Video Game Storybundle 4.0 – onto the next age.

bundle_34_cover-6ab5b04b1113a5ec306694fa94431a0fIt’s that time, again – after the third Video Game StoryBundle that I curated debuted back in April, I’ve been working diligently with a bunch of authors, magazine editors, and even musicians (!) to curate the fourth one, which launched this morning. Lots more info below – with books from Anna Anthropy, Zoya Street, Colin Campbell, Jeremy Parish, and music albums ft. Manami Matsumae (Mega Man) & Austin Wintory (Journey) – but I’m super proud of this bundle’s diversity and readability, so please go buy it and support the authors if you have a chance.

“Continuing its popular “pay what you want” ebook bundles, StoryBundle is proud to present the Video Game Bundle 4.0. The specially curated set of thirteen full-length game culture & history books/magazines & follows up three previous bestselling digital game bundles.

It once again features over $50 worth of books & magazines—plus two full-length all-star music albums—for a fraction of that price, with the gaming non-profit SpecialEffect our lead charity for this bundle.

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Vaulting The Bar: Two Mini-Updates

Unfortunately, due to the pressure of work, the official longer-form write-ups of ‘Vaulting The Bar’, my concept in highlighting important GDC Vault talks, went on hiatus after a grand total of, uh, one post.

However, I rolled my next two Games Developers Conference lecture video picks into an official Vault update which went live a few weeks ago. So you can still see the next two lectures I was going to talk about there, joining the Shadow Complex talk which I already highlighted in more depth.

The two underappreciated talks (both now available for free on Vault!) are:

– The GDC Europe 2011 talk, “Game Content Rating Systems Must Change,” is a fascinating trawl by French developer Quantic Dream’s COO Guillaume de Fondaumiere (Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain) through the maze of European video game age/content ratings.

Along the way, de Fondaumiere deftly contrasts relatively censorious video game ratings to those of film and other media. He argues that video game ratings are far more strict than they should be, and these restrictions are hurting the industry, in a great and underseen talk.

[UPDATE: A long-form interview with de Fondaumiere, conducted by my colleague Christian Nutt, just went up on Gamasutra talking further about this very subject – good timing!]

– The other underappreciated gem of a talk comes from Game Developers Conference 2009, and features Ubisoft Montreal’s Jonathan Morin, as he outlines the ways in which the critically acclaimed Far Cry 2 strove to support player expression in its game design.

The session, dubbed “Player’s Expression: The Level Design Structure Behind Far Cry 2 and Beyond?,” explores the game’s wide-open design and explains how lessons learned from this surprisingly influential, naturalistic Clint Hocking lead-designed project could apply to other games.

So there you go! Hopefully I’ll get a chance to dig through more archival goodness soon – and I know for a fact that Jason Scott is about to unleash a LOAD of great older videos onto Vault that he’s scanned from videotape. So watch out for that…

Got A Sense Of Wonder?

Just wanted to give a shout-out to this September’s Tokyo Game Show and the current call for submissions for Sense Of Wonder Night, which I’ve been associated with for the past few years.

As a Gamasutra story about last year’s SoWN (which I sadly missed!) explains, the showcase is to “discover new and unconventional game concepts that “catch people by surprise and give them a Sense of Wonder — a sense that something will change in their world — right at the instant of seeing or hearing the concept.'”

There are up to ten Japanese, Asian and Western games showcased yearly. Previous notable Western games that have also been Sense Of Wonder Night exhibitors —  with onstage presentations simultaneously translated to Japanese and English — include Shadow Physics, PixelJunk Eden, The Misadventures Of P.B. Winterbottom, and Moon Stories.

And for those wanting to check out previous honorees for the innovative games showcase taking place in Tokyo during September’s Tokyo Game Show, here’s the list of 2010 finalists and my write-up of 2009’s SoWN (there’s also YouTube videos) and of 2008’s event.

Inspired by GDC’s long-running Experimental Gameplay Workshop in highlighting innovative concepts in gaming, I think Sense Of Wonder Night is a bright spot for Japan in highlighting alternative genres.

And after last year’s SoWN got scant Western media coverage, I’m planning to both judge and cover the honorees this year – the titles shown there are genuinely interesting, and the showcase format is a lot of fun. (There seem to have been some changes in the SoWN judging committee, with new ‘Company Awards’ and some higher-profile companies like Hudson and Microsoft judging, so we’ll see how that shifts things up this year.)

But most importantly, the call for submissions is open until July 11th, so if you’d like to submit to SoWN and can get yourself over to Tokyo on your on dime to present at Sense Of Wonder Night in mid-September, go ahead and put your game forward.

Springtime For Geekouts

Well, we’re way past GDC 25 now, and I’m delighted to say that the 25th Game Developers Conference went incredibly well. Over 19,000 attendees turned up in San Francisco, and over on Gamasutra, we have a lot of the highlights.

In addition, after the show, we started putting a bunch of the notable content up on GDC Vault, and we’ve got digital historian Jason Scott back to continue annotating and digitizing a mass of old audio and video.

As he recently noted, the ‘classic postmortems’, which are all available for free on Vault, were a real highlight of the show – I particularly dug the ‘Out Of This World’ and ‘Maniac Mansion’ postmortems.

In any case, we’re now looking forward to the rest of the year, and we just had the Advisory Board meetings for GDC Europe, which I think has some really good content this year, thanks to expanded Summits on Social Games, Smartphone/Tablet Games and Indie Games, plus some strong core conference talks.

Other than that, I’m hanging in there, and looking forward/not looking forward to a particularly robust set of travel starting in mid-May for a month – Austin, Los Angeles, Shanghai and London all in that time frame, including board meetings for GDC Online and GDC China.

Anyhow, hope all of you are happy out there in Internet-land, as I’m trying to be – and I’ll post again soon, whether you like it or not…

GDC 25 On The Brain

gdthumbIt’s been a little while, and our big Game Developers Conference 2011 show is coming up pretty darn soon (early registration ends tomorrow!), so thought it might be time to sum up what I’ve been up to in recent months.

Firstly, GDC China went really well back in early December, and we managed to visit Beijing and Xi’An (the amazing Terracotta Army!), as planned, before the Shanghai show – here’s the inevitable Flickr gallery. China really is an amazing place, and I’m delighted that we’re doing business there – especially when we can bring a bunch of awesome Western and domestic speakers to the show and pack out lecture rooms.

Secondly, everything else is ticking along just fine, but it’s really GDC in San Francisco that’s on mine and my coworkers’ minds, since it’s the historic 25th GDC, and takes place in just a few weeks – from February 28th to March 4th, to be precise. Some of the things I’m most excited about regarding the show:

– The GDC 2011 Main Conference keynote is from Nintendo president Satoru Iwata, on “Video Games Turn 25: A Historical Perspective and Vision for the Future”, and the GDC News page and the full schedule showcase an amazing amount of other high-quality talks, from Cliff Bleszinski through Deadly Premonition’s Swery to Chris Crawford and beyond.

– Another particular highlight is the recent revelation of the Classic Postmortem lecture series, which has an all-star line-up of game developers, from John Romero (Doom) through Will Wright (Raid On Bungeling Bay) to Toru Iwatani (Pac-Man) and beyond, presenting accounts on the making of some of the most famous video games of all time. Man, this’ll be fun.

– Some really cute promotion for the show this year, too, with the debut of the GD-Bot, pictured above. As we noted: “Mailed to thousands of prospective GDC attendees in special packaging, the specially perforated paper sections, graphic designed by Stephanie Tang and papercraft-ized by Cubeecraft.com, can be assembled into our friendly Game Developers Conference-themed robot.” And if you didn’t get one in the mail, you can download a PDF.

– Oh, and we hired an official GDC historian for the 25th show, in the form of Jason Scott, who you might know for his Textfiles.com digital archive and great documentaries like BBS Documentary and Get Lamp. His work to date with the masses of audio and video we sent him has been amazing.

So that’s what I’m getting excited about at work – incidentally, as the bio page notes, I’ve been promoted and I’m now an EVP at UBM TechWeb, our parent company, still dealing with overseeing all of the video game-related portfolio, as I did before.

As for outside of work, I’m carrying on with the ‘vintage computer’ art-related collecting, with this IBM 7094 print a particular highlight of late, alongside a Robert Tinney piece. Oh, and I have my first Grordbort insect, too. Fun times! More soon…

Autumn Time Is Fun Time

artcodeAs the Bay Area hunkers down for some much-needed rain (and yes, probably pathetic compared to other East Coast cities, but we like our weather watered-down here), it appears to be time to update this blog again.

Once again, quite a few things have happened since the last update, in various areas of business, leisure, and somewhere in between, as follows:

– Our GDC Europe show, which ran alongside GamesCom in August in Cologne, Germany, ended up doing really well. We had somewhere over 1200 people in our Monday keynote from Disney’s Warren Spector (creator of Deus Ex and the much-awaited Disney Epic Mickey), and we boosted attendee numbers again in the second year of the event.

There’s an official Flickr gallery and our GDC Vault site — which keeps video and audio from our events — has a couple of free video lectures, plus slides from event speakers.

– Since my last post about Weta’s Dr. Grordbort’s rayguns at Comic-Con, I’ve become rather enamored with the entire line, created by District 9 concept designer Greg Broadmore and friends. In fact, my home office now has quite a collection of the metal and glass-crafted steampunk-ish goodies, as showcased on Flickr. Good times!

– Also happening since I last posted was GDC Online, which took over Austin with 3,000 attendees in early October and ended up being a lot of fun (and learning!), too. In fact, while there we saw a city-created infographic which showed that GDC Online is the #13 event of any kind to come to Austin every year in terms of bringing value to the city, an awesome result.

Here’s the official Flickr gallery, showing neat stuff like major sessions, the expo floor, and networking events (yes, there was a Playboy-sponsored party, since they’re working with Bigpoint in the online game space now!)

And GDC Vault — which video recorded all major lectures for All-Access GDC passholders and group/individual subscribers — has free content including Brian Reynolds’ keynote, a great Richard Bartle talk on the MUD, and the first ever GDC Online Awards, with an awesome Ultima Online tribute. I’m proud to be involved.

– I’ve also been building up my collection of computer-related original artwork, with high geekdom the main goal. Here’s what I have so far, with Richard Ironmonger’s ‘Art Is A Coded Message’ a particular recent highlight – a detail is above. And you can’t beat Apple-themed ’80s airbrush illustration art either, of course…

Next up on the travel schedule is GDC China, in Shanghai this December, and myself and Holly will be flying out a bit early to check out Beijing (including The Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and maybe a trip out to see the Terracotta Army if we’re very lucky.)

Elsewhere, since it’s GDC 25, there’ll be some big news on historical-related goodness around the San Francisco show in Feb-March 2011, soon enough. And of course, the 2011 Independent Games Festival entries just got announced, and I can’t wait to see the finalists showcased at GDC in a few months. Fun times!

Doing The Shanghai Cologne Shuffle

drgrordWell, it’s been a little while yet again – so I thought I’d post quickly in between trips which seem to have piled up in recent weeks, and list some of the fun stuff I’ve been doing workwise.

Myself and a number of us at the UBM TechWeb Game Network are recently back from Shanghai on a trip to check out ChinaJoy (the big consumer video game show in China) and have the GDC China Advisory Board meeting for this year – lots of great business done there, and looking forward to the show this December.

Other recent – only semi-work related – jaunts have included a trip my first-ever San Diego Comic-Con with Holly, where we took lots of pictures, of course, checked out W00tstock with Wil Wheaton, Adam Savage and friends, greatly enjoyed the Rifftrax panel, and I went on a bit of a tear at the Weta booth.

Those New Zealand wizards behind effects for The Lord Of The Rings and District 9 make some amazing steampunk guns under the Dr. Grordbort’s line (booth pictured, Cliff Bleszinski is also a fan, apparently), and at the show, I picked up the super-custom Iron Tiger gun, as featured on Wired.com recently. It’s got anti-magnetic paint like the German tank it was modeled after, and, uh, camouflage foliage. Don’t ask.

In a couple of days I’m off to GDC Europe in Cologne, Germany alongside the Gamescom consumer event. As you’ll note in our news blog, we’ve been adding a plethora of high-profile lectures, including talks on Microsoft’s new Kinect motion control device from some of the third-party devs working on it, plus a talk on acclaimed XBLA game Limbo (previously a winner at our own Independent Games Festival) and a keynote from seminal Deus Ex and Epic Mickey designer Warren Spector. Can’t wait.

In other news, we recently hired our first in-house staff member for Game Advertising Online, our free-to-play B2C game ad network, and he just started (hi, Fabian!) We have other notable hires coming, and we’re currently working on test or full campaigns with companies like BigPoint, Ubisoft, Turbine, Gameforge, Nexon, and Jagex. We think serving developers of _all_ sizes by finding them new players for their games will be a key part of our job going forward. 

We’re still ramping up on our other events like GDC Online, but we already have an (unannounced!) keynote lined up for the Austin event in October, as well as Summits on hot topics like 3D stereoscopic gaming and the iPad, and we’re very heartened by the buzz around the event’s renaming from GDC Austin. We’re also feeling well positioned for GDC China – and, indeed, GDC 2011 in San Francisco, the 25th anniversary, for which you’ll see some awesome visual stylings revealed soon.

So that’s where we are right now – and I never even mentioned E3 (fun, although I had to sneak out to Boston for a corporate meeting halfway through the show!), the holiday with Holly and parents to Yosemite/Sequoia National Parks (wow, cold!), GDC Canada (Vancouver is a really nice place), and various other sundries. Catch up later in the year!

Handing Over The Reins Of The IGF…

[Popping up from blog radio silence mode long enough to pass on this announcement. Now that I’m running all the Game Network’s products, it’s really difficult to give the IGF the love it deserves – and who better to take over than Mr. Boyer? I’ll still be involved behind the scenes, though…]

The UBM TechWeb Game Network, organizers of the yearly Independent Games Festival and Independent Games Summit has announced that scene notable Brandon Boyer has been named Chairman of the IGF, as it continues to expand its role in evangelizing and rewarding the best indie games.

In his new role, Boyer will oversee submission and judging operations, provide community outreach and support, and help shape the structure and continued growth of the IGF — the longest-running and largest event relating to independent games worldwide.

This follows the event’s all-time record 607 game submissions in 2010 across the IGF Main Competition, Student Showcase and IGF Mobile competitions, including high-profile titles like Monaco, Limbo and Super Meat Boy.

The 2010 Independent Games Festival saw thousands of visitors to its Pavilion [picture gallery] and more than 3,000 attend the IGF Awards Show [picture gallery] in March 2010. The associated Independent Games Summit [picture gallery] had nearly 1,000 attendees for its 2010 keynote session on the Indie Fund.

Both events are part of the larger Game Developers Conference, which is returning to San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center Monday, February 28 to Friday, March 4, 2011.

Boyer has previously co-founded and served as editor of Offworld.com, an independent-game-focused site operated by seminal weblog Boing Boing, where he currently serves as contributing editor. Boyer has also served as judge for the IGF since 2007, and was previously an advisor at multiple Independent Games Summit events. He has also contributed to various games publications including Gamasutra.com and Edge Magazine, and brings a wealth of knowledge on the independent games scene to the position.

Boyer is taking over the role from former Chairman Simon Carless, who is now Global Brand Director for the entire UBM TechWeb Game Network, including the GDC shows, Gamasutra, Game Developer magazine, and new acquisition Game Advertising Online. Carless will continue to contribute to the IGF as Chairman Emeritus, and as part of a Festival/Summit organizing committee that includes Boyer, Carless, and vital continuing IGF contributors Matthew Wegner (Flashbang Studios) and Steve Swink (Enemy Airship).

“The Independent Games Festival has consistently been my highlight of the Game Developers Conference for as many years as I have been attending,” said Boyer. “I’m extremely honored to help shape the future of the festival and bring ever-wider attention to the indie games community, a group that is truly defining the future of video games as an artistic medium.”

The Independent Games Festival was established in 1998 by UBM TechWeb Game Network to encourage innovation in game development and to recognize the best independent game developers. Previous honorees have included many of the pioneering independent games of the last decade, including World of Goo, Gish, Everyday Shooter, Crayon Physics, Braid, Castle Crashers, and Audiosurf.

Specifics on 2011’s competition details and deadlines are expected to be announced in the next few weeks – for more information on the Festival, please visit the official IGF website.

A Game Developers Conference State Of Mind

gdc10Sorry, it’s been a while! Among the things I haven’t discussed since the last post were a trip to Las Vegas for the D.I.C.E. Summit for game execs, and the fact that we did the deal I’ve been sideways mentioning for months, and bought ad network Game Advertising Online, which is really a transformative acquisition for us at the UBM Techweb Game Network.

But the big news is Game Developers Conference 2010, which ran from last Tuesday (March 9th) to Saturday (March 13th) at Moscone Center in San Francisco. As our ending press release reveals:

“Organizers of the 2010 Game Developers Conference, the world’s largest industry-only event dedicated to the advancement of interactive entertainment, has announced an all-time record of 18,250 game industry professionals attending San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center for the March 9th-13th event. Surpassing last year’s total of 17,000 attendees, the event – created by the UBM Techweb Game Network – brought together experienced game developers, publishers, deal makers, industry aspirants and working press for more than 400 lectures, panels, summits, tutorials and roundtable discussions.”

The highlights are almost too numerous to mention, but we had major announcements at the show – including Sony debuting its PlayStation Move motion controller and buzzed-about cloud computing/gaming company OnLive revealing its pricing and release date – as well as new product and game announcements from Microsoft, InstantAction, MySpace, Palm, Valve and more.

Along the way, we also had rare and sought-after lectures from big, often secretive names like Nintendo, Google, and World Of Warcraft creator Blizzard, as well as a ‘surprise’ secret lecture at the end of the conference from ‘Phaedrus’, aka SimCity and The Sims creator Will Wright – here’s a round-up of the top announcements and lectures over on our own Gamasutra.

The big media was out in force, too – with the BBC running a piece on social gaming’s rise at the show and CNET/CNN also running a very positive piece on iPhone games and the show overall. And of course, the major game sites like GameSpot have big GDC microsites — including, in their case, videos of the Choice and IGF Awards — for those who’d like to see more.

Overall, we had a really amazing show, and you can see lots of photos (over 500, in fact!) from GDC 2010 at our official Flickr page – now roll on GDC Canada (Vancouver, May), GDC Europe (Cologne, Germany, August), GDC Online (Austin, October), and GDC China (Shanghai, December) — all of which should keep me busy for a while, blimey!

Moving Along… Somewhere!

nynyWow, well firstly, thanks for all the comments on my announcement of my net.label Monotonik going on hiatus. I know there were a lot of people out there who cared about it and the musicians on it, but it was great to see feedback from artists and fans alike.

Anyhow, one of the (many) reasons Monotonik is shuttered for now would be my day job, since I’ve just been promoted and will now, well, quoting extensively: “take leadership of Think Services’ Game Group, a division of London-headquartered United Business Media, as Global Brand Director.”

Furthermore: “In his new role, Carless will be responsible for the strategy and vision for the group’s portfolio of products, which currently include the industry-leading Game Developers Conferences (GDC, GDC Europe, GDC Austin, GDC China, and GDC Canada), as well as renowned game website Gamasutra.com, the Gamasutra Network of websites, and Game Developer magazine.”

So, I’ve been involved in some of this already, obviously. But I’m now also officially overseeing the awesome GDC shows, as well as our magazine and websites. As I mention, I’m jazzed to be both keeping up our current lines and expanding the Game Group to help game creators in new ways. Or that’s the plan – watch this space!

Otherwise, I’m just back from a random trip to New York, fortunately not very work-related, and I’m recovering from a cold and digging in for the hectic pre-GDC 2010 season, while keeping up with all the regular fun and games. Happy holidays to all!