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GDC 2011: Impressions of the conference and what 2011 will bring

Shawn Schuster

The 2011 Game Developer's Conference is behind us, and as we all recover from sleep deprivation and carpal tunnel syndrome, we can't help but reflect on our overall impressions of the event.

This year saw a more efficient conference with the show floor consolidated into one hall and the usual Career Pavillion, Game Career Seminar and Game Connection events set up to help job-seekers find their dream careers in game development. But for the games press, most of the action happens off-site, where studios and publishers rent conference rooms and hotel suites to show off their latest game demos and conduct interviews.

So while GDC is nothing like your E3s and PAXes, it is a place to gather info and get a feel for what to expect in the coming year. Follow along after the jump to see what I thought of this year's MMO offerings.


Last year, we gushed on and on about TERA. It won our Shiniest New MMO and MMO of the Show awards, but this year, the presentation was toned down quite a bit. That's not to say anything negative about the game, but rather than the En Masse team took the demo from last year's shiny booth to a private demo room. The devs showed us combat, combat, and more combat, which is always a blast, but I think we're ready to see more at this point. Luckily, we were able to sit down with producer Brian Knox for an exclusive Q&A regarding the political system, westernization, and more. I came away from that demo feeling confident that these guys know what they're doing and are handling the whole port-over process the right way.

World of Tanks's Victor Kislyi is one of the most passionate game developers I think I've talked to in a long time. He's not shy about his enthusiasm for his game, which he says he's been dreaming up since he was 15 years old. The explosion of popularity for World of Tanks drives his excitement, and our interview with him was like a whirlwind of fervor as he showed us record-breaking stats and explained the community to us. World of Tanks players don't mess around, as they've actually driven the dev-run guild out of the game's territorial conquest maps.

Guild Wars 2

Undeniably, the most fun I had at GDC was during my hands-on time with Guild Wars 2. The now-infamous video of me, playing a female Charr Thief (even my mother called to say she saw me in this thing!), has been dissected by every Guild Wars 2 community imaginable. Not only am I pressing the "6" key in my sleep now, I think about the mechanics of the Guild Wars 2 combat a lot. It was fun, challenging, and kept me on my toes. This is the game I'm looking forward to the most for whenever it's ready to release.

APB: Reloaded

I was a big fan of the original APB, so when I saw it on the screen for the first time in months, I got a bit giddy. Our demo consisted mostly of an explanation of what was fixed from the original. Even the smallest development flubs caused major lag and latency issues, and GamersFirst was happy to show off its remedies. The business model will be a much more comprehensive free-to-play/cash-shop model with everything you loved from the original still intact -- even truly open PvP this time! APB: Reloaded looks to be an improved, working version of what was released last year, and I can't wait!

Shadow Cities

I'll call Shadow Cities my surprise hit of GDC 2011. Watching the initial trailer, you can't help but think that this game is all about running around dark back alleys of large cities, but it's not. It brings real RPG elements to a location-based real-world map. Think of it as a mix between your favorite MMO and Four Square, but you don't need to actually be at the exact location where the battles occur. If you're in Podunk, Mississippi and you want to battle with your friends on the streets of San Francisco, you can do that. It uses gesture-based spells on the iPhone's touch screen to let you fight in both PvE and PvP. There are control point defense battles, achievements, leveling, consumables, skill unlocks and much more that you'd expect in any MMO. Even the phone itself is explained in the game's lore as a device that allows you to see into another dimension. It really is that cool, and I look forward to seeing how well it's received in the rest of the world, as it enjoys the top App Store sales spot in its homebase of Helsinki.


I'm not usually a big fan of GDC panels as they're mostly highly technical talks catered towards designers, but Damion Schubert's The Loner: Why Some People Play MMOs Alone was the best panel I've seen in a long time. And I don't just say that because I fall into about five of the categories he listed.

As for everything else, much of it was business as usual, with some other notable standouts, but these were the games that stuck out most in my mind. The Secret World demo is embargoed until later this week, at which time we can gush about that, but watch our GDC 2011 page for more throughout the week.

What has GDC told me about 2011 in the world of MMOs? It's told me that 2010 is something we shall never speak of again. I think it's safe to say that we're all excited about what 2011 will bring, and if GDC's attendance is any indication, MMOs are taking over.

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