Virtual Reality News, Game Developer Panels and Awards at GDC 2016
The Game Developers Conferences (GDC) ran from March 14 to 18 this year, and there were quite a few interesting stories and insights to come out of the largest annual gathering of professional video game developers. Like many industry gatherings, the GDC is a forum for professionals to give and attend lectures, panels, tutorials and discussions in the hopes of networking and learning from each other. Since it began in 1988, the GDC has gradually grown from a small gathering in a San Jose living room into a massive convention in San Francisco with over 26,000 attendees currently and the Game Developers Choice Awards.
Here are some noteworthy news to come from GDC 2016.
Virtual Reality Hardware
The GDC is not only a place for industry professionals to gather and network, but it is also a venue to showcase upcoming hardware and software for both consumers and developers.
This year, there were two new entrants to the growing virtual reality niche of the video game world. Sony announced the official launch of its own VR headset, “PlayStation VR,” set for release in October 2016 at a price of $399. Originally known as “Project Morpheus” during development, the new PlayStation VR aims to be a true competitor in the VR market. Not only will PlayStation VR be compatible with existing PlayStation consoles, but its price is substantially lower than both the Oculus Rift ($600) and the HTC Vive ($800).
Sulon Technologies, a Canadian virtual reality company, also revealed its own VR headset, the “Sulon Q.” While there is no word on its price yet, Sulon is aiming to deliver a headset that comes pre-packed with all the necessary hardware to make it fully functional, as opposed to the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift which require a fairly high-end computer to work properly. Not only that, but the Sulon Q is supposedly completely wire-free and will allow for both virtual reality and augmented reality.
While most of the industry networking takes place on a more private and personal level during GDC, attendees can gain some insight into the inner workings during the many panels and discussions held over the course of the conference. It is during these panels the community and industry can learn about some of the trends in video games and game development today.
During one panel, founder of independent developer Spry Fox, Daniel Cook, made a case against the common notion of separating the gaming community into “core” gamers and “casual gamers.” He argued that in a $99.3 billion industry, catering to very small demographic of “core” gamers was just not worth it. When he asked his audience if they owned 10 or more games on Steam, Cook said “you don’t matter” and “you are novelty seekers” who were the “smallest demographic in gaming.” While a harsh-sounding argument, his fellow panelists were in agreement. They came to the consensus that dividing the community also divided the ability of creators to make good games, as they were faced with the false obstacle of designing for ill-defined “tribes” of gamers.
However, during another panel, a somewhat oppositional argument arose from the Independent Games Summit, which featured a number of well-known indie developers, including the makers of “Goat Simulator,” “Sanctum” and “The Magic Circle.” The panelists’ starting point was the notion of an “indiepocalype,” which was the idea that the current indie market is becoming overcrowded and preventing good games from getting attention. After sharing some of their own sales figures and personal experiences, the panelists concluded that the “indiepocalypse” is overblown, but not wrong. The current indie game market is suffering from a growth period in which developers are unsure of what will succeed and what won’t and what techniques and features foster success. Counter to Daniel Cook’s assertion, the most successful indie games tended to be “unique” and “high-concept.”
— Tadakuni Amano (@askiisoft) March 20, 2016
Witcher 3 Wins Big
The official list of winners and nominees was released for the 16th annual Game Developers Choice Awards. As categories were voted on by fellow game developers, it was little surprise that smaller, independent games won most of the awards. Interactive crime fiction game “Her Story” won both the Innovation Award, Best Narrative and Best Handheld/Mobile Game. But the biggest winner was CD Projeckt RED’s “The Witcher 3”, which won yet another Game of the Year award. With this award, “The Witcher 3” is officially the most awarded game of all time with 251 Game of the Year wins.