[Continuing his ‘Tales from the Vault’ series, official GDC historian Jason Scott debuts landmark videos featuring computer pioneer Danny Hillis, the 2004 Game Design Challenge, AI legend Marvin Minsky, and Peter Molyneux, among many others.]
This has been a long time coming. The past few months of this GDC Vault digitization process have been incredibly slow, especially in regard to this column and giving you new things to check out.
It turns out that rescuing the video and audio from these old tapes has been quite intense, and prone to all sorts of unexpected thrill and chills as I both unearthed rarities and found frustrating dead ends, meaning days of lost work. No history has been lost, of course — just time, lots of time.
Now, the whole chain of digitization, clean up, compression and prep for the web can be done on a single machine, using a variety of tools (most open-source), which I can push through pretty quickly. It still takes two to three times the length of a tape to prepare it for the web, but it’s dependable, and that’s what matters.
With a room full of tapes ready to go, I know how the next few months are going to be spent with this material. It’s obvious there are gems aplenty in this pile, and filling the GDC archives is going to be a very rewarding project.
So let’s drop some GDC history, right?
Not every keynote had to be all about the latest console or the best graphics, and GDC has peppered its lineups over the years with some intellectual heavy-hitters from the academic side, to give everyone another perspective on this things they make.
In 2000, the keynote was Dr. Daniel Hillis (called Danny Hillis in basically every documentation of the event I could find), who was a co-designer of parallel computing, co-founder of Thinking Machines, and a veteran of Walt Disney Imagineering.
His talk, presented here in full, is a one-hour rumination on the importance, nay, the critical aspect of play in scientific and intellectual discovery [GDC Vault free video]. Pulling from his years of interesting with amazing people, Hillis provides us with his thesis on how the games industry can play in the advancement of the human race.
I like to think that Dr. Hillis enjoyed his presentation enough that he contacted his old thesis adviser, the legendary Marvin Minsky, to provide a keynote a the next year. Minsky, the father of Artificial Intelligence, consultant to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, co-designer of the Logo Turtle!
Minsky’s keynote is, like a lot of his work, more in the theoretical sphere than specific to the audience he’s speaking to, but still brilliance in action. Watch for the world’s most epic water bottle spill at the end of the talk [GDC Vault free video].
I’ll be straight with you: not every single presentation I’m digitizing and uploading to the Vault is going to be compelling to you. An extended discussion about the advantage of various shaders in previous versions of DirectX probably won’t make you fumble for your snacks, wide-eyed, waiting to see what comes next. But in this collection of new videos, I don’t think anyone can resist the pure, unbridled joy of some of the panels.
One particularly entertaining session is the 2004 Game Design Challenge [GDC Vault free video], where participants are given a game theme to pursue a few months before the conference, and then present their design for the first time.
The theme this time was “The Love Story,” and the panelists Warren Spector, Will Wright, Raph Koster and Eric Zimmerman have an absolute, unfettered ball for the whole time. Jokes spray out like seltzer water, smiles are contagious, and the ideas of how to show romance in games fly back and forth like champagne. It’s a hoot.
Quite a while back, I referenced the Peter Molyneux presentation of Black and White and provided just an excerpt, and I’m happy to say it’s now online in full. From GDC 2000 and called “Using the Evolution of Black and White as an Example of Next-Generation Development Ethos” [GDC Vault free video], it’s a full walkthrough of the state of the game that Molyneux had been spending time on, along with a bonus career retrospective.
History seems to hold the opinion that Black and White did not live up to the hopes it generated, but this talk stands as an amazing back-story for what Molyneux was shooting for, and why he makes the games he does.
Finally, here’s an example of footage you’d probably never encounter in most archives. The house band for the 2002 Game Developers Choice awards was a local San Francisco band called Tipsy. At least, I’m about 99 percent sure this band is Tipsy, or it’s the world’s greatest Tipsy cover band.
At the end of the awards ceremony, the camera operators left the camera playing, and the house band on stage kept playing songs, including songs I recognized, and through some careful internet searching, discovered were the works of this band Tipsy.
On tape, while the audience filters out, or chats in front of the stage, this band plays on, running through a few great numbers, for over 15 minutes. I decided the world needed this, so please enjoy a free fifteen minute Tipsy concert on the GDC Extras collection over at the Internet Archive.