Tens of thousands of gamers flock to San Francisco for GDC 2018

Global Business

More than 25,000 gamers have descended upon the city of San Francisco for the largest gaming development conference in the United States, known as GDC.

Gamers have come from all over the world to learn and network for success.

It’s been a wild ride for the game Fortnite, which allows up to 100 players to compete in what’s known as a battle royale.

In February, the game took in 126 million dollars from in-app purchases.

“It’s getting really popular. The style, the work that’s done in this game. I think it’s starting to inspire a lot of developers,” said game developer Stephan Leroux.

Game evaluator Nathan Mark patrols the indie games section looking for what could be the next Fortnite.

“What we are looking for is especially for South Korea,” said Mark. “Chinese games, a lot of them can also work for the South Korean market.”

Mark soon likes what he finds in the three-on-three battle game Swallowed Star, created by Beijing developer and CEO of Dream Jelly, Fisher Yu. He’s making his first trip to GDC.

“Our first goal is publishing in East Asia. And we also want to publish it in America,” said Yu.

While independent developers dream big, big companies like Epic and Tencent have joined forces with facial animation company Cubic Motion and motion capture company Vicon to wow the crowds.

Actress Alexa Lee is projecting her voice, body movements and facial expressions into Chinese actress Bingjie Jiang.

They’ve created a digital human called Siren, where everything happens instantly.

“What we did was real time. It was happening live, which doesn’t happen. When you play a game or watch a movie you are talking about two, three, four years of post-production work before it actually hits your screen,” said Jeffrey Ovadya, the Marketing Director of Vicon.

I asked the actress driving Siren whether it ever freaked her out.

“I’m not going to lie. Yes, a little bit,” said Alexa Lee. “The fact that I could drive Siren in real time. She looks similar to me. Her facial expressions are my expressions. That is kind of massively freaky.”

“Today, we’ve got Alexa driving a female model but that could be a stylized character, a dragon, a dog, whatever,” said David Barton, executive producer at Cubic Motion. “I could step in there and put the helmet camera on and drive the female character.”

I asked Barton whether he fears the technology could be used by someone to impersonate another for nefarious reasons.

“We can do that. We could absolutely take a famous politician and drive them and put words in their mouth essentially. And I’m not going to comment on the fears behind that. But technically it’s possible,” said Barton.”