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2008 Game Developers Conference

The 2008 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco brought a lot of new announcements and updates spanning the entire field of gaming, from demonstrations of new technology, to previews of upcoming titles, to discussions on the future of gaming.

Since the collapse of E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo), the Game Developers Conference has become the place to announce and show off new games and technology to consumers, the press and other developers. The highlights of this year’s conference were the demonstration of the new Unreal Engine, the first look at the sequel to Gears of War and the ’07 GDC awards.

The GDC also included various panels, discussions and speakers on the current state and future of gaming. One panel of developers declared that genres (such as action, adventure, role playing game, etc.) in videogames will be going away in the near future, though realistically this sounds slightly unlikely.

Ken Levine, President of 2K Boston and creative director for Bioshock, discussed the game’s (as he put it) “stupid story.” He stated that the original story spanned more than 70 years, and included a multitude of characters, but the story was ultimately dumbed-down to appeal to a wider audience. His overall point was that the story was important to most games (some genres don’t need a story), but it needs to be done well and remain engaging to the player.

One of the more interesting panels was led by game developer Brenda Brathwaite, who boldly declared that game developers were afraid of sex, using the furor over the game Mass Effect as an example. Mass Effect is known for the uproar caused by its lesbian sex scene that caused the game to be banned in Singapore for a while. The statement pertaining to developers’ bravery was followed by the disclaimer that sex just shouldn’t be added to games for its own sake, only if it adds something to the game or the story.

In Wii news, Nintendo announced that WiiWare, a service much like Xbox Live Arcade, which will allow Wii owners to download new games directly to their systems, will launch in May 2008. Nintendo also announced that there were around 100 WiiWare games currently in development. Nintendo also announced that WiiFit, the fitness-themed game that was born from Shigeru Miyamoto’s scale, will also be coming to America in 2008.

Epic Games officially announced that a sequel to Gears of War, currently titled Gears of War 2, was in production by screening a teaser trailer at the end of Microsoft’s Keynote speech given by Epic Games’ Tim Sweeny and Mike Capps. That a sequel was in the works was possibly the worst-kept secret in the gaming community.

Epic Games also demonstrated the new Unreal Engine, which will be used to power Gears of War 2, by showing a demonstration in which 100 Locust from Gears of War were rendered on screen simultaneously. Other demonstrations were shown using Gears of War models with the repeated disclaimer that none of what was shown was from the upcoming Gears of War 2.

One of the biggest surprises at the Game Developers Conference was the winner of 2007 Game of the Year. Bioshock was heavily favored to win, but lost to Valve’s Portal. Portal, Valve’s short game about using, well, portals won Game of the Year along with Best Game Design and the Innovation Award. Bioshock won Best Visual Art, Best Writing and Best Audio. Other winners were Crackdown for Best Debut, and Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass for Best Handheld. Much more happened and was announced at the GDC than can be fit into this space, but there are numerous sites online where you can find out more information. From what was shown at GDC it seems 2008 is going to be a good year for gamers.