GameDev.net having a booth, pens and tshirts this year was such an amazing difference. Not only did it give me more passion to work hard at coverage, it let me meet a lot more people than I would have. Walking around the convention center, I'd see someone with the GDNet pen or (more rarely) someone sporting the the GDNet shirt and stop to chat with them. I wish more people had been wearing the shirts. We gave out a lot.
San Francisco is a great city, it's just too bad I only got to see 5 square miles of it while I was there. The convention center was just massive compared to San Jose. Unfortunately, beside the great weather, which you can also find in San Jose, I'll have to save the rest if my comments on SF for the Bad section.
I finally got to meet Dave Perry, and found out that he's a huge fan of GDNet. Who'da thunk? As soon as he heard I was part of GameDev.net his eyes kinda lit up and the only thing he didn't do was pat me on the back while praising the website. That alone gave me a lot of energy this year, knowing that guys like Dave Perry appreciate what we do. Even Warren Spector said he visits the site a lot. WOW, we're really starting to make a name for ourselves out there.
Seeing Bill Murray was just the icing on the cake. I'm still shocked that that even happened. The chances?? The odds?? Geeezz...
I also managed to run into just about every single person I knew was going to be there, and a few I didn't. This just goes to prove how tight an industry we really are. You'd think at first that with such a huge conference, the chances of just running into someone would be pretty nil, but it's amazing how often you bump into people, sometimes a few times a day. My first year I was amazed at it, now I'm expecting to run into a person I know about every 15 minutes at the most.
The last thing were the "sasquatch" and "So You Wanna Be a GDNet Reporter" stories. I had a lot of fun with those. My friend and fellow Blade Edge team member Coray Seifert from Large Animal Games was the man in the flying monkey suit... most of the time. The white gorrilla? A total coincidence that just added to the fun of it. I was hoping to have the two of them fight, but Coray tired of the suit quickly, and so that last photo I posted of him (with Dustin Clingman) was actually one shot on Tuesday.
I did say SF was a great city, but not for this conference. The Moscone West building was huge, and it had to have taken at least twice as long to get from point A to point B than it would have at the San Jose convention center. Not only that, but our hotel was a 7 minute walk or a $5 cab ride from Moscone, and there's no light rail stop (or its equivilant, like a cable car) like in San Jose. Even walking to other hotels in the area was pretty distant, around 5 minutes at least. So all the walking took quite a toll on me personally. I consider myself to be in pretty good shape, but walking like that all day will get to anyone.
Those of you who've been to San Jose probably know that the Fairmont lobby bar is the place to be each night after the conference if you're not at a party. You can find pretty much anyone there. There was no such place in SF, even though people tried to look. The Argent, which was (I think) billed as the "official" GDC hotel, had a measly lobby area compared to the Fairmont. So after the conference it was pretty much either find a party or you're done, because people scattered far and wide.
The night life in SF is also distinctly more lively than in SJ. After about 10pm in SJ the majority of people you seen on the streets are drunken game developers. In SF it's a different story - all the homeless and crazy ppl continue to line the streets begging for change and trying to shove flyers into your pockets. One of the Behemoth guys (makers of Alien Hominid) told me how he got lost one night, and an old homeless-looking guy walked up to him and said "here, take my bus pass." "Why?" asked the developer. "Because you shouldn't be here" said the bum. Woah.
Despite the apparent size of the convention center, there was still lack of space for session rooms. Some sessions were held in the hallway nooks, partitioned off from the main walkway but with open ceilings, so the sound just went up and out. Some sessions were even held in the rear corners of the convention center. I don't know why these situations existed, but they did seem to hint at bad planning, or the conference just wanting to use as much space as possible to cram in as many sessions as possible. I say to hell with that - less sessions with better overall quality works for me.
One last thing - I didn't win a TV. Yes, I'm going to be bitter about that for the rest of my life, so deal with it [razz]
There's only one thing that really makes my ugly list, and that's that damn Career Eye for the Game Guy peice of crap they showed during the GDC. Ugh, just saying it makes my skin crawl. I feel very sorry for that poor sap who played the game developer. Actually wait... no I don't, because he is a game developer, and I certainly could never see myself doing that stupid "show". I guess it was one of those things that sounds good when you talk about it... but why they didn't cut it out after they made it is beyond me. I guess they hoped we were all by now so hooked on the whole "reality TV" phenomenon that we wouldn't notice how patronizing the whole thing was. Pfssh yea - come on, we're freaking game developers.
Oh yea, the other thing was the Westin. If you want internet access in your hotel room, don't stay at a Westin hotel. Their service plan sucks ass. You have to pay $14.95 for just 24 hours. To make matters worse, neither Wav nor I had thought to bring a router (props to Dave and Kev for foresight on their part) and the hotel keys your connection to your MAC address, which means that after I signed up, when Wav tried to connect with his laptop, he had to pay $14.95/24hrs as well. GDNet picked up the tab, but I still feel guilty to this day about it. Note to self: bring router always.
Okay, there's more than one.. errr, two things. The internet at the convention center was downright horrible, and inexcusably so. First off, the wireless connection to the press lounge router was unsecured. I suppose they figured a secured router would have too many people not knowing how to connect, and/or were to cheap to print up simple flyers with instructions for people in the press lounge. As elitist as it sounds, the press lounge really needs its own secure connection to the Net independent of that used by the conference in general. It drove me absolutely nuts on Wed when I had to run back to my hotel room just to post updates. We need the Net to do our jobs.
What I Did Right
Despite moving to a new location this year, my past GDC experiences served me well. In fact this is the first year that I've actually felt I had some measure of control over what I was doing, that I had some sort of methodology worked out. Dave asked me the second day how I got so much crap up already and the answer is simple: I know that if I don't I'll get hopelessly backed up and stressed out.
Going in, I accepted first of all that I was about to get very little sleep over the course of the week. I also made sure that I was done with my reports for the day by 3am so I could get at least 4hrs sleep, which is bare minimum for me. Those pictures Wav and I took (So You Wanna Be a GDNet Reporter?) were meant to put a funny twist onto our real-life situation. We really were up till 3am everyday, and we really did feel as tired as we looked in the pictures. But it was a controlled situation - kind of like how I reported in my QoL coverage - people can sustain extra workloads over a short period of time. So while I did feel tired and overworked, it was something I accepted for that week, that period of time. That acceptance, I think, made it a lot easier to get my work done. I think in past GDCs I was rather unhappy with the fact that I had to stay up to all hours of the night working, and that probably affected my reporting.
Past experience was definetly the number one thing that made this GDC easier than all the rest.
What I Did Wrong
Yea, I wish I was perfect too, but I'm not. My first and biggest mistake was not laying out any templates for my reports. Since they are all HTML, I could have created some basic Dreamweaver templates I could have filled in rather than starting from scratch all the time. This is true especially of the IGF booth coverage (which I just posted today), which I should have had up on Wed and continuously updated with new booth photos over the course of the week. This was my only serious flaw in coverage this year, and I definetly will rectify it next year.
My other mistake was forgetting to pack a mouse, and being too stingy to buy a little travel mouse at the CompUSA on the way to the convention center. I'm going through some tough financial times right now, but in hindsight I would have been probably at least twice as productive had I used a mouse rather than a touchpad, mainly because my work involved a lot of highlighting, something with which touchpads aren't the best devices to use.
What I Want To Do Next Year
Looking at what I did this year, I can't really think of anything that would top it. I've pretty much carved out my little niche in terms of GDC reporting. I do the IGF pavilion, I do the Choice Awards, I cover programming, business/production and IGDA tracks, which leaves me just enough time to chat with ppl, wlak the Expo, and sechedule a few product/event interviews for GDNet. I do hope to do more fun stories like the two I mentioned in my Good section. I was dissapointed I didn't see any Liquid Development action (scroll down) this year. I saw a few people wearing LD tshirts, but that was it. I was planning on doing some video coverage, but just didn't have the time. That seems to be Oluseyi's niche however, and bravo to him.
What I'm Looking Forward To Next Year
There's really only one thing to look forward to next year, and that's being back in San Jose. It will be nice to know your sorroundings, know where you can find people, and have less distance to travel on foot. San Fran was a fun fling, an experiment if you will. GDC was testing the waters of a bigger event, and found them still a tad bit cold. But that's okay - I think San Jose can hold us a bit longer. But the need for bigger digs is definetly a pressing issue, so I wouldn't be surprised if we end up someplace else again in '07. But I wouldn't be sad if we don't.