Before GDC proper even began, the Mobile Game Innovation Hunt passed out free beer and noisemakers to its filled-to-capacity crowd for the most professional form of game criticism. And speaking of professional criticism, Maxis developer Chris Hecker certainly made waves at the Game Publisher's Rant session, when he infamously referred to the Wii as "two Gamecubes duct-taped together," generating enough fanboy fuel to power a small star. The small but oh-so-significant comment unfortunately became the focus of the session's media coverage, but we were still able to talk to Vivendi's Nichol Bradford about her own impassioned presentation.
Elsewhere, music was most certainly in the air, as iNiS VP Keiichi Yano discussed the success of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan on DS, and the difficulties of bringing the quirky rhythm title to the US as Elite Beat Agents. Musical inspiration could most definitely be found in Nintendo composer Koji Kondo, who made his first public appearance in America at GDC, and discussed the secrets of designing good game audio.
Loco Roco designer Tsutomu Kouno inspired designers with tales of the game's development, while LittleBigPlanet developers Media Molecule inspired studios to put their best feet forward when approaching publishers. Thatgamecompany was doling out inspiration as well, with its founders talking about their fast transition from graduate students to PS3 developers. We even found inspiration out on the streets of San Francisco, in the forms of Sam & Max creator Steve Purcell, and its designer Dave Grossman!
Innovation was also a big part of the GDC experience, with the Experimental Gameplay Sessions demonstrating a series of audio-inspired titles, as well as choice words about the PSP puzzler Crush, and Valve's darling Portal. For innovation a bit further off the beaten track, the Game Design Challenge called for its competitors to devise a game using a needle and thread interface, a task which Tetris designer Alexey Pajitnov walked away from victorious. Kudos to the industry vet for showing that he's still got it.
For those worried that new innovations may abandon the classic tropes of our medium, there were certainly GDC sessions dedicated to gaming's history. Game show fans could tune in to The Metagame, where panelists debated over whether Guitar Hero was in fact more culturally sophisticated than Parappa the Rapper. A wholly different type of panel talked about the ten most important video games of all time, and Castlevania director Koji Igarashi was close at hand to remind us that 2D games will never die.
Super Paper Mario's 2D/3D gameplay, and floored by the speed, shimmer, and shine of Forza 2. Katamari-esque de Blob, now bound for Wii, was still in its nascent PC stages when we check it out on the IGF show floor. The Behemoth's Castle Crashers was also looking quite lovely (where's that game been for the past year, anyway?). We also spent a little -- ahem -- personal time with sex sim Virtually Jenna, and threw down cellphone-style in Gamelab's conference-wide game, Gangs of GDC.
At GDC, we work damn hard to bring you the most coverage, so you better believe that we play hard, too. And who needs sleep, anyway? We'll sleep when we're dead. Or on the plane. Whichever.