GDC Lyon 2007 has just come to an end. It was the first of its kind in France, so it had little problems here and there, but overall I felt it was a success. With such “start-up” events, you get as much out of them as you put into them!
State of the Industry
Overall, I got a very positive feeling about the French and European games industry in general.
The European games industry seems in a very healthy shape — though not in a AAA northern American way. The game development scene in Lyon is surprisingly active too.
There are lots of jobs for AI programmers going — especially those with experience! If you’re willing to invest some time in those game AI skills, it could pay off.
France, compared to other countries of larger size, is witnessing a very healthy amount of technical innovation (from middleware to research, including in-house development). It’s probably due to the education system here…
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My Behavior Trees Talk
Photo 1: Developers listening about behavior languages.
The talk went as well as I could have wanted it to go beforehand. Of course there’s still lots of room for improvement (especially in retrospect knowing the audience better), but that’s part of the fun! See the original photos on Flickr.
There was a row of seats left empty at the front, but people were standing in the back, so I guess about 60-70 people attended in total. It was after lunch, so nobody had the energy to walk out; nobody fell asleep and toppled off their chair either. I got four very good questions at the end also, so some people were paying attention!
Photo 2: Behavior trees are modular script interpreters.
Underlying AI Theme…
Mainly, the theme I took away from the conference was sacrificing AI design goals to ship the games! This was mentioned in both talks from the (rare) continental European AAA studios:
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. developers had to tone down their A-Life system to ship the game, and ended up with traditionally scripted areas with locked AI.
Crysis developers gave up on the idea of having top quality animation without foot-sliding. They just couldn’t connect it with the realities of responsive AI.
On the one hand it’s great that designers are thinking ambitiously about their AI designs, but at the same time it’s a shame that technology isn’t meeting those requirements.
Most of the other talks were focused on research. They were scheduled in a rather odd fashion in some cases, but I’ll try to cover them in more detail over the rest of the week!
GDC Lyon Post-Mortem
It’s the first year so there were little problems ranging from audio quality to missing sign-posts outside to help people find their way. But there was generally lots of good will going around, so things worked out.
Though December is a bit of an odd time for a conference, I have no doubt GDC Lyon will improve next year. In particular, I’d love to see more of the following:
Roundtable, roundtable, roundtable! I think these are the most useful part of GDC. They get people talking and generally help establish contact with others of similar interests. My attempts to organize a Game AI roundtable somehow turned into a panel; the idea of a roundtable seems to have fallen out of favor since GDC Europe in 2005 where they also didn’t “support” that format. I think it’s a key feature of these “smaller” conferences, so it’s time to bring it back!
More networking. I did admittedly miss out on a lot of Day 1 as it was pretty hectic for me, but there weren’t that many chances to meet other developers even on Day 2. Lunches were left up to the individuals, so people went their separate ways. Speaker lunches were shared with the Game Connection crowd, so it was easy to get lost! The big party at the end was rather loud and also integrated with the GC event, so it was hard to do any kind of talking. I had a few of the speakers I missed on the first day circled in my program, but I most of them I never managed to catch up with!
It was also hard/impossible to attend all the AI sessions; there were so many that clashes were unavoidable, and some rooms got filled out and closed up by the firemen responsible for security! I’ll have to find someone else to review those talks ;-)
Anyway, stay tuned for more detailed reports once I get back into my regular routine…