The annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco isn’t traditionally known as an event where huge news is made. Rather, it’s a place for people who make the games we love to network, pick up a few pointers in one of the conference’s many seminars, and try out new technology. But each year, a few newsworthy nuggets are crammed into various seminars and keynotes. At last year’s event, Microsoft announced “Gears of War 2,” showed off “Fable II” and “Ninja Gaiden II,” as well as announced its Community Games program.
This year, it was Nintendo’s turn to give the big keynote presentation. After leading off with the perfunctory staggering sales figures for the Wii, Nintendo’s executives revealed “Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks,” a new game for the DS. A new title for the Balance Board sold with “Wii Fit” will let you rock-climb virtually. Called “Rock and Roll Climber” it features a character who, upon reaching the end of his climb, picks up a guitar and plays a riff. My coworker Bruce Baird is a rock climber in his spare time. I’ll have to ask him if he’s ever tried that.
If you download WiiWare and Virtual Console games, but are driven batty by the Wii’s lack of a hard drive and support for only 2 gigabyte SD cards, you’ll be thrilled with the news that the console’s operating system has been reworked to allow support for up to 32 gigs of data. No more fumbling through a stack of memory cards in search of the one that has “Sin and Punishment” on it. If you’re looking for stuff to put on the larger memory cards, you could try any one of the upcoming “Final Fantasy” titles announced at the conference.
Outside of Nintendo’s keynote, a new piece of technology promised to be a game-changer, letting us play high-end PC titles with little more than a TV and a controller. The idea behind the OnLive gaming service is that the company will use its own high-end computers to run the software, streaming games’ video to players’ TV sets. At the same time, you’ll play the game with a controller, with your inputs being sent over the Internet to OnLive’s servers. There’d never be any need to buy a new console every five years, as the onus would be on OnLive to keep its technology current.
Unfortunately, some experts were skeptical on how such a system would actually work on a massive scale, given lag and bandwidth issues. It’s totally cool to demonstrate this sort of technology for a couple of people at a time, but how will OnLive’s network handle the demands of thousands of users scattered all over the country, using an Internet infrastructure that’s nowhere near as fast as those found in countries such as South Korea.
Elsewhere at GDC, “LittleBigPlanet” and “Fallout 3” cleaned up when the Game Developer Awards for titles released last year were given out. This makes sense, given that I probably had the most fun playing those two titles, along with “Left 4 Dead” and “Culdcept Saga,” which is too niche to win anything. Also winning awards were “Dead Space,” “World of Goo,” “Prince of Persia” and “God of War: Chains of Olympus.”
Activision announced a sequel to “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.” Simply titled “Modern Warfare 2,” the game will be out Nov. 10.” The trailer is burning up the Internet, Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. In other hot trailer news, about 20 seconds of gameplay from “God of War III” for the PlayStation 3 were shown following a technical discussion by a couple of Sony programmers. It’s not an official trailer, but it was apparently good enough to drop a few jaws.
Microsoft reps showed off “Kodu” an upcoming piece of game-design software that lets programming-illiterate noobs design their own games. You can check out Stephen Totilo’s impressions of “Kodu” over at the MTV Multiplayer blog.
In other Microsoft-related news, Lionhead Games’ Peter Molyneux discussed the next piece of downloadable content for “Fable II” (rated M, $60 on Xbox 360) and hinted that the studio’s next, as-yet-unannounced game could be revealed at E3 this summer.