This year the Ten Ton Hammer GDC team will be keeping this page up to date on the fly. Be sure to check back often for news and coverage as it happens on the show floor at GDC in San Francisco this year.
03.14.11 - Day Four
5:20 PM PST - Benjamin J. de la Durantaye
So, dear readers, our time here at GDC is coming to a close. It was a nice finisher for the week today as we started off early by seeing Kill3r Combo and two free-to-play titles they'll be launching. We then ran over to see Spacetime Studios. You know, the guys behind Pocket Legends. They showed us the newest project they're working on which is another full-featured MMO for mobile devices, this time set in space. The advantage they have on this one, apart from having the vast experience of Pocket Legends is that the game they're gearing up to launch is Blackstar. This was a game that had already been under development some time ago but never launched. This was around 2008 and the game was being developed for NCsoft at the time.
SO! Spacetime is now going to launch Blackstar on mobile devices. They already have a huge amount of the work done from their development time with it at NCsoft and the iteration we saw on the iPad, iPhone and Android devices was looking sharp. Keep an eye out for this title.
After Spacetime Jeff went to Bigpoint to take a look at Ruined, which is a Unity based post-apocalyptic shooter game centered on San Francisco landmarks.
Jeff and I then met up at Gameforge to finish our day on the GDC floor. Gameforge is developing the anticipated Star Trek Infinite Space which will offer Star Trek fans what they've come to expect in a Star Trek based space combat MMO. This title, too, is using the Unity engine so its draw is its accessibility across all platforms--macs, PCs, and mobile devices.
GDC ended, but our trip hadn't. While we were in the neighborhood we grabbed a car to go visit the Trion Worlds offices in Redwood City. Going into the headquarters of the biggest MMO launch of the year yet was an electric experience. Everyone in the office are in high spirits from a successful, clean launch. We got to speak to Community Manager Cindy Bowens, as well as Creative Director Scott Hartsman and Producer Hal Hanlin. They were all smiles as we enjoyed a candid conversation about their launch this week, some of the challenges, the surprises, and the overall satisfaction of a job well done. Stay tuned to Ten Ton Hammer for the exclusive interview.
And thus ends our GDC trip. Lots of articles coming your way next week as embargoes drop. Keep coming back and we'll see you next weekend while we're in Boston covering PAX East.
03.03.11 - Day Three
12:23 AM PST - Jeff Woleslagle
Sorry about the lack of updates throughout the day today - I told Ben that killing me off by booking consecutive appointments in far flung hotels around the Bay Area wouldn't guarantee him my position and, if I live, this practice doesn't help his chances either. So chances are good that I might be able to actually see a little of PAX East next week between appointments.
I kicked things off in fine fashion with the good folks at Paradox Interactive. I love Paradox because they take risks on niche oriented games. It's incredibly fulfilling when one finds big time success, as Magicka did when it launched last month. Yesterday, the first DLC mission was unveiled - Magicka: Vietnam - and I had a long and frequently humorous and surprisingly insightful conversation with Magicka co-creator, Johan Pilestedt. Like Ben with his FFIV interview, this is one Q&A session I can't wait to psot. Look for it in the next few days.
A half dozen appointments and many hours later, it was finely time to dine. Spectators to the GDC madness, SOE doesn't have much in the way of consumer facing stuff at this point in the game and wasn't booking any press appointments at this particular event. But out of the supreme goodness of their hearts, they saw how hard the MMO enthusiast press was working and called a truce, hosting a very pleasant dinner with all the trimmings at a nearby restaurant. No pitches or sales tactics, just good food and conversation. This was a prime example of catering to the press, since most of us were starving hadn't eaten since wolfing down a granola bar or some such pseudo-nutritional offal for breakfast.
All of us media outlets have different ways of covering MMOGs - I, for example, prefer to write without wearing pants - but it's a joy when we all get together and share our love for these games and swapping stories of who's working where these days. It's as close as these remote-office jobs get to some sort of collegial feel. Thanks so much, SOE - that was an incredibly nice break from the GDC grist mill.
Tomorrow it's back to the event floor with a tech interview (which can be hit or miss - if it's new and cool we'll bring it to you), plus a few upstart devs and publishers. And, if they've deactivated the attack robots and sealed the Plane of Life rifts outside the studio, we hope to stop by Trion on the way to the airport for a live look at a studio deep in the throes of launch week. We'll try not to trip on any empty Red Bull cans or locked-down servers.
3:11 PM PST - Benjamin J. de la Durantaye
Saw some awesome stuff for Guild Wars 2. The thief is everything one might expect of such a profession. Stealth, stealing and kick-ass combos. Dual wielding pistols? Yes, please. The best part: no embargo, so we'll have this stuff up for you really soon.
I also appreciated the work put into Aion and City of Heroes. We'll get these breakdowns up for you as we can as well, though some of it will have to wait until a bit later this month.
After the NCsoft stuff Jeff and I ran over to see Darkspore. I watched as Jeff played the game for 30 minutes and it's looking pretty sharp. I particularly enjoyed the complexity in the PvP arenas in this game, not just because I got to watch Jeff get killed in both battles, but moreso due to the strategic planning of counter attacks and counter-counter attacks. We'll also have some keys to give away for this game next week so you'll be able to try it out yourself.
Jeff and I are now at the InterContinental Hotel, with 10 minutes before our next appointments. Jeff will be heading up to see the folks at gPotato and I'll be visiting our friends at GamersFirst. Then, dinner with SOE tonight.
Stay tuned for more coming up later this evening.
12:27 PM PST - Benjamin J. de la Durantaye
Fortune Online is an upcoming free to play flash-based game offering familiar mechanics to the RPG fanatic. An easy-to-use control interface commands the Diablo-style isometric game while the player can group up with up to three other players to crawl through the game's many dungeons. Now if only Apple would allow Flash on the iPad I'd have something to play at the airport tomorrow.
03.03.11 - 9:43 AM PST - Benjamin J. de la Durantaye
I think Jeff is getting wise to my scheduling scam operation. You see, basically I book him for the early appointments. That way he has to forego many of the parties in favor of getting up early. Then, I tell him "there's no point in two of us being there early, so you go ahead in the morning and I'm going to go to these parties tonight."
It worked well for a while, but Jeff gave me a look last night when I stumbled back to the hotel that indicated he knew what I was doing. So, I may have to switch up my game plan a little bit.
Last night was the busiest of party nights all week and there was just no way I could make it to all of them. So I selected three to check out.
The first was a party thrown by the Canadian Game Developers. This one was pretty sweet because I didn't actually know what it was until I got in. Then I received a few free drinks, saw the maple leaf everywhere and knew that I was home.
I stayed at that party until around 8:30 or so when I headed over to the Funcom party at Ten 15. In usual Funcom style, this was one of the most interesting party setups I had seen. The venue had several floors and rooms. As you entered you were given a button representing one of the three factions of The Secret World. Then, if you went to the section of your faction, showed that you were wearing your faction button at its respective bar, you had a chance of winning a free drink.
The final party was the Toga Party held by none other than Heatwave. It was an epic quest to pull off a party like this one because at first thought a toga party with a bunch of gamers may be a little intimidating. However, the crowd was mixed up enough that it was just a blast. There were even some hotties around too, so it wasn't all "geeks in sheets." Heatwave even gave an iPad to the lucky winner of the best toga contest.
So I got home a little late last night, but dodged a hangover, and am ready to start the day today. Lots of cool people to see today including Paradox, Gazillion, NCsoft, Maxis, gPotato, GamersFirst and more. Going to be busy, but going to be fun.
03.02.11 - Day Two
3:30 PM PST - Benjamin J. de la Durantaye
One of my personal favorite demos at most conventions is TERA. Jeff and I just got out of a demo session and it was as fun as ever. I've been able to play it three times now, and this was Jeff's second. Last time he played his group wiped. So, happy day! We succeeded today in our attempt to take down the baddies of TERA. Always a fun time with the action based combat and clean UI approach.
We'll have more on the experience a bit later. For now, off to rehydrate and then to NEXON for our final appointment of the day before the evening festivities commence.
1:00 PM PST - Benjamin J. de la Durantaye
Before hunting for the mythical creature Jeff mentioned in the previous post, I stopped by the suite of Grey Area, a Finnish developing company who have come up with something that will change your life as you know it. They've found a way, using modern technology, to bring MMOGs to life - literally. In their mobile app you play as yourself, in your neighborhood, fighting against opposing factions for control of the area. As you travel with your mobile device your game field changes with you. If you want to take control of Times Square, you need to physically go there and wipe out the opposition of anyone logged on in the area.
It's like the Crips and Bloods in a melange of Minority Report and the Matrix. For a geek like me, it's all so very, very cool.
I'll write more on this a bit later, so keep an eye out.
But for now, I'm back to searching for that rare spawn female that Jeff claims he saw. Then, off to meet up with Jeff again for a tag team with TERA.
12:51 PM PST - Jeff Woleslagle
Since we last spoke, constant reader, I saw Rise of Immortals - a promising blend of MOBA and PvE dungeon crawler gameplay. I'm glad RoI was my first appointment - I had to scribble down notes like Phillip M. Parker on crack in order to keep up with Lead Game Designer Amanda Flock, who's both passionate about the game and had a lot of information to share. We also stopped by the UTV True Games suits for an update on Faxion Online and Mytheon. As readers of our January preview know, Faxion is an irreverent take on the battle between heaven and hell, and gameplay-wise it's a spiritual successor to Shadowbane. In fact, more than a few former Wolfpack devs, such as CEO Mike Madden and our demoteer (demoist? demonstrateur? demonstrator?) Frank Lucero were also involved on the project.
Ben and I are looking forward to bringing you the latest developments on these games, as well as a full-blown reveal of Rise of Immortals, but for now... off to Gamigo, then TERA, then Nexon, then a Gods & Heroes toga party, The Secret World mixer, and even more shendiggery tonight.
9:58 AM PST - Benjamin J. de la Durantaye
@Jeff: Sorry about the paella misadventure last night, but take comfort in the fact that I went through it too. Tonight, back to steak & potatoes.
9:35 AM PST - Jeff Woleslagle
I never knew what Paella was before last night when Ben and I ordered it served family-style at a quiet little SoMa restaurant. Now I know that it's a blend of rice, veggies, and sea floor creepy-crawlies that throw the digestive system of corn-fed, mountain-bred boys like me in a torpor. Fortunately, with a laptop, I could write from the seat of my throne.
Last night was a quiet night as event nights go, apart from the SFFD doing laps around the hotel, sirens blazing. We opted to write instead of going to the Dolby and PopCap parties, and the firstfruits of that effort - writeups of NED and World of Tanks - should be appearing on the site soon. World of Tanks surprised me utterly - I was expecting a game stamped out in a harmonious Shenzhen Province studio, and instead was treated to a nuanced, graphically amazing tank game where realism only matters where fun can be had. I can't wait to have a moment to fire up a Panzer II and check out the game for myself.
That's it for now - off to Petroglyph for a look at their newest title: Rise of Immortals. Apparently our friends at Petroglyph have gone dark on End of Nations. It's a cool concept but, from our last look at PAX last year, interface and gameplay need some more time on the drawing board. We'll be seeing TERA and Global Agenda later today too, along with a smattering of never-before-seen titles and old favorites.
03.01.11 - Day One
7:26PM PST - Benjamin J. de la Durantaye
I just got back to the hotel after a pleasant afternoon finisher with Big Huge Games and 38 Studios. There's some rockin' stuff here that I'm dying to share, but can't just yet. Expect some news and previews next week where we go more in depth with Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning than has ever been done before. Let's just say for now with a team of visionaries like Curt Schilling, R.A. Salvatore, Todd McFarlane and Ken Rolsten we our expectations are high, and the team is ready to take on those expectations head-on.
So, Day One is wrapping up. I just walked about 10 blocks back to the hotel because I stupidly took a shuttle that EA provided thinking it was going back to the convention center. So when I got off the bus at a party further away from my hotel than when I started I realized the importance of always checking the final destination of any vehicle you enter. Jeff and I are going to grab some dinner somewhere local now and finish the night off writing about all the cool things we saw today. We can't post any of it tonight, but you'll be the first to know when it becomes available right here at Ten Ton Hammer.
Sweet dreams for now TTH readers. See you in the morning.
4:01PM PST - Jeff Woleslagle
As Ben said, our coverage of The Secret World will, in fact, stay secret for the time being. Since the demo was a closed door affair, Funcom has placed coverage under an embargo. so, instead of getting mixed in with all the other GDC coverage, it'll get mixed in with all the other PAX East coverage. The good news is that everything we saw is brand new and veery cool, and we were able to tape lots of good video. Check back next Thursday for the goods.
3:38PM PST - Benjamin J. de la Durantaye
I had to leave The Secret World demo early to make my next appointment. It's looking great though - some never before seen stuff. Jeff will likely pipe in a bit later about it as he was able to stay for the entire demonstration, but we won't be able to go into too much detail on this title just yet either. More soon though - promise.
So I just got out of the meeting with Heatwave Interactive to see what they've been doing with Gods & Heroes and I gotta say, I'm nothing short of impressed. Some very welcome additions and changes coming down the pipe which we'll talk a bit more about later. But overall, Heatwave has demonstrated without a shadow of a doubt that they're taking this game to the next level. They've taken a lot of the feedback given by beta testers seriously and have implemented some amazing changes to address the vast majority of these concerns. Nothin' but respect from me for Heatwave.
New animations, new areas to involve the players, new mechanics... all fantastic additions to make the game much more up-to-date than the previous iterations we saw when the game was first revived from its 2007 build.
1:09PM PST - Benjamin J. de la Durantaye
I just had a meeting with Takashi Tokita, of Final Fantasy fame. This guy is a living legend. There's something inherently awesome about sitting in a living room playing Nintendo games with the designer of the iconic Final Fantasy IV. We had a nice chat, but as is the way with these things, you'll have to just wait until later to be able to read it.
Jeff and I are finishing up some lunch and then we're off to Funcom. They're at the San Francisco Zeum this year. What horrors await us in this children's museum? Check back in a bit to find out.
12:47pm PST - Jeff Woleslagle
If Augustine was right and great joy is preceded by great suffering, than my joy was maxed at the JoyMax appointment, which just wrapped up. JoyMax is Big In Korea and is apparently making money in North America, but not so much in our demographic. The young ladies running the demo meant well, and it was worth sitting through PETZ and Digimon Online demos (not to mention painfully watching the demoist hose down teammates and zombies with gunfire and grenades in the WW2 online shooter Karma Online) to learn a little more about New Era of Fantasy.
NED - yes, its shortened to NED... I've stopped trying to figure out Korean game names - is the Duke Nukem Forever (we can still use that allusion for a month or so, right?) of Korean MMO game development.NED promises the ability to capture, nurture, and control thousands of pets in combat (at once... /boggle) and even ride some of them, like polar bears, as mounts. More on NED when I get back to write a bit, but for now, off to Funcom. I'd tell you what we're seeing, but it's a secret. A world of secrets, or The Secret World if you prefer.
9:43am PST - Benjamin J. de la Durantaye
Getting ready to leave the hotel and head over to the Moscone center to pick up our badges and get started. Full schedule today, so expect some fun stuff.
Having had a connecting flight from Edmonton yesterday, I just have to express my gratitude that GDC is not there. -4 degrees F and a wall of snow there. Much nicer weather here in SF. Canceled the dog sleigh. Taking a cab instead.