GDC '08: Community gaming Gears up Microsoft keynote

New XNA/Xbox Live program to distribute independent developers' titles unveiled; cross-platform gaming coming to Zune; 1 billion achievements unlocked; Gears of War sequel official.

SAN FRANCISCO--The 2007 Game Developers Conference was blessed with two of the highest-profile speakers in the game industry: Sony Worldwide Studios president Phil Harrison, who unveiled the PlayStation 3's home service, and Shigeru Miyamoto, who picked up a lifetime-achievement award. This year, the keynotes were a bit lower-profile, coming from John Schappert, corporate vice president of Live, software and services, and futurist Ray Kurzweil.

Although the latter keynote will likely be more conceptual, the former built up quite a head of speculative steam (despite being somewhat preempted by Nintendo's announcement of the WiiWare and Wii Fit launch date). The previous day, two lower-profile presentations hinted that Schappert would announce a new version of Microsoft's XNA development toolset as well as the launch of 360/PC-mobile crossover play via Live Anywhere.

Add murmurs of a Gears of War 2 announcement, and the cauldron of rumors about Schappert's keynote--titled "A Future Wide Open: Unleashing the Creative Community"-- was at a full boil hours before the event got underway. Long before the doors of the South Hall of the Moscone Convention Center opened, people gathered outside to ensure themselves a seat--and were herded out of the rain into the futuristic expo venue's North Hall. Before long, though, the sun broke through the clouds, which allowed eager and damp developers, executives, and reporters access to fill into the sprawling space.

[10:23] The South Hall seats about 2,000 people, and it's filling up fast. Epic Games' outspoken vice president Mark Rein is sitting front and center in the second row. Is this a sign of what's to come?

[10:23] Techno remix of James Bond theme plays as a booming voice tells the crowd to sit down.

[10:25] At least seven languages can be heard amid the din of the crowd. A group of boisterous Japanese reporters jostle for position in front of the stage, with pink-shirted GDC staffers and chicly attired PR reps eyeing them warily.

[10:26] An animation of an ever-shifting organizational tree shifts onscreen, with various technical terms bouncing around.

[10:27] The omnipresent, invisible announcer tells people to sit down--presentation will start in 1 minute.

[10:28] The crowd complies as Sony Worldwide Studios president Phil Harrison casually strolls up to the VIP area. He seems pretty cheery for being in the den of the enemy.

[10:30] GDC director Jamil Moledina takes the stage and makes reference to the presidential race. "Change is a powerful motivating factor this year in politics and development." He says "dissolving" the boundaries between casual, hardcore, and social gamer is a top trend.

[10:31] Moledina talks up Schappert's resume as Tiburon founder, former EA worldwide studios president.

[10:32] Schappert takes the stage and jokes with the audience. "Sorry, no game tattoos to show or truckloads of HDTVs to give away," he quips, referencing past Microsoft GDC and E3 presentations.

[10:32] He's on to his roots now as a hobbyist programmer, and his first game: Desert Strike for the SNES.

[10:33] Next up is Madden Football 1992, another of his first big games. Video clip shows the infamous ambulance taking the football field.

[10:34] Schappert says in the past, game budgets were in the tens of thousands of dollars. Now, they're in the tens of millions.

[10:35] Now it's applause-line time: Tells audience to give themselves a hand. "Developers are the true pioneers of the industry."

[10:36] On to his new gig with a brief history of the Xbox and the Xbox 360. He says the console's online functionality was the key to innovation.

[10:36] Says according to Jupiter Research, games have now eclipsed music in terms of worldwide revenue.

[10:38] Schappert says that the problem with the Xbox 360 was that it was out of stock due to so many popular games. Singles out BioShock, Mass Effect, Call of Duty 4, Guitar Hero III, and Assassin's Creed as all selling over 1 million units on the 360 alone during the holiday season.

[10:40] Now it's time to talk up achievements. "It's changed the way people have played games." Announces that as of this morning, over 1 BILLION achievement points have been unlocked. "One Billion Achievements Unlocked!" award pops on the screen with the distinctive sound.

[10:42] Whoa: Over 100,000 pieces of user-created Halo 3 content are uploaded each day. Schappert says that's 30 percent more than all the video clips uploaded to YouTube each day.

[10:43] Silenced cell phones start popping with text messages that Gears of War 2 has just been announced...in Italy? Hooray trans-Atlantic PR SNAFUs!

[10:45] Cue clip reel with developers talking up Xbox 360. Bethesda's Todd Howard jokes that he thought achievement points could be used as Microsoft Points to buy things on Xbox Live. He asks incredulously, "You mean I'm not earning money by doing this?"

[10:46] End cue reel. Schappert takes the stage to talk XNA Game Studio and how it lets indie developers make games. As an example, he mentions the recently released Poker Smash.

[10:48] "There are thousands of developers out there chomping at the bit--we need to unlock this potential," says Schappert before introducing XNA chief Chris Satchell.

[10:49] The imposing but amicable Satchell runs down how Microsoft has "democratized game development" by handing out XNA Game Studio to 400 schools.

[10:50] For four months, Microsoft received 200 XNA game submissions from independent developers, and chose four finalists.

[10:52] Short comedy clip profiles one of the winners, James Silva. The poor guy is shown being harassed by Larry "Major Nelson" Hryb, who is the host of a fake True Hollywood Story-type show about him.

[10:53] Hryb asks to meet Silva's development team. "Uh, they're at an offsite," he says, before a fast-motion clip shows he did all the dev duties himself.

[10:53] Silva takes the stage to show off his game, Dishwasher.

[10:54] "When I was working as a dishwasher, I thought it would be a great to make a game about a dishwasher that kills everyone," says Silva. "Now, thanks to XNA, I can...and I can also wear sweatpants around my apartment all day."

[10:55] Here it is: Starting this year, Xbox Live will launch a new service, Community Games.

[10:56] "We need to put the power in the hands of the community...and we'll do that by democratizing the development process," says Satchell.

[10:58] Developers will be giving "creator identities" very similar to Gamertags; it will track what games you've made and submitted. When games are submitted, they'll have ratings for various factors such as violence. The games will then be reviewed by other game creators to vet for objectionable content.

[10:59] If a creator's game passes all those tests--voila!--it goes on Xbox Live. Satchel estimates that at least 1,000 games will be on Xbox Live via this service by next year.

[11:01] Satchell shows various cute games made on the service. One, called Little Gamers, shows exactly what isn't objectionable content: a Peanuts-like child drinking beer and shooting zombies with shotguns. "Beer and shotguns--it's a great combination!"

[11:02] Surprise! The four games shown today are now available in demo form on Xbox Live.

[11:03] Now Satchell shows off one of the first games that can be played on Xbox 360, a laptop, and...the Zune!

[11:05] It's a arcade shooter reminiscent of Galaga called Xuna, and it can also be played on mobile phones, apparently. However, it's just a test program used up at Microsoft's Redmond campus. No release details.

[11:07] Satchell yields the stage to Michael Capps from Epic to "show off the next generation of the Unreal Engine on the Xbox 360."

[11:07] "You remember a little game we released called Gears of War..." he says to applause.

[11:09] After a brief plug for Unreal Engine 3, Tim Sweeney takes the stage to show off some conceptual footage of "what Gears of Wars might look like using the latest version of UE3."

[11:10] Sweeney shows off how much better the shading and character detail is with the new version of UE3. And then--BOOM!--a clip of a thousands-strong Locust horde running through a ruined city. Very impressive.

[11:12] Now it's time to show slicker water effects by having Marcus Fenix toss barrels into a lake at sunset. Then it's time to show off tissue effects by having Fenix fight a gigantic "cube of meat."

[11:13] Some very impressive destruction effects are shown off...and then the Unreal guys walk off. The words "Gears of War 2" and "sequel" are never mentioned.

[11:14] Schappert's back. He predicts 1,000 games on the Xbox 360 platform by year's end, "not including the community games." He touts recent releases, such as Lost Odyssey.

[11:15] Now looking out to 2008: Grand Theft Auto IV launches April 2008, with the first new 360-exclusive episode available in the fall. Schappert repeats that for emphasis--and to applause.

[11:17] "Please welcome Team Ninja executive director Tomonobu Itagaki to show us the Xbox Live exclusive Ninja Gaiden 2!" Thunderous applause as he walks out in his trademark sunglasses and leather jacket.

[11:18] Via a translator, Itagaki shows off the latest build of the game, fresh off the plane from Tokyo.

[11:19] Demo begins as the translator picks up the controller--which promptly disconnects and reconnects. "See, this is on real hardware," he jokes.

[11:20] Demo shows Ryu Hayabusa in a Mordor-like city of the dead fighting some long-limbed purple demons.

[11:21] He makes short work of them and then takes on another batch of similar demons--with armor and chainsaw arms! One demon stuffs a saw into Ryu's chest. A couple of fiery spells later, though, and all his opponents are dust.

[11:23] Using a long staff with spiked balls on either end, Ryu rips a demon in half, with fountains of blood spewing everywhere. He then makes his way to a save point on a path to a massive, dark ziggurat.

[11:23] Taking a cue from Halo 3, each save point will let players save video clips of their kills. The best players can upload said videos onto leaderboards for others to watch.

[11:25] Ryu returns to slaughter some ninjas. Limbs and chunks of flesh fly everywhere--the man is a human Cuisinart.

[11:26] After torching some winged demons with some more fiery ninpo action, Ryu confronts a massive demon boss, who shouts "Impudent monkeys, submit to the archfiend or die!" Ninja Gaiden II logo comes up. Crowd goes wild.

[11:27] Itagaki reiterates that the game is an Xbox 360 exclusive. It ships in North America on June 3, with the rest of the world to follow later on in the month.

[11:29] Now it's Peter Molyneux's turn to take the stage. Apparently Fable sold 3 million copies on the original Xbox, so it's no surprise that he's here to talk about Fable 2.

[11:32] Molyneux is here to talk about "several new features" in Fable 2. The first is a pub game that looks like a combination of roulette and craps. And the game is actually a separate Xbox Live Arcade game that will let people gamble and win money, which can then be imported into Fable 2. The game--called "Keystone"--will be released on XBLA a few weeks before Fable 2 "so you can save up money."

[11:34] Molyneux then shows off his Fable 2 character, a pregnant female warrior, before announcing another new feature: dynamic co-op play integrated into the game. It will allow people to be called into a game at any time using their gamertag.

[11:36] After summoning a friend, Molyneux battles some foes using Fable 2's "dynamic crescendo combat system," which lets players use one button for swords and another for ranged attacks.

[11:38] Molyneux's character then returns to her home after a six-month absence. Her son admonishes her for being gone so long. Her husband also nags her, leading his co-op partner to blow off said husband's head and laugh. Apparently such actions are irreversible, so Molyneux tells the crowd to "be careful who you invite into your world."

[11:38] Schappert hops back on stage to wrap up. He goes over the presentation's main point, which is that developers "see farther" and "are the future."

[11:39] Then--BANG! Lights go down, all-red trailer showing Marcus Fenix and Locusts comes on.

[11:40] After the obligatory chainsawing, logo for Gears of War 2 comes on the screen.

[11:40] Cliffy B then chainsaws through a sheet behind the stage trhough a puff of smoke.

[11:41] "Gears of War one was a setup," he says, "Gears of War 2 will be much bigger and available exclusively on Xbox 360 in November 2008."

[11:42] And that's it! Check back later today for GameSpot's full video coverage of the event.

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284 comments
GTARulez
GTARulez

Microsoft Studios make gr8 games

Sammojo
Sammojo

So many good games........

DGeraghty1
DGeraghty1

Here's a thought...how about we get the roll out of XBox Live finalized for the regions it's been released in first BEFORE trying to add new features! I am so sick of seeing all the content available through Live in the EU and US, while we are left here in Australia paying more for a significantly stripped down service!!

Aerialslayer
Aerialslayer

Microsoft is coming back!! Awesome i can't wait for these amazing games.

sampleking
sampleking

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

potatoesman
potatoesman

i understand this is microsofts keynote, but i havent seen much on wii accept brawl. and yes i see gimmick as i have spent soo much time trying to enjoy my friends wii (usually drunk) but the games (ive played 20 odd) just dont hold me.. i was innocently curious as to how the owners feel because its a big year for the big consoles.

Franzkill
Franzkill

potatoesman next gen (hardware wise) does not include the Wii for a reason. Because it has severe hardware limitations as opposed to a high end PC, PS3 or 360. If developers really want to stretch the limits of whats being seen in the console market today then the Wii isn't really the best place to begin.

thk123
thk123

@potatoesman Well 2 things. Firstly, the games I want here aren't coming to PS3, so your statement should really be "how does this make wii owners feel, the wii owners who dont own xbox360s" Second point, this being a Microsoft speech, it is hardly going to have Nintendo releases in. I am a Wii60 owner, so I do fall in to your category, however, I wouldn't be upset if all I owned was a Wii. My no. 1 game for this year is Brawl. A Wii exclusive. While I agree that 3rd party Wii games haven't been great, the titles I am looking forward to on 360 are also 1st party. On top of which, while the Wii is still the best selling console, games are still going to coming to it. Furthermore, MoH Heroes just cracked, IMO, the 1st person shooter control scheme. Ergo, there will, with any luck, be a quality FPS coming to the Wii some time in the near future. If I were a game developer, I would love to developing for the Wii. The potential in that little remote keeps amazing me. I am no fan boy, but I just see potential where you see gimmick. Sorry about the length, btw :P

potatoesman
potatoesman

how does this make wii owners feel, the wii owners who dont own xbox360s or ps3s?

blaze11987
blaze11987

hmm, i highly doubt that epic will meet their promise of a november release for gears of war 2 unless its being in development for a long time before the anouncement. fingers crossed though

Spartan_418
Spartan_418

This year's GDC was so much better than last year's E3 in terms of new announcements and developments. I bet you anything E3 '08 is gonna be just another round of 'Nintendo thinks it's better than everyone else'.

iuns
iuns

xbox 360 ftw !! can't wait for gears of war 2 !!

NND1
NND1

I have been playing my friends ps3 and all I can say is that I am glad to have my 360

GrimGravy
GrimGravy

dont know how i am gonna buy all these games going out for sony and ms this year

xavier14
xavier14

I want APB,Gears Of war 2,Ninja gaiden 2, halo wars, and many more, this is why the 360 is better.i need like a thousand for all these games.

conradgeneral
conradgeneral

250112 GS?! Holy Crap! Moly is not a developer, he plays in his Xbox all day! XD

Depresso
Depresso

Well, it all looks amazing. I just hope they don't forget to add some really huge multiplayer maps. Gears is the only game I play.

Norbert76
Norbert76

With Gears of War 2, APB, Ninja Gaiden 2, Fable 2, Too Human, GTA 4 Exclusive content, Supreme Commander, XBLA community, Postal 3, Alan Wake, 2 days to Vegas, Halo Wars, etc it looks like X360 is going to have a pretty good year. Check out APB, its a GTA MMO and it looks sweet.

Sumotaii
Sumotaii

got a 360, don't have a ps3, but great year i hope for both. will own a ps3 as soon as twisted metal comes out for it. Street Fighter 4, StarCraft 2, Resident Evil 5. My 90's are back. King of the Fighters 12 looks great.

dmish82
dmish82

@314314 GOW2 was the first game I have listed for the 360

T070Y
T070Y

This year is an great year for videogames, so save up some buck for some!

rkgambill
rkgambill

I'm very much looking forward to getting some games up and running on the XBLA Community Games. The only downside is that XNA is all based on C# coding instead of C++.. Ah well... I suppose it's because C# is easier and they want to offer the ability to create games to those people who do not have a strong coding background.

devilscry
devilscry

So whens this Live feed of the GDC supposed to start?

gww101
gww101

I think this years great for action lover like myself, gears, Battlefield, Resistance and so much more haha freeking great.

Martin_G_N
Martin_G_N

This year will be awesome for the PS3 and X360. A lot of good games are coming out for both consoles. I have a PS3, and I look forward to be playing the exclusives, just like x360 owners look forward to be playing they're exclusives.

Adamlenn2
Adamlenn2

GOW 2 is going to be so cool. With the new Unreal Engine technology being added to GOW 2, like being able to blow a hole in the wall with the torkbow is awesome.

carljohnson3456
carljohnson3456

Ah man, I cant beleive Gears 2 by November. Easily the best game in recent times. Cant. freaking. wait.

314314
314314

hey dmish82 don't forget gears of war2

Atheno
Atheno

Both systems, PS3 and Xbox 360 are looking great. Have to pick up a 360 soon, just waiting for more improvements to the system it self.

Josepiphus
Josepiphus

Great keynote this year. Every game presented looks fantastic. The lineup already looks amazing and you know there's gonna be a plethora of previously unseen releases at E3. I wish I could retired or take a year off.... I still have games from 07 that need playing!

AtlanticRock
AtlanticRock

2008 is going to be bananas! More Action games please... cool off with the FPS

4themob1
4themob1

I'm just glad that I don't have to choose because I have both systems. The future looks bright for game players.

dooguesgoober4
dooguesgoober4

FraserAlexander: You must've missed my post when I said that I do own a 360 and I bought it specifically for GeOW. In my opinion, you dont know what youre talking about.

shiro_me
shiro_me

Is there or is there not a video of this microsoft keynote. Why can't I find this anywhere?

dmish82
dmish82

Really, 2008 will be big for PS3 AND 360. I'm a PS3 owner but look at the lineup for both systems: PS3 Resistance 2 Killzone 2 MGS4 Gran Turismo Prologue Little Big Planet Infamous Haze (I'm not so sure about this one anymore???) 360 GOW 2 ( I didn't like the first but overall it was well received) Ninja Gaiden II Too Human Fable 2 It's gonna be a HUGE year for both!

commonblu
commonblu

Gears 2 is gonna blow the first one away! And as for rushing it, it'll be two years in Nov. plenty of time to make a sequel especially when you already have a formula to work with. Vegas 2 is coming out a year and a half after the first one and it looks sweet. why can't epic do it?

jtthegame316
jtthegame316

2007 p3 no good games that did not come on the xbox. 2007 360 games like halo 3 and bioshock that are not on the ps 3 as well as any good game that is on the ps3 and plently cool xbla stuff

sacker63
sacker63

normsta who are you to say that they aren't going all out on this game? Also, Microsoft wouldn't push the game back or release it too soon. Epic would. Good thing you know what you're talking about.... oh wait you don't.

jawshoeuh
jawshoeuh

i love my ps3 and all, but all the people who are calling 2008 the "year of the ps3" need to have their heads examined. it will be a better year for the ps3 than 2007, but 2007 will not be hard to beat. these are definitely some great 360 exclusives coming out that i can't wait to play.

d_love
d_love

Microsoft has an opportunity with Gears 2 that I hope they do not screw up. This game DESERVES to be H-U-G-E.

joey4uncw
joey4uncw

I'm looking forward to Gers 2 hopefully it will be good and expand on the original in a good way. They talk as though the second one has been in development since about the same time as the first one so I have high hopes. I hope there will be a good new game or two not just seconds of ones that have already been sucesses. But I doubt it. Maybe I'm just negative.

pudgeman007
pudgeman007

normsta u siad it.. this is how microsoft messed up last generation.,, playing catch up to sony lol

rasterror
rasterror

Watched the keynote address on Live and I have to say I'm excited for what is coming out. I love the easy to pickup and play Market Place games almost as much as the huge titles. I can't wait to see where MS is going next.

bullsfan1512
bullsfan1512

im mean, dang....watch the tech demo featuring GEars of War 2....wow...can't wait man!!

masterclone
masterclone

Very excited about fable 2 after seeing that demonstration :) *drool*

normsta
normsta

Gears of war 2!? man why so fast! it's gonna blow there only rushing it because the ps3 is starting to own. looks like there going to mess it up or push back the date by one year. man i'm really starting to hate M$ this games going to be so short again and crappy. if only they would go all out on this game.

harm0n1ca
harm0n1ca

Gears is easily my favourite game thus far on 360. Here's to Epic keeping the winning formula and only improving what's already there.