In Depth: GDC 2014: what to expect from this year’s conference

Thursday, February 20th 2014. | Games News

From March 17- March 21, the San Francisco Moscone Center will play host to thousands of gaming industry professionals, aspiring developers and press alike for the 2014 Game Developers Conference.

Last year’s GDC saw whispers of the PlayStation 4 and hints of the Xbox One, but now with the two major consoles outed, what could GDC 2014 possibly bring to the table?

The short answer? Plenty.

CES 2014 made sure to show off the Steam Machines and we’re betting there will be more face time with each unique box during GDC. We’re also putting our money down on seeing more virtual reality devices, indie games and perhaps sneak peeks of upcoming triple A titles.

For the long answer, check out our list below for more on what we expect to see during the conference.

Valve’s big year to continue

We’ve seen the 13 Steam Boxes from various companies, along with the SteamOS and Steam Controller – but we’ve yet to actually play with the machines themselves.

We’re hoping to see at least one Steam Machine in working order and ready for a full hands on at GDC.

With the latest news that the Controllers are seeing a total redesign, we probably won’t see the latest version up and running, but perhaps Valve will have renderings and mock ups on hand? We can hope.

Will we also see Valve’s virtual reality headset? It made appearances at the recent Steam Dev Days where attendees took it for a spin, but it seems the company has no plans to continue the project … or does it? We’ll find out at the conference.

The reigning VR champ

Speaking of virtual reality, we’d be remiss to leave out the headset that everyone’s dying to get their hands on – the Oculus Rift.

Only the developer kit is out and we’ve seen the Rift make a lot of progress; the Crystal Cove prototype thankfully includes positional head-tracking and low persistence, both of which help make the virtual reality experience even more immersive and addresses some users’ complaints, including motion blur-induced nausea.

Crystal Cove will most likely be on display at GDC but hopefully the folks at Oculus will have a bit more news to share – like when we’ll be able to dive into gaming at home.

Amazon – what?

Amazon console

Yup, Amazon. It’s one of the biggest e-commerce sites, and with the addition of Killer Instinct studio Double Helix, it seems the company wants to be even bigger.

The rumored Amazon console is also looking more and more likely, though it’s doubtful Amazon will actually unveil any hardware next month.

However, it’s possible the company will divulge information on its purchase and maybe reveal some nuggets about its plans for the gaming studio. We can’t imagine it’d pass up the chance to get game developers excited and on board if it’s plans do extend to gaming.

Sony’s big, big plans

The PlayStation 4 has proven to be a huge hit but what’s Sony got up its sleeves now? Well, earlier in January Tony Clark, director of business development at Sony, tweeted, “This is such a MASSIVE year coming up! Lots on for #PS4 #PS3 #PSVita at #GDC #E3 #Gamescom and so much more! Exciting!”

The PS Vita Slim will naturally be a big talking point. Already out in other parts of the world, the Vita Slim is seeing a spring 2014 US release, so it’s obvious Sony will want a lot of buzz around the smaller – but still powerful – beauty.

PS Vita Slim

In case you didn’t know, Sony also has its own virtual reality headset in the works. Well, it’s rumored to have one, but really it’s not surprising since the company already has the Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D Viewer, a device that has stayed in the shadows because of it’s huge price tag and lackluster abilities.

With the advent of more virtual reality headsets, Sony is definitely looking to improve and get in the game (pun intended) with a better head mounted display, and here’s hoping we’ll see something more solid at GDC.

The future of free to play games on Sony’s PS platforms will also be discussed – plus expect to hear more about new features for the PS4, PS3 and definitely more demos of PlayStation Now.

Microsoft looking to expand Live, and more

Xbox One

Like Sony, Microsoft already has its Xbox One out in the world. The question is, what’s next?

Judging from the panels Microsoft will be presenting, SmartGlass and cross-screen applications will be a major talking point.

Similarly, it seems the expansion of Xbox Live is in the books with Microsoft hoping devs will be able to better see Live’s capabilities and the “exciting opportunities” it affords.

Indie games more popular than ever

Tech conferences are meccas for start ups, and it’s no different for indie devs. With the meteoric rise of many lesser-known gaming titles over the years, GDC 2014 will be a popular stomping ground for said developers as they try to woo and win over the crowd.

The Independent Games Festival awards is in its sixteenth year and will take place right before the GDC Choice Awards. The IGF has given away tons of money in support and recognition of the latest fantastic displays of indie game development.

Among the eight summits, Peter Molyneux is a big name attached to the Independent Summit. He ventured back to indie gaming in 2012 and will be giving a talk called “From Indie to AAA to Indie: The Rebirth of Design” on March 18 – where he will discuss his experiences in both types of studios.

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