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Glimpse the future of gaming with our preview of GDC 2014

Today, developers, press, and notable members of the gaming community are converging on San Francisco for the 28th Game Developers Conference. The annual event features discussions on the technological side of the industry, talks on its current state, and a peek at what’s to come – both glimpses into the minds of developers, and demos of more finite products coming our way soon.

Last year’s show took place during an odd time for the industry: The PlayStation 4 had been officially revealed but not fully detailed, and the Xbox One was still just a rumor. Anticipation and excitement were in the air, but so were confusion and forced silence on the innovations we knew were around the corner.

Yet we still got a closer, hands-on look with the Oculus Rift. We were introduced to Battlefield 4. We learned about how Telltale Games brought adventure games back to life with The Walking Dead Season One. It was a great show that gave us a roadmap to 2013 and beyond. And this year should be even better.

We’ll in San Francisco all week reporting live from the show, but if you can’t wait for the in-depth coverage, here’s a glimpse at a few things we expect to see.

Where the next-gen systems are, and where they’re going

Now that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are out, we should hear more about where the consoles are heading, as well as a postmortem on each system’s launch.

Now that ‘next-gen’ systems have arrived, it’s time to start thinking about what comes next.

Sony is hosting multiple panels throughout the week discussing its plans on everything from free-to-play games to indie development solutions, a general look at the system, and what’s coming next. Similarly, Microsoft will be discussing its ID@Xbox program in detail, offering tips for developing on the platform, and is even hosting a “fireside chat” with Microsoft Studios head, Phil Spencer. If you follow the gaming industry, you won’t want to miss it.

Still, it’s difficult to predict exactly what these types of events will yield. Rumors range from reveals of new hardware to the announcement of new games. Regardless, we should at least get a good sense of where each company is heading. For the last few years, the launch of the next-gen systems have consumed the industry. Now it’s time to start thinking about what comes next.

Thar be games here

With a few major exceptions, GDC isn’t really a time for major game reveals. There may be a few surprises on that front, but the event doesn’t generate the same level of spectacle that E3, or even a private event hosted by a publisher can. That said, there will still be a lot of games on display, and plenty of chances to take a closer look at some of the biggest titles of the year.

gdc expo show floor

Throughout the week, we’ll have several previews of upcoming games in all genres on all platforms. Due to embargo restrictions, we can’t specify exactly what all of those games are yet, but trust us, they are games you’ll be interested in hearing about. Check back with us frequently.

Exploring new ways to develop, and the rise of indie gaming

Along with actual games, companies will be showing off the tools used to make them. Unity and Epic will be there with their development engines, as will companies that focus on specialized audio- and video-effects software. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the industry that few get the chance to see, and a hint of the future.

We will also get a look at some of the biggest indie games on the horizon, many of which are being developed using these new tools. Both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One have put a major emphasis on nurturing indie talent and releasing independently produced games, and Steam has been – and will continue to be – a leader in this field as well.

The most enticing rumor floating around is that Sony will unveil a new VR headset

Last year we saw games like the F2P Heavy Gear Assault, which was built by just a handful of people using Epic’s Unreal 4 engine, and yet offered next-gen graphics and a deep gameplay system complete with an online tournament system. It was an impressive game, and that was a year ago. Check out some of our favorite indie games from last year, many of which went on to huge acclaim. Gaming can come a long way in 365 days.

We’ll be looking at several titles on display throughout the week, as well as a look at some of the new tech that is being used to make the next wave of games that we’ll be raving about for years to come.

Looking at the future in a different way

Last year, Oculus VR had a major presence at the show, and this yea, the maker of Oculus Rift has a few surprises in store for it. Sorry, no retail version yet, but if you’ve been following the rise of Oculus, you’ll want to hear about what they have planned. We should get a closer look at the new Crystal Cove Oculus Rift unit, hear some of their plans for the year, and more.

Oculus has made some big waves in the gaming industry – so big that others have taken note. If the rumors are to be believed, GDC may be the event where we get a look at some serious competitors.

The most enticing rumor floating around is that Sony will unveil a new VR headset of its own. Note that loaded word “rumor,” though. Sony has been experimenting with virtual reality headsets since at least 2011, and the PlayStation 4 is said to be compatible with virtual-reality headsets, so there is a good chance we will eventually see a Sony VR headset. Will the announcement come during GDC 2014 though? Check back with us later this week.

While the Sony name is by far the biggest to position itself as a competitor to Oculus VR’s Oculus Rift, it is far from the only one. Several competitors are rumored to be on the way, and GDC may provide the launch pad for a few of them. We’ll find out this week.