Each year, the GDC in San Francisco offers an incredible array of information, networking opportunities and chances to see friends old and new. GDC 2012 was certainly no different! Since the experience is so overwhelmingly broad, here are just a few highlights from my trip this year.
First off, there were a few stand-out presentations on Game Audio. The game audio community is comprised of some of the finest composers, engineers and sound designers working today and a few of those were on hand to share some experience in a presentation.
Austin Wintory talked about the arc of storytelling that a great score can imbue in a game, and paralleled to that the arc of the life of the composer and design team as the game and score develop over time. Aside from the fact that he is a bad-ass composer, Austin managed to keep a room full of accomplished composers at full attention with his presentation. His latest project, Journey, was released yesterday to rave reviews.
Famed Halo Composer Marty O’Donnell and Bungie User Researcher Brandi House gave a talk on using metrics and test data to examine the emotional impact of music on the listener. This was particularly interesting to me as my sister company, IV Music, is an audio branding company specializing in just this. Marty’s unique approach was, basically, “I know what works on a gut level, but it’s nice to have some data to discuss with the developers to back me up.”
Garry Schyman and Jason Graves talked in depth about using Aleatoric techniques in scores. Wonderfully presented, with some great listening examples and scores to follow along with, it was an inspiring talk.
My good friend Dren McDonald has been working on audio for social games for the past few years, and gave a killer presentation on the challenges and solutions of creative audio for flash based games (principally the ones on Facebook.)
The 10th Annual G.A.N.G. (Game Audio Network Guild) awards show had it’s usual share of surprises, but this year included presentation of the Distinguished Service award to myself. Frankly, I was shocked speechless. Had I had my wits about me, I’d have said something to the effect of, “I really get so much more from this community than I could ever give. I feel like I should be giving each of you an award.” Alas, all I could get out was, “um…. er.”
There were some AMAZING indie games being shown and I had so much fun talking to the Devs about their projects. I especially enjoyed talking with Mihn Le (of Counter-Strike fame), who has a new game coming out this summer, Tactical Intervention… very cool.
And of course spending time with friends is priceless. There are so many great folks I got to spend time with, but I especially enjoyed hanging with Jeff Schmidt, Dren McDonald, Mr. Mick Gordon, Damien Kastbauer, Lenny Moore, Paul Lipson (the guy can really play jazz guitar, by the way), Leonard Paul, Brian Schmidt, and first time chats with Stephan Schutz, Inon Zur and Gordy Haab…. aw, there’s just too many to list, so thank you all for a great week!
If you’d like to get more familiar with Video Game scores, I highly recommend “The Greatest Video Game Music” by the London Philharmonic Orchestra as fantastic introduction.