Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Game Developers Conference 2009: Pre-Event Excitement

Hey folks, guess what? GDC '09 is here, hooray!

For those not in the know, the Game Developers Conference is the first major gaming event of the year. I should probably use the word "major" loosely, because it's generally the one that garners the smallest amount of big announcements. Actually, the amount of game reveals is downright pitiful when put next to megatons that typically happen at events like E3 or the Tokyo Game Show, which happen in the Summer and Fall respectively. Despite that though, it could very well be the most interesting.

The reason for this is that the purpose of the conference isn't for game developers and publishers to showcase upcoming games, or to wow the gaming press. This does happen of course, but the real intended audience is fellow game developers. The presentations generally show things like a behind the scenes perspective on a recently completed game, or tips for a fledgling game designer looking to direct his own tiny team of tenacious taters. E3 and TGS say "This is what you'll be playing at the end of this year and beyond," but GDC says "This is the work we had to do so you could play what you did last year". So while there's rarely a reveal that would make one wetten his pants, it does give us a deeper look into the world of game development and the industry in general than we usually get, and it can be really awesome sometimes.

That said, there are neat little announcements to be had, and they tend to appeal to the most specific type of gamer nerd. The "yours truly" kind! There's a few events this year in particular that I'm very interested in, and I'm going to list them right now.

Level-5's Keynote

Level-5 is probably one of my favorite development teams right now. Their stories and concepts tend to be a 50/50 split between "intriguing" and "horrible cliche mess", but they always, always deliver unique and engaging gameplay. Their RPG titles are amongst the most fun I've played, although some (such as Rogue Galaxy) are also amongst the most annoying. This is usually the US localization team's fault though, and I'm sure that the more popular this developer gets, the more attention and respect will get paid to the source material upon future translations.

Anyways, they're speaking at this year's GDC, and they're going to be discussing three of their games. The first is the Professor Layton series, a trilogy of puzzle-adventure games about some british guy in a top hat and his little boy sidekick running around and solving mysteries. It's kind of like Batman and Robin, except instead of saving the day by punching people in the face, they do it by figuring out how exactly they can line up three cows to spell the word "PARTY". The second is Inazuma Eleven, a Soccer RPG that basically turns the sport into an episode of Dragon Ball Z, in the best way possible. The third title, and the one I'm most interested in, is Ninokuni: The Another World, a game about a little boy with a book that gives him a portal to a mystical world or something? The neat thing is that the game comes with an actual physical book that you read to find things out about the world in the game. Also, the cutscenes are animated by Studio Ghibli, who've made amazing anime movies like Spirited Away and Castle in the Sky.

The interesting thing here is that GDC takes place in California, and two out of three of these games are Japan-only so far. If we get an announcement regarding a US localization of even Inazuma Eleven, I may have to cream not only my pants, but everyone's pants in a 20-yard radius.

Satoru Iwata's Keynote

Now Satoru Iwata being at GDC is kind of a big deal, seeing as he's the president of Nintendo. He's due to talk about "Creating New Development Opportunities", and of course this would probably be a good excuse for him to talk about the DSi, the new redesign of the Nintendo DS that has fancy cameras and games you can download from their online shop called "DSiWare". There are already rumors exploding all over the place about how he's going to announce a brand new Zelda, or that the Wii storage solution will be uploaded to the Wii Shop Channel during his keynote. And the people spreading these rumors a dumber than a sack full of retarded people (it's really kind of a tragedy, the opening's right there but they can't figure out how to escape), because once again, the point of GDC isn't to make big announcements like that. I'm pretty sure the majority of his speech will just involve the development process of the DSi, and maybe a few neat tidbits about upcoming DSiWare titles.

At the same time though, there's been a rumor floating around about old Game Boy and Game Boy Advance games coming to the DSi Store as downloadable games. If it turns out to be true it could turn my DSi purchase priority from "eventually" to "preorder".

Impressions of Games

While it's not a huge focus, there will be some upcoming games shown off. There's a couple in particular I'm excited to hear about. The first is Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, a co-op brawler-RPG starring Spider-Man and a bunch of other unimportant jerks, and also Deadpool. The first title wasn't exactly the most polished gameplay experience, but I'll be damned if it wasn't a whole lot of fun. If the sequel even kind of brings back the multiplayer goodness, it might be an instant purchase for me. The second game that gaming press will likely get hands-on time with is Brutal Legend, the latest game from the genius behind Monkey Island, Tim Schafer. It has Jack Black in it as a roadie, so even if the game isn't that great it's sure to be hella entertaining.

Anyways that's just a taste of GDC this year. I'm sure we'll get all sorts of pleasant little surprises as well. Depending on how awesome they are, I might end up writing up an aftermath post when the Conference is over.

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