[Continuing his ‘GDC 25’ archival research ahead of the 25th Game Developers Conference in San Francisco next February, official GDC historian Jason Scott puts his first digitized video online — a showreel of the first-ever Independent Games Festival finalists.]
As part of my contract as GDC’s archivist and historian, I am tasked with digitizing audio and video from GDC’s multi-faceted and multi-decade past. Audio has been getting all my attention, as it’s pretty simple to do, and so dozens of talks will show up in the Vault. But video was always going to be the most difficult part… I just knew it would be, and I wasn’t wrong.
First, the video is primarily on VHS tapes. Remember VHS tapes? They’re nowhere near as popular anymore, and especially not for the kind of thing you connect to a computer and have it “just work”.
There’s also issues with getting the right video framing, the best method of recording, and also the whole “turning it into a digitized file” thing. It was, in other words, an excellent way to spend an entire Sunday.
(For the techs at home, I am using a LG DVD/VHS Combo I got at Best Buy (Model #RC897T) going through a Hauppauge! USB-Live2 video ingesting connection, to a Hauppauge! program called WinTV which has 4:2:2 sampling, into TS streams. Then I deinterlace and render out in Sony Vegas.)
So if I’m going to go through all this effort, the first video should probably be something reasonably fascinating, and so here’s a screengrab of what I dug up (click to access it on GDC Vault):
So, yes, for the first reasonably sized test video upload, I’ve managed to put online for the first time the 1st Annual Independent Games Festival finalists showreel — showing the key games for the first iteration of the show at Game Developers Conference 1999.
The first event was co-sponsored by pioneering ‘publisher collective’ Gathering Of Developers, and it’s really interesting to see the kinds of PC independently-developed titles that made it so early in the contest’s history — though according to the list on the IGF website, not every finalist appears on here.
Here’s thumbnails of some of the showcased titles:
At least some of the participants from that contest are still around in the game industry under the same names. For example, Mind Control Software (creators of Resurrection) are happily in business, and in fact later won one of the main IGF categories with the excellent ‘short strategy game’ Oasis.
Another notable entrant is Keith Nemitz, who was a finalist in the 1999 competition with Flagship: Champion, is a long-term GDC Conference Associate and contributor to the indie scene, and still makes games such as Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble! under the company name of Mousechief.
And Vicarious Visions, who entered a game called Terminus which made its way all the way to finalist status in that first Independent Games Festival, were since acquired by Activision and is still very much around as a successful division of the big publisher.
Incidentally, even my relative difficulty in transferring video via USB is a a dream compared to what must have been involved in getting all these different games recorded onto videotape, 11 years ago. One indicator is how the black border is all different sizes, based on the game – some end up right to the edge, while others are significantly smaller.
As well as the official list of IGF winners from 1999 (the links generally don’t work – these companies or individuals have moved on since then), there’s also a small gallery of photos from that event on the IGF website.
In any case, kudos must go to individuals such as Alex Dunne who originated the Independent Games Festival at GDC so early in the history of indie games, and it’s great to see what was output for that first festival. You can check out the finalist reel now – and you can see all of the ‘GDC 25 Chronicles’ archival audio, video and scans on a special GDC website page now.