .

Good Things:

  • I met a really interesting character at the gamestorm booth. We chatted a bit about opponent-finding at the booth. A couple days later, I was asked to help him set up an easel for a lecture he was giving. He recognized me as "the guy from The Code Zone", which surprised me (7000 people went by his booth, for cryin' out loud). His lecture on network gaming was easily the best I'd heard.
  • DirectDraw and DirectSound Retained Mode are good things. I dunno what "retained" means, but the DirectX folks seem to be putting two levels of support in all of their stuff. The "retained" modes are generally higher-level and easier to use. DirectDraw Retained Mode is basically a full sprite animation engine for DirectDraw. It features lotsa nice stuff like Z-ordered sprites, dirty rectangle management, and alpha channels on sprites. DirectSound Retained Mode adds the long-needed ability to play WAV files directly, without having to stream the file into a buffer first.
  • I bumped into Frank Yerrace, one of my old co-workers from the old Tandy days. He's now at Microsoft, working on their sound stuff.


Bad Things:

  • Pirhana Publishing pretty much dismissed my product out-of-hand, despite their newsgroup solicitation for products. They flipped through my little press-kit (1 page description, four pages of screen shots, one CD), and said that they were looking more for large-scale strategy games than "small stuff".
  • I'm certain that this is a foregone conclusion, but the expo floor was more of an obnoxious show of dollars than a place to meet with companies. The best example was HEAT.NET, who handed me a T-shirt when I asked them how to add game content to their service. I kindly offered to trade the T-shirt for an answer to the question, but all I got was a business card and a suggestion that I call next week.


Cool stuff I ended up getting:

  • A Diamond Stealth II video card. It was a freebie given away for attending a seminar about the Intel i740 chip. Haven't installed it yet. It had some really nice statistical features that would let you tune your 3D games. Won't do me any good, but it'll probably run games well.
  • A Microsoft Sidewinder joystick. I got this at MS's hospitality suite. I could've gotten the force-feedback model, but you had to go through all kinds of hoop-jumping to get it.
  • Autographed CD's from The Fat Man. I had to buy the CD's, but I wasn't there just to scam free stuff (unlike 75% of my colleagues). I'm listening to one now, and they actually work as a real band --sort of a synth-version of TMBG.
  • A Hardwood Solitaire CD. I really respected these guys. They're just a little company with some really nice shareware solitaire games. They were running a hospitality suite, giving away games, mouse pads, and soda pop, just trying to get their name out. I mentioned that I was one of their competitors, and I talked to 'em for a bit, finally leaving 'em with a copy of my games.
  • Lots of key chains, squishy balls, plastic toys, pens, and CD's with SDK's of every kind.


Comments:

  • The 3D market is ripe for a well-deserved "correction", to use the stock market's vernacular. The hot topic, nay the only topic, of the show was 3D. Fully 95% of the booths in the expo hall were either for 3D hardware or 3D software. There were at least a dozen companies dedicated just to modeling and animating human figures. The entire conference seemed to be geared towards its attendees (18-40 year old males). The only ray of hope was during a conference about trends in the market when one of my colleagues loudly commented that zero of the top-5 PC games are 3D, and that while folks are working on the latest run-around-in-halls shooter, Deer Hunter is clobbering them on the shelves! At least one other viewer loudly concurred that people are having such a love affair with the technology that they're ignoring the market.
  • John Romero is an annoying little egotistical dwarf. At one point, I was talking to the brother of Ken Williams (of Sierra fame) about their new opponent-finding service, won.net. Suddenly, this little creep with a Daikatana shirt shoves his way between us, trying to get Ken Williams' phone number. My roommates and I made fun of him and his "you will be my bitch" joystick ad for the rest of the week.
  • The CGDA has no real reason to exist anymore. What started out as an organization set up to support and connect game developers has become little more than a trade-show group. Frankly, making it a sub-conference of another bigger show wouldn't be a bad thing. A quick look at the CGDA web site shows that they don't really care about anything but trade-shows anymore. I joined up with the IGDN at the show, and I don't intend to renew my membership in the CGDA.
  • The online game networks richly deserve the trouble they're having. Almost every one of 'em is set up to work on high-bandwidth-low-latency games (read: Quake), so they can justify their monthly fee. Such a model is fatally flawed and deserves to die. If people are gonna pay to play games, they're gonna pay for content, not for latency. The current latency problems will improve as we get faster internet into homes. People aren't gonna pay monthly fees for a problem that people perceive is fixing itself. If people are gonna pay, it's gonna be for content, not meaningless buzzwords like "latency"
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