GDCE 2004 - Game Developers Conference - archive

I attended the 2004 GDCE at Earls Court. Attendance was good (unlike the ECTS show taking place below it ).

I have summarised each of the conference areas I attended below. I have also provided my detailed notes for each area on separate pages, so you can follow the link for the full notes I made.

The different shows

For many years there have been just two games shows in London, the GDCE for developers and ECTS for others from the games industry. GDCE has always been successful but ECTS has been shrinking in size each year.

This year rival shows were run in east London at the same time as the GDCE and ECTS. There was Game Stars Live and the trade only ELSPA backed EGN competing with ECTS and a TIGA backed developers conference called EDF competing with GDCE.

Attendance at Game Stars Live and EGN was very good. In central London ECTS was a shadow of its former self. As for the developers conferences GDCE was as busy as normal but EDF was poorly attended. I cannot understand why TIGA set up an alternative developers conference when GDCE has always been so popular.

I just hope they sort all this out for next year as it is harming the efforts of London and the UK to have the top European games events (the Leipzig convention is taking over). I would expect Game Stars Live and GDCE to be the logical events to continue.

Microsoft XNA day

The main focus of this day was on the new XNA initiative from Microsoft. A number of tools from the XBox and some new tools were described. There was some impressive stuff like the audio tools and ability for artists to tweak shader settings in an editing package. DirectX itself is going to be split up:

  • Direct3D will become the Windows Graphics Foundation (WGF) and will provide the base for the Longhorn desktop.
  • DirectSound and DirectMusic will be replaced by XACT and LEAP (see notes)
  • DirectPlay will be replaced by XBox live technology
  • DirectShow will be replaced by a new media SDK
  • DirectInput, I believe, will stay as it is.

Longhorn is obviously going to bring big changes especially to the graphics side.

The main highlights were:

  • The PIX tool is superb (performance analyser). With the XBox one you can even right click on a pixel on the screen of your running game and it will give you a break down of the whole pipeline that led to the rendering of the pixel. Including vertex and pixel shaders. It also allows you to profile any of the hundreds of counters provided by the Windows OS and libraries.
  • The audio creation tools looked really fun to play with. Being able to basically mix sounds live or by linking them to game variables was very cool.
  • Precomputed Radiance Transfer (PRT) provides very good lighting effects and is relatively easy to program.
  • Future additions include common code between pixel and vertex shaders. The addition of geometry shaders and the ability at last to alter the x, y values in the shaders.

Full details: Microsoft XNA Tutorial Day

None Technical Sessions

I mainly attended the technology sessions but I did attend all the key note speeches and a couple of the other sessions I found interesting. There was a talk from Electronic Arts and an interesting discussion on alternative game platforms.

Full details: GDCE - non technical sessions

Latest CPU Development Issues

Their were a number of sessions aimed at educating developers on the latest CPU technologies. These included sessions by Intel on hyper threading and AMD on 64 bit processing. I could not help but feel they were begging developers to use their technologies as otherwise the user would have no incentive to buy their new technology! There was also an interesting talk by Crytek, the developers of Far Cry, describing the issues they faced porting Far Cry to 64 bits.

Full details: GDCE - latest CPU issues

Console sessions

The new Sony PSP was shown and discussed. I was not very impressed by the game demo's however it was funny to watch the almost hysterical behaviour of some attendees at their first sight of a PSP !

Full details: GDCE - Consoles

Other Sessions - AI and Sound

Just grouped these two together on there own page for no particular reason :) The AI was interesting with the suggestion that the AI process of Perception - Decision - Action needs less concentration on the Decision and more on the Perception and Action. The sound session included an old University friend of mine who now works for EA. His description of the sound and music creation for the Harry Potter games was very good.

Full details: GDCE - AI and Sound

Academic Day

The final day was the academic day. There were some interesting talks on game play etc. but I found the Courses & Training for the Games Industry most interesting.

Full details: GDCE Academic Day

Further Reading

The slides for most of these sessions should be available online. I will seek out the links and add them as I find them. GameDev has a description of some of the sessions as well, the author went to some different ones than I did so it is worth a look: GDCE & ECTS 2004

© 2004-2009 Keith Ditchburn  (A lecturer on the Games Programming Course at the University of Teesside)