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The wife was griping that I didn't talk about the seminars. I eased her fears by telling her that I was indeed going to talk about the seminars. So, without further ado. . .

The seminars were, on the whole, about what I expected. No real standouts. I didn't attend the much-hyped keynote by Uber-designer Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo. I did find it humorous, however, that muckety-mucks from Sony and Sega quickly signed on for their own talks once the GDC convinced Miyamoto to show up.

Most of the seminars I saw were good. I tended to stick with the technical stuff, but I did see a good talk by the former head of Purple Moon, Brenda Laurel, about how games are changing to match the audience. She actually made some good points about how people view games nowadays and how they've changed over time. I bought the tape so Shelly could hear it at home.

For technical seminars, the best one I saw was about optimizing C++. I was initially worried because the presenter made many suggestions for optimizing that were old standards, but I did walk away with some good tidbits, like the value of preferring ++X over X++ when incrementing objects, and the value of returning temporary objects. It was stuff that made sense, but was easily overlooked.

I was able to do two different all-day tutorials. The first was about Java. The presenter, thankfully, did not spend all of his time showing off Java syntax. He instead focused on the benefits and pitfalls of Java, the libraries that are of use to game programmers, and strategies. He had a good real-world example of a Voxel flythrough program in which he showed how to increase performance. Unfortunately, he didn't have it finished, and some of the reasons for speedups had to be taken on faith.

The second all-day tutorial was on Advanced OpenGL. This was also a winner, and appeared to be a hit with the audience. They covered how to do good drop-shadows via the stencil-buffer, mirrors, bump-mapping, and real-time texture-mapping. In both tutorials, the notes were worth the price of admission by themselves --at least 100 pages with tons of code examples.

Awright. Now I'm gonna get on my soapbox again for a bit. The presentation machine of choice was pretty-much a 50-50 split between Wintel laptops and Mac laptops, but the software of choice was 100% PowerPoint. After watching the presentations, I feel qualified to present my own. . .

PowerPoint Presentation Tips!

  • Avoid switching between different pieces of hardware whenever possible. PowerPoint is pretty powerful, and you can easily embed high-quality pictures or videos into the slides. If you've got an interesting screen or animation on another computer, do a screen-grab, copy it to the machine, and put it on a slide. The biggest technical glitches I saw were folks trying to show off stuff on multiple machines. The worst example I saw was Scott Kim's presentation on puzzle game design. It was a disaster. It started 15 minutes late, because the AV guys were having trouble hooking everything up. When it finally got moving, Kim had a tough time trying to skip between a Mac running PowerPoint and an example game, a Windows machine running another example game, and an N64 running a third example game. He could've made his points much better by doing screen-grabs from all of the games and putting 'em into PowerPoint. The second worst was a presentation about innovative packaging. The presenters, a couple of old hats from Infocom, were switching between a laptop and an old slide projector. The entire time they were trying to show off the lousy images from the projector, I was thinking "why didn't they just scan the slides and put 'em into PowerPoint"? On the other hand, the guys in the Advanced OpenGL class were able to use two machines to good effect. They had two identical machines, so no re-adjusting was required when they switched the screens. One machine ran PowerPoint only. The other ran demos only. They were well-prepared, and it showed.
  • When pointing to the screen, use a laser, not the mouse. Since presentations tend to prefer slides with dark backgrounds, Windows mouse pointers don't show up well, and Mac pointers are almost invisible. If you want to point to something on a slide, use a laser pointer rather than wiggling the mouse over it. Laser pointers are really cheap nowadays, and the bright red dot is unmistakable.

For those who read the diary of last year's trip to the GDC (read the 1998 archive if you didn't), you'll probably remember my story about meeting up with one of the guys from Kesmai who did an excellent presentation of the sociology of multi-player games. I was impressed that he remembered me, despite having probably shaken thousands of hands during the conference. Well, on Friday, I was walking past him, and he flagged me down. I was taken aback that he still remembered me after a year. He mentioned that he'd read the diary, and he was happy to know that I was once again published and about to appear in the stores.

Interestingly, it was his talk at the 1998 CGDC that convinced me to pull the multiplayer stuff from my game-pack. He had some good reasons why multiplayer games must be designed that way from the start, and any attempt to shoe-horn multiplayer into something designed as single-player was doomed from the start.

FWIW, I finally got his name --Jonathan Baron. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak at a conference, don't pass it up.
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