I'm going to San Francisco for GDC 2012

Posted on February 2, 2012 | 6 minute read

Now that everything’s confirmed I think it’s time to properly write about this (you know you’re in trouble when people start asking you why you’re not blogging and tweeting about something.)

I’m going to San Francisco for the GDC this year.

It hasn’t exactly been a secret (relevant people know), but I haven’t been talking about it much. I’m just extra paranoid about jinxing things, I guess. The trip took ages to organise (had to get my Australian citizenship, passport, flights, etc), but it’s finally all confirmed.

I didn’t think so many people I know would be going, so it’s been awesome to hear from you guys over the past couple of weeks. I may not get to catch up with everyone because of all the hecticness (I’m mostly just focusing on learning without my brain exploding everywhere), but am sure that I’ll see a bunch of you at least in passing! Also note to post-IZ-calypse attendees: I hear Joseph may not be making an appearance. This comes from a credible source (uh…Joseph himself). We should all harass him until he agrees to show up because we are that mature. Las Vegas is not that far, dude. Oh god I just said “dude”.

Anyway, on to what I’m actually doing at GDC:

The pass

I was tossing up between the Main Conference or Summits and Tutorials pass and opted for the Summits and Tutorials. I haven’t been in the US (or out of Australia, in fact) since 2005 and the trip itself is going to be busy enough as it is without feeling like I have to try to cram everything full of main conference talks. Instead I’ll do tutorials on the first two days and explore the expo at my own pace for the remainder of the time.

No AI Summit for me

Even with just the S&T; pass, there was so much to choose from during registration. The AI Summit was the first thing that caught my eye, but I decided that the technical side of it would still be somewhat over my head (for now). This is unfortunate as one of the AI summit talks is by Mike Lewis, senior server programmer at ArenaNet, about AI in MMORPGs. ArenaNet + AI + MMOs? Yes, I’m pretty sure the stars just aligned. And I won’t get to see it. Crap. But I think in the end skipping this summit this time is for the best.

No game design workshop for me, either

Next I looked into the 2-day game design workshop, but the first day was already full so it seemed pointless to register for the second day without having the knowledge from the first.

Writing vs HTML5

Then it came down to picking between Learn Better Game Writing in a Day and HTML5 Tutorial Day for the first day. The choosing between code and design or writing thing seems to be becoming a pattern in my learning process. The general feeling I get is that I am drawn to programming as a means to an end - to build my ideas. But it also just feels so fricking good when your stuff actually runs.

Anyway, for the first day I opted for HTML5. Because I figured I can get my design fix in the next day by registering for the Level Design in a Day tutorial, which I did. I would’ve preferred writing to level design, but really really wanted to do HTML5 and this schedule gives me a good mix of coding and design.

Off-topic: honing in on interest areas

Programming vs art

Elaborating on the above programming vs design thing…People normally assume that I would lean more toward art and design as opposed to programming and design (and that’s often what I end up doing), but while I’m definitely better at drawing than I am at coding (by “better” I mean I can draw something other than a stick person), it just doesn’t seem to give me the same feeling of accomplishment. Even I find this odd as I was always a very art-leaning kid. Not sure why, but programming seems more fulfilling for me despite being the total opposite of everything I’ve grown up doing and being a complete n00b at it. And when I finally grasp a concept, try it, and see what I just wrote run without throwing a bunch of fatal exceptions it’s probably one of the best feelings in the world. It’s like “Holy crap I made this and nothing broke!”

It’s as if coding forces you to use a part of your brain that’s totally different from anything you’ve used before (for me, anyway) and makes you look at the feature you just imagined, maybe specced out, from a totally different perspective. Like using a muscle that’s atrophied and feeling it get stronger as things finally start to click and turn over in your brain. Or like looking at two photos of a scene taken from completely different perspectives. It’s making me want to start learning math again, darn it. I don’t even like math.

I’m not sure if wanting to focus on both a left brained and right brained practice is a good thing or not over the long term, what with having to switch between two different modes of thinking all the time (and it really does feel like flipping a switch back and forth for me. Much like switching between English and Russian - there’s an area of retardation somewhere in the middle until the gears start to turn in the other direction). Maybe a day will come when I’m going to have to pick one. But learning how to build my ideas as well as how to design the things I want to build seems like the most comprehensive approach.

In the end programmers seem to have the most power in indie development. They can build things on their own. It may have programmer art and the writing may not be very inspiring (although I know programmers who are ridiculously creative and have amazing ideas), but a programmer can build something that works and seems to be the most self-sufficient role in the development ecospace. A designer who can’t code needs to rely on coders to do it for them. Having people in niche roles and having them stick solely to those positions may be fine for a studio that can afford to hire all the dedicated pieces of the puzzle, but this kind of separation of roles is often unrealistic for small independent and/or hobbyist developers. It seems necessary to become a Jack (or Jill) of all trades. Which is cool. It just means there’s more to discover.

So who else is going?




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