GDC 2016 Recap

GDC_30_logos_v2Last month I attended the 30th annual Game Developers Conference out in San Francisco. This was my second time going out to the event and this time I was able to attend for the entire week. There was a lot to see and do, so I kept myself very busy throughout the week.

I arrived in San Francisco a few days before the convention since I was part of the Indie Train Jam, which I’ll be writing about in more detail later. It turned out that the hostel I was staying out was one of the go-to places to stay for most of the indie game developers. So before the main event had even started I got to chat and mingle with a bunch of cool people in the game industry.

Once the convention started on Monday, I didn’t waste time getting involved in events. One of the meet-ups that I found out about during last year’s GDC was the early morning game audio gathering at a coffee shop called Sightglass. This was a meet-up where members of the game audio community would discuss the upcoming events at GDC that concerned our discipline as well as share the knowledge we had gained from attending sessions the day before. These took place again this year and it was great to be able to participate for the whole week this time around.

These meetings were especially helpful for me since I did not have the more expensive Audio Track Pass for GDC but the Expo Pass, which would only get me into the main halls and a handful of sponsored talks. Being able to arrive at Sightglass every morning and hear the specifics about the talks that I couldn’t attend was immensely helpful to me, but it also promoted further conversation about the topics that were covered.

This GDC was a big year for the promotion of virtual reality or VR tech. We had plenty of discussions about audio’s importance in VR experiences and many of the difficulties involved with making believable and immersive experiences. One of the interesting discussions we had was about music and whether it could be present without feeling jarring to the player in the virtual world. There are clearly a lot of questions and unknowns about the new technology and it was great to hear different opinions from professionals in the field about these new challenges.

Wednesday of the GDC week saw the opening of the expo floor and as I suspected the big thing was VR. Sony ended up announcing the price of their VR headset to compete with the other companies. I had the chance to check out the Google Cardboard VR, the cheapest of the options, and the Samsung VR headset which only works with Samsung’s phones. Even though they were the cheaper and less high-tech options for VR, the effects were still present. Each set worked well even if they weren’t as impressive as the Oculus Rift models I’ve tried out before. I unfortunately didn’t get a chance to try out the Sony VR or the HTC Vive at the show. Personally, I’m still skeptical about how well these headsets will do as the new must-have gaming devices, but we’ll see what happens.

Oculus GDC

One of the events that I was able to attend this year was the Game Audio Network Guild ( or G.A.N.G.) Awards. Just like any big award show there were tons of categories, including awards for sound, audio design, and best original soundtrack. This year’s big winners were Jessica Curry for her amazing work on the music for Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and Gareth Cocker who also received recognition for his soundtrack for Ori and the Blind Forest. The game Gathering Sky also won three awards that night. To end the evening, Marty O’Donnell, composer for the Halo series, received the G.A.N.G. Lifetime Achievement Award. It was fun to be in the audience and to watch many of the game audio people that I look up to receive recognition for their work.

O'Donnell Award

Outside of the main events of GDC I spent plenty of time talking and networking with fellow game audio people. There were a few parties including a pre-GDC bar crawl event and the IASIG (Interactive Audio Special Interest Group) mixer on Wednesday night at the Thirsty Bear. They were a great opportunity to chat with other people in the field, talk about projects that we were working on, and just a great way to have a good time. Much like the early morning meetings at Sightglass everyone was incredibly friendly and willing to share knowledge about various subjects within the field. I met people involved with voice acting, sound design, audio programming, and of course fellow composers.

The big thing that will continue to stick with me from this year’s experience is how amazing and welcoming people in the game audio community are. Everyone was helpful and friendly, always willing to share their knowledge, and they made me feel like a part of the community. I made a lot of connections and new friends that I will honestly miss hanging out with. This GDC was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait for the next time that I can meet up with these people again. In the meantime, I have plenty of work to do and hopefully some new projects coming down the pipeline.

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GDC and PAX East 2015 Recap

GDC 15 Logo

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted on here. Sadly, this poor blog gets a little neglected when I’m busy. I’ve finally found some time to talk about what I’ve been up to for the past few months. There’s plenty to talk about, so I should probably get started.

First, I had my trip out to the Game Developers Conference out in San Francisco. This was my first time out to the city and the first time to the GDC event. I’m happy to report that it was an absolute blast and was unlike any other game event I had ever attended. I ended up meeting a ton of people, both veterans of the industry and newcomers like me.

In addition to meeting a lot of people and networking, I learned a lot from people who are actively involved in game audio, who were more than happy to chat with me and discuss everything from workflow to marketing and everything in between. I also ran into a bunch of peers that I had previously met at other game events on the east coast. Overall, I learned a lot, had a ton of fun, and made some new friends along the way. I’ll definitely be going back next year if I can.

I unfortunately couldn’t stay for the full week of GDC, due to PAX East being on the following weekend. I, and several other game people, ended up leaving San Francisco to get into Boston that Friday. I took a “red-eye” flight to get to PAX East on time to do some coverage for Original Sound Version. With only about three hours of sleep, I was dead tired by the end of the first day of PAX East. I made it through the rest of the weekend alright, but I think that’s the last time I’m going to attempt attending two events back to back like that. The next time that GDC and PAX East happen on the same week, I will be staying at GDC if possible.

Over the summer I managed to pick up a few game audio gigs. I won’t be able to go into much detail about them for the moment. I’ll likely have something up about them once the work on them is done and when the projects are closer to being released. I might even do some sort of post-mortem analysis of the audio work here on the blog.

In the meantime I’ll be getting to work on these new projects. I may get a few new tracks up on Soundcloud and this site as well, if my schedule goes smoothly this month.

Plans For This Fall

It looks like I managed to let another five months pass by without any major posts to the blog. This is what happens when I give myself too many projects to tackle. I had a lot going on this spring and summer, but I suppose it’s time for another update. I managed to get out to PAX East this year, going for my first time as a member of the press and covered some interesting music related games. Most of my time was spent working and writing for Original Sound Version. The rest of the time was spent working on my music and other projects in the studio.

As if I didn’t have enough on my plate, I started learning to play guitar and electric bass. I had studied a bit of guitar years ago and for some reason I decided that this summer I should expand my performance skills to other instruments. I’m primarily teaching myself with the aid of some method books. I’ve also been getting some practice through the game Rocksmith 2014, which has helped with mixed results. At some point I may try to write a critique about its usefulness as a learning tool, but for now it will just remain a fun distraction. I’m hoping at some point to apply some of my newly developing guitar and bass skills to my future music projects.

My plans for this fall include returning to my seasonal day job. It’s a necessary evil, but until I actually start earning more of a living from music it has to be done. It will certainly divide more of my attention away from music and reviewing, but it will be nice to have a steady paycheck for a while. I’ll also be going out to a convention this week called the Boston Festival of Indie Games. It’s a one day event, on September 13th at MIT, that showcases the work of small developers from the New England area. I attended last year and even reported on a concert they held. It ended up being a lot of fun last year. Anyone in the area should definitely check it out.

As for the status of this site, I’m looking into making some major changes. Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I want to change this over into more of a portfolio for my audio work. I’ve also been considering the possibility of just making a new site from scratch and just shutting down this current site. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve been relatively happy with the way this blog has turned out and I’m not sure if I want to do something that drastic. In any case, there may be some big changes happening in the coming months. I’ll be posting again if and when that happens.