So much happened at GDC last week - with a slew of games, panels and a showcase of technology, the floor was filled with a plethora of highlights this year. Having stalked the halls, here’s a quick look at some of my main takeaways.
1. Atari is looking to make a resurgence in the hardware world
Atari used to be a household name in the 1970s and 80s for their home console, but these days, it’s mostly in the publishing business. However, with the Ataribox making its GDC debut, it looks like that won’t be the case any longer. This retro-classy looking console seems to have all the bells and whistles to match current generation consoles, and is competitively priced at $250-$300.
It’s really nice to see an old name pop-up, but the entry barrier for gaming hardware seems to be pretty high these days with Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft dominating the pie. We’ll just have to wait and see how it pans out in the coming months once pre-order are available in April. Let’s hope it doesn’t have the same the fate as the Atari Lynx.
2. Ray tracing is cool
Nvidia and AMD were brimming with announcements at GDC this year, and seeing a short Star Wars clip using ray tracing technology at Nvidia's show not only got my inner geek excited, but also drove my enthusiasm to see this technology in future gaming titles. While we won’t be seeing full-time ray tracing in the near future due to hardware limitations, its applications to allow next generation consoles to render shadows, reflections, ambient occlusion will be a nice touch of improvement for future games.
This generation feels like we’re trying to squeeze out as much as we can from our consoles and its nice to know that we still have plenty to explore in terms of visual fidelity for video games.
3. VR is still growing
While Virtual Reality made its official consumer debut just a few years back, the technology, software and space still need to reach maturity. We saw a number of new HMD devices being announced, a slew of new VR games, and new set of standalone VR headsets from HTC and Oculus which may make VR more accessible for the general consumer.
We’ll just have to wait and see, but this is a space that will evolve over the coming years. I personally see major potential for virtual reality and I can’t wait to see it being fully embraced by the masses in the future.
4. The growing conversation around unions
Early last week, Megan Farokmanesh wrote a brilliant piece on how Telltale Games turned into a toxic environment after the success of its The Walking Dead Game. It’s definitely worth a read if you haven’t had a chance to look at it yet. This issue echoed throughout GDC as game developers sparked a heated debate on unionizing in order to fix the current exploitative workplace culture.
There have been many developers, studios, and publishers at both sides of the table, each with different takes and requests for unionization. Whatever the case, the industry has matured to a point where the amount of developers in the workforce rival many big budget Hollywood studios. Jason Scrier has a great piece in The New York Times which dives into how many work environments for developers are often crushing with long hours and tight deadlines.
I think it’s time for the industry to really move forward in making a healthier place for developers - the people who spend countless hours to make some of the most unforgettable experiences in entertainment and education. Having an open conversation at GDC is a step in the right direction, and I look forward to seeing where things are when the show comes around next year.
GDC overall is much more about people and networking and socializing instead of just showing off products.