VG247’s GDC 2011 – What’s happening and what to expect

Monday, 28 February 2011 08:29 GMT By Patrick Garratt

The 2011 tradeshow roadshow is officially go, with GDC the first to take place this year and Battlefield 3 the star in a relatively sombre games line-up mixed with some must-watch sessions.

GDC takes place in San Francisco this week, and while the show’s indie track starts today, GDC proper begins on Wednesday with Nintendo president Satoru Iwata’s keynote.

The event, the first major show in the games calendar, is likely to maintain a solid pace throughout the week, but don’t expect any megatons. It doesn’t look like Sony or Microsoft are going to have any type of product presence, and Nintendo’s keynote is likely to focus squarely on 3DS.

Last year’s GDC saw Sony unveil Move in an off-site session, but the closest you’re going to get to that this time is an EA event showing off a good deal of the publisher’s product line-up for 2011: Battlefield 3 is already the obvious star of the entire week from a games perspective.

VG247 has two journalists – Stephany Nunneley and Nathan Grayson – at GDC this year, and we’ll be publishing a single liveblog of the entire show, which should make it much easier for you to keep a note of ongoing coverage throughout the week.

Here’s the stuff to watch.

Tuesday, March 1

  • EA offsite event – This is the main GDC games event. EA will be showing Battlefield 3, Alice: Madness Returns, Shadows of the Damned, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, Crysis 2, Battlefield: Play4Free, Gatling Gears, The Fancy Pants Adventures and more. The main reveal will be Battlefield 3, coverage of which is embargoed until Wednesday, March 2 at 6.00am PST (that’s 9.00am EST, 2.00pm GMT and 3.00pm CET), with other editorial being released in a staggered fashion over the following week.

Wednesday, March 2

  • Iwata keynote (9.00am PST, 12.00pm EST, 5.00pm GMT, 6.00pm CET) – The Nintendo president will deliver a speech entitled, “Video Games Turn 25: A Historical Perspective and Vision for the Future,” and has promised to delve into the subject of “the next big thing”. 3DS, shipped in Japan last weekend and heading for a western launch in March, is likely to be the primary focus of the hour-long talk.
  • NGP session (1.30pm PST, 4.30pm EST, 9.30pm GMT, 10.30pm CET) – This should be worth watching. According to the blurb, Sony is to “introduce a new handheld console,” and will “talk about the device’s broad range of input and connectivity options and how these create exciting new opportunities for game designers.” SCEA’s David Coombes will be doing the talk.
  • Epic session (3.00pm PST, 6.00pm EST, 11.00pm GMT, 12.00am CET) – This is Gears of War 3 producer Rod Fergusson talking about delivering high quality games in a predictable manner to ensure they succeed.
  • David Cage session – (4.30pm PST, 7.30pm EST, 12.30am GMT, 1.30am CET) – Watch this. Cage is talking about Heavy Rain development here, but has promised to “try to foresee how games could evolve to offer more subtlety and complexity in matter of narrative and emotion.” The French developer has been dark for nearly a year now, and is a proper dev darling: seeing something dropped on the next game wouldn’t shock.
  • 11th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards and 13th Annual Independent Games Festival Awards (6.30pm PST, 9.30pm EST, 2.30am GMT, 3.30am CET) – We’ll bring you all the results as soon as they go live. If we were gambling men, we’d be backing BioWare and Notch.

Thursday, March 3

  • Ubi Toronto’s Patrick Redding (9.00am PST, 12.00pm EST, 5.00pm GMT, 6.00pm CET) – Redding is giving a talk on creating co-op gameplay, using Splinter Cell Conviction as an example. Pro tip – the developer was the narrative designer on Far Cry 2. Just saying.
  • Cliff Bleszinski session (1.30pm PST, 4.30pm EST, 9.30pm GMT, 10.30pm CET) – You can’t miss this. “Cliff Bleszinski has not done a public lecture in years and has a lot to say,” according to the session text, and promises that “attendees will be entertained, informed, and enlightened by the anecdotes and lessons that Bleszinski will expound over the course of 60 minutes.” The epic design head will be talking about PR, marketing, branding, story, context, camera placement, the state of the AAA games market now and in the future, social gaming and “general observations about the manner in which the gaming industry is run.” It’s likely to be a standout session from the outspoken developer, so make sure you bring your soundbite umbrella.
  • Thief 4 (4.30pm PST, 7.30pm EST, 12.30am GMT, 1.30am CET) – Eidos Montreal’s Paul Weir is giving a talk entitled, “Stealing Sound: The Application of Generative Music”. Square’s already confirmed that this will include a first look at Thief 4, but don’t get too excited. You will see something of the studio’s reboot of the classic stealth IP, but quite what you’ll see may not exactly blow the roof off. And you very well may not see anything at all: the session will only be recorded in audio form, which suggests there’ll be a strict no filming or photo policy. This will be a serious developer session which is likely to show a little of Thief 4’s play to illustrate the use of audio. Don’t expect a full-blown “reveal,” put it that way.
  • Molyneux on Populous (4.30pm PST, 7.30pm EST, 12.30am GMT, 1.30am CET) – It’s Peter Molyneux giving a postmortem on Populous. It is what it is. Really don’t expect any bombshells. The Lionhead chief’s not doing any structured press throughout GDC, but go and watch him if you’re in the area: he’s considered one of the GDC stage’s showboating greats for a reason.

In addition, expect interviews and details on the following games throughout the week:

  • Darkness II
  • Prototype 2
  • Guild Wars 2
  • World of Warcraft
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Batman: Arkham City
  • Elements of War
  • Tropico 4
  • And some other stuff we can’t talk about yet