Wednesday, April 3, 2013

GDC 2013 Mon Amour

I have a love-love relationship with the Game Developers Conference, since 2006 when I had the chance to give a talk and experience first hand the joy of talking in front of a flock of super techie people staring at me and waiting for my first slip up (and they happened). At the end of that talk I was rewarded by a guy from NVIDIA with a compliment I still cherish: "Fran, I loved how you talk, the rhythm, your pauses, that was good man". I blushed and I was too embarrassed to reply that my manner of speaking was nothing else than heavy jet-lag kicking in and making me literally fall asleep on stage every few minutes. A job well done.

This GDC was ok, mainly because I met some old good friends, from Georg Backer to +Ury Zhilinsky, to the guys at Crytek Kiev and Frankfurt: I can't say I miss Frankfurt, but it was good to see them again.

The talks I attended were ok, nothing spectacular. Clearly mobile gaming is a big big topic, but, from the purely technical point of view, being told in 2013 how blooming is implemented feels a bit old: basically mobile graphics is where desktop graphics was around 2006, it needs the big guns to step in and show these kids how to do shit. The mobile GPUs, though, are getting pretty darn fast: ARM reported that mobile GPUs are almost on par when it comes to computation power with console GPUs (again, about 5 years ago tech), but lose big time when it comes to available bandwidth: accessing external memory takes a lot of power that is a scarce resource in the mobile space. Last take away from this talk: in mobile, deferred GPU kick the proverbial ass.

That leads us to the NVIDIA talk and Tegra 4: Tegra 4 looks very powerful on paper, but it also looks like it could easily be used to warm up your cold winter nights in Europe. An immediate rendering architecture with non-unified shaders is not what you can call power efficient. But it's fast.

But enough with this technical mumbo-jumbo and let me introduce the absolute protagonist of GDC 2013, the undisputed star of the moment, the return of the king... suspense... PROJECT SHIELD.

Applause please

I thought that Microsoft Surface was a pointless device, but Project Shield wins easy-peasy the first price for pointlessness: it doesn't make any sense whatsoever, it's gimmicky, it's ugly, it's cheaply built, I had the "pleasure" to hold one and it felt as it was made of plastic. In fact, it is made of plastic. And it's butt-ugly. Opening the screen makes a weird sound as the hinges weren't properly oiled.

How they can think anyone will buy this is beyond me.

Final word about John Romero, who I met the last day while walking out of a restroom (please, no jokes): this guy rocks, he's nice, approachable, funny, and bright as the sun. He was the highlight of GDC 2013.

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