- This is a quick cross-post from Gamasutra, since my colleagues at GDC have blasted out the first set of lectures for next year's event, and there's some pretty interesting stuff in there.

Quite apart from The Sims 3 and lots of Halo 3 technical lectures, I wonder what that 'mysterious' Harmonix project is? Here goes:

"The Game Developers Conference 2008 organizers have announced an initial session list for the February 2008 event, with highlights including the Harmonix team (Guitar Hero, Rock Band) discussing its second project, Ken Levine on BioShock's story, and in-depth lectures on Halo 3, Crysis, Drake's Fortune, The Sims 3 and more.

GDC 2008, which is run by the CMP Game Group (as is Gamasutra.com) will take place at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center February 18 – 22, 2008. The conference is divided into multiple tracks, and an initial set of over 100 lectures for these tracks have been announced, with many more additions to come. Some of the highlights thus far include:

Your Music Is the Game: Designing the OTHER Project at Harmonix (Chris Foster,Senior Designer, Harmonix Music Systems)
"This lecture presents a case study of adapting a proven design -- Harmonix's successful "beatmatch" formula -- to a new set of constraints, as Chris Foster discusses the development of a new, algorithm-based and peripheral-free beat match title not yet disclosed."

Storytelling In BioShock: Empowering Players To Care About Your Stupid Story ( Kenneth Levine, President/Creative Director, 2KBoston/Irrational)
"Game stories can matter, even in first person shooters. But first, we're going to have to give up a lot of our preconceptions about what people care about when playing a game. For too long, games (especially first person shooters) have been stuck in a "game sequence followed by story sequence" mentality. Ken Levine will tell the tale of how the BioShock took a pointy-headed idea about a pseudo-objectivist utopia and turned it into one of the most compelling and succesful game worlds in recent history."

E Pluribus Unum: Matchmaking In Halo 3 (Chris Butcher, Engineering Lead, Microsoft / Bungie)
"This presentation describes the algorithms behind Halo 3's peer-to-peer multiplayer matchmaking model, and its implementation over Xbox Live, examining the impact of matchmaking on the Halo online community, and providing techniques for shaping the player experience and discouraging cheaters."

At The Cutting Edge – Audio Production For Heavenly Sword (Garry Taylor, Audio/Video Manager, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe)
"When audio assets for a project are coming from 3 continents, separated over 20 time zones, managing the production effectively is a constant challenge. Outsourcing to production companies such as WETA (Lord of the Rings/King Kong) and audio teams responsible for films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Departed, Garry Taylor takes you on a whistle-stop tour of the globe, looking at the lessons learnt, and examining the hurdles that were overcome to achieve the state of the art, ‘next-gen’ audio quality of Ninja Theory and Sony’s Heavenly Sword for PS3."

Creating A Character In Drake’s Fortune (Christian Gyrling, AI and Animation Programmer, Naughty Dog Inc.)
"This talk will show how Gyrling's team developed the characters in Drake’s Fortune, praised for its animation, and how they reduced the complexity of organizing hundreds of animations by working with abstract animation states. The talk will also describe how the team solved the AI/animation integration, and how they decoupled character orientation and movement from joint animation. It will also explain the extensive use of additive animations used to enrich the game experience."

Crysis ' Next-Gen Effects (Tiago Sousa, Effects/Graphics Programmer, Crytek)
"Graphics hardware has evolved considerably this last decade, and has finally reached a point where cinematic-quality effects and shading can be computed in real-time. In this lecture, Sousa will describe some of the techniques used to push the visual quality bar in Crytek’s latest game, Crysis. The lecture will touch upon several technologies researched and developed specifically for Crysis, including a brief description of the CryEngine2 shading pipeline. Two case studies from Crysis will also be presented."

Make The Community Part Of Halo (Tom Gioconda, Web Development Engineer)
"One of the more unique features of Halo 3 is present as part of the web, not the game itself. Bungie.net, as it is now, is the culmination of nearly seven years of effort to make the community of Halo a feature of the game. This presentation will describe both how Bungie.net went from a Myth-series era scoreboard to a vibrant community showcasing user created content and Web 2.0 style features. More importantly, this presentation will describe why this effort was undertaken, the resources needed, and how it drives fans of Halo to become long-term fans of Bungie."

New AI Techniques For Sims 3 (Richard Evans, Electronic Arts)
"In this session, Evans will show some of the more unusual AI techniques being used in Sims 3, including very long-term planning, autonomous traits, and a new socializing model based on overlapping normative processes. He will show how these technology components serve two high-level design goals: to make each Sim be a unique snowflake (recognizably distinct from the others), and to move up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (so that the player focuses less on peeing and sleeping, and more on social relationships and situations). Additionally, Evans will demonstrate these ideas working in action in a 2D experimental testbed."

The BioWare Live Team: Building Community Through Technology (Derek French, Associate Technical Producer, BioWare Corp.)
"Live Teams are common in MMOGs, but what about for non-MMOGs? The BioWare Live Team has evolved over the years from supporting Neverwinter Nights to assisting development in future game titles. This session will cover the history of the BioWare Live Team and the technologies developed to help build Communities around games. Details will be given on lessons learned along the way and how the team interacts with the game development teams and other departments such as Web and Marketing. Most developers should have their own Live Team, and details will be provided covering the reasoning, planning and creation."

In addition to these lectures, other notable talks include 'Do, Don't Show' – Narrative Design In Far Cry 2', 'Creating Scalable And Dynamic Graphics For World In Conflict', 'Lighting And Material Of Halo 3', 'Pollinating The Universe: User-generated Content In Spore', and the return of talks including the Game Design Challenge, the Experimental Gameplay Workshop, and many other tutorials and in-depth workshops.

Separately to this, the conference has expanded its lineup of single-track summits dedicated to specific communities. The 2008 lineup includes the return of the Serious Games Summit, the Independent Games Summit and the Casual Games Summit.

New to the schedule this year are the Game Outsourcing Summit, pioneered in 2006 at the GDC's successful standalone summit in Los Angeles, and the Worlds In Motion Summit, focusing on the intersection between games and online worlds. The standalone GDC Mobile event continues as well, as a dedicated conference with breakout sessions.

Details, prices and registration for all Game Developers Conference 2008 passes are now available at the official GDC website."