Looking back over the years at GDC, it occurs to me just how much things have changed, although to many people, I’m sure they may not notice the change at all.
Gone are the days of grand, elaborate booths with the big presence of Autodesk, Adobe and a hundred different large-scale motion-capture solutions. While the graphics discussions are still an enormous part of GDC, this year in particular, the discussions seem focused on how developers can iterate faster, on multiple platforms, with smaller teams and for smaller devices.
GDC 2014 hit record attendance, reaching 24,000, and that doesn’t include all the people who do all their meetings in hotel lobbies and suites. There was a time when SIGGRAPH, the trade show for computer graphics, thought they could pull GDC and the game developer community under their umbrella. But the thing about game developers is they are the most nimble, fast-to-pivot group of artists, programmers and designers I know. Perhaps it is because entertainment is a consumable, and as soon as it is consumed, something new needs to take its place or engage the user deeper, and of course it all has to happen in real time.
GDC 2014 was the show of scaling down. Scaling down to reach the indies and more consumers with their technology, scaling down to hit more platforms, scaling down to have incredible graphics on smaller devices.
The War Rages on as Game Engines move to SAAS Model
Nothing gets the games industry revved up like a good tech fight, and that is exactly what happened at GDC this year, and SaaS seems to be king.
Epic announces Subscription Model
Epic Unreal Engine 4
During the show, however, Epic firmly planted its flag in the ground in the indie camp with an announcement to show that just because it has Tencent as a major shareholder now, the company isn’t backing away from anything. They announced their new subscription model that would include source code. As Tim Sweeney, Epic’s founder explained, “This is the start of something new for Epic. With Unreal Engine 4, we’re looking to wipe the slate completely clean. Everyone who subscribed to the engine gets access to the complete C++ code.”. Subscription pricing for Unreal Engine 4, which was available as of last week, is $19 per month and a flat 5% royalty on game sales.
The week prior to GDC, Epic and Mozilla announced their collaboration to show off Epic’s Soul and Swing Ninja demos running in Firefox at near native speed. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=c2uNDlP4RiE
Crytek Announces A Lower Subscription than Epic
Crytek also announced their subscription model at GDC, undercutting Epic with a $9.99/month subscription for CryEngine. Additionally, Crytek is not requiring a 5% royalty from developers. Explained Crytek’s Carl Jones, “When we announced the new CryEngine, this was our first step towards creating an engine as a service.”
Unity Acquires Applifier
The week before the show, Unity announced that they had acquired Applifier, the Finnish-based company whose main product is Everyplay, a tool that allows players to record their gameplay and share it with their friends and social media streams. As the CEO of Applifier explains, “Developers have two life or death questions to figure out – How do we create a game that’s really good and cross platform and the other is how do you connect gamer and help them with discovery.”
Cool Tool News
Mixamo – Fuse 1.0
Mixamo announced Fuse 1.0, its new universal character creator which quickly automates the rigging of characters and adds animation, making it easier than ever for indie developers to create realistic 3D characters for their games. Fuse 1.0 on Steam is a great resource for the over one million modders who are modding in Steam’s community. http://youtu.be/jH5XHkIgPZc
Geomerics, the UK based real-time global illumination company behind Enlighten and acquired by ARM, announced at GDC that it had entered into a partnership with Unity to integrate their technology into Unity 5. Optimized for PC, console, and mobile platforms, having Enlighten’s technology directly integrated into Unity 5 will improve the developer workflow and design.
Geomerics - Enlighten
Microsoft Announces DirectX 12
Currently in alpha, Microsoft announced DirectX12 and reaffirmed its support for Direct 3D across its platforms for Windows, Xbox, Windows Phone and Windows RT. Not scheduled for release until winter 2015, DirectX 12 will be supported by Direct X 11 hardware which Microsoft says accounts for 80% of all gaming PCs shipping.
GameStudio and MonoEngine Join Sony for PS4 Indie Support
YoYo Games and SCE collaborated to bring GameStudio to the PS4. GameStudio is now available for free to any Sony-licensed developer looking to develop 2D sprite games. MonoGame is making its popular indie C#, open-sourced game engine available to PS4 developers. One of the first success stories for MonoGames was Towerfall: Ascension which was developed by one person, Matt Makes and first developed for OUYA.
Virtual Reality Moves Closer to the Consumer
After all the years and pontifications of virtual reality being right around the corner, it actually looks like virtual reality might be right around the corner!
Sony’s Project Morpheus
With the launch of Oculus Rift back in many developers, including indies have voiced their excitement for developing games for the living room VR platform. At GDC Sony announced its entrance into the space with its Project Morpheus (named after the god of dreams). The Project Morpheus prototype includes a head-mounted display with 1080p resolution and a 90-degree field of view. It also features 3D audio and works with the dualshock 4 wireless controller and the PS Move. No release date or pricing has been set yet.
Sony’s Project Morpheus
While Sony was showing off Project Morpheus, developers were continuing to show their support with Occulus Rift at GDC. The booth was constantly busy and developers seemed unfazed by the Sony announcement, making it appear to be a rather status quo show for the company. That changed this week when they announced they had been acquired by Facebook for $2 billion. The impact of this announcement has proved weighty for many people. On the one hand it is a positive, aggressive move by Facebook that only solidifies the overall future role of VR as a consumer product and valuation of the technology. However, many developers, especially those loyal to Value and Steam are finding themselves torn to what this will mean to them. The content that they were excited to create just last week on the platform seems to be very much up in the air. We will have to wait and see how developers react to this possible shift of alliance for them.