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GDC 1999 pics

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Yep, that's right. I've been keeping up this quixotic crusade to document my development doings and to put up arrays of asinine alliterations for a year now. It's been a fun year. Hopefully there'll be more to come. Be sure to gimme some feedback if you are a fan, you have any suggestions, or you need a mailing address to mail me a cake. I prefer chocolate cake, light on the frosting.

Well, I promised I'd have pictures from the GDC. They finally arrived (I've got an APS camera, so the one-hour places don't handle it). Here are the photos and some commentary. Hope you enjoy!

The nerve-center of the whole conference was probably the conference map, which was unwisely placed off to the side on the second floor. At any time, you could catch a small group of folks planning their schedules and looking for the latest moved or canceled seminars.

Heading down to the expo floor, it looks like the arcade-PC people finally got their stuff together. After a couple years of empty promises, it appears that the cabinet manufacturers got tired of waiting and made some consoles!

There were at least 20 arcade machines on display. Some of 'em were standard arcade housings, but some were quite innovative. The machine on the left is a full sit-down arcade machine running a 3D dinosaur game.

The machine on the right was particularly cute. It's basically half of a bar shuffleboard game with a screen. As you bounce the puck off the back of the board, stuff happens on the screen. They showed off a couple of games for it. One was a standard bowling game. The other was a cute alien-invader game where you had to knock down advancing baddies with the puck. Not particularly deep, but what do you expect from a quarter-muncher?

Here's another shot of the arcade boxes. There are (back to front) some sit-down racers, a couple of standard cabinets, and a small bar-top machine.

Inside these machines are standard PC's. They've got tougher cases, and they've got some shock-dampening mounts on 'em, but they're otherwise standard. There were also cabinets with replace-able control panels and marquees, so you could easily change the game without spending a ton of money.

Use Adverbs Different!

Apple won the award for "most internal lighting" at their booth. They had several machine pods that followed the iMac look --translucent housing with stark white lighting from within. Interestingly, the salespeople at the booth were also dressed entirely in white and appeared to be internally lit.

Of course, there were lots of photos of celebrities who likely never used the Mac, from the pictured Jim Henson to Richard Feynman to Gandhi.

The biggest draw of the Apple booth was probably the latest Star Wars trailer, which was running as a QuickTime movie somewhere in the booth at any given time. Apple wisely opened up their seated sales pitch by playing the trailer on a large monitor. It usually drew a small crowd by itself.

Hey we got funding!

The MathEngine folks were there with a hip-looking chrome booth, complete with beanbag chairs and free squishy balls to passersby. They were eager to sign up new licensees, but they weren't advertising their new license anywhere publicly. I heard it secondhand from someone at the conference, and headed down to investigate.

Unlike many other booths, they did wisely gear their booth to developers. They had a computer at each corner running a demo. If folks were interested, the developers would break out of the demos to show off the source code. By fiddling around with the settings, they could modify the environment and re-run the demo with the changed settings. You would've thought that more people would be running their booths this way, but there wasn't much source code to be seen.

I was surprised to not see much Windows CE there. The DreamCast folks were showing off a couple of demos, and Hasbro was showing off some of their cute new Windows CE offerings, but that was it.

Looking at these new games, I figure that somebody's eventually gonna come up with a very low-priced CE handheld that can be pitted against the GameBoy. The GameBoy's got a lot of games, but it's a nightmare to program, the games require ROM cartridges, and you've gotta sell your game through Nintendo. There are a zillion old Win16 and Win32 games that could be ported to a little CE machine without much trouble. If there was a way to buy cheap games over the Internet and download 'em to the handheld directly, they'd have a hit.

This was something cool from Elsa. In addition to the standard array of me-too 3D accelerators, they had this gimmick. With a pair of wireless LCD shutter-glasses, Direct3D (or OpenGL with DirectGL) apps become really 3D. If you look closely above the "L" in "ELSA" under the monitor, there's a little thumbnail-sized gizmo with LED's on it. It's attached to the card, and it keeps the glasses in sync with the screen.

The effect was pretty good with Tomb Raider, but it makes any cheats really obvious. For example, Tomb Raider's trees and vines are 2D. Putting the game into real 3D made the foliage look like cheap cardboard props. You've also gotta keep your eyes on the screen --at one point I looked down to the keyboard for a second, and the screen became an ugly smear as the glasses lost sync with the screen. Still, expect a lot of Quakeheads wanting this one under the tree for the holidays.

Always rooting for the underdogs, here's the GameLogic booth. They were the guys with the interesting technology to save games over the Internet.

One other thing that was cool about their game-saving tech was that you could save a screenshot along with the game. They were showing saved games from a 3D shooter --by loading the saved game, they got a screen that looked exactly like the one that was saved. Pretty neat.

The job-fair was two rows this year. All of the biggies were there with fishbowls of candy to attract budding employees. Apparently there were quite a few interviews going in behind the scenes, so it wasn't just a "look at our titles" show.

The Gamasutra folks were there, giving free T-shirts to folks who signed up for a Gamasutra ID during the show, and signing people up for their magazines.

From what I heard, the free green T-shirts were a fiasco. There were long lines of people signing up, as there were only a few terminals available. Early in the conference, they ran out of shirts. Late in the conference, truckloads of shirts arrived, but most folks weren't inclined to fill out the form again. I think every Miller Freeman employee is gonna get 500 T-shirts as a Christmas bonus this year.

Thankfully, the Miller Freeman booth had a constant supply of chocolate-covered coffee beans which I used to counteract the effects of all the free beer. It's a good thing that this only happens once a year.

Just like last year, there were the obligatory booth-babes wearing motion-capture harnesses, pitching their product while aerobicizing on a mini-stage. The screen on the right is running a demo showing a weird raptor-human mirroring her moves.

Finally, there were the booth-bims. Longtime attendees were complaining that E3, the hyper-glitzy Electronic Entertainment Expo, was making inroads into the GDC. While there wasn't the constant bevy of models in every booth, there were a couple hanging around.

Here's a photo of Stella, the star of The Solar Rollers web-comic with some anonymous beer-soaked drunken geek. They were pitching motion capture by House of Moves, who did the motion capture for the comic.

FWIW, she did admit that her shiny rubber hero-suit was very uncomfortable and was difficult to put on and remove.

It's always disappointing to meet superheros in real-life. From what I could tell, she didn't have any superpowers to show off other than the ability of certain parts of her body to defy gravity.

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