I registered today for this year's Austin Game Conference. I'll be there for the full three days, and I hope I'll get to meet up with some of my fellow bloggers during that time.
Brent and Michael will be involved in a panel on "alternative media" (like blogging sites), so be sure to check it out if you're there. I noticed that Raph and Damion Schubert are presenting.
I've got some friends in Austin, so maybe I can talk one of 'em into firing up the grill and treating you foreigners to a real Texas steak or brisquet. ;) I was born in New Orleans, but I've lived in Texas pretty much all my life. So I guess that makes me the host, even though I don't live in Austin.
I'll be bringing my guitar this time around (to Austin, not to the conference), so at least I can entertain you with my own mix of Southern rock and early 90's hair bands. Don't worry -- only upon request. ;) I'm bringing it just to play an Austin friend my new songs.
Actually, I'm a pretty reserved, laid-back kind of guy, so don't expect any wild events with me. I skipped the pub crawl last year because I knew I couldn't handle it. I drink a few times per year, but I generally avoid alcohol due to an almost total lack of body fat and a digestive problem with grains like barley and wheat. Still, I enjoy just sitting back with a few friends over some Heineken and talking. That's the Gulf Coast Southerner in me, I guess -- I can sit out on a patio or porch and talk the whole day long.
I went to last year's because it was the only industry conference within my budget and the only one within a thousand miles of here. Really, it saddens me that the game industry hasn't grown much along the Gulf Coast, but at least Texas is blooming.
I really enjoyed last year's conference. I've still got all of my notes. I spent most of my time at the writers' conference (I'm not a programmer or artist, afterall), but I ventured into the MMO side when I could.
Mark Terrano of Hidden Path Entertainment gave the best presentation, in my opinion. He had a lot of insights into games in general. One of his more interesting ideas was about designing games for spectators, not just the gamers. Afterall, friends and family don't have to be able to play with you in order to heighten your gameplay experience; they just have to share your enthusiasm. Being able to share is an important element of any entertainment experience, and it doesn't have to take the form of multiplayer modes.
Tom Abernathy of Pandemic Studios, with help, hosted a great talk about comedy in games. What I got most out of that is the importance of timing in comedy and the difficulty of pitching a game centered in comedy to publishers. He also got me wondering about the possibility of a comedic sandbox... allowing players to create and find humorous situations not directly developed by the studio.
Damion of Bioware-Austin gave a good talk on why MMO developers like different elements of the model that keeps getting used over and over again. While I didn't agree with him on everything, he was right in saying people should try to understand the thought processes that resulted in the design models they want to abandon. He also had a good point about considering long and hard whether or not you're intended innovation is cost-effective. It might be awesome, but you probably won't have all the time (or money) in the world to get it realized and polished.
Monica Evans, a graduate student at the University of Texas, and Dean Terry, her professor, had a lot of interesting questions about online environments. Monica compared World of Warcraft to the big musicals that preceded more intimate dramas in the film industry.
Those are just a few of the talks I really enjoyed at last year's AGC. Really, there were only a couple talks I attended that were not very impressive.
I'll post my attendance schedule for this year's AGC sometime in the coming weeks.
P.S. I'll be applying for jobs while I'm there. So if anyone's interested in offering an interview, I'd be more than happy to make time for it.