GDC 2018. Where to begin? We attended the massive celebration of the development of our craft. The largest in the world. Housed once again in the Moscone Center in beautiful San Francisco, it was exciting and new, yet familiar and nostalgic altogether. So much happened that we decided to break it into little chunks. So expect a lot of mini posts in the coming weeks. But even if a single post won’t do it justice, here is a glimpse at all the awesomeness we were able to witness this year.
Of course the attendance in this kind of event is really silly. Lines go all the way around the corner, escalators get cluttered, anything interesting that happens will instantly turn into a concert. As always the first two days it was easier to breathe, it was more relaxed and there were a lot of interesting conversations.
Also, the “main events” hadn’t started yet, so it was a great time to chill and play a lot of indie games! There was the Indie MEGABOOTH, Day of the Devs, and Xbox, all on different buildings. As everything was slower, we got a chance to catch Branching Paths, a beautiful film about the independent scene in Japan (not to be confused with Doujin games).
This also marked the first time at the GDC for two of our new recruits! Our Technical Artist “Leal” and Illustrator/Animator Astrid. They had a great time and returned ever more inspired! (Good because there is a lot of work to be done in the following weeks). Astrid actually got a super VIP pass because she’s so awesome, she was chosen as part of a scholarship program. She was also representing Kaha Kamasa, by Honduras Arkoses Games, as one of the lead artists.
And speaking of which, I am most delighted to have seen a strong presence of Taiwan, Japan, and Latin America. I got a chance to meet Kimura-san, former Square Soft developer and the founder of Onion Games in person! Programmer Okubo-kun accompanied him this time. We talked for a long time during the whole GDC and became friends. Standing between us both is Low Score Boy, the most popular Video Game YouTuber in Taiwan! We also got along greatly, and if you hadn’t watched his video on Sega Saturn Hardware, what are you waiting for?
They were showcasing Million Onion Hotel, a quirky game about exploding onions that you can purchase right now! It’s crazy Japanese! (We’re not kidding). Such a game could only come from the creative team lead by Kimura-san. The audio is particularly incredible. Onion Games is one of the brave studios that is breaking the mold in a country that has a very rigid corporate culture. You can check Million Onion Hotel here!
I was very happy to see Carto, by Chen Lee-Kuo’s Sunhead Games from Taiwan. This is a very charming game with an interesting mechanic and lovely art. It cleverly combines the map with sliding block puzzle movements. Anyone who played it got instantly absorbed and transported. Lee-Kuo represents a new age of independent developers that is coming strong from a country that has all the potential to make great games. I became instant friends with all of IGDShare, who are working hard to bring together the indie scene in Taiwan. Back when we were nominated for the IGF, there was zero participation by Taiwan, so we were the closest they ever got. I’m very glad that has changed so much now!
And another region that had virtually no representation years ago was Latin America. Boy has that changed. El Salvador, Guatemala. Brazil of course comes strong. The Last Friend is a cool tower defense from El Salvador featuring dogs and err… the Golden Gate!. Guatemala taking their developers seriously, with a very nice stand showcasing among others, Valkyrie Galaxy by 2401 Studios. And No Heroes Here is one example of the quality stuff that Brazil has been recently pumping out. I’m extremely happy to speak Spanish and share so much with these devs.
One Latin American country stood out a little, with Mexico’s team Lienzo at the Indie MEGABOOTH. There is really no way to oversell Mulaka. It is truly one of a kind. Instead of choosing some generic fantasy setting, they decided to share some of their culture with the rest of the world, and craft a game that brings ancient mythos and paints it in a fresh way. You play through it, with an appealing low-poly aesthetic that suits the game perfectly. You can get Mulaka now for basically all consoles. Really, congratulations to their efforts! Here’s our Astrid with them!
And how could this post be complete without mentioning Costa Rica, our other home country? Costa Rica came very strong this year, represented by Procomer. With a lineup that included HookBots by Tree Interactive, and Planet Cube: Edge, by Sunna Entertainment, it had the presence of heavy hitters. There were many companies showcasing their games, and we were happy to drop by, their section adorned in a gigantic, beautiful Mario World-esque map of Costa Rica.
Ah, the GDC. That magnificent place where you meet people you didn’t even know you wanted to meet, like Miguel Sternberg, who created one of my favorite Scott Pilgrim back covers ever (number 4), in glorious isometric pixel art! He has this dog game. It has subways, and vodka. And guess who is featured… a bunch of guest animals from all over the internet. Check out Russian Subway Dogs here. This is fine…
All in all there were a lot of games to have fun with, and many, many independent ones. From very contemporary looking games, to artistic achievements that looked like stop motion, to 1-bit stuff like the charming little Minit. Which is coming out soon.
Of course, you could play some classics in a variety of ways. There were arcades that showcased mostly emulation, but you could play some games on original hardware and fancy professional monitors. Very special for me personally, is that for the very first time in my life, I played the original Pong arcade. Dave Beaudoin of the Digital Game Museum, even kindly opened it up and let me see the CRT and the electronic components inside. They were recently fixed and tuned by Al Alcorn himself, who still held on to some 70s parts. So not only did I play this, it was working as good as factory new.
Of course, there were a million parties around the area, and it was impossible to attend them all. In one of the Xbox ones (get it?), I actually won a bunch of Halo swag in a raffle! All our food and drinks were kindly provided by Microsoft, and at the end some Latin American developers spoke to all the guests, including Mulaka staff!
If there is one part of GDC that makes me particularly nostalgic, it has to be the IGF and GDCA award ceremony. It is very surreal that I was once a part of this at all. The game selection showcased at IGF this year was magnificent, and competition was fierce in all departments. When they announced it was the 20th annual IGF, I immediately pulled the program we had from 10 years ago as soon as I got back. I can’t believe that we were here 10 years ago, when the IGF was half its current age!
We met several of the nominees, just like last time. It was nice to have the freedom to move around this GDC, though. The Cuphead guys were extremely nice. Man, is that game good. Just when you think you paid attention to every little detail, the developer comes and tells you how there is even a shadow the celluloid casts on the backgrounds. And look at their card, notice the halftone pattern and how the color doesn’t even alight correctly with the black ink. It really feels like something out of 1930, down to the paper. Their attention to detail is simply astounding.
Long story short, GDC was wonderful for all of us. We met a lot of important publishers interested in our work, but most importantly, we made a lot of new friends, and are very inspired to work hard by our peers. If you are also a game developer yourself, I besiege you, go to the GDC at least once in your life. Experience what it is to be submerged in a place where people do what you love. Go get “good” jealousy of that team that made the game you always wanted to.
Go back to the drawing board after you see how much better other people are at art and animation. And most importantly, set a life-goal of coming back home with that IGF Award! We will make a short video about this GDC soon. Over and out!