A Fresh Perspective For GDC 2014

March 16, 2014 10:00 AM

GDC 2014

As this year’s GDC (Game Developers Conference) fast approaches, many gaming enthusiasts around the world are already starting to speculate what we could see unveiled next week in San Francisco. Eager eyes are steadfastly trained on the next-gen gaming giants, Microsoft and Sony, who are expected to reveal their latest trove of trend-setting gaming gadgets. The event in California is anticipating an audience in the region of 25,000 people this year, one of its biggest yet, and some of the biggest names in the gaming industry will be offering valuable insight into what many developers and professional figures can expect to see over the coming years and how it will shape the future of video gaming.

GDC offers developers from around the world the chance to meet and discuss financial and operational issues within the video games industry

This time last year saw the unveiling of the Ouya (formerly known as Boxer8) – an Android-based microconsole from the boffins at the appropriately named Ouya Inc. It was also at GDC 2013 that audiences were granted a tantalising glimpse at some next-gen technology, most notably the Oculus Rift. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to speak of in the way next-gen consoles last time; something that GDC 2014 is keen to address as both Sony and Microsoft (including many additional third-party hardware and software developers) are rumoured to be working on a a number of different projects to coincide with the release of their new games consoles. Sony, in particular, is rumoured to be preparing the reveal of its latest project, aimed at surpassing the technological feat achieved by Microsoft and its Kinect 2.0 interface.

The rumour mill suggests this project will take the form of a VR headset – in the same vein as the Oculus Rift technology – including a custom-designed headset, however, it is supposedly more advanced than the aforementioned device. SCEA (Sony Computer Entertainment America) will deliver a presentation titled ‘Driving The Future of Innovation’ on March 18th next week, but with third-parties yet to officially adopt VR technology Sony is likely to rely on an in-house tech demo to showcase the device’s strengths, in the event it is revealed next week.

Sony is expected to reveal it's first major peripheral for the PS4, a VR headset said to be even better than the Oculus Rift

Sony is expected to reveal it’s first major peripheral for the PS4, a VR headset said to be even better than the Oculus Rift

It’s not yet clear what Microsoft has planned for the event, but it’s unlikely to be anything hardware related at this stage. However, expectations are rife that the corporation will showcase its latest multimedia API (Application Programming Interface) in the form of DirectX 12, the successor to the DirectX 11 service currently utilised by many games programmers around the world. Valve, on the other hand, will make good use of the event in San Francisco to demonstrate some of the features of its new hardware platform, Steam Machine.

Naughty Dog will be discussing some of the tech processes behind last year's critically acclaimed PS3 title, The Last Of Us

Naughty Dog will be discussing some of the tech processes behind last year’s critically acclaimed PS3 title, The Last Of Us

The vast majority of the showfloor this year is dominated, as you would rightly expect, by third-party hardware and software developers keen to show off some of their ongoing work, as well as some of the technology behind their projects from last year. Some of the professional talks at GDC this year include insightful presentations about development processes, including a discussion from the now defunct development studio, Irrational Games, who will be revealing some of the technology behind 2013’s Bioshock Infinite. There will also be presentations from the likes of Naughty Dog and former Lionhead Studios boss, Peter Molyneux.

Aside from the usual throng of triple A studios on offer at the event, a number of burgeoning indie teams will also get the opportunity to present their own work to the wider development community and, by extension, the gaming public. The past few years has seen the indie scene explode in popularity, having rised from relative obscurity within the PC gaming niche into a mainstream phenomenon. GDC has addressed this fact by providing the indie studios with their very own ‘Megabooth’, a spot on the showfloor where each dev team can disclose their ongoing projects.

Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4  has already managed to lay the groundwork for the level of visual fidelity expected in next gen games.

Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4 has already managed to lay the groundwork for the level of visual fidelity expected in next gen games.

The next generation of gaming will undoubtedly be on the agenda this time round with last year’s release of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One certain to garner renewed interest from various startup developers. We caught a glimpse of some next gen graphical features at GDC last year but this March will surely see a cornucopia of 3D eye candy that is set to become a benchmark for video games moving into the future. Not only will games be capable of rendering more and more polygons but will include a range of cutting-edge rendering techniques that are foredained to make games more life-like than ever before, such as specular reflection, subsurface scattering and GPU-rendered particles.

The discussions set to take place at the Moscone Center in California next week will shape the way studios (both independent and major publishers) approach video game development, which is destined to determine how gamers enjoy titles, both big and small, over the coming years and will assuredly herald the state of things to come for everyone involved in video game development over the course of the next generation…or should that be current generation?