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Joystiq live from the Microsoft GDC keynote


10:22 am PT -- We've taken our seats at Microsoft's GDC keynote -- they're very nice, but we're not sure where to take them yet. The pawn shop seems too far, so we guess we'll just push them to the front row.

10:23 am PT -- A friendly announcer asks us turn off all cellphones and electronic devices. Hmm, yeah, we're not convinced that's something you want to say to an army of laptop-wielding nerds.

10:26 am PT -- Loud James Bond music blasts us from the stage. Obviously, we now expect John Schappert to descend from the ceiling.

10:27 am PT -- It will be "greatly appreciated" if we turn off our electronic devices. Somehow, we suspect our readers won't share that sentiment if we comply.

10:29 am PT -- Jamil Moledina steps onto the stage and welcomes us (he's polite!) "Change is the heart of opportunity in the games industry," he says. "The old boundaries of gamer, developer, technology and social technology are starting to shimmer."

Gallery: Microsoft GDC08 Keynote | 56 Photos

10:30 am PT -- EA Tiburon is the topic of discussion -- John Schappert's origin. After overseeing all of EA's product development, he transitioned to Microsoft to manage all platform technologies.
10:31 am PT -- We fail to applaud during John Schappert's arrival... because we're typing this. He has no TVs to give us, he says. We're leaving right now.

10:32 am PT -- "Like many of you, I started as a hobbyist programmer," says Schappert. He's talking about his computer geekdom (we struggle to identify).
10:33 am PT -- Remember Desert Strike on SNES? How about Madden '92? We're looking at them. How were we ever satisfied with those games? John's first game was Madden '94 -- "We shipped MANY versions of Madden," he quips.

10:34 am PT -- Production budgets have greatly increased since that time, says Schappert. "Thank you," says the screen behind him. The industry should pay its thanks to game developers, you see. (Note: just saw this press release announcing Gears of War 2 on NeoGAF. Real or fake? Wouldn't be much of a surprise if true.)

10:36 am PT -- "The developers are the true pioneers of our industry." Schappert says he's admired the Xbox platform for its pioneering -- the first to have a hard drive, Xbox Live, etc. US video game industry revenues are way up, according to the rather large graph appearing on the screen. Movies and music have been beaten.

10:37 am PT -- He calls 2007 a "blowout year." More Xbox 360s are on the way, says Schappert, addressing current Xbox 360 shortages.
10:38 am PT -- He lists some great games on the 360 -- Bioshock, Halo 3, Madden 08 (from EA Tiburon, *wink*), Guitar Hero III, Assassin's Creed, Mass Effect, Call of Duty 4. We haven't heard of ANY of these games, but they seem neat.

10:39 am PT -- Each of these seven titles sold over a million units each during the '07 holiday period, says Schappert. "They sell better on Xbox 360, because they play better on Xbox 360."
10:40 am PT -- The majority of titles are rated higher by reviews on 360, continues Schappert. Easier development and achievements give it the advantage. "The Xbox 360 community has unlocked over 1 billion achievements," says Schappert. An achievement unlocked sound (bi-donk!) is heard. Over $250 million has been spent online in the Xbox Live Marketplace.
10:41 am PT -- How popular is Halo 3's saved films feature? Over 1,000 pieces are uploaded by the Halo 3 community every day -- that's 30% more than Youtube, claims Schappert. "Xbox 360 is the console of choice for the creators in our industry." Some video quotes play.

10:42 am PT -- Ken Levine has nice things to say about it, as does a Halo 3 developer (gasp!). BioShock's Ken Levine finds the tools "comfortable," and Turn 10's Dan Greenawalt praises Xbox Live. Infinity Ward's Jason Ward praises optimized thread timings. Those sound... great.

10:43 am PT -- Chris Butcher of Bungie thinks the 360 has created a "community fostered around gaming."

10:45 am PT -- A Bethesda developer thinks people are really hungry for DLC -- you know, like horse armor. Over 3 million downloaded songs for Rock Band, says Alex Rigopulos.

10:46 am PT -- Schappert's back, and "happy to be here today." Oh, us too, John. "All you needed was your father's computer and a good idea," says Schappert about that "back in the day" time period. We would agree, if we actually had dads.
10:47 am PT -- Amateur programmers are out there, all with "new ideas"and "new visions." The "democritization" of distribution is needed. A new speaker steps up: Chief XNA architect, Christopher Satchell
10:48 am PT -- He's here to talk about XNA's community aspects. The "unlocking" of the Xbox 360, he says. Over 800,000 downloads of the XNA toolset have occurred. It's been adopted by over 400 universities worldwide. "But it's not enough just to release the software."

10:50 am PT -- DreamBuildPlay hoped to spur on creativity, and the results were "incredible." Over 200 games were submitted to the competition (we don't know how many were based on Doritos". Who would make the jump from "community" to "professional"?
10:52 am PT -- We see a comedic video documenting James Silva -- the man behind Dishwaser Samurai, an XNA game MS has decided to highlight at this year's GDC (is that what's behind the shroud?) "It's an inspiring story," says Major Nelson hamming it up for the camera. James Silva steps onto stage.
10:54 am PT -- James starts playing Dishwasher Samurai, "It's sort of a personal story," he says. He used to wash dishes at a restaurant, you see. "The great thing is I can wake up at noon now, " says James of his dramatic transformation.

10:55 am PT -- "Start small, don't try to make an MMO or FPS or something," advises James. He marches off, and Satchell has the stage again. "isn't it a shame that the other games might not get a chance at the spotlight?"

10:56 am PT -- It's changing today. For the first time, community games will be distributed through Xbox Live.

10:57 am PT
-- "'Xbox Live Community Games' will give creators a huge audience to share their creativity with. Game distribution will be democritized, allowing the community to control the content. Create, Submit, Peer Review, Play are the four key steps." "We want creativity to flow through this pipeline," says Satchell. Oh, we get it.

10:58 am PT --
Your creator identity is not too different from a gamertag -- it has a history of your developed games. You'll inform users what's in your game, using descriptive sliders. On a scale, how violent is it? What sort of game is it? There's prohibited content, of course, but it's up to peer reviewers to evaluate the game. "Now, 10 million people on Xbox Live get to play your game."

10:59 am PT -- We're shown a few games on an Xbox 360. "JellyCar" A bouncy, 2D car drives along on a sketchpad, bouncing up and down on a cartoon road. It looks adorable!

11:00 am PT -- "Little Gamers" is next. A familiar little kid walks on a 2D plane chainsawing and shotgunning zombies. And yes, we can turn weapons into verbs if we want to. A compiation video runs.

11:01 am PT -- "Proximity HD" looks like Hexic. "Trilinea" appears to be a board-based game.

11:02 am PT -- "Culture" features a lush 3D sphere world explored by a seed of some sorts. Free trials of these games are available on Xbox Live Marketplace "now," announces Satchell.

11:04 am PT -- "Democritizing" game development... there's that word again. We should ask our slave to tell us what it means. What if some of these games could be taken mobile? What if you had a Zune (what if indeed...)? XNA Game Studios titles on your Zune. Aha.

11:05 am PT -- Satchell whips out a Zune (he actually has one) and selects "Zauri", a topdown shooter. It supports custom soundtracks too (what with it being an MP3 player and all). You can take a game from Windows, to Xbox, to Zune, explains Satchell. "We've more than delivered," says Satchell of Microsoft's original XNA vision.

11:06 am PT - What about professionals? Satchell calls for another guest -- Dr. Michael Capps, President of Epic Games. He's here to show off the next version of Unreal Engine running on Xbox 360.

11:08 am PT -- It's been a year and a half since Gears of War 1, says Capps.

11:09 am PT -- Tim Sweeney's here to demonstrate the new features of the engine. Ambient occlusion dramatically improves shadow highlights, says Sweeney.

11:10 am PT -- We see Marcus Fenix being rendered with better specular lighting. High density crowds are new -- we see a massive crowd of Locusts flocking through a Gears of War environment.

11:11 am PT -- Dynamic Fluid effects look... liquidy. Marcus Fenix splashes through a pool to demonstrate.

11:12 am PT -- Matinee improvements -- it's what power the cutscene in Gears of War.

11:13 am PT -- Better structural degradation allows concrete to break apart in an explosion. Marcus kills an innocent concrete pillar with a Torque bow.

11:14 am PT -- John Schappert's back. Um, excuse us, but weren't you guys supposed to announce Gears of War 2? Over 1,000 games on Xbox 360 by the end of 2008, promises Schappert. And that excludes Xbox Live Community Games.

11:15 am PT -- April 29th brings GTAIV to Xbox 360, "on day one." Starting Fall 2008, GTA DLC will hit Xbox Live Marketplace.Oh, and there will be "plenty of games for the whole family to enjoy," adds Schappert

11:16am PT -- A new guest on stage -- Team Ninja's Tomonobu Itagaki! He's here to demonstrate Ninja Gaiden II (AKA GOTY 2008, FYI)

11:17 am PT -- Itagaki, in his usual leather-and-sunglasses attire, grabs the microphone with confidence and tells us about how the Japanese gaming industry still has lots of vitality.

11:18 am PT -- A never-before-seen level is running on "real hardware."

11:19 am PT -- The Temple of Sacrifice... sounds creepy. Ryu stands in a long, dark corridor and equips... oh my, that's a big sword.

11:20 am PT -- He runs into a massive open area, ad hundreds of dragon-like creatures populate the sky.

11:21 am PT -- Ryu battles some hideous creatures on a rickety bridge, effortlessly (and violently) dispatching them. A monster with a chainsaw for an arm pins Ryu down and attempts to separate im from his head. This is aweosome. Ryu pulls out the lunar staf and goes utterly ballistic. These monsters are in big trouble.

11:22 am PT -- The environment's scale is highly impressive, far beyond that of anything in the original Xbox 1 game(s).

11:23 am PT -- A save point -- Ryu saves and a "record" icon appears at the top. It's recorded a clip of the gameplay, and players are able to upload their films to Xbox Live. More violence ensues!

11:25 am PT -- Ryu dashes down a path, but is blocked by enormous winged creatures. Some hacking, some slashing and a brief Xbox 360 controller disconnect (whoops!) takes care of them. A gigantic demon appears -- he seems disgruntled. " You ungrateful monkeys!"

11:26 am PT -- "Submit or die." We choose... FIGHT!

11:27 am PT -- June 2008 is the release date Dear June, get here NOW. The game will be shipped in " early June" around the world. North America gets it on June 3rd.

11:28 am PT -- " We'll send you one of those play and charge kits," quips Satchell as he reappears Next up: a developer from the other side of the world. Welcome Peter Molyneux.

11:29 am PT -- He's showing us Fable 2. "No surprises," says Molyneux. Two new features are up for discussion and a live demo is to be shown. "It's very scary."

11:30 am PT -- In Fable 2, money is very important. You get money for doing jobs and... well, gambling. Walk into a pub and play a game -- this one's called Keystone.

11:31 am PT -- A bit of a cross between Roulette and Craps, says Peter. He bets on 17, rolls the dice and ... wins? We think he's cheating. It was a trick! It's actually an XBLA game.. the money won can be used in Fable 2.

11:32 am PT -- The game will be released a few weeks before Fable 2 -- "You'll be rich before you start playing the game." Peter points out that he's a woman. In the game. His Fable 2 character stands in a lush forest, the trusty Fable dog a few steps behind.

11:33 am PT -- The next feature requires an assistant. "What I really want is dynamic co-op," declares Peter. At any time during the game, another character can join you.

11:34 am PT -- Peter's friend teleports into the scene -- any experience and money he earns here can be taken back to his own single-player game.

11:35 am PT -- It seems the friend can't bring his dog -- aww. The two characters stand at a fork in the road. They're off to pick a fight. " Combat is a big thing, " says Peter. It has to be accessible and deep enough for everyone -- "It's gonna be amazing."

11:36 am PT -- Some monsters are slain, with Peter's character wielding a gun and his friend swinging a sword. It seems a little abrupt. Peter heads off to his home -- he's been pregnant, you know. His son runs up, "I never thought you'd ever come back!"

11:37 am PT -- "It's complete simulation." Peter's husband doesn't seem pleased -- in fact, he seems like a douchebag. Peter's friend shoots the husband! That seemed harsh. Peter warns us to be careful about who you invite into your game and marches off.

11:38 am PT -- Satchell's back, and speaks of the gaming opportunities that lie ahead in 2008. Games " for the people, by the people." James Silver could be the next Peter Molyneux, suggests Satchell.

11:39 am PT -- A Gears of War logo? A chainsaw? Marcus Fenix. What's this video about? Oh, of course, it's Gears of War 2!

11:40 am PT -- CliffyB burst in (with a chainsaw) and leaves us with a tiny piece of info. Gears 2 in November 2008, only on Xbox 360.

11:41 am PT -- Okay folks, we're leaving. And we're taking our seats with us. END

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