|September 15, 2006|
|Austin Game Conference 2006: Writers, Musicians and Yep, Online Games|
Another year, another Austin Game Conference is in the rearview mirror. Around 2,400 attendees filled the Austin Convention Center, from September 6-8, 2006, for the fourth annual iteration of this staple on the gaming event calendar. There were a few notable omissions from the program this year (particular the Women’s Game Conference, ostensibly replaced by the new Game Audio Conference) and a few equally notable inclusions from the past year. Blizzard Entertainment had a keynote speaker and booth presence this year, unlike the last year when they were noticeably focused on their BlizzCon event. In fact, subjectively speaking, for the first time in the short history of the AGC show, there were no major gaps of “who’s who” in the business, especially in terms of the companies represented. Dell, a major Austin presence as businesses go, also stepped up to the plate in a fairly splashy way, with Dell’s chairman Michael Dell speaking on the expo floor about their role in the gaming PC hardware aspect and a “Dell ArtZONE” area, bristling with new hardware and forbiddingly technical hands-on tutoring in Autodesk and Softimage.
Game&Game: After a hiatus of a year from the Austin Game Conference, Game&Game is back, now under the guidance of the Korean government-backed agency, KIPA. Not only were they occupying a good-sized chunk of floor space, they also are in the midst of a Cabal Online by ESTSoft, a fantasy MMORPG and Trickster by NetMarble, also a fantasy MMORPG were shown from their corner of the hall.
GaiaX: GaiaX, a Japanese online gaming community business, showed off three anime- styled MMO games. One game that was featured prominently was Twinkle, a casual racing-themed game (where you actually raise and grow your vehicles, Pokemon-style) –and the game is actually aimed at teenage and young adult women, an otherwise overlooked demographic. The other two MMO games shown had a similarly cute anime styling and casual, breezy game play to them, an arena game of tag and kick the can for younger audiences and a bowling game.
GoPets: If you haven’t heard of GoPets before, think of Tamagotchi merged with an international online park where virtual polygonal dog and cats pets come to play. Their presence was in large measure a means of promoting their new API that allows developers to create mini-games, with profit in mind, to include in the GoPets game.
Vircion: So, (if you have a lot of spare time on your hands) you think all IT-oriented companies are mild-mannered copycats of each other? Not Vircion, who is working on a hardware-based solution that allows any console system owners, for example, to play with others console system owners remotely through a centralized hub system, as long as you have sufficiently capable bandwidth. The same concept can be applied to multimedia content as well. Imagine playing Mario Party on a GameCube from a laptop, a cell-phone or a desktop PC – as long as you’re comfortable interfacing with the respective pluses and minuses of each system controller or interface. The software side The V-Spot system technology is in beta and will be aimed at both private and commercial use when launched. This is a technology that should be very interesting to watch as it develops.
Best of the Rest
MMOG Rant Session: This particular MMOG rant proved to be reminiscent in many ways of the unscripted often Mature-rated Game Developers Conference rants that have become famous (or infamous, depending on perspective). In this instance, industry luminaries, such as Scott Jennings, NCSoft senior designer, Matt Firor, late of Mythic Entertainment, Lorin Jameson, technical director for Sony Online in Austin, and Gordon Walton and Rich Vogel of Bioware Austin headlined the panel, which was moderated by Jessica Mulligan.
Much of the ranting was designed to deliver familiar, venting broadsides at the industry in general, which in general succeeded in their intent. Issues about innovation, what World of WarCraft does right and does wrong, customer service, business models were the topics du jour. In short, the rant was entertaining and the best parts eminently quotable -- if you don’t mind censoring every other word. I know, I know, I’m a tease.
Old Skool Gamers: Who are these guys – and where do they get their energy from? I’ve never seen Steve Williams and company from Old Skool Gamers before, but seeing their podcasting crew in action roaming the floor, snatching people from their booths and from the floor for ad hoc interview, I have to say, they added a sincere and energetic shot in the arm to a familiar and staid conference formula.
The K2 Party: An amped-up party compared to last year’s quiet, modest celebration. The party at the Sky Lounge was packed elbow-to-elbow for the most part and LOUD enough to even deafen your future children and grand-children, but the dance floor was cleared out for some very talented gravity-defying dancers. The Old Skool guys were there also, jumped in and showed us that, yes, gamers too can dance.
The Austin Game Conference came in a dark horse entry in the game expo sweeps this year, and left a winner, bringing in more attendees than expected, filling the expo area, and throwing in a few curveballs as events, side shows and parties go. Sure, there were flaws as their often are: One speaker complained to me that the first day alone that few of the sessions were informative and even well-organized to him, but he still said, “(The) Austin (Game Conference) is the best game conference show of its kind in this business, either personally or professionally.”
Written by Paul Philleo
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