Developers, designers, programmers, and gamers all met up in the Moscone Center in San Francisco for the 2016 Game Developers Conference, where the next evolution of gaming was on display. Everyone from small, independent developers to big studios were there, and having spent the better part of the week examining all the games and technology on display, I can safely say that the future is bright.
Without a doubt, the theme of this year’s GDC was Virtual Reality. Wherever you went, there was at least something involving VR on display, from the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR (which had incredibly lengthy lines) to an area where third-party developers were demonstrating their VR technology.
A particular favorite was VirZOOM, which used a stationary bike as the controller. Players could pedal faster to accelerate in the game, and leaned to turn, trying out a series of demos for driving a racecar, tank, or even flying on a pegasus.
Of course, the big name companies had the biggest booths, and the longest lines. The PlayStation VR line was closed at max capacity early on, but the Oculus Rift had demos throughout the week.
Putting on the headset and headphones allowed for an immersive experience, and the game of EVE: Valkyrie I tried worked perfectly with it. The ship’s controllers were the same as the controller in my hand, and the camera moved wherever I turned my head. It felt like I was inside the cockpit of the spaceship as it launched into battle. Sure, I got blown up more than a few times, but it was awesome to see the ship spark and crack with every hit.
Augmented Reality is also a growing trend, particularly in mobile games that make use of the camera. Unfortunately, Pokemon Go’s session was cancelled for undisclosed reasons, but video footage was later revealed at SXSW.
Independent developers were honored as well, with a few sections for them. Microsoft’s ID@Xbox area showcased some unique games available soon on the Xbox marketplace, such as the addictive block-based puzzle game Tumblestone, or the multiplayer game Rocket Fist, whose name tells you all you need to know about the game.
The “Day of the Devs” area also showcased some unique and original games. Of particular note was the four-player combat game Arena Gods, and the simple-but-clever Line Wobbler, which just used a row of lights and a single joystick to make a very entertaining game.
The Independent Games Pavilion also had several games on display, most of which are already available, and had its own awards ceremony, where Her Story took the top prize, but Undertale managed to claim the audience’s choice, in spite of the game and its developer not being present.
Whether you were there for industry, independents, or just to check out all the upcoming games, GDC 2016 was a fascinating look at both the technological prowess of games, and the wide range of unique, entertaining games that can exist. There was so much to see and do that the full week was barely enough time for everything, but we can look forward to much from video games in the coming years.
No matter how you look at it, though, Virtual Reality is on its way, and the technology is outstanding.